Recently, I bought a book called Conversations with Octavia Butler edited by Consuela Francis. It’s a book that consits of interviews with Octavia Butler that span from 1980 to 2006 shortly before her death (and if you don’t know who Octavia Bulter is, I HIGHLY recommend reading up on her). I’m a little less than forty pages in and I’m already amazed. I could go on and on about how perspective she was and how many of the issues that came up in her interviews resonate just as much now as they did then. Instead, I’ll focus on a recurrent theme that showed up these interviews–how terrible her early writing was by her own admission, but how she didn’t give up even in the face of criticism. That truly resonates with me at this point in my life. I happen to think my personal writing is pretty boring at best and atrocious at worst, but instead of being undaunted, I gave up, believing I have no voice and therefore nothing to say. In short, I caved to insecurity.
But recent events made me reflect on all that. The second week in August, I took a week-long course about administering and developing African-American archival collections at the California Rare Book School in Los Angeles. It truly was a blast! I learned a lot about my role as a memory worker and got to meet and connect with wonderful people who were doing the same work I was. I left with a strengthened network of peers and a clear perspective of the skills I wanted to cultivate and improve. On a side note, we went on a field trip to visit the Huntington Library and I caught a glimpse of Butler’s papers which are housed there. I don’t think I’ve ever been so fascinated by an author’s life, nor had I ever had to work harder to not go full fangirl in a professional setting. Actually I spent most of the week trying (and mostly failing) not to have too many geeky moments. I’d never been to California before and those mountains, hills, and that gorgeous weather were something to behold. It probably wasn’t my best attempt at getting people to take me seriously, but oh well. It was still a great experience.
Through my colleagues, I learned that a fellow archivist advised us to to write more–and not just scholarly materials, but our own experiences. We were also told to encourage each other. I was inspired to start writing again and to not give up this time around. My voice would only emerge if I write more even if my writing was terrible to start. That night, I wrote down the bones of this post in my notebook. I didn’t exactly like it, but I was now determined to push through it to become a better writer for my sake and to contribute to my profession in some way.
I’ve always been believed that I was unremarkable with no real voice in my writing. I want to change all that. As an archivist and memory worker, my experiences are valuable and I need to stop doubting myself. My colleagues encouraged me to keep writing until my voice emerges and that’s what I’ll do. Someone posted on either Facebook or Twitter about how people give up learning new things…because they aren’t good at them to start. I’ve been guilty of that many, many times in my life, and writing is just one example. I worry, worry, worry about whether my writing is funny enough, is professional enough, intelligent enough, interesting enough to the point where it’s straight up paralyzing and I believe it shows in my previous blog posts.
I thought about the consequences of my endless fretting about my writing being good enough. I’ll never accomplish the things I really want to both personally and professionally and will essentially be stuck in neutral. I want to fight through my insecurity and start on the path toward growth.
It’s time to resurrect this blog.