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Friday, June 13, 2014

Document from late 1979


Developing as a writer is identical with developing as a person  --- a concentric process of growing inside out.  The writer, the wordsmith, must give great energy to maintaining balance in a world that militates against sanity, especially against the sanity and unhampered growth of African peoples.  As Gwendolyn Brooks has suggested, the child (and the artist who would have the openness, unabashed honesty, natural wonder, and clarity of the child) must have a space wherein to play with grace.  Developing as a writer/person/African human requires discipline, a quality so easily destroyed in Amerikkka with its enticementss to be lazy, complacent, and stoned.  Discipline in one's personal life, supporting vision and values, and discipline in one's craft, attempting the most accurate representation of self on the page, are prerequisites.  Without them, one develops as an esthete, a word-pimp, a lackey of literary capitalism.  One develops as a word-pusher who has neither love and respect for self nor outreaching, authentic love for one's people.  Nor, if the truth be told, corrective love for humanity.

The writer begins with the word, the words, the attempt to understand the history, the semantics, and the politics of the word.  The writer must understand the word, language or languages, as the means of grasping the world's attention.  How has it been done in the past?  And why?  The developing writer (and one is always developing) must read and listen to know the possibilities of the spoken and the written word and the limitations. The most valuable writers are so skilled in propaganda and warfare that what they produce is called art.  That is the skill the developing writer must master: to be the warrior behind the verbal shield of art.**

**It is probable that this document was a response to Osker Spicer's proposal for the SCAAW Conference Workshop: "Developing the Writer." The SCAAW (Southern Collective of African American Writers) Conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia, October 19-21, 1979.

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