““Most people who get into select institutions have no conception of compassion, because compassion starts with compassion towards self. To craft yourself into a person to get the needed grades, you become cruel with yourself. How do you drive yourself when you are exhausted? The whip. You drive yourself beyond compassion. How much of your internal regime is based on cruelty? Self-talk like ‘I’m stupid. I’m a fraud. I’m fat. I’m lazy.’ As young people of color, we drive ourselves to superhuman limits to get to these schools. But when you are here, you cannot survive like that. You have to put the whip down. The self-talk will kill you. You must draw what your whip looks like, whether ‘I’m stupid. I’m fat. I’m lazy.’ Then you must begin, every time that whip cracks, to tell yourself no. They tell you it’s the only way, but you cannot live long like that.”” – Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz is talking about social activism in academia and I know he has spoken previously about his experiences in writing programs. The breadth of the talk is much broader than what we usually post about here on Unleaded, but his point about self-talk is one of those critical “a-ha” moments that I think is pertinent for many writers, particularly writers with minority statuses (whether that be race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation).

Take a look at the article/story that gives you the highlights of his talk and remember to be kind to yourself.


About the author

DayAlMohamed Day Al-Mohamed is author of the Young Adult novel, “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.” She is also co-editor for the anthology, “Trust & Treachery” from Dark Quest Books. In addition to speculative fiction, she also writes comics and film scripts. She is an active member of the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia Writing Group, of Women in Film and Video, and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.