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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Double Consciousness and the Writer

Watched a documentary about graffiti artists, angry teenagers who now have gallery shows and houses in suburbian these days, and they were discussing their once hostility toward suburbia, calling it "artificial".  What may grate on the young artist about suburbia is its lack of diversity and its isolation from action, from what others are doing.  An artist--including a writer--needs a double conciousness.  Otherwise, they are like the fish who doesn't know it swims in water, in terms of their own culture. Without a rub between you and the culture, there's little to spark creation.

You can start developing a double consciousness by moving into a big city if you grew up in suburbia, by moving to the South if you grew up in the North, by moving to a foreign country, by being aware how your ethnic background makes you different from what is considered "normal".

You also acquire it through age.  With age, you can contrast how it was with how it is now.  You shouldn't  be inconoclastic and turn sentimental, rating the past as always better, but you clearly have a double consciousness.  It may be personally unsettling at times, but it is good for a critical eye on the the world you live in, and for writing creatively.

Double consciousness is, of course, what young writers in creative writing are unlikely to have. So we should be kind and understanding about their first efforts.

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