5 Lessons Writers Can Learn From the Black Panther
Listen, if you haven’t seen the Black Panther yet, don’t even read this article right now. Bookmark it and come back because I don’t want to spoil the movie for you! For those of us who have seen Black Panther, I hope you can hear me screaming “Wakanda Forever” to the top of my lungs! It was so amazing to see crowds of people dressed for the occasion and unified in supporting this film and what it stands for.
In addition to nuggets I gleaned on a personal level, there were five more I gained from a writer’s perspective.
No one is perfect--not even the writers we admire the most.
There is danger in believing anyone is perfect--including you and I. As a child, I was praised often for what I did well. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with doing this. However, the message I gathered from my childhood was that I needed to be perfect. Therefore, I felt pressured to be perfect.
The same is true in the Black Panther. T’Challa grew up thinking he needed to reign with perfection since his dad appeared to have lived an error-free life. When he found out that even superheroes make grave mistakes, T’Challa struggles to look at his dad in the same light as before. As writers, we must be careful not to make gods of our writer heroes. Even the greats are/were like us: human. We all bleed red. While we may love their work, it’s no guarantee we would have loved every part of their personality when they stepped away from the page. So while we admire true talent, let us remember to refrain from putting others on a pedestal.
Be honest--even if it hurts.
We live in a world where social media would have us think overnight successes are everywhere. That fame and building a writing brand are easy. Or that everyone is an “expert”. The truth is, many veteran writers don’t claim to know it all. They’ve learned that the more they know, the more they don’t know. What works for one person, may not work for another.
In the Black Panther, King T’Chaka decided to not tell his family he killed his brother and left his nephew alone to fend for himself. His choice to live dishonestly affected an innocent young man for the rest of his life. When we as writers are dishonest in our work, readers and those who admire us are affected, too. For example, instead of pretending to be skilled in XYZ just to land a coveted collab or a new client, why not try honesty? There’s no need to be paranoid about making mistakes. We just need to be willing to fess up when needed.
Our talents, knowledge, and resources are meant to be shared.
In the movie, Black Panther, we constantly hear the need to share our resources so we all can prosper. Writers have the power to make this happen. Do you know how many people want to know how to write a book? Did you know there is someone out there who wants to know how to meal prep easily for a family of eight? There’s someone else who wants to know how to survive the teen years (or is that just me?). People have needs, y’all--real needs. You can use your writing talent and ability to break down information to provide invaluable resources for our brothers and sisters in need. Don’t keep your knowledge and talents to yourself; share them with the world! That’s why you were given this gift and knowledge. Don’t be the servant in Matthew 25 who hides his talent. Go forth and use your gift to transform the lives of those around you!
We need to evaluate our values/allegiance.
Have you ever taken the time to think about the role your values play in your writing? Are you more concerned about making a dollar than you are about using your gift to serve and be a light to the masses? Listen, there’s nothing wrong with getting paid for your writing (those student loans won’t pay for themselves, right?). However, you need to evaluate if you’re writing for selfish intent. Colossians 3:24-25 reminds us, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.”
At the end of the day, will you be able to say you fulfilled your purpose? Or were you more concerned about writing what sells? Did you continue to ignore that burning within to write that letter to your Congressman? Are you going to continue to sit on that story about social injustices simply because you don’t want to rock the boat? I’m not saying every writer has to write about social injustice, etc. I’m just reminding you to get to the nitty-gritty of why you write and why you were given such an amazing gift. Evaluate your life and determine if your writing aligns with your values and serves its true purpose.
Even villains can speak some truth.
In many storylines, everyone can generally agree upon who the “villains” are. I mean, nothing about the Joker or even Scar from the Lion King says “innocent”. Yet, the Black Panther leaves me to wonder if Killmonger can truly be considered a villain. His motives weren’t necessarily wrong. He just wanted the homies back on the block to have the same opportunities and resources as the royals in Wakanda.
When you create articles and stories, everyone will not love them. You may have a “villain” or two who bravely share what they really think about your work. Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand no one enjoys being criticized (neither do I). However, before getting upset, it may be worth listening to see if there’s any truth to these complaints. Maybe the storyline could be stronger. Maybe there is a character who could be developed better. Maybe your opening isn’t captivating enough. Whatever it is, take these hurtful villainous comments and look for the truth within them. If there isn’t any truth, toss those negative comments to the side and keep writing.