If not for money, what motivates?
I am a writer, not as hustler
I am lucky to be financially stable and debt-free. I am not rich, but I have resources. Unless the country completely collapses, including pension funds, the stock market, and the banks, I will be okay for a while. In this time of the pandemic, I count my blessings and thank all the essential workers, especially those working in the hospitals. Because I don’t have to, it is hard for me to do anything that requires hustle. I had been spending a lot of time and energy grueling over Medium articles about how to make money on this platform, and am glad I came across this one, that advised me not to worry about that. I needed to read it. It reminded me that this is a community of writers. So, I follow his advice: I write for me, for the reasons that serve me.
Published on Medium. Or you can read it here.
Facing my inner wimp
“It’s not autobiographical,” I say slyly when I share the plays that I have written (wink wink). Japanese-American dancer hungering for approval from her emotionally distant father. Artist from Guam living in Los Angeles with artist who is using her as a model for his erotic paintings of islander women. Single Okinawan-American mom of a mixed-race millennial caring for an elderly mother. Not autobiographical.
Because they’re plays, and presumably fiction, it gives me cover so that I am not naked to the world. But in non-fiction opinion essays, the only cover from exposure is to wimp out and not go to those scary, controversial places. Am I am a (wo)man or a mouse? A writer or a wimp?
There is a pervasive sense of death in the air. In Hawaii, today there have been three fatalities, and last count was less than twenty positive diagnoses on my island. Those small numbers don’t give me comfort. I feel the pain from all over the world. It’s heartbreaking. Our inner Pooh wants to tell our inner Eeyore to look at the silver lining. We feel guilty and cheesy for the Pooh-ness of our impulse. But there it is. My silver lining is that I decided to face my inner wimp.
I was once a union activist. I used writing and speaking to advocate for educational justice. In the beginning of the current president’s term, I participated in the Women’s March, and later, the March for Science. I shared Nina Simone’s quote about An Artist’s Duty to reflect the times, believing that I would step up and do my part. But instead, I became dispassionate and numb. What happened to me? I think it was a combination of despair, futility, and escapism that doused my fire.
Underlying uneasiness leads to plant medicine
But for the purposes of this article, another of the insights was that I needed to visit Mauna Kea. So I did. You can read about that here.
Connecting to the bigger picture
Standing in solidarity with the protesters means standing in solidarity with our planet, with Mother Earth, with Nature. In doing this, I stand with native indigenous people whose wisdom and power is deeply entwined with their connection to the land and the spirits therein. I stand as a feminist calling for an end of male dominion over women, including Mother Earth. The era of exploitation of the earth must end. This is not an easy lift, particularly under the current anti-earth president. The list of attacks on the environment under this administration goes on and on. Besides his handling of the pandemic (shameful) this is this president’s legacy — environmental abuse! The gall he has to gut the clean car standards amid the pandemic exemplifies his destructive priorities. My mama bear instinct is provoked to protect our planet. When I read that the the president’s“pastor” preaches that environmentalism is evil, that was fuel on the hellfire. Their anti-earth (anti-life) hypocrisy and evil must be challenged. There’s a lot of work to do!
Anything worth fighting for will offend
This is where the bravery comes in. I am not a brazen bitch, I am not a tita (in Hawaii, a tough girl). I am an introvert. I am reserved. I am awkward around men. I struggle with self-consciousness. I don’t want you to be mad at me. If I wrote something I thought would offend, I didn’t share openly and proudly. I have been a wimp. And here I am at a crossroads. I either continue to be a wimp, or I learn to write bravely and share openly.
Given the divisiveness that defines the current era, I expect that I will offend someone. If we’re being honest, a writer’s fantasy is that you can write so convincingly that you inspire the Hallelujah moment in someone on the other side. But if bringing people over to my side was my motivation, I wouldn’t be able to keep writing. Rather, connecting with others, even if it’s preaching to the choir, or better yet, guest-preaching to a different choir, is compelling to me. I reach out to you with my truth. You can reach back and we can have a conversation or you can spit on my outstretched hand. If there was no risk that I could get spit on, bravery wouldn’t be required. I hope you don’t. I hope that even if you disagree with me, you will be civil. Elbow bump, okay? But if you do spit on my truth with your condemnations, I will wash well for more than twenty seconds. And keep writing. It is life or death in these pandemic times, but even after it’s over, it’s life and death for the survival of the planet.
End of the wimp era
Going forward, I will write to be in touch with my truth, to understand other perspectives, to do research so that I inform my writing with facts, to drive my feminist-environmental perspective even if it may offend. I will wrest the wimp out. I will channel my inner Nina Simone. I will write bravely and share openly.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.