L.A.-based author, educator, and activist Patrisse Cullors co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, and her 2018 memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, was a huge bestseller. Now, her new book, An Abolitionist’s Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World, is poised to once again inspire readers to fight for a better future. Here, she shares how she gets her revolutionary words out into the world. –Emily Rems
Do you prefer to write longhand or to type? What kind of software do you use?
I actually prefer voice noting my writing and then transcribing it on my phone or on my laptop. I have terribly messy penmanship, so I don’t hand write very often. When I do finally transcribe my writing, it’s usually in my notes on iPhone or on Google Docs.
How many hours a day do you typically devote to writing?
If I am writing a book, then I usually take time off from other work and devote 10 to 12 hours a day to writing for an extended period of time. When I’m writing articles or for TV and film, I am usually writing three times a week for a couple of hours a day.
Where is your preferred writing space and what does it look like?
I prefer writing on a couch or bed, depending on where I am. Sometimes sitting at a desk makes me feel like I’m doing boring admin work, so I prefer being comfortable and cozy while I write.
Do you listen to music or keep on some other background noise while writing or do you prefer silence?
I usually listen to some good contemporary, experimental jazz. I cannot write in silence!
Are you alone when you write or are there sometimes loved ones/pets/cafe people around?
I am obsessed with writing while folks are around. I think I feel more accountable when I have a team of people. I loved going to coffee shops before COVID, and I love going to friends’ homes or having friends over my home when I’m writing.
What do you like to wear when you write?
Do you have a pet peeve about the writing life?
Yes! All the damn edits. You have to edit a ton when writing and the back and forth drives me nuts. But I’m always so grateful for the final product.
How did the pandemic impact your writing routine? Have you adopted any new creative habits that you plan to maintain now that quarantine is over?
Hmm. This is a good question. I think I’ve been able to write more during this time. I’ve had more focused time to sit and hold space for all the work I do. Especially the work around abolition. Quarantine helped remind me of what truly matters—more time to do the things I love with the people I love.
Top Photo by Ryan Pfluger
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
Emily Rems is a feminist writer, editor, rock star, playwright, and occasional plus-size model living in New York’s East Village. Best known as managing editor of BUST magazine, Emily is also a music and film commentator for New York’s NPR affiliate WNYC, and is the drummer for the horror-punk band the Grasshoppers. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the anthologies Cassette from my Ex and Zinester’s Guide to NYC, and her short stories have been published in Rum Punch Press, Lumen, Prose ‘N Cons Mystery Magazine, Writing Raw, and PoemMemoirStory. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for fiction in 2015 and is working on a novel. Follow her on Twitter @emilyrems.