“There’s not much culture in this writing,” I’ve heard students say when critiquing student work or reading the novel of a Native author. Or they’ll say, “It looks like the main character is having an identity crisis,” and it can sound dismissive, but there’s something we have to understand about most Natives: We move deep into the center of culture and back to the periphery like an ocean in symbiosis with the moon.
One of my favorite lines in The Crow is when Eric (Brandon Lee) has T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly) duct taped to the drivers seat of his car, as its filled with explosives and aimed at a pier leading toward a harbor. T-Bird can’t believe Eric has come back to life as The Crow and as he struggles through whimpers he says, “Abashed the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is.”
Revision is a little punk b#?ch! There I am toiling away on the second draft, almost to the end of the novel and starting to think about characters in the novel (mentally preparing for the “sweeps” portion of my revision process), and then I come to realize my main character is an asshole.
We writers area equal parts ego and vulnerable. The cliché is to develop a “tough skin” over the years and be able to take criticism. But we all think we’re geniuses, and we are. Brilliant beasts who are magical at hiding our softest parts behind a shield of “I already know” and “You just don’t understand the work.”
“I gotta keep my Capricorn mind straight,” said the planet of Saturn to the writer writing this post. Okay, so that first sentence had a weird third person shift–almost like a third person shift to a different third person gear, but the first third person perspective was oddly different from the latter, which was equally bizarre but uniquely awkward. See what I mean? I do need to keep this Capricorn mind straight. Saturn was right.
I said it before. The last grade I completed was the sixth grade. Then later in life I went on to obtain a Master’s Degree. I think a lot of it had to do with riding waves. Not in the ocean. I’ve never been daring enough to take on those types of challenges. But riding waves of opportunity. Sometimes I look back and it’s interesting to see how it all lined up and came to fruition, as though in symmetry, like musical notes being plucked from the strings of a guitar. In time and rhythm it can make a beautiful song.
Getting bogged down in the muck is an artist’s nightmare. You’ve done the initial work. Maybe you painted the paintings, recorded the songs, or wrote the novels, and then you have to take the creation and offer it to world. Just when you thought you were done. There’s a million more hurdles.
If you’re going to write you might as well write something that’ll potentially change the lives of your readers. Otherwise, shelve your words and save them for someone who needs affirmation. When I sit down to write I don’t want to say things that will safely get me sales. In fact, I care about sales only as an indicator for the number of readers I reach. More importantly, I want readers to be knocked back on their heels and say to themselves, “I didn’t know.”
So I’m walking through a bookstore in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico and I’m reading blurbs. I’m not going to blast any artists. That’s not what I’m about. We all come from a different set of experiences. But why are mainstream book publisher publishing the same narrative over and over and over and over? These blurbs seeming lay out different storylines, but when you look at the macro’s macro you start to see a pattern.
So I’m about to rant. I know…you’re saying to yourself, “Oscar, you always rant.” But this is going to be a special kind of rant. I’m going to unburden myself with all the reasons why artists need to be supported. In every way, emotionally and financially. We don’t live in an age of benefactors! If artists are going to be the voice for the under-heard and disadvantaged, then we need fuel for the fire, we need people surrounding us and giving us the energy to keep fighting.
Champions endure the hardest hits–psychological and emotional–and carry themselves forward with the idealism needed to see through the most barren desert landscapes. We’re charged with getting an education and then returning home to make things better. We’re up for the challenge. But we can’t be surprised when we get hit on both sides of the drum.
There you are enjoying the advantages of not being accountable and then a writer moves in next door. At first you think, “Oh, this will be interesting…to have an artist type in the community,” and then you realize writers write. More importantly, writers stand up for the weak, abused, and disadvantaged.