I've been trying to make this post for two months, and it took the turn of the new year for me to feel like I could.
I think we all know what happened here in the US about two months ago - a racist, sexist failed businessman rode into the highest office in the land on a wave of hate and fear and ignorance. But I'm not here to talk about him. I'm here to talk about all the people who aren't like him, all the people who his campaign made out to be lesser, and why what we writers do is important to people like them.
Because if I've learned anything since the election, it's that these people need your stories.
Growing up, most of the stories I read were about me and people like me. I'm a straight cis white man, and I know it's a lot harder to find stories that don't star someone like that than ones that do. It was different when it came to my writing, though. I've always liked writing women more than men; every single book I've written has a female POV character, and in many of them, there are only female POV characters. Also, I've been writing characters who aren't straight since high school, partly because standard boy/girl relationship stuff bores me and partly because I'm really bad at writing people as attracted to men.
I never thought there was anything unusual about any of this, though, or that it would make much of a difference. Then I started reading about how rarely people who weren't like me saw themselves as heroes in whatever they were reading, or watching, or what-have-you. I read about the damage it does to see those they identify with turned into villains or killed off; tropes like Black Dude Dies First and Bury Your Gays can hurt in ways that don't occur to people who don't see themselves in those characters. And yet, I've seen countless examples of how much these people love it when those narratives change - when they get to see themselves as the leads, the heroes, the ones who get to win. There are countless examples of this, but here's one I just found yesterday.
It makes them so happy. And I want to be the kind of writer who does that for them.
If the election has done anything for me (more stress and more white hairs aside), it's inspired me to keep going, to try harder to get published and get my stories where the people who need them can see them. I can't change the world on my own. But if I can make things a little bit better for the people who now need it more than ever, I'll feel like all the effort is worth it.
I encourage all of you to do the same, in whatever way you can. Art always has the power to change the world, but at the worst of times, it can be what one person needs to change their life.
It's a new year. There's a lot we can do. Let's get to work.