by Danny Lore
There are a lot of things in this world that our conservative nightmare of a government will try and take from you. That’s undeniable, even though we’re going to fight our asses off to make sure it doesn’t happen. They want to limit our access to healthcare, our ability to support ourselves, to educate ourselves— all while trying to convince us we don’t count as human. I’d be lying if I wasn’t upfront about that. Hell, that’s why you’re reading this in the first place, to figure out a way to slog through this GOP horrorshow.
They’re going to try and take it all, but don’t let them take your writing from you. This is yours, our stories are ours, and in this battle to keep from breaking down, your writing can be both your greatest offense and defense. I’m speaking from experience here, not just from the election, but from all the Bad Shit of the past year.
You might have noticed that I said the “past year,” and that wasn’t a mistake or a case of rounding up too much. My battle started in April, when my father died. I’m not going to go into details, because I’m not here to make you feel worse. What I will say is that it happened with the shocking speed and unexpectedness of Trump winning the presidency, and the gut punches bruise the same. I got to the point where I asked myself why bother? Why bother, how should we bother, when we’re scared that, with a cartoon villain grin, a quick signature, and a clammy handshake, our current government will declare us all not-human?
But I still wrote. I’m still writing. This is where I gained my coping tools, and so I’m going to talk to you the way I talked to myself, and hopefully it’ll help motivate you for the bumpy road ahead.
Don’t let someone take this from you. I mean it. When I realized that my dad wasn’t going to see my name on the cover of a book, I wanted to give up, much like when I saw the results of the election. Or the weeks afterwards, with every nauseating decision this government has made. The thing that kept me from giving up was the moment that I got pissed. When Trump was elected, I saw it as a clock: if I don’t push myself, who knows what’ll happen a month from now, a year from now. Just like I couldn’t let myself fade when my father passed (because dead or alive, he’d find some way to give me hell if I gave up), I didn’t want to let the world of the GOP leave me nameless. I couldn’t let them erase me. Definitely couldn’t hand them my unrealized legacy on a silver platter— they’ve got enough of those. And so I had to take control, get up, and make it to my computer.
That’s where you have control. That’s where you can scream, cry. That computer screen, that blank sheet of paper- that’s where you force the world to move forward, even when it’s threatening to (very literally) threaten your life and put up every wall possible. If you stop, the wall will always be there, but if you take your sledgehammer to it…?
And a sledgehammer is exactly what our stories and voices are. Every story or idea you commit to is another bit of force, of pressure, to push back conservative bullshit. Getting your story out is a weapon. It’s a weapon you can yield when protest crowds are too much, or when you get off the phone from calling your representatives, or when you have to sign off the internet because it’s all too damn much.
It’s a shield and armor as well. Use your voice to build that world that you deserve, even if it comes to you in the trappings of space travel, mermaids, and street magic. Use your stories to protect you from yourself— to get that rage and frustration out from under your skin and put it somewhere you can manage. Give it to a character, give it to a plot, to a magic system, to a romance. And when you’re done with that, give those characters, plots, magic systems and romances to someone else. Because your stories, by their mere existence, shield and armor others for their battles.
Which is where my second piece of advice comes in. In this battle, because for me I saw it— still see it— as a battle against the world, played out in prose, the other thing that saved me was seeking community. I don’t mean ‘being in’ a community, but actively seeking one (multiple) out and making a home for myself there. Because there will be days when you deserve an award for opening your eyes in the morning, let alone getting words on the page. There will be days when the news you just read on twitter is so earth-shattering that the only thing that makes it out of you is salt tears and shaking. I’ve had those days. I had one of those days a week ago. I’ll have another one of those days in the future.
The thing that dragged me out was finding ways to not be alone. That’s what this government wants. It wants us in small pockets, too small to matter, easy flames to snuff out. We’re not though. You’re not. A good community— could be physical, could be digital, could be a combination— will hold your hand on those days when you can’t write. It will tell you that those days are okay- but also push you to use your weapon and shield again.
It doesn’t have to be a major thing. I’ve been fortunate to find writers’ groups and mentors, but there was a period of time where it was just me, on social media, going ‘okay i’m going to get out 1000 words today,’ and all I got was a single like. Or maybe no likes. But doing that every day it made all the difference.
Communities help focus our anger. They work through both our stories and our emotions. And you might not realize it yet, and it might seem impossible, but that community is out there for you right now. It’s the other people reading this blog. it’s the person you follow on twitter or tumblr who was just complaining they were short their word count or totally demolished it, or complaining about desperately needing to edit. When you reach out, or they do, when you realize you’re no longer alone, it makes each word a little bit easier, because you’re not the only one writing anymore. Your words are part of a bigger work.
Our community is the bigger work, and it is a work so worthy, and so great, that those in power have declared war against it. Every word you type is a battle that you’ve already won. Soldier on, and remember that you aren’t alone on the battlefield.
Danny Lore is a queer writer raised in Harlem and based out of the Bronx. They’ve got an upcoming story in FIYAH magazine, and expect more soon. They live with their partner and the world’s best black cat. Follow them @weredawgz on twitter.