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Finding your own way as a writer

Finding your own way as a writer may be the only way of being a writer.

We fear ostracism, all of us.  The feeling of being left out, rejected, expelled from a group is devastating because at an earlier time in history, ostracism meant death.  An individual could not survive without the group. Scapegoating is an example of punishing a person or group of people by shoving them out of a group.

Even in a family, this kind of hatred can cause extreme emotional distress and psychological damage.  And yet, being an outsider can encourage artistic expression.

Many of America’s greatest writers in the last half of the 20th century were southern or jewish or gay and in the 21st century, latino, black or female.  On the edge of American culture but not so far out that their voices are not even heard.

Being slightly out 0f the mainstream produces great art.  James Baldwin, a black gay man, was popular but did not became a bestselling author in the 1960’s because both groups were stigmatized, homosexuality extremely so.  If he was writing now, I think he would sell much more widely. Two current movies, The Danish Girl and Carol are both about sexual minorities but are considered mainstream movies, a huge shift in public consciousness and acceptance.

For me there is the addition of having a mental illness which is becoming more mainstream but has not yet found wide acceptance.  And being an intellectual in a country that is sports-minded and where people read one book a year, including genre fiction.

I am not sure that Grapes of Wrath would have been a bestseller if published today.

Finding your own way in writing means that you accept all these parts of yourself and accept being an individual and unique– while that uniqueness is accepted and speaks to the core of readers.  It’s a paradox but one that painters, writers and composers live by.

I am still developing.  I write poetry but have made little attempts at publishing my verse.  And this self-doubt blocks my writing the novel although I was willing to write the version that was too long.  I still need to think this through but I am convinced that if I don’t accept myself completely, my writing career will be uneventful.

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