Disequilibrium can be a gift. Great art doesn’t come from comfort Delilah S. Dawson

For a writer or an artist, disequilibrium can definitely be gift.

I think about the ways I’ve challenged myself as a writer in regards to the some of the themes/subject matter in my next novel.

The challenge was not so much in dealing with the topics themselves. The challenge for me was not to allow anybody to negatively affect the story I wanted to tell. The minute I allow anyone to hold me back from being faithful to my characters’ stories, I have done a disservice to them. I would not have been faithful to them.

So far, I’ve been fortunate in not having to wrestle heavily with anybody’s concern about the language (i.e. swearing) that I use in my writing. When I started figuring out and exercising my literary voice, I had the odd person express their discomfort in how freely I used coarse language.

All that tells me is they have a limit to what they’ll tolerate in their reading material. I’m fine with that. But let’s be clear – I’m not changing a fucking thing just to make my writing more palatable for one person or anyone who has a ‘delicate constitution.’

So, either let your toleration levels limit you or gird yourself and see what else I have to offer as a storyteller aside from turning the book pages a beautiful jewel-toned shade of blue.

Reining in or dialling back my creativity means reining in or dialling back who I am. If you want milquetoast, you’re not getting it from me. You’re more likely to get nothing but murderous silence from me. And that’s not a good thing.

If my unbridled creative tendencies to have my characters swear like a mad motherfucker (among other things) turns your stomach, I would like to say thanks for trying to read my writing, and have a nice life.

Disequilibrium can be a good thing for the reader. As a reader, I like to be sucked in and challenged by the author. I’m saying “Bring it on. Do your best to wreck me.” I have mentioned I have masochistic tendencies in previous posts, right? Well, I bounce between masochist and sadist, to be honest.

So as a result of the kinds of stories I’d like to and want to tell, I can’t help but inevitably make life interesting for anyone who is willing to read my stories.

When I decided I wanted to try my hand at fiction writing, I didn’t set out with the intention to make people uncomfortable with my storytelling. I just wanted to figure out how to tell a good, if not great, story.

But it’s starting to look like I’m comfortable with the uncomfortable. I seem to have a tendency to want to explore things that some folks might have set specific boundaries regarding anything uncomfortable. My willingness to ‘go there’ with certain topics probably makes some folks nervous. But as an artist, the uncomfortable is interesting, exciting, probably unnerving and makes my imagination gleefully unruly and chaotic.

To be honest, an unruly, chaotic but focussed imagination is my happy place. That’s what it’s been like for me and my characters since I started writing the second novel. My happy place is untouchable. And yeah, life’s bumpy roads have tried to pry me away from my happy place in the past. That’s when disequilibrium had become too much, too heavy, and threatens my happy place. That’s when I get unruly and maybe a little too feisty to handle. At that point, I’m pretty much ready to fight anyone who gets between me and my happy place. Actually, I would do more than just fight.

I’ll just leave that thought right there.

Great art doesn’t exist solely to make the viewer or the reader feel good about themselves and about the world around them. Great art will also ask the tough questions. Great art will make the grotesque beautiful. Great art will make you think and ask questions. And great art will challenge you.

Through words or through images, those are some of the reasons I embrace disequilibrium and push myself to create.

Look of colour

Characters of color are crucial but are not a replacement for creators of color — Saladin Ahmed

The first time I became aware that I was deliberately including a character of colour in my writing was when I started writing The Raven Sonata.

The female lead character is Chinese/French-Canadian. Another female character is Chinese/Scottish-Canadian. Yes, I have a thing for interracial or biracial characters. I just naturally lean towards them.

Maybe deliberate is a strong word when it comes to my first fiction novel. I didn’t set to deliberately, to purposefully choose to have one of the lead characters be a character of colour. It just happened. 

After that, I became more aware of the issue of representation in the arts and entertainment industry. I’m not sure what category writers/novelists fall into within the industry but I made a point to tell the stories that included characters of colour.

It was also during that time I became aware of how I really felt about representation. How representation affected me when I was growing up. I grew up in a neighbourhood and in schools where ethnicity was everywhere. But on TV and in movies, ethnicity in lead characters were slim to none. 

Anyway, I won’t harp on that. I’ll leave that to those who know the history of representation.

During the writing of the second novel (don’t worry, I will reveal the title of the book when the time comes), I realized that none of my characters are ‘white’. But given the storyline and the setting, its not surprising that there isn’t a caucasian character. I suppose you could insert one, but why? I didn’t think it needed it. Also, it was a question that never came up.

I’d rather not think about the ethnicity of my characters but it seems I eventually have to. But I don’t think about it until I’m well into writing the story. That’s what happened when I was writing the second novel. My reaction to what I had done? I shrugged my shoulders, thought it was interesting and went back to writing. I didn’t care to ‘whiten’ anything. And in the same token, I didn’t vigilantly stay ethnic to avoid ‘whiteness’.

I think, for the most part (but I could be wrong), readers don’t notice these things unless they’re wired that way or taught to notice them or someone brings it up and then it becomes a footnote or a trivia question somewhere down the road. 

I don’t put extra emphasis on ethnicity when I’m creating my characters. To be honest, my characters decide their ethnicity and who they are. They tell me and I roll with it. I may refine the small stuff but, on the whole, the question of the ethnicity of a character has already been decided for me.

Other factors go into creating a character, ethnicity is just one piece of the puzzle. But it is an important piece that shouldn’t be overshadowed by everything around it or overshadow everything else. There is a balance. What that balance is, I have no know idea. I go by instinct.

The stories I tell and will tell in the future, and the characters who inhabit and will inhabit these stories, are framed by my experiences, my hopes, my dreams and my desires. They won’t be to everybody’s liking. And I really don’t give a shit.

But as a person of colour (if one wants to think in those terms), I believe my voice should be out there, along with other creators of colour. How loud my voice will be depends on who is willing to listen. I can’t make people listen to me. I don’t plan on making grand statements. Too much responsibility. Plus, I’m not narcissistic enough for that bullshit.

I just have stories to tell. I have characters whose voices want to be heard. Like me, they’re happy to have the ear of one person or a hundred people. 

Being a hard ass

Imagine my surprise as I was getting ready to sit down and rattle off another weekly blogpost and realized that this post will be #300. How the fuck did that happen? I mean I really don’t keep track of this shit.

But WordPress keeps track for me and I usually ignore it because I’m not all that interested in those kinds of factoids. But here we are.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to prattle on about for this post but considering it’s #300, I think I have something that should be fitting for a small milestone.

On Saturday, I came across a poem by Indian-born Canadian poet Rupi Kaur. It’s called Selfish. And holy shit, it fucking blew my mind. I had heard her name before. It was mentioned in the same breath as British poet Nikita Gill. 93 Percent Stardust is my favourite poem from Gill. Hands down, she is my favourite poet.

I never purposefully sought out Kaur’s words upon hearing her name. But she was someone whose work I would eventually read whenever the moment struck me. And indeed, it struck. I came across Selfish by accident. Selfish encapsulates perfectly the myriad of reasons I remain single, why everyone around me has fallen in love at least once while I haven’t had that experience and why I believe I’ll remain single for the rest of my life. 

I know what love is. I see it. I feel it radiating off those who truly are in love. But to share it with someone in all its glorious intensity is something I haven’t experienced yet. Nor do I think I ever will. Yes, it sounds depressingly pessimistic of me to think that way. I prefer to think I’m being realistic given my track record in the romantic relationships department and given who I fundamentally am as a person. Got some significant strikes against me.

I only say I have strikes against me because I intuitively know what I want and it goes against what some folks think I am because I’m a person of colour and the stereotypes that come with being a POC. In the past, I’ve always written off the fact that I’m a POC as one of the reasons that all the dumbfucks I was involved with, ever initiated anything with me. I think back and I have to wonder if I was wrong in writing off the assumption. Can’t fix what happened in the past. But I sure as hell will do my damnedest to prevent it from happening again. Because if it happens again, there will be bloodshed.

Yeah, I’ve become a hard ass about relationships. If the intangible isn’t there, I refuse to humour anyone and waste my time on someone who doesn’t have most of their shit together. I can’t possibly explain what it is that I’m looking for in a partner. What I want, and importantly, what I need, go beyond words. So, I’m not going to bother explaining myself.

After failing miserably in all of my romantic relationships — none of which were ever healthy from the get-go anyway and I’ll take my share of the blame for the bad choices — I will not work to make that first good impression. Sometimes a good first impression can be false advertising. Think about it. Take me as I am or walk away. 

If you’re not honest with yourself about who you are and what you want, then don’t even fucking bother with me. Words don’t impress me when I can tell you’re lying. Saying anything and everything to get into my good graces doesn’t work. I heard the horse shit before and some of it is pathetic.

Kaur’s Selfish hit a very ugly and sore spot with me. She put into words everything I felt when a relationship went sideways. I’m not asking any of the exes to apologize. They’re too unenlightened and too chickenshit to own up to their transgressions. I wouldn’t believe them anyway.

In fact, I’m sure a couple of them want me to apologize. For what? Believing you had your shit together, asshole? Go fuck yourself.

I’m past wanting or needing apologies. Actually, I never wanted an apology from the beginning because forgiveness is such a foreign concept to me. And considering how things ended with each of the fuckers, the likelihood of any kind of apology rested at zero percent. I know how to pick ’em, don’t I?

Regardless, what’s done is done. Contrition doesn’t work on me. Like I said… I’m a hard ass about shit like this. Learned the hard way.

Reading Selfish cut me open again. But I don’t mind bleeding. I’m used to it. Kaur’s words told me that someone does understand the pain and disillusionment that comes with trusting someone who was ultimately untrustworthy. Everything laid bare, wanting to die and berating yourself for allowing yourself to be fooled because you wanted to know what it would be like to be loved, desired, cherished and to be treated as an equal.

What a fucking idiot I was.

A friend told me that there is someone for everyone. I do want to believe that. Honestly, I do. But I know men who are absolute assholes and women who are unbearable cunts, who have managed to find themselves a partner/spouse and I’m left wondering what the fuck is wrong with me. I thought like that for a long time. It was time wasted. And now, I can’t be bothered to really think about it. We all have our roads to travel.

If there is someone for everyone, then it seems the older I get, the smaller that window becomes. That’s my perception of it.

Let’s be honest, we are taught to believe that love, desire and the pleasures of the flesh are for people in their twenties and thirties. They get to enjoy and revel in it. It’s kind of shallow when you think about it because looks eventually go away and you’re left with the essence of who you are. Your personhood.

For some folks, looks made up for the lack of essence. I can’t even make myself feel sorry for these people. No empathy here. I’ll save it for someone who deserves it. 

I’m battling stereotypes, conventional ideas of beauty and the ever-changing concept of commitment and what it means to truly love someone. It’s tiring. 

My energy is best saved for my ficitonal characters and their stories. They are deserving of that and deserving of my attention.

Fuck everyone else.