The opportunity to mention this brief op-ed by one of my favorite writers has come up a few times in the past few weeks. I want to share it, because…Toni Morrison ((sigh)) is sublime. During the course of my undergraduate studies, I was introduced to Morrison’s work (Beloved) and have been enchanted by her as a writer ever since. We writers seek out models on which to frame who we are. There are so few women out there successfully making a career—that we hear of—and squashed under the grandeur of male writers. I could totally use that as an excuse, but I refuse to buy into excuses as I turn 40 years old this year. It’s taken me two of those decades to eek out my small niche. I’m still carving it, and will be doing so until I pass on to…whatever there is.
The title of the piece attracted me, but I gratefully knew that face in the picture as it went down my newsfeed. Glee. Her appearance has been heartwarming to me, part of her charm. I am in love with how people look, their differences and similarities, as unique as snowflakes. Diversity makes me excited. So, I guess it’s a no-brainer that I am drawn to writers who are not white males…but the truth is, I love them too. Morrison’s work is memorable, and thus her face became memorable and charming and heartwarming to me, because it reminds me of college, of Beloved and the shock to the core, of a woman being published and taught in literature spaces. She reminds me of me, regardless of her background, ethnicity, economic status, or anything else. She is what I hope for.
The piece she wrote for The Nation’s anniversary echoed a theme that other writers and I had been mulling: Writing through Crisis. What is crisis? Well, it’s whatever has you flagged as you try to push through your day. It can be large or small, but it’s yours, and your feelings about it being a crisis are entirely valid. Just like the arts are subjective, so are our reactions to the world in which we live. For instance, my two decades struggling for a place in the publishing world, and how I dreamed and how I cried, how I was certain I was over it and how I was certain this would kill me. There isn’t a place for self-pity in most situations. Self-pity is the language of fear. Though depression determined to take me down before I could accomplish my goals, I spoke back to it, eventually, without fear and moved forward. I did not let fear, crisis, stall me. Every day, I think, I must be ready for the next leg of this journey. I cannot be caught unprepared. You’ll only get one shot at a time, and those shots will be few and far between. No place for self-pity and no room for fear.