Dear my past self by Sareeta Domingo


As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we commissioned 12 writers from Australia and the UK to write a letter to their past or future selves. In response to the question “Who are we now?”, these writers consider what conversations and stories need to be had and created for us to reimagine, rethink and rebuild the world around us.

Writer Sareeta Domingo writes to her past self:

“Dear Sareeta,

You are embarking on a path of artistry and storytelling with no pretension. Indeed, with no real consideration other than the desire to put forth the narrative that swirls inside your mind. I envy you in so many ways—you are free of the burden of expectation, from others or for yourself. You have both the confidence of knowing that your skill is at a level that will get your story heard by someone, somewhere, and the naivety of not knowing the limitations you may face. On the first point you are right—a few queries will net you an agent, a few more and you’ll have found a publisher, at an imprint of one of the biggest publishing companies in the world. 

This is not a metric for success for you, though—and it still is not. What you do not know, what you’re only truly beginning to learn five years later, is the extent to which the world is eager to put you in a box. The world of literature is eager to contain you, too—to contain all writers, but especially those inhabiting an identity deemed marginal. “A romantic story must cater to a certain audience, in a certain way”. Cling to the knowledge that they are all wrong. Four sides cannot contain you, and categorisation may be a useful marketing tool but it has nothing to do with creativity. 

They will want to know what it means to be Black, to be British, to be a woman, and to be loved. To write about love. You will think about it and you will tell them, but the stories you tell will continue to be about the truth of the narrative, not the words Must, or Should, or Must Not. This will be tough—drowning out the noise and seeking the kernel of truth at the heart of a matter always is and always will be.

Something will happen to you in these years from your first novel. Something that will clarify what you truly want from life and what is important to your future, diaphanous though it may be to see your way to. And that will be to tell your stories. To get all of them out, no matter what. 

You’ve only just begun.”

Sareeta Domingo is the author of The Three of Us (originally published as The Nearness of You), and creator, editor and contributing writer of romantic fiction anthology Who’s Loving You. Her novel If I Don’t Have You is shortlisted for the Diverse Book Awards 2021. She has also written numerous erotic short stories and an erotic novella with Pavilion Books, and her books for Young Adults are published under S.A. Domingo, including Love on the Main Stage, recently shortlisted for the Lancashire Book of the Year 2021. She has contributed to publications including, iNews, gal-dem, Black Ballad, Stylist and Token Magazine, and has taken part in events for Hachette Books, Primadonna Festival, Winchester Writers’ Festival, Black Girls Book Club and the Royal Society of Literature among others. She lives in South East London.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves is a partnership between Spread the Word, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne, City of Literature. It is part of the UK/Australia Season; a joint initiative by the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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