As a writer, I often have to perform and speak at various venues. One such venue had my speaking on the topic: what motivates you as a writer? The format was set up as a conversation between a poet, Jason Yurcic, and myself. He and I share backgrounds in that we both are street kids with books out. He spoke first and, to paraphrase, he writes as an escape from the grueling life of a concrete worker. He spoke about his back hurting and muscles aching. Writing, for him, was a means of a life without pain.
When my time came, I said, “The thing that motivates and informs my writing the most is anger.”
Before I could continue, Jason interrupted, “Angry? Why are you angry? You’re educated.”
He was right. I am educated. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities and a Master’s degree in Education. Good credentials. But, does being educated mean that anger somehow subsides into a Pollyannaish existence? Not for me. Jason’s question was fair. He, by his words, is not educated in the formal sense. To him, a formal education represents something that relates to an antidote to pain.
While education has been my escape from the internalized pain I developed on the streets, I still carry anger. The question still remains, why am I angry, and at who? Who is my enemy?
To answer, imagine you and I are about to play checkers, only, you’ve never played before. All that I tell you about the game is that the pieces can move one space forward at a time and that pieces can jump the opposite colored pieces one at a time. I don’t tell you about double (or triple) jumps, or about crowing pieces once they’ve reached the opposite end of the board.
After I told you a very limited way to play the game, we begin to play. Of course, when you see me making moves that I never told you about; you may question the moves. But, I would not answer you. I would just continue the game winning making moves that you don’t know how to make. I would keep several of the rules to myself so that you couldn’t win. The game would be rigged and you would lose.
Life in the United States is like this game of checkers. There are untold rules hidden from those people like me so that we are already set up to lose. Those untold rules are my enemy. You may disagree with me, if you choose, but your disagreement probably means that you know the rules. This societal game is about the acquisition and maintenance of power. I played for years without knowing the rules. I lost miserably. If it weren’t for a computer, a Commodore 64, that my mom gave me when I was twelve years old, I would not have the education that Jason believes is my escape from anger. I would not have the guts to face my enemy and show you how you, too, can overcome the untold rules and find and express something inside yourself that’s meaningful and important: Everyone has something worth expressing. Until we all know that, I will keep on fighting.