The Balance of Being an Artist and an Activist

I spent a couple thousand dollars on a new  website and I have barely blogged. That is going to be rectified now. 

My sporadic blogging has been, in part, because of my increased activism and roles in working to implement change in the industry. This also means I need to make change for myself. There's the podcast (now two years old), by the end of this year I'll have been on/moderated 8 panels, I still volunteer with WNDB, and speak out against problematic texts (see here for an example), and am part of several other groups doing very specific work on similar issues for separate demographics. All this doesn't include the more physical toll you see of those who protest and organize protests, those meeting police officers face-to-face, fighting the judicial system from within and outside to make sure that citizens see justice, and also those directly impacted who become symbols for new movements and protests across the nation and the world. There are those in the belly of the beast and those watching/commenting from the sidelines. Activism is different for everyone.

What is real is that this work is taxing. And the creative life is already pretty damned taxing as is. There's the story collection I've been working on for 8 years that a respected author gave me a deadline of 1 more year (9 more months at this point) to finish before moving on to something else. The nonfiction proposal that's been a long-term consideration that I'm getting into gear completing because of my grandmother's decline in health. There's the latest young adult novel started almost two years ago I'd love to get back to, but demands research and me getting unstuck from the middle portion of it. Not to mention there's a new novel I refuse to begin until I finish one of those larger projects mentioned above and send it off to agents/editors along with many essays/articles I'd like to pitch. I am never at a loss for ideas, which is a good thing, but it also means where do I get the time to fully flesh out these ideas to completion. I am a perfectionist and I am also a "methodical" writer. It takes me months/years to draft and from there the edits may be ongoing until we hit the point where I and those critiquing my work are satisfied. I work a full-time job and have ongoing freelance work.  My time is often split between many projects I very much believe in. 

My goal this year was to scale back. And I have. Compared to 2015 my volunteer nonprofit work has greatly decreased, so has my aggravation. But that doesn't mean the irritations of the entertainment world have lessened. The array of offensive materials being produced, the daily coverage of this "circus" of a presidential election in the U.S., and the expectations of being "a loud mouth" leave you in a place where you're looked at to comment on material that those with publishing deals and titles on bookstore shelves are hesitant to voice in public. When you're emerging or aspiring or whatever adjective you want to place in lieu of "unpublished" it appears that you have less to lose. It's a pressure that I've felt and a responsibility I took on because I was and am tired of seeing these books and movies come to pass at the expense of marginalized voices. But after a while that balance, or attempt at balance, takes a toll. 

On Sunday a ridiculous video surfaced on YouTube--I will not link to it--of a self-published author titled "The Problem with Diversity." I won't get into details of how this arose or came to pass, but let's just say the diversity advocates and marginalized writers lost it online. Many watched it in part or in full. Many ranted about it for hours and through many threads. And that's when it hit me: I am exhausted. My answer, every time, to the question "How are you?" is tired. I am tired of getting riled up when another book and another one and another one publishes that is hurtful and harmful. I am tired of the non-marginalized getting up in arms about why diversity is a problem to them. I am tired of people NOT listening or acknowledging their privilege no matter who they are. That doesn't mean the work isn't necessary. Though it does mean one, namely me, has to change gears. I refused to watch that video. Instead I did laundry while editing a couple episodes of my podcast. Instead of ranting about that video I continually RTd info and signed a petition about the pending Dakota Access Pipeline that shouldn't happen at all. Earlier that evening I finally got a chance to send an article I had pitched. Today, I plan to revise a story and start the introduction for my essay collection while awaiting edits on the proposal. 

Essentially, what I have decided is that I can keep fighting, and I will in my own ways. But that I want to celebrate as well as educate. There are two VERY problematic books coming out this month for young readers, one by a non-marginalized woman on slavery (in dialect no less) and another by a woman of color scribing hurtful accounts of people of color. I'm not going to spend my time reading those books in full. I did that for two projects in July that stalled my writing because I was mired in disgust for what those authors created. I have too much on my plate to get sidetracked in that way again. There are others who are aware and they can speak on it. I'll do  some work, I'll let people know, I'll reach out to the creators of those works to let them know where I and some others stand. But at this point I need balance and I need my own words to speak for me in a form that is not only about critiquing those who are clueless. My balance will be to focus on my work more. As Toni Morrison said racism is a distraction from us getting our work done. Beyond the activism I am an artist and that part of me needs to be recognized as much as the "loud mouth" who refuses to remain quiet on the issues.