Here at Women and Words we talk a lot about writing from every angle. Writing inspiration, the craft, upcoming writing opportunities, and often explore our own processes with readers and peers. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about writing as a social vehicle. In my early years, songs on the radio seemed to always challenge us. They raged against injustice, spoke of change, social ills, hoped for peace, and even raged against war. The lyricists, poets, and authors of the sixties used their talents to engage our hearts and push us toward social justice. Artists understood the power they had to change hearts and minds.
That’s the reason that throughout history those in power have sought to silence creative minds—they understand the artists’ power to galvanize us into action, and that scares them. The result is banning books, songs and other art, but spirit and truth cannot be silenced. It is the most powerful form of peaceful protest, enduring because it’s captured on paper, recordings, or film. Somewhere along the way, though, pop lyrics moved away from social messaging in favor of the likes of solo cups and chew-tobacco-spit. The literary world still has inspirational gems and smart thrillers, but that’s offset by fifty shades of something masquerading as high literature. We can find memoirs, tales of military bravery, romance galore, but I’ve been yearning for a body of work that speaks to our social consciousness. Not political shouting matches, just works of inspiration or that challenge us to reach our higher selves? Works that take on the upheaval of the day, like the fantastic satirical cartoonists, standing up to ignorance and fearlessly leading today’s critical commentary.
Then I thought, what about us as authors? What is our responsibility? Don’t we have an opportunity or even a duty to use the power of our words to push boundaries? Use our stories to inform as well as entertain? And by the way, who says challenging and informing can’t entertain? My friend, Bev Prescott’s recent release, BLOWBACK is a great example of tackling a sticky social topic. Bev does it with great skill and judging from the on-line buzz, readers love it. In my own quest to expand my horizons, I’ve read work by some fantastic African-American poets, including slam poetry artists. Their words shocked me and sometimes made me uncomfortable, but also profoundly moved me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Art is at it’s best when tapping our emotions.
My own writing journey has taken me into the non-fiction realm, because I am passionate about the current debates raging around race and policing. No doubt, this perspective will color much of my writing in the near future. I believe that’s a good thing. Bev seemed to read my mind in her last blog when she talked about the evolution of lesfic. I couldn’t agree more. While romance is awesome and will always be popular, I’m betting you also want to push your boundaries and maybe even squirm from time to time when a topic hits too close to home. That’s what art should do—move us on every level.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, tell us about a writer whose work pushes the edges or inspires you in a unique way. If you’d like to read some of my commentary on the world we live in, you can visit me at lynettemae.com.
Thanks for reading~LM