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Pep Talk from Alexis Daria

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Dear Writer,

Why do you write?

Maybe you write because you have a story inside you that needs to come out. Maybe you have something to say, characters who pull at your imagination or themes that speak to your heart. You might have whole worlds existing in your mind that need an outlet, and that outlet is the page.

But when current events feel overwhelming, it can be hard to remember why we write, and why writing stories is important work. After all, we’re just sitting in front of a computer—or whatever your writing instrument of choice is—writing a book. About fake people. We’re playing pretend on the page. How does that help anyone? How does that make a difference? Why does it matter?

The truth is, stories do matter. They matter a great deal, especially when there is still so much work to do to get to where we want to be. Here’s why.

Stories let us know we’re not alone. They reflect ourselves back to us. They let us compare and contrast ourselves to the characters, giving us the opportunity to imagine how we would handle the situation and therefore learn something about ourselves. They show us characters in peril, in love, in deep despair, and let us know that what we think and feel is not just okay, but universal. Stories make us feel seen and heard. They entertain us and allow us to escape. They can make us feel hope again. They make us feel, at times when it seems easier to shut down.

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There is power in story. Stories bridge incredible distances. They bring us closer together. They take us out of our bubbles and help us understand the needs and experiences of others. They remind us that we’re all in this together.

Sometimes I forget this. After a year like 2020, it’s hard to remember why all these hours I spend alone at my desk matter in the grand scheme of things. But at a time when the United States government commits human rights violations against Latinx families at the southern border (and additional atrocities toward other marginalized groups), it feels like a radical act to write stories where Latinx characters find love, success, and self-acceptance on their own terms. This is my answer to why I write. And even if no one else reads it (and no one has read any of my 2004 – 2015 NaNo projects), it is worthwhile for my own well-being to commit this narrative into words.

Because stories provide another function I didn’t mention above: Stories can heal. And we are in desperate need of healing right now.

When the writing gets hard, or when it all feels like too much, remember why you write, and that there is value in what you’re doing. Stories matter. Your story matters.

It’s time to write it down.

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Graphic designed by Sandra Moore (our 100% amazing Fall 2020 Programs Intern)

Alexis Daria is a native New Yorker, former NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, and award-winning author writing stories about successful Latinx characters and their (occasionally messy) familias. Her debut Take the Lead won the 2018 RITA® Award for “Best First Book” and was one of the “Best Romance Novels of 2017” in The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly. Her super powers include spotting celebrities in NYC, winning Broadway ticket lotteries, and live-tweeting.

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