Intersections – Je Suis Writer
By Nicki Salcedo
I am a writer. I write fiction. But I’m not a journalist. I don’t do satire.
Once a week, I write down my observations of the world. These personal essays are a challenge for me. Fiction is easy. The truth is hard.
I document the intersections where ideas and people meet. I’m simple. I live in a dark corner of Georgia. I write about cats and coffee shops. Even when contemplating the mundane, my words have power. All words do.
Words can kill. Words can get you killed.
I write with two objectives: be gracious and tell the truth. Some writers use their words and ideas to alienate and stir controversy. Some writers have no intention of being kind or careful with their words.
I, too, have caused irritation with my words. I’ve been called a racist, a hand-wringing anti-feminist, and a stay-at-home-mom. The strange thing about being called a stay-at-home-mom is that the comment was meant as an insult, and I’m not a stay-at-home-mom. You can’t trust your detractors. They will interpret my words the way they want, no matter my intentions..
I don’t let the comments silence me. I don’t get angry when I see opinions that differ from my own. The purpose of writing is to start a conversation, not create uniform agreement. I take issue with satire that goes too far. I question satire that is meant to shock and insult. I wonder what thoughtful conversation might come out of it.
I respect the creative process. I believe in the freedom of speech. I don’t want anyone to be censored. I don’t want anyone to die.
This week a dozen people died in France and two thousand died in Nigeria. What is freedom? What is art? What is terror? I write to find answers.
Here is the terrible reality. All words are dangerous. If you write satire or stir controversy, if you write humor or memoir, if you tell lies for the sake of gaining readers or tell the truth for the sake of losing them. No matter what you write, you will challenge someone’s belief system. You will hurt feelings. You will evoke rage.
I believe everyone should write. Write poetry, a letter to your grandmother, a compliment to the staff at the coffee shop. Write words. Get a pen. Bloody the paper. When you write you become a better reader.
I am careful when I write, but I won’t censor myself. I’m not looking for agreement, but intersections. I’d love to see an editorial from someone on why the line in the coffee shop should curve the other way. I like to see different points of view.
I am not French. I am not Nigerian. I mourn loss of life whenever I read the news. I avoid the news because it is selective. I don’t believe it all to be true. It feeds my sadness and disappointment. Writing gives me joy and hope.
I am a writer. Je suis writer. I write about things close to me. That grave east of Stone Mountain. The lush green grass my backyard from thirty years ago. I think about things far away. An office building containing a massacre. Bloody pens on the floor. I think about stories that are never told. Missing women and children. Bodies destroyed by fire.
I should be afraid to write. I’m not. Je suis writer. I realize I’m not afraid of dark alleys. I’m not afraid of anything. Especially words.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.