By Daniel José Older; originally published at his eponymous blog
Had coffee with Saeed [Jones] today and we were talking about how, as people of color, we are socialized to feel gratitude to even have a seat at the table in the publishing industry, and how silencing that discomfort can be, the challenges of knowing how and when to push, how to gain and maintain a strong footing and sense of self while navigating the swamps of the literary world.
Then I went home and looked over a contract, noticing how every part of me just wanted to say, “It’s fine! It’s fine! Whatever you got for me is fine!” because I’m still just so happy to be paid for writing something, aghast at what that is and, even though I know I’ve earned it and I know it’s my path, there’s always that voice trying to barge its way in saying, Stay in line, be careful how you come across, don’t ask for too much, because it’s fragile, the weird world of publishing, the undefined, over-defined, never full, outlined beast called success.
And so WTF is success, right? I prefer the term “victory” because that’s what it feels like when shit comes together, but “success” is the word we hear most after the word “literary,” and what we believe to be “success” and “not success” matters. It matters a whole lot and what we’re never taught to do, not in MFA programs, not in [ridiculous] online how-to-be-a-writer-troll-ass blog posts, not damn anywhere–except maybe if you go to VONA–is that we have to, have to–as in it’s-a-matter-of-survival have to–deconstruct the fucked-up narrow version of success that we’re spoon-fed and create for ourselves a new understanding of what that means. Each of us has to do this, and we have to do this as a community.