Last week, I had the privilege to hear Junot Diaz in conversation with Sunil Yapa at the Toronto Reference Library with a few friends. The library was packed, with hundreds of people lined up either to hear Junot Diaz upstairs or listen to poet, Rupi Kaur downstairs. There were a lot of things I heard that night that made me think, he talked about family, about producing art and refused to screw with the Beyhive when asked about Lemonade. But there was one thing he said in particular that stayed with me.
On acceptance. I can’t remember the exact words he used, but he said as a writer, you will produce your best work if you stop worrying about what others think. Not everybody will like your writing and that’s okay. He described meeting these people who hated his work and said he relished the opportunity to meet the audience you aren’t trying to write for. You don’t write for everybody, some people will relate to your work, others won’t. We get so caught up in trying to make it, in being accepted that we may end up producing something that may not be an accurate reflection of our true selves.
I have been thinking about this a lot over the past week or so. I write for myself and I write as a practice of self expression. Still, it is hard not to get over this feeling of a need to be validated, to have your work accepted. As if value comes from the appraisal of others, rather than the work itself. It is hard to get over that. In the past and no doubt in the future, I have written long statuses on Facebook — only to rethink and perhaps delete them minutes later, panicked by the likes not acquired.
I wondered for a long time whether or not people were actually reading the pieces that I posted on my blog and got some self assurance from another writer I respect. I am slowly learning to write without fear, to produce my thoughts unadulterated. Writing is a practice of being honest with yourself and inshallah, this year – slowly but surely, I’ll learn to be more honest with myself.