What Subjects Have Chosen You?


I see myself changing, becoming more political as a writer. I also see myself becoming opinionated and willing to speak my opinions. We have these romantic notions that we can’t write about anything important because we didn’t live through _______ fill in the blank. For me it was the thought that nothing important was happening, I didn’t live through apartheid, the 60’s power movements…what could I possibly have to say? Then I read an essay called Being a Product of Your Dwelling Place by Nadine Gordimer. It is featured in the book The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work edited by Marie Arana.

In the essay, Gordimer states that we are all products of our environment and that it will show up in our work whether we intend to or not. She says that “none of us can ‘choose our subjects’ free of the contexts that contain our lives, shape our thoughts, influence every aspect of our existence.” So then I started thinking about what subjects have chosen me. What are things that I have lived through and experienced. September 11th, the Iraq War, Operation Desert Storm, Hurricane Katrina, Columbine, abuses at Abu Ghraib. I’ve barely scratched the surface and yet I have found a wealth of subjects. These are subjects that many people aren’t writing about, at least not from a personal standpoint. Sure we see it in the news but I want to read essays about the emotional impact of Columbine on a mid-Western housewife. I want to see the human element that is so often stripped out of our history. Where are the narratives?

What I’m really trying to say is don’t be afraid to explore these subjects. You have a voice, use it. Your pen can be both a tool and weapon.

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