You Must Have an Awkward Phase

Yesterday I read this article about a white writer for the Dave Chapelle show. I love good cultural criticism. And I love Ta-Nehise Coates.

Never try to look cool and learn something at the same time. You must have an awkward phase. All of us would like to skip that awkward phase. That is not how it works. Here is how it works: Get your ass in the water. Swim like me.

It’s funny to read this article while listening to a bluegrass show. (Aside: I also love bluegrass. I love all the strings. But the writing. Some of it is amazing, and the rest of it is cliche, simplistic, and excruciating.)

Never trust that part of you that thinks you found “the best black” anything. Likely, you are speaking loudly of the little you know, and not intelligently of the everything that is. And you know so little of it. This world was made precisely so that you would know so little of it. And the minute you learn anything of it, you will understand why that part of you was ridiculous.

I have been in the awkward phase of my writing research for so long. I have finally found my voice, my chutzpah to write about my subject. But the attendant research is on nothing I have an intrinsic aptitude for. Finally, finally I am digging in the dirt, sitting down with a few articles and Wikipedia, finally I have someone who I can ask questions to and who is taking the time to explain things to me. I feel like a genius, but really this is something gifted middle school kids get on the first try. But I’ll bet they can’t write worth a damn.

Is your ass in the water?

8 responses to “You Must Have an Awkward Phase

  1. My life got a lot more fun when I made myself admit weakness and failure and ineptitude out loud. I won’t say how (embarrassingly) old I was when that happened.

  2. I stopped pretending to know things I didn’t long ago. But I fully admit to remaining silent and letting people assume I know exactly what they’re talking about when I haven’t a clue. I call it “professional courtesy”…

  3. I too, have stopped pretending. I know what I don’t know, and unlike you, Lyra (probably because I don’t know how to remain silent) I try to shout it out loud: to my students, my colleagues, my heroes. My blog, like yours, Independent Clause, usually ends in a question. That’s because I hope someone will help me figure it all out.

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