On writing Real Worlds.
As a writer there are a lot of things that drive me up a wall. A lot. I mean, we’re talking a metric fuckton of things that rub me the wrong way. Many of them I can fix, many more I can’t, and some I just won’t get around to. But one of the bigger ones, that I can keep striving to fix for myself is that as a white male in America it can be amazingly hard to see the world the way it truly is.
Look, it wasn’t intentional, in the way that someone near me set out to specifically clobber me and… hahahahaha that’s a lie. The whole Western world has specifically arranged for this problem. I mean come on. I have it the easiest. I get bonus points for breathing. I have so much inherent privilege that I’m pretty sure there is less Government Cheese out there, ya know? I can’t push it away. I want to, mind you, I don’t want to be part of some system that decides I’m worth more because of genes I had no say in.
That isn’t a “woe is me.” It’s just that society slaps me with this and I have to deal with it. Deal with it. That’s my job. To see it and realize it for what it is and behave like a proper adult in this world. It means using that privilege to help other people, when and how they ask, to rise above their own stupid, unnecessary, societal bullshit.
And none of that really matters. This is my bullshit to cope with and become a better human around. When there are discussions of privilege they often don’t include me. Not because I’m a bad person, but because by the nature of how people like me have fucked this world up – I am left out of discussions by default. Which is, really, how it should be. I’m cool with that.
But as a writer it creates a huge problem for me to overcome. I want to write the world. Got that? Not a book with a bunch of straight white guys, but a world that reflects the actual, real, breathing world I live in.
Except all of my experience is based around my life, sort of by default. And my life, as mentioned above, is not actually reflective of the world at all. So I do more research and I talk to friends and I work even harder to make sure I get stuff right. Writing about trans, gay, non-white, non-male (etc.) characters will always be harder for me. Because I can never truly know their lives. I can do the research and do. I can ask friends to look it over and give advice and share their own views and I do.
But at the core I will never truly know it. No matter how I dig, I will be missing a large part of it simply by not having been through it. And I can do my best, and then do better, and then – after that – do even better the next time if I’m lucky and smart and keep trying. But I can never understand it the same as someone born there, not 100%, not deep in my bones where the ice weasels live.
The human experience is a huge and varied thing, sure. We all know that. A lot of my life has been trying to find ways out of my skull, to get out of the trap of privilege and bullshit I was born into. To see the world for what it is.
But it sure as shit ain’t easy. Worth doing. A million times over it is worth doing. But it isn’t easy. And it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be easy to truly and deeply walk in someone else’s life. To wrap your head around how every word you choose has connotations you can’t even see from where you sit. But it is always worth doing.
Again, in no way am I remotely saying this is something worth feeling sorry for me about. It isn’t a thing to be proud of me for doing. It isn’t a thing that should be, really, recognized.
This should be an expected, normal part of writing, and nothing more.
But, as Cat Valente mentioned on Twitter and I realized she was right – no one seems to come out and say it. So I decided to:
I am a writer who is a white guy in America and that shit makes it extra hard for me to see the world, and to see other people’s experience, without shooting it through the same lens of bullshit that built the inequalities in the first place.
So I’ll work harder, every day, and be grateful for the ability to do so.
So I’ll try a little more each word I write, and be thankful I am surrounded by people willing to share and educate me.
So I’ll be even more open to criticism, and rejoice in the voices that are willing to help me get better.
So I’ll always strive to see the world and write and create worlds that are reflective and inclusive, and apologize and correct when I’m wrong.
And then, after all that is done I’ll wake up the next day and do it again. And maybe one day, if we’re all lucky and never stop pushing back, this won’t be a problem. It will take far longer and need far more work than anyone wishes it would.
And every inch of it will be worth it a million times over if we can get there.