Cut the neck. At least once a week, Pa performed this gesture—a thumb sliced clean across his throat. When drivers cut him off, he would switch lanes, speed up and stare into their car until he got someone’s attention and that person would get a cut-the—neck. In the grocery store, when my older sister and I were lobbing bags of dried lentils at each other, one dose of Pa’s cut-the-neck stopped any further incidents of adolescent insanity. Then there was that stray cat who’d shit all over the dead rose bush. Pa would hide, wait and, when it arrived, shower the animal with Italian profanity before chasing it down the driveway with a cut-the-neck. His gesture became so commonplace to my family that it lost all impact. Not so for outsiders.
Talent has no place in the toolbox for an emerging writer. When people say, “You have a gift with words”—smile, be polite while aware of the struggle of all those hours you spent weighing every single word. Recall the rules of writing. Measure the depth of character. Remember elements like story opening and closing, voice, language selection, plot, theme, pace. How do you balance it all while still keeping the concept intact? Without seeming author intrusive? How do you create a world that seduces the reader with such delicate artistry? How do you weave strands from your subconscious into something powerful, meaningful, authentic to the reader?
And what happens when you finish your masterpiece? Re-read it and think: Holy hats, this has to be the most tiring, pointless piece of meandering I’ve ever created.
Enter Diaspora Dialogues. Enter your mentor, a master in the art of writing. This person will undoubtedly tell you that from a professional and artistic standpoint, your work isn’t that bad. In fact, there are sections that move, phrases that evoke and they’ll mean it because the piece you’ve locked yourself into can’t be seen at such close range. You’ve lost your objectivity. But your mentor is equipped with a set of fresh eyeballs that survey what you deem as old territory. Their position—their hard-earned abilities to write yet not think about writing—enables them to intrinsically offer suggestions on how to make the piece more? More. And all you have to do is listen. Forget ego, and understand that writing isn’t about talent—at least not at the start. Hear what they have to say, question, converse and learn. Read, write and repeat every day.
Diaspora Dialogues also enables you to get away from yourself. If you’re anything like me, there are moments, after days and days spent in solitude, writing yourself into circles, maybe boxes, where the last person you want to hear from is you. Diaspora offers a community of writers who volunteer insight; fortify you with support, and this, you take home.
Plus the image that all over Toronto are writers that join you in the solitary ritual of creating: alone but altogether.