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Writing Out Loud: "Craft in the Real World"

writing out loud Sep 17, 2021

Have you ever had one of those "Road to Damascus" moments when the scales fell from your eyes and you saw everything with new eyes?

I've had a few of them.

In the mid '80s when Duncan Kennedy, my property law professor at Harvard Law School, introduced "Critical Legal Studies," the then-controversial theory that the law wasn't "objective," that the rules were created by and for those in power.

After the May 2020 George Floyd murder when I began reading books like Waking Up White, White Fragility, and How to Be an Antiracist, which opened my eyes to how white supremacy is baked into pretty much everything in American society, a fact I hadn't fully understood before.

And, this past year when I read Craft in the Real World and began to understand that the "rules of writing" are nothing more than a set of expectations that a certain audience or reader has. The craft rules we've been taught to believe are "correct" or absolute—such as "show, don't tell," "make your protagonist relatable," and "narrative arc"—are rules with a specific audience in mind—white, cisgender, and western.

I don't know yet exactly how I will write—or coach writers—differently—as a result of having read this book, but I know I will.

That's what good writing does. It causes the reader to look at the world differently. Shakes up our assumptions. Challenges our beliefs.

What books have challenged you lately? I'd love to know how they changed the way you think about the world.

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