“Keep calling them out, but also keep writing.” #FightToWrite
You’re a writer: you probably doubt yourself, haven’t proven yourself to anyone (or even, to your own self-esteem) yet; maybe you’ve never been paid to write an article or had your words used in a Beyoncé release; maybe you haven’t figured out how to publish, or even write a word, for that book.
Maybe you’re even a writer who doesn’t think you’re a writer. You come up with your own rhymes for your raps, your own jokes for your social media videos, your own retelling of events or stories for your close ones, or you sum up your own Cliffnotes of classes you’re attending. You just haven’t affixed yourself to the title of writer.
Whichever one you fit (or don’t fit) in to, writing is an essential tool to your life. For me, I have grown so much as a writer, even though for so long, I wasn’t even trying. I don’t want to focus too much on my own personal journey, but thanks to confidence, music, people committed to dumb decisions, a supportive community, and Twitter — yes, Twitter — I’ve had a lot of success in the past year as an article writer/journalist (I write in other formats, too), including being paid for my first contributions of words. I’m proud of myself for being able to etch my brain activity into someone else’s.
Why Are We Here?
I want to create a space where writers of all disciplines and formats — poets, journalists, social media professionals, copywriters, authors, on and on — genuinely want to, and will, help each other. Something like the community that helped bring me this far, but also something that will bring me and so many others already “emerging” farther.
While I’m technically ‘new’ on the scene, I’ve been appalled by what I’ve already seen that my fellow writers go through, besides the expected ignorant or abusive readers and passenger seat critique. Entering the summer, a close (and way more talented) writer friend of mine had his pitch for a story…“allegedly”… stolen by a major multi-million dollar corporation. I wrote about that here.
To an outsider, this may be a simple dispute to solve; the corporation can just say or prove they didn’t steal it; the corporation waited 3 months to even muster an official response, essentially saying that it was all a misunderstanding. The average person would think the next step is to just sue — if you thought that, you’ve probably never tried to sue anyone, let alone a corporation of this magnitude; or heard how those stories end.
The antipathetic reaction of many at the publication (the story’s “writer” never addressed the claims, and the editor who was pitched claimed he was apologetic and has remained quiet on the matter — at least on Twitter), was at the least,poorly structured yet expected. What was more egregious than how the corporation reacted was how so many other writers, editors, and those in media, reacted. So many came out with their own horror stories and previous experiences of having their work “allegedly” stolen or copied, and how they were fearful of speaking out about it. Many shared the proven track work of the corporation, and those like it, when working with freelancers. Meanwhile, at least one journalist called writers ‘like us’ as pretending to do this “solely for attention” and editors told us we needed to learn the “general practices” of being a writer. Some content creators even told us we should expect it and made it seem as if there was nothing for us to be upset about.
The common implication was, and for many of us, the reality is: we’re not important enough to be acknowledged. For a corporation to do that? Unsurprising. For people who are freelancers themselves or went through similar struggles to get published and make any kind of name for themselves to push that same bullshit, is just ugly. We deserve better from one another. We’re all not the next James Baldwins or Lin-Manuel Mirandas, and the structure of this society there will always be certain voices raised more than others — but gate-keeping and high horse patronizing in an industry that is literally putting words together for other people, is unacceptable. In a time when almost anything is accepted and allowed, we need more diverse and independent works by writers more than ever, not a handful of people that are ‘allowed’ past the gate after surviving a lifetime of struggle, to talk down to us currently in it and facing more of it in the future.
Even if we end that story there, what I saw over the summer was just as bad, if not worse. Story after story after story after story after story came to more organizations in media were being taken advantage of, or disrespected — like music artists attacking or encouraging their fans to harass writers that dare critique them, or brands firing their unionized, salaried staff, or companies failing to pay — just for writing. There’s legitimately too many to name, just in journalism alone.
The frenzy that this situation bought, and the many I heard after it, caused a shocking deal of emotions. You ever felt like you’re in a prison and both the guards and other inmates are mocking you? That’s what this felt like — and I wasn’t even the target. So I had a realization.
“I want to fight.”
What/who are you fighting? Corporations? Editors? The establishment?
I wasn’t sure until recently. I went back to something a very prominent voice and writer — Dr. Roxane Gay — wrote in response to the first story I told — “Honestly, the best thing you can do is come up with more killer work. Keep calling them out, but also keep writing.” When she originally wrote that, I’ll honestly admit I took it as a bit of a shrugging off like everyone else was. Of course, Dr. Gay’s wisdom outlasted my initial emotion. That’s what writing is for, after all. Through — and despite — all of this, in every outcome, somebody wrote, and that’s what will last. I realized what my fight was for. There’s no one person or entity that I’m trying to ‘fight’ — the only enemy of this idea is anything, or anyone, that prevents people from writing. Whoever that may be for whatever reason, they’re going on our list, and we’ll do anything it takes to get them out the way.
So what’s your plan? Be a union? A non-profit?
There are so many great(!), genuine, and frankly more developed organizations out here trying to help writers — shout out to Writers of Color, Study Hall, Freelancer’s Union, IWW-Freelancer’s Journalist Union, Tortoise Media off the top of my head — and I don’t plan on replacing them. To be completely transparent, I don’t really plan much of what this will be, other than this is the start of our #FightToWrite. All I know is I simply want to build the community and resources to help people — that’s everyone with a pen or not — have the ability to write, while minimizing the exploitation, gate-keeping, or isolation that comes with calling yourself a ‘writer’.
I’m not one to stay quiet on obviously terrible parts of society, nor am I good at is putting aside people’s plights — I am good at is organizing. Along with that, I’m a master complainer, serious grudge holder, insanely empathetic person, and very good at details. Right now, those are the tools I plan to fight with — and oh yeah, that essential tool I mentioned earlier. Writing.
What will you do first? What should we do?
Do you need help in developing your pitching? Let’s find someone to help you. Are you trying to figure out how to professional a publisher to run you your money? We got you. Want to figure out what all the twitter hashtags are and what they correlate too? Shit, me too; let’s figure it out together. You subconsciously need someone to give you the confidence to send that query?Say no more fam; consider it sent. Much of the work or community I’m trying to program here includes things I already do like share my editorial leads, or boosting tweets/articles in my network, or sharing jobs and gigs I come across. I’m not masquerading to be some all-knowing guru or revolutionary in this; I will be learning and trying out this experiment right along there with you. The #FightToWrite could be the major change that this industry needs, a blip on the timeline of the era, or something we won’t remember we did 50 years from now. That all depends on you: if you join me here, what will you bring? What tools are you fighting with? What do you need to become the voice we didn’t know we need?
If you’re a writer, no matter what level or popularity you have, I want you to join in the fight. You don’t have to be on the front lines like I’ve chosen to be, or even be involved in the ‘fight’. Don’t do this for me or someone you know; do this because you want to write, and you want to help someone else who wants to. Those not primarily ‘writers’, I just ask you share this and support us in our fight by following us or knowing who you’re working with.
At this point, we’re just in the opening phase. It will be an organized members group free for anyone (regardless of what you do, or want to do) managed and operating through my cooperative, PRISM Collaborative. (You don’t have to be a member of PRISM to partake, although I definitely want you to consider it, but don’t let that stop you). Just let us know on our form [Link here] or via e-mail [to me?] or message that you want in, and then from there, we’ll just all…write. Operate as we do in our normal, human lives. We plan to put on workshops and classes, but what we really want to make the core of The #FightToWrite is that writers can find another writer to work with growing 1-on-1 in an area, and vice versa; and, if publication or group of people try you, we’ll have your back. That’s it.
Let’s just write.
If you want to join us: https://prismcollaborative.com/fight-to-write/
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