On Writing: Tearing Down Walls, Digging Up Wells

To write well is to kiss the same bullet that tried to wipe you out.

You must be willing to go there. Yes, there. All the way there. Deep sea diving to the dead sea of your story.

If it sounds too daunting or too morbid or simply too absurd, then you are not ready. You are not ready to do this thing called writing. I do not blame you. We’re not taught to tell the stories of our skeletons. No, we’re taught and told to bury them deep in the closet, all the way in the back with highwater jeans and prom gowns we’ll never wear again. We forget that our skeletons are still somehow the foundation upon which everything else is built and the one thing left when everything else turns to dust. We aren’t ever reminded that there is something beautiful in those bones we bury.

So, you’ve got to go there. You’ve got to show the world the beauty in your buried bones.

Then you’ve got to tear down the walls. The red bricks you’ve been ducking behind. The red bricks are Instagram, and the red bricks are that strong Black woman bullshit, and the red bricks are every time you say you’re fine when you are absolutely not fine. The red bricks are the lies you tell yourself so you can sleep easily at night. You’re over him. Or you don’t care. Or you’re happy with the way things are. The red bricks are what make you seem impenetrable, but turn your soul ice cold.

You have got to cut the bullshit. Once and for all, now and forever.

You have to crack away at the red bricks. Brick by brick. You’ve got to spend a few nights sprawled across the floor with tears in your eyes and a roaring lion in your heart. You’ve got to rub the makeup off of your scars and see them for what they truly are.

Then you have to dig up the wells. You’ve got to drink a full glass of your own well water. You can’t filter it, and you can’t dump it into a Brita container. People will tell you that the well water of your story is unfit for human consumption. They’ll convince you it’s gross and unhealthy, and that you should only provide others with a filtered version of that narrative. But, that’s your story. Your best work and your bravest words are hidden in that glass of well water. Sip. Chug. Gargle. Spit it back out in paragraphs and iambic pentameter. Someone else is eager to lap it up. Someone else needs to drink it down. Someone else is parched, living in a desert of their own deceit and waiting for a sip of someone else’s truth.

The best writing comes from our wombs and our wounds, our broken walls and our dug up wells. It’s born from the temples in the pit of our bellies. The smoke from the wildfire. The blood behind the bruises. The grit at the bottom of the glass. To write well is to have survived hell. To write well is to face your demons head on. To write well is to declare that you don’t have a damn thing to be ashamed of. To write well is to undress your flaws and uncork the emotions you kept bottled up. To write well is to think less and feel more. To write well is to kiss the same bullet that tried to wipe you out.

To write well is to be willing to go there. Yes, there. All the way there.


2015 Black weblog awards final round promoShameless plug while we’re on this note about writing: Twenties Unscripted has advanced to the final round in the Best Writing category for the Black Weblog Awards! Thanks to everyone who voted in the first round. I would be over the moon if you could head over to www.blackweblogawards.com and show your love by voting one more time! Final round voting ends Nov. 17. Thank you!!


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