Issues With Being A Writer of Color

by Channler Twyman

Being a writer of color offers many opportunities to bring new experiences and stories to a predominantly white world of literature. I have said it before and will continue to do so with this series—it is imperative that marginalized folks share and create their own stories. It is vital now more than ever that we are represented accurately and realistically in society. With that being said, writing while carrying a marginalized identity is often like walking uphill with a bag of bricks strapped to your back that has dynamite attached to it. I’m going to be talking about one of the many issues writers of color face while pursuing their craft: Authenticity.

Oh, yes. The struggles of remaining true to yourself while simultaneously feeling like you are writing for the sake of your entire race. People may want to deny this fact, but it has always crept in the back of our minds at some point in our career. As hard as we may try to write words and create stories for the people we identify with, ultimately, not everyone is going to like we write. Some will say we “tried too hard,” or that we “sold out," which is totally unfair. All you can do as a writer is write from your own experiences and hope someone relates. No one, unless they are directly involved in your life, has the right to criticize what you write about. Write what you want to write about. That is where true authenticity lies.

In regards to “selling out," of course we sell out. Who wants to be broke? Not I. Everyone writes with the hopes of making money off what they happen to be good at. If we have the opportunity to share our experiences, and profit off them, why shouldn’t we? There is always room for critique in terms of intentions for writing a story, but all stories start from something we’ve experienced. People spend a lot of time and effort trying to make, at the very least, a decent story. If someone is willing to pay you for it, GET THOSE COINS! It shouldn’t devalue the content of your writing.

Aside from the critiques of our own communities, we also find it hard trying to fit in amongst “mainstream," i.e. white people. Sometimes it feels like our work can only be successful if it is validated by the approval of white critics, white authors, and white-owned publishing houses. In my experience as an avid reader, it often seems that the work widely supported by privileged folks often profits off the trauma of people of color, such as slave narratives, the genocide of natives, or the search for one’s cultural identity, among many other topics. These types of stories are undeniably important, but people of color are not limited to our struggles. We are able to find love, joy, and triumph even in a society built to ensure our subjugation. We are more than our oppression.

Writing is hard, and being a person of color doesn’t make it easier, but we have to keep pushing forward and make it easier for those that come after us, as those before us have done the same. I hope this article doesn’t discourage you all from writing but hopefully encourages you to continue to work hard and make our stories heard.

— Channler Twyman is a writer who hails from South Georgia where his love for literature began at the age of two. He currently attends the College of Wooster where he continues to foster his craft. Although, he has a passion for the literary arts, he still hopes for the day where he achieves his final form and is able to battle the forces of evil as a Sailor Scout.