Apr 25, 2006

Insecure Writers: Securing our Writing

I think about how many conversations I have had with incredibly talented Women of Color writers who are insecure about their work. This, of course, includes me. For many of us, writing is what we inhale and exhale; it’s a big part of what defines us. It’s what makes sense and feels right. But for many reasons, which I won’t get into here (since it’s not the intention of this posting), most of us do not pursue our writing as a career (or we have a real tough time doing it).

I’m dedicating this post to all of us Women of Color insecure writers that need to secure our writing.

After a conversation with a friend about this very subject, I decided to confront my self-doubt by posting a piece of writing that I did not feel good about. In fact, the piece was one that I felt was the worst I had ever written. I posted it and waited for comments. Initially after receiving incredible feedback from a fellow blogging sister, I felt embarrassed and wished I had never posted the damn thing. But the comments were so helpful, and I knew I had done the right thing by posting. Having said that though, my feelings of embarrassment lead me to bring the original post down in order to make the edits and put the new revised version up. What I should have done, though, was to leave the original post for others to read and/or compare to the revised version.

I guess, for me, posting the original story (even for a day) was the first step. The first step towards what’s going to be a long (and difficult) process of working through my insecurities, my self-doubt and my hyper-critical tendencies. More importantly, it was a step towards securing my writing – taking it seriously, as something I want to pursue not for fun, but for a living.

But what helped me take this step?

It was the support. Straight up.

It was the supportive talks with other amazing Women of Color;
The conversations with other insecure sisters who write;
and, of course, the Women of Color blogging community that created a safe, supportive space for me to put myself out there (granted, as Pomegranate Queen, but it’s still me!)

While I don’t have all the answers as to how some of us insecure writers can really secure our writing, what I can say for sure is that we need supportive communities (such as this radical Women of Color blogging one) where we can work towards taking those steps.

I would really appreciate your thoughts and comments on all of this.



Blogger rabfish said...

securing our writing--what a beautiful way to put it! I'm so impressed you put up a piece you were insecure about. what a transformative thing to do! it's all about at putting yourself out there, taking that risk, making it a priority, taking it SERIOUSLY, cuz it IS!

that support and feedback from other writing woc is amazing. :) it really does kerplunk you powerfully back into your own set of priorities, skills and unique capacities, cuz they're reflected lovingly back to you. i loved our talk, babe.

(I'm listening over and over again to the especially plaintive part of the chorus in Bi´eynak by Nawal Al Zoghbi and dancing with my upper body while sitting in my clothes-covered computer chair. when i get particularly vigorous the cat sitting behind me meows and extends his paws against my bum in grumpy protest)

securing your writing. lots of think about there. i don't even know how i would secure my writing! i don't think i've discovered my genre yet, you know? the genre that i would want to secure. i write about such intensely personal things that i'm so ambivalent about sharing. i guess right now i do personal essay mixed in with political analysis, because i'm all workin on growing and making sense of THIS life, my life...so its all about therapeutic value...but i would love to figure out how to channel my feelings and need for expresson into more poetry, fiction, cuz it opens up the range of experiences and intensities of feelings you can comfortably write about. i can interpolate myself into experiences i haven't directly had. maybe that's one way to start--feel out what i could write about with emotional truth and say soemthing unique. how do you guys write your fiction? how do you figure out what to write about?

off to get a fudgesicle, xo! rabfish

4:07 PM  
Blogger brownfemipower said...

oh, fuck pq, i'm so so so SO sorry that my comments made you feel like shit. i really really am. i'm just in the middle of ending to graduate writers workshops, so when you asked for feedback, i was in that mode of graduate writers, and wasn't as supportive as i should have been. i know that feedback is all in how its given, and i have been subject to enough shitty racist feedback, that i'm really just kicking myself in the ass for not being more aware of what a huge huge battle you'd just won by posting it. i mean, i took mine down after not even three hours because i couldn't stand it, and here i was giving you shitty feedback. I really really really am sorry. really, from the bottom of my heart. really. i'm glad that you continued on anyway, in spite of me.
and you know what? I'm going to post mine back up--i posted mine because you gave me some stregth, but now i'm gonna post it because you shouldn't have to be the only damn one out there taking risks.
again, i'm really really sorry....

5:00 PM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

Rabfish - thanks and I will comment more later on the questions you've raised and the thoughts you've shared.

BFP - no no! your comments didn't make me feel shitty at all - they were honest and I knew you put it out there as part of your experiences from the past regarding your story! I really appreciated your comments - in fact, they inspired me to write this particular post - shoot, I should have mentioned that I got the term "insecure writers" from one of your comments from my previous post.

I posted this entry because I think people like you and other bloggers I know are great writers and we need to let one another know that there's a supportive community out there that believes in their talent. And also to push one another to recognize that talent, etc.

What I love about my exchanges with you ever since I first started this whole blogging thing has been your sincerity, honesty and supportive vibe!!!! so I would never take any of your comments to me to be anything but those things. :)

ps. you are a big part of that supportive community i'm talking about :)

5:48 AM  
Blogger Aaminah said...

Asalaamu alaikum ukhti.

Oh, I meant to send you an email about your piece and didn't get to it! I'm so sorry!

But I want you to know, I am a fellow-writer (you probably already know that), published but still struggling every day, and I know EXACTLY what you mean. You can always feel free to email me direct if you need to talk about what you're struggling with or need feedback on a piece of work.

Hey - same goes for you BFP!

We have to support each other!

12:43 PM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

salaams ukhti,

thank you for the offer! I really appreciate it and I feel we really need to build a community like this for ourselves...

I was lucky enough to connect with some amazing Muslim women who were all part of this kick-ass anthology we submitted our pieces to - i can't explain how GREAT it was to have women like that be supportive towards each other's work - critical feedback from a place of love and trust - it was like we all "got it", you know what I mean? the struggles of publishing our stories, getting our stories to be heard, being dicked around by mainstream and even supposedly "progressive" publishers, not being taken seriously, our own internalized shit...

anyway thank you for extending your support, and likewise, if you need feedback, etc. feel free to contact me as well. I don't have my email up on my blog, but if you let me know I will contact you.

8:11 PM  
Blogger brownfemipower said...

pq, i'm so glad that i didn't totally demoralize you into nothingness. :p

i am very very sensitive about how my critiques are received just cuz how awful it was for me, and nobody gave a damn. i *do* give a damn about you and your writing and i would rather be shot than to take away your voice (or any other woman of color's voice) through my own inadvertant stupidity.

you know?

having cleared that up--i think i would love to form something--a writers group or *something* between all of the women here, maybe take it off line or in a closed forum or something, and help each other out...we need any and all help we can get you know?

and i love how women of color are with their sharing and loving--i mean, just like that, you got all these women who are willing to love each other through extending information and support you know??? i love that shit. it's everything that's beautiful about us.

8:44 PM  
Blogger rabfish said...


i like that idea.

muy confidence has been boosted by a lot of the comments. now i also want the hard core honest "improve this, this don't make sense, what assumptions are you making?, hey, you could think differently about this" comments. you know? who else but us can make these best?

9:13 PM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

let's get some hardcore honest feedback action happening! as you said Rabfish, who else but us can make these best?

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post was inspiring. It's so great to see us interacting with each other outside of talks about racism. You've inspired me to post what I feel is the weakest thing I've ever written, just so you don't feel exposed or like we know so much about you and you know so very little about us.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

yes, it's great to interact on all levels and what's key is that all those other talks we've had about racism, global politics, solidarity building amongst WOC, etc. has helped built this blog community that feels like a space where we can also talk about these kinds of things, like our writing and our feelings towards/around our writing
I'm so happy that we are building in this way -
don't feel that you need to post so I don't feel exposed. I took that risk when I posted knowing that I was putting myself out there(it was my decision and so it's all good) - but i'm happy if you're inspired to post something of yours you feel is the "weakest" thing written and opening it to the community for feedback/comments. This means that we are truly building a community and that there are levels of trust being built.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Ktrion said...

My comment yesterday got lost in the posting, so I turned it into a blog entry:

Securing Our Writing

1:19 PM  
Blogger fiercelyfab said...

A writing group of women of color writers or those that are inspiring to write more would be a great venue, especially for those that are ready to take that step.

I'm with Rabfish most of my writing is extremely personal and haven't expanded on anything other than writing as respite and to make sense of issues/problems/insecurities.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Ms.Maegan said...

I had poetry the other night among people of color and it's amazing how despite so many years of writing and sharing that writing how insecure and how immature I feel my writing (the process and the results) is. It happens because of of we are labeled as women of color writers and how within our own communities we are judged (for example I am the angry Rican man hater who can't ever get her Spanish work just right). This is a really important conversation and I've shied away from having my work critiqued because on many levels I don't feel strong enough as a writer or as a person to handle it. Plus there is this whole elitism attached to the art of writing- a lack of time and resources that many of us as women of color writers face that impacts the how, when, where and what we write. I spend so much time helping other people with their writing that my shit gets pushed aside , devaluing my own work and talent.

So yes, I am happy we are having this conversation. Gracias

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

This post really spoke to me as well. (Disclaimer: I am a white feminist.)

I am currently going through the reader/writer transformation. It’s taken years of denying that I was a “writer” to make me finally realize that I was not a writer as its been defined. I didn’t feel comfortable or able to fully find presence in my writing until I cleansed myself of the notion that writing has to be molded into a specific shape in order to be heard.

I recently went to a really amazing presentation called “From Burqas to Bikini’s: Afgani Women and the War on Terror” Sanjukta Ghosh, the presenter, showed how the american government and bourgeois american feminist’s used the alleged oppression of burqas to justify the war and “liberation.” Showing silent images from both fox news and from magazines such as Ms. of women in burqas she displayed that Muslim women have been used to further both the political goals of the american gov. and the social goals of bourgeois feminists.

Muslim women weren’t allowed to give their own narratives because this wasn’t in the interest of the abovementioned groups. This is why it is so important that we don’t wait to be asked!

The hesitancies that I’ve felt about writing are also related, I think, to a lack of narrative guidance. We, as a culture, are not used to hearing the language of voices that deviate from the mainstream so, as writers, it is always as if we are reinventing a new language, and new identities, over and over and over again.

I think these reservation is also partially personal and intimate. By claiming one’s own voice—particularly one whose identity has been marginalized—one not only rebels against white masculine discourse, but, is a announces a personal voice separate from the group identity one “shares” a voice with. For instance, as a white feminist, my voice might be heard only through the characterization of such and I won’t be able to exist as separate from this mold, and, I have to break from the identity claim “white feminist” in order to claim my Self, my own single voice, wearily tip-toeing around the notion that I don’t speak for all white feminists.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

Ktrion! I'm about to check your posting after my comments here.

Fabulosa, i'm glad you support this and thanks for all the forwards for the blog.

La Mala, i'm still surprised everytime I hear an amazing writer/poet (artist) woman of color express their insecurity with their work. It's shitty that this goes on, but it's telling and I think the more I hear this kind of thing, the more I'm convinced of working with other women of color writers, poets and artists to secure our shit.
I'm also glad were having this conversation, for real.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Pomegranate Queen said...

Hey dawn,
thanks for the comments.

While insecurity is what many writers deal with, this post was mean to speak specifically to women writers of color.

I appreciate you sharing the following comment:
“I didn’t feel comfortable or able to fully find presence in my writing until I cleansed myself of the notion that writing has to be molded into a specific shape in order to be heard.”

I would argue that while, as writers, we can all relate to this point in one way or another – for Women of Color, it’s not so much about “finding our presence” in our writing, but dealing with how that very presence is an issue – i.e. how it creates barriers for us in terms of getting our stories out there to people. For some of us, racialized identities are a BIG part of what we write about. Often times, we write about our communities, we write about experiences, realities of being women of color, etc. These kinds of stories aren’t always what publishers and consumers/audiences are interested in reading.

So while I congratulate you on cleansing yourself from the “notion that writing has to be molded into a specific shape in order to be heard” – I would have to say that as a woman of color writer, no matter how much I try to cleanse myself from that notion, my presence (my voice) is still the issue at hand. My voice isn’t what the mainstream or even non-mainstream white and even conservative readers of color want to hear.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to “mold” my writing to something that is more appealing. What is means is that I’m going to work damn hard to find ways in which we can have our stories heard. And this is going to involve a LOT of dialoguing with others writers of color.

You also stated:
“Muslim women weren’t allowed to give their own narratives because this wasn’t in the interest of the abovementioned groups. This is why it is so important that we don’t wait to be asked!”

Girl, I never wait to be asked. :)
I’m out there trying to do my thing and, trust me, I know the importance. It’s real tough, but you don’t see me quitting. I’m getting a piece published in an all-Muslim women’s anthology and I’m making my voice heard loud and clear. Having said that tho, if this wasn’t an anthology for “Muslim women”, if our wonderful/amazing editor hadn’t sought us out (mind you, on progressive listservs, spaces of color, etc.), if the theme of the anthology wasn’t “so sexy” (Muslim women and resistance) at this point in time, I’m sure myself (and all the other women who contributed) would have had a damn difficult time having these pieces published and heard.

It’s a struggle, but I don’t want people (especially white feminists) to be under the impression that we are giving up and that we need encouragement. I know SO many amazing and talented women of color writers that are doing their thing. And this is exactly what inspires me and gives me hope as a writer.


6:02 PM  

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