• HOW I DEFY A SINGLE STORY AND ADD TO THE SWELL OF STORIES THAT DEFY STEREOTYPES

    Date: 2018.09.08 | Category: How Dare We! Write a multicultural creative writing discourse, The Art of Writing | Tags: ,,,

    HOW I DEFY A SINGLE STORY AND ADD

    TO THE SWELL OF STORIES THAT DEFY STEREOTYPES

    -IN THE MIX-

    How much simmering does it take for you to write a poem, a story, a blog post, or even a tweet or a response to a FB post?  How much anxiety?  How much shame?

    Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, 2009, “The Danger of a single story,” states:  “The consequence of a single story is this: it robs people of dignity.  It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

    As a MFA student in a Creative Writing program, I often felt suffocated and angry because I felt there was only a single story being perpetuated: of what you needed to learn to be a writer, what you needed to write to be a writer, who you needed to be to be a writer, and who you needed to embrace (not contentiously disagree with).

    “The consequence of a single story is this: it robs people of dignity.”  The story when I attended graduate school was not inclusive.  It didn’t include my story.  It offered shame.  I was told “they didn’t teach me how to write.”  Perhaps not, but I wrote, and I graduated with a 4.0.  Yet, I experienced that my story was a thorn in the single story.

    As writers, we all have our particular story(ies).  In How Dare We! Write a multicultural creative writing discourse, LHP, 2017, we can read 24 particular stories.  These stories defy a single story; they embrace difference and for some of us, similarity.

    My story as a writer is that I don’t write every day, I may not write in a month or even a year.  I don’t write to be a writer.  I didn’t go to graduate school to be a writer; I went to prove to myself I was smart enough to earn a graduate degree.  What I write has more to do with finding myself, understanding myself/my mixed identity-and when I write is when I write, period.  And I didn’t go to graduate school to become a teacher.  I became a teacher because someone gave me an opportunity to be one and I accepted because I needed the paycheck.  I wasn’t a particularly good teacher, just like I’m not a particularly good writer-but I persisted: 1) because I needed the money, and 2) because, apparently, I was born to tell the truth, whether it served me well or not. But persistence doesn’t define pace, and for me, persistence, didn’t mean I was or am prolific.

    I am not one story.  My story is not a true story unless it envelops race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability, etc.  My story wanders in and out of time and situations.  Currently my story is a story of aging.  It’s one of contemplation, of consideration.  I have written a few poems; poems that I didn’t write because I had to which is always the reason I have written in the past-out of urgency.  And I am writing a picture book, a gift to my grandson (and his parents) who is nonverbal and was diagnosed with autism at an early age.  I am imagining, by observing, what he might have to say to grandmas, to parents, and to caretakers.  I don’t have to write this book, I want to.

    My story is many stories; it could never be just one story.  And my many stories are just a drop in the swell of other writers’ stories.   I pray for dignity, not shame, for all of us who write whether every day, or whenever; who are published or not-who want to be or couldn’t care less; who are expert grammarians, or like me not so much; and who have not only the heart and determination, but the words and a way to articulate them to engage purposefully in social media-again, I’m not so skilled or articulate-or brave.  It’s all okay.

    Adichie says “stories matter.” I’d like to add, your story as a writer matters.  I remember being told a writer should take risks, not be a copy-cat, that to be unique is what really counts.  There might be some truth in that, depending on what your goals as a writer are/or are not, but maybe it’s not about taking risks, but just embracing who you are.

    I think I’ve written this story before.  Sometimes I have to remind myself.

     

    What is your story as a writer?  Feel free to share in comments.

     

    Sherry Quan Lee, September 8, 2018