Decolonizing the Creative Space #3

OK, last post on “decolonizing” the creative space, and then I’m off to AAAS.

I’ve been writing about the workshop space, the MFA curriculum, the publishing industry. I need to move away from those things, and reiterate some things about writing process. There is the stereotypical image of the lone writer, languishing away at her desk. She is isolated from her community, not because she has no community, but because the work of writing can only be done by her. There is only so much reading and studying, pushing and pulling, community workshopping, inspirational meme-ing, procrastinating that can be done. Bottom line is this: only the writer can write her book.

So that’s my reality. Sitting at my computer, banging out the thing. Deleting and rewriting the thing. Editing the thing. Tinkering with the thing.┬áIs “decolonizing” this space possible? Or, more specifically, “decolonizing” this mental and intellectual space.

Being a solo writer is a contradiction in the Filipino American community, or at least in my corner of the Filipino American community, where everything feels like it must be done via consensus and collaboration in order to earn community value. Being a solo writer in this context can be seen as self-serving, selfish, individually driven.

Well, being individually driven is necessary (see above: only the writer can write her book).

My experience has shown me that no matter how much shouting out the community for support and inspiration you do, no matter how much concrete support you actually have and publicly acknowledge, you must still be individually driven, and this is viewed as self-serving.

Some strategies I’ve tried, in order to mitigate those perceptions of being self-serving: In addition to all my community work with PAWA, let me back to all my previous blog posts on my writing projects. On asking, rather than dictating, issuing edicts. This kind of work has made me think more and more critically about my poetic speakers — Who are they? What am I doing with their narratives? How am I telling their stories? How do I do this, without falling into appropriation? Is that even possible? Is all writing from POVs not my own, all appropriation?

Well, these are hard questions, but I cannot also allow these to paralyze me and stop up my output. I have to write. Talking and talking and talking and thinking and thinking about writing is not really writing, after all.

I think then, about poetic strategies, poetic forms. Are there poetic forms that can contain or convey my concerns? I can’t tell you that I have an answer to this. Everything I write ends up going through these processes and experiments. The text is my lab; languages, forms, the line, and every possible poetic device I can think of are my elements and materials to employ. Can these be decolonized? Or more to the point: how may use of these, or the poetic decision making process be decolonized. So this is where I’m at this morning.

Share/Bookmark

What does it mean to decolonize the creative space #2

Who makes the rules? Are we OK with that? Do we follow the rules? Do we break the rules? How do we get what we want, as individual and community artists? How do we get to do what we love to do as artists? And then finally: are we interested in social change? If we are interested in social change, what are we doing, how are we participating in movements towards social change?

So, I am working on my own presentation for tomorrow’s AAAS Conference panel/discussion on “decolonizing” the creative space. The other day, I posted five questions, issues which our panelists will be addressing as well.

As I am writing out my thoughts, this is what keeps recurring: examining critically my relationship to institutions, and my relationship with grassroots community.

1. As an emerging writer way back in the day, having made the decision to go get the MFA. I did this because of the rigor I believed I needed in order for me to actually grow as a writer. Here, we can talk about that personal motivation for growth and exposure to new ideas. We can also talk about whether or not community was to be had there, and what the substance of the workshop setting was. We can also talk about curriculum and its relevance. Here, I do not only mean ethnic diversity in the reading, though of course, that’s very important. Here, I really mean the political, aesthetic, and even the linguistic diversity. We can also talk about the community outside of the institutional space, whether there were relationships of support or hindrance. In both of these communities, we would have to think about perceptions of “otherness,” about marginalization from within the institution. We would also have to think about perceptions of “whitewash,” and careerism, from outside of the institution.

2. As an author, with a relationship to the institution of publishing. Again, those expectations and assumptions from both inside and outside. What do we believe we must write about, how do we believe we must write, in order to gain admission, acceptance into the publishing industry? Where do these beliefs come from? Where did we learn these beliefs? Have we ever questioned and confronted these beliefs and their sources?

3. As an educator, who has consciously decided to work in the capacity of an adjunct, not as a tenure track professor. I have decided to continue working in a workforce that is not attached to or affiliated with academic institution. My main source of income and benefits do not come from a college or university. What does this mean to me in terms of some kind of freedom? Well, a lot. And by “freedoms,” I do mean political and professional freedoms. I have written here before that I get to publish when and where and with whom I choose to publish — big, small, internet, print, international, national, local. My community work and affiliations are my choice.

So then, my larger questions and concerns are: Who makes the rules? Are we OK with that? Do we follow the rules? Do we break the rules? How do we get what we want, as individual and community artists? How do we get to do what we love to do as artists? And then finally: are we interested in social change? If we are interested in social change, what are we doing, how are we participating in movements towards social change?