What is writing, if not a way to contribute to the conversation? Dialogue and discourse are the biggest influences on my creative process. I really believe that conversations are the driving force of humanity, and am am truly fascinated by how a single conversation can change the entire world. I think about the pillow-talk between Neil Armstrong and his wife, when he got back from walking on the moon; or the heated conferences and debates that ultimately lead to an atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. I think about the endless lectures my father would inflict upon my teenaged self, where he would drop some ninja bomb nugget of knowledge into my brain. Months, or years later, usually in a significant life moment, his words would explode to an amazing epiphany. Yeah, my Dad’s got that Yoda thing going on. The most life changing was the one, after I’d been laid off 16 weeks pregnant, and I was in a panic about being able to find a job before the baby came. My husband sat down with me, held both of my hands and said, “You’ve never been a lawyer, or a teacher, or any of those things you were going to school for. Not to me. To me, you’ve always been a writer. You should be that.” I think of the insights I share with my own children, and am humbled by the influence these will have on molding them, for better or worse, into the adults they will become. I write because I want to have these conversations with you. I want to talk about the weather, and the shoes I saw on sale, but didn’t buy. I want to hear about your childhood, and your family. More than that, though, I want to talk about our dreams, and fears, and I want to wax profound on what we think the world should be like, where it is going, and how we can change it.
We won’t get there if we hide our voices, or only share them with like-minded people. In fact, it’s our civic responsibility to talk to people who don’t agree with us. This is why the other major influence on my writing is the importance of embracing diversity. While most people think of the plots of their stories, and create characters to tell it, my process is almost completely character driven. My brain gives birth to characters, and then I just see what they do in different situations. Homogeneity is boring. Sitting around and debating with a bunch of people who agree isn’t nearly as interesting as what happens when you introduce even one person who doesn’t agree, or has a different idea.
I don’t think it’s enough to cast different races in ambiguously described character roles, though. I think it’s important for the complexity of our society to be represented in our literature. It’s like choosing to paint with only two colors in your palette. Sure beautiful things can be created, and they have been, but ignoring the rainbow of colors we have at our disposal limits the conversations we can have. The prevailing majority of literature’s homogeneous representation actively prevents us all from joining in the conversation. Not to mention how incredibly unrealistic it is. It should strike us as strange if we only have one friend of color, or differing sexual orientations, religions, and points of view. That’s just lazy. I intend for my writing to challenge the notion that there is one way to see anything, or anyone.
To that end, I will always invite discussion about anything I write, speak about, or believe is truth. I challenge those who would seek to change my mind to try, because I don’t think any of us can learn anything new if we aren’t considering new and different points of view, and we’ll never know about them if we aren’t talking about it.