Today, one of my Twitter friends shared a link to award-winning writer Zadie Smith’s “Rules for writers.” As I read through the list, some made me smile (i.e. #1 “When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else”), while others made me nod in total agreement (“#3 Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page”).

As I read through the list, I kept thinking that many of Smith’s rules can be applied to everyone, especially Black women.

Sometimes, Black women are not too kind to each other or most importantly, ourselves. As Brande Victorian aptly pointed out in one of this week’s feature articles, several of our sisters are even drinking the anti-black-girl kool-aid, which is not only tragic, but can be a little bit dangerous. Not only do we short-change ourselves when we start to buy into the idea that we are less-than, but we set our younger sisters up for failure as well.

But…we’re off that. As we looked to ring in the coming year, Clutch shared “The Black Woman’s Manifesto for 2011,” in which writer Audra E. Lord declared we would tell our own stories, not rely on the media to help us sort out our relationships, love ourselves and our sisters more, and not be afraid to follow our dreams.

Nearly five months into the year we’ve been making progress, there’s always room for improvement.

So even though Zadie Smith aimed her “rules” at writers, I’m sharing (and remixing) five of them that are great for Black women as a whole.

  • Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  • Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make you better than you are.
  • Protect the time and space in which you think and dream. Reaching your goals requires positive thought and action. Protect your aspirations from those who only want to criticize your goals.
  • Don’t confuse honors with achievement.
  • Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand—but tell it. Don’t resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.

What are some of your (positive) rules for Black women?

 

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  • African Mami

    so what are honors? just useless plaques that hang on our walls or useless words on a certificate….I don’t agree with that one!

    Every thing else gets a nod.

    • SocialNiceties

      That rule simply means that we should seek achievement rather than honors.

      Honors are symbols of praise based on the expectations of an external entity. They are not scaled according personal ability. Achievements are personal and their worth is measured by how deeply they change/improve you as a person. Honors are certainly useful, but they are rather meaningless (in the grander scheme of things) because they are often not reflective of the most valuable life achievements.