It’s hard not to become depressed about writing. Or about not writing, which is mostly my case. The thing I am struggling with the most, right now, is not feeling like an artist, and wanting to desperately to claim the title. Not because of some self-righteous reasons, but because the medium in which I am working (text) feels so far from the people I am trying to reach (who are they?)

I submitted a proposal for my documentary strategies class (on pleasure as a radical and revolutionary act, specifically the documentation of pleasure using image and text) and the feedback I got was, for the most part, useless. I feel like I always get the ‘have you read this author?’ feedback, when my white counterparts get actual analysis of their work. Of course I’m exaggerating, there were some comments outside of recommendations of artists and writers I should know, but I still feel like these comments are coming from a place of overwhelming whiteness. I am not making art for white artists and writers, and yet those are primarily the people who are critiquing and analyzing my work.

I suppose I should ask myself “Well, then, who are you creating art for?” and the answer is, simply, I don’t know. And that’s where I get stuck. Because I’ve spent my whole life consuming art and writing and television and movies and popular media that didn’t have me, as audience, in mind. I don’t know if this is a universal concern; are my white peers asking themselves this question? Perhaps they are, but there’s something that feels particularly specific, for me, like I’m doing this on behalf of some greater good. I feel so strongly about using my writing to set people free, using my ideas—and my capacity to communicate them—as a means by which to liberate the masses, the black/poor/queer/fat/ugly/disenfranchised/colonialized.  I feel an impulse to do this work for people who don’t had my middle-class upbringing, traumaless past, and access to higher education, but I don’t know who they are, how they talk, where they go, what they read, or how they’d come across my work. Of course, the time and energy I spend considering all of these things take a comfortable front seat to my doing any actual writing.

My graduate workshops feel, on the one hand, like an opportunity to indulge in a writing process, to develop a  piece of writing in a specific way, but they also feel like a danger-zone, like I have to keep all the feedback at arm’s length. I have a cardboard box full of responses to a piece I submitted a few weeks ago. I am too afraid to look at them. I am afraid the ideas will get into my head and I’ll never be able to un-hear them. I’m afraid I’m writing for an audience of white people who don’t get it. I’m afraid I’ll start writing so that white people get it. I’m afraid white people don’t understand the value of my work, because white people are who decide what’s valuable. I am angry that my brain is filled with these one-sided conversations with myself, instead of ideas about the art. I’m angry that their white brains get to be filled with ideas about art, and not about who is consuming it, because they’ve been privileged as consumers of art. I have to think about my audience, because nobody thought about me.

I know the answer is to give myself permission to not think about the audience, to just make the thing, or write the thing, but that feels wrong. Dishonest, in a way? So then, maybe the answer is to write for myself. What do I want to hear? What do I want to see? Which is to say, how do I write privileging a woman, black, queer, conscious, middle-class, educated audience? (I know that’s what I need to do, but let me just say that I am actually terrified that I am not capable of producing the kind of art I’d want to consume. Let me also acknowledge the fear of all of this being a waste of time—that I’ll find myself on the other side of this MFA and go “what the fuck was I thinking?”)

And then how does grad school, work, then, if I am my intended audience but I am the only one of me? (Or, to be fair, I should say, one of few.) It’s difficult to engage with learning when academia has been a place that has taught me a lot I need to unlearn. (Why didn’t I think about this before agreeing to the whole thing?)

I feel like I’ve reached a dead end here, so I’ll stop on this note: I must approach my writing FUBU style: for myself, by myself, which is not to say alone, but as the producer and the consumer, the performer and the audience, the teacher and the student.

ASHE.

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