Letter to my Patrons

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Tampa Skyline

Dear Patrons,

Yes, patrons, as in the ones who pay me for my labor. I am thankful to my followers as well, especially those of you who read regularly. I hope that if this is a financially stable period of your life, you will be so kind as to subscribe to my Patreon page. Any amount is greatly appreciated.

But I’m thanking my patrons specifically because this marks a significant development in my career as a writer. This month, for the first time, I am being paid for my writing, which is a big deal considering I have been writing for time immemorial (okay, perhaps not that long, but it feels like most of my life), and I have received almost no compensation all this time for the work.

It is scary how easy it is for women of color to internalize a feeling of unworthiness. I discovered I was a good writer when I was very young. At the age of five, I could already write sentences in English. Throughout elementary school, I was told by one teacher after another that I was an incredibly talented writer. Somewhere along the way, I arrived at the conclusion that writing must be easy. After all, I was good at it. I, a simple little brown girl to whom teachers could hardly be bothered to give attention, had mastered that skill even without their help. (This is the honest truth. My immigrant parents from India taught me more than my school teachers in the Southern public school system.) How hard could it be?

Only after I entered graduate school, and now as a writing tutor, I realized this act that I think is so simple is actually really, really complicated. I’ve been asked time and again by close friends–brilliant, talented people who I admire–to look over their papers before they are submitted. Marginalization in the academy has a lot to do with how you are perceived. Many of the writers of color I know have not been told a fraction of the amount I have that they are brilliant, talented people. In fact, most have been told the exact opposite. A lot of them fear that they will be perceived as incompetent when they write.

Writing is a delicate art. The messages we internalize show up throughout the writing process. For me, it is just a way to put our ideas on paper, but for people who are never told that their ideas matter, writing is painful and tedious.

I have a complicated relationship with humility. When I talk about how I became a good writer, it sounds to me as though I’m bragging. In truth, writing has been my saving grace in many ways. As a child, I was terribly shy. I deeply internalized the idea that most people don’t want to hear women speak. Only in recent years did I become capable of breaking down my communication barriers and making an effort to actually tell people the depths of my thoughts. In place of the spoken word, I leaned on the written word to express myself. In that context, I became a versatile writer. Writing had to do everything for me that speaking does for everyone else.

The feeling of knowing that people around the world read this blog is hard to describe. I think the response my brain usually comes up with is “why?”, a response that probably came from years of harmful messages about my “place” in the world. I can name this much: I am thrilled to have your readership. I thank you for allowing me to be my authentic self in this context, and I look forward to sharing more with you.

Irreverently yours,

Leonie

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