Month in Review: August

Hello again.

I don’t know why, but it feels like it’s been months since I’ve written in this blog. I know I posted about breaking my glasses and how disappointed I was not being able to attend the Atlanta Writers Club meeting. I don’t always have a Saturday off of work, but this month I had all Saturdays off, except this past Saturday. Getting a Saturday off that isn’t requested is rare. At my work, they kind of frown upon it, especially with all the major holidays around the corner. Continue reading “Month in Review: August”

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Patience

So, it’s about time I come up with something original. As exhilarating and inspirational as some of these posts from others that I’ve put on my blog, I need something fresh. And as I write this post, a question arises. Why am I in such a hurry to write this? What’s driving me? And why should I care? A sudden spark of inspiration, sure. Fulfilling a desire to write, possibly. There are a number of answers, but they revolve around one virtue: patience. Continue reading “Patience”

And Equality For All

I feel compelled to insert my two cents on some topics gnawing at my conscience. I try not to discuss the politics of certain subjects because I seem to dig holes that are impossible to climb. And everyone is passionate about the underlying issues involved, almost to the point of radicalism. I’ve lost a few friends because they were so dead-set on an issue and were so vehement on pushing their opinions to make others see their point of view. For me to “unfriend” someone because I don’t share their opinion is shameful. I deem it as me not being respectful to the individual. True, we’re not going to agree on every subject that comes up. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends. Over the recent events like the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, the church shootings in North Carolina, marriage equality across the board, and immigrant relations (thanks to Donald Trump), I’ve learned to tread lightly and pick my battles wisely. And sometimes that means adhering to the words: “discretion is the better part of valor.” Continue reading “And Equality For All”

The Man in the Mirror

When you look in a mirror, do you like what you see? Are you happy? Or, do you wish you were different? Are there certain things that you want to change? There comes a time when you have to take a good, long look at yourself, stop lying, assess what you have, and figure out what you want. Some people call this a “‘Come to Jesus’ moment.” My moment is here.

It came to my attention that I haven’t been forthcoming and honest about myself and what I want to do with my writing and this blog to my audience. It’s nice that I get thumbs up and comments, that my Twitter followers respond to my tweets, and I get likes on Facebook when I post. The feedback is nice and positive, but I know real life is not all roses and sunshine. There are people who do not understand what or why I write. There will be cynics that will slash anything and everything I do.

I experienced such a moment where someone close to me questioned my last post, a short story I wrote about what happened after a wedding took place. The person didn’t understand what the story was about. I had to explain the plot and why I wrote it. It then became a question of why I write and who I am. At first, I felt hurt and betrayed. I felt like shit. I felt like this person who was supposed to be friend stabbed me in the heart, twisted the knife, and left me to bleed out. But I pulled out said proverbial knife, and took some time to think about the conversation we had. It still stings, but I understood what the person was saying. I wasn’t being truthful in my writing. I wasn’t being truthful to myself. This person was the only one to call me out on it.

So, I am writing this post to show my audience my reflection, to show what I see in myself, and to be completely honest with myself and to those who follow me. Here goes.

I am an African-American male who loves writing. I took Creative Writing courses in college and graduated with a Creative Writing degree, but haven’t consistently wrote in years. A year ago, I made the decision to truly pursue this career. But I was unaware that the game has evolved. I need classes to catch up and evolve myself as a writer. I don’t have a group or person outside of Twitter or Facebook to look at my work and give me an honest critique. I don’t have a mentor to guide me through the writing process. I have no ideas in writing a novel or craft a really good short story. I have no experience in marketing a book, finding an agent, or whatever else is needed. I feel lost in this writing world, and need people to steer me in the right direction, or at least lend me a compass. But I want to become a better writer, and just call myself a “writer” just because I post something on a blog or write something that will never see the light of day. I want to write because I have a passion for it, and I want others to experience what I feel in my heart.

And while I’m on the subject of being real, here are some other things I want to share. This is hard, but I want people to know the real me. For starters, I have bipolar disorder, Type I. I was diagnosed with the condition in 2005. I tried different methods and medications, but found a combination that works. I see a therapist once a month, a consistent one in over two years. Second, I work a full-time job at a national retail chain selling cell phones, TVs, video games, and other electronics. I like my job, and I’m writing stories based on those experiences. Third, I like playing video games in my spare time. I know, I should be writing, but I enjoy times of controlling other peoples’ fate, as it is. Fourth, I am a husband and a father to two wonderful kids. I don’t always enjoy being around them, especially when they’re screaming at the top of their lungs. Outside of that, I love them. Fifth, I am a Christian, though I really haven’t been putting it into practice. I don’t read and pray as often as I should. It’s not a way of life, but I am working on it. And I think what’s important is that I’m working on the things that matter, like being a better father, being a better husband, not letting my diagnosis dictate who I am, finding things that make me reasonably happy.

Well, this is me. Good side, bad side. We all have both. I feel like I unloaded weights off my shoulder and dumped a lot in front of my audience. Whether this post will be received with praise or with venom is not up to me. I did what I set to accomplish. I hope that my audience will appreciate what I’ve done. If not, so be it.

2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge: S is for Statistics

AtoZDay19Whether we want to admit it or not, we care about statistics. It’s the measuring stick of life. Economy, politics, science, sports, sociology, technology, history. There’s not a facet of our culture climate that doesn’t have a statistic attached to it. It can be a driving force behind what we do and who we are. Think about it. How would corporate big wigs know what the next trend could be if they didn’t pay attention to statistics? They would be chastised for not listening to consumers. Now granted, people, as a whole, are fickle. (Yeah, I said it, so I include myself.) And what the consumer wants doesn’t always transition to the next great idea.

Even in the artistic world, statistics play a role. Why? Before answering that question, the creative side says, “Don’t worry about statistics, focus on your art. Thinking about statistics stifles creativity and nothing will get done.”

Now, statistics can present evidence of interests. It can be used to show a current trend and predict what might come. I’ll use blogging as an example. We check our dashboards to see how many people view our posts and even more, what posts are getting comments. We’re happy if a post receives a certain number of likes and comments and get discouraged if a post falls short of a quota we set for ourselves. But statistics can only do so much. There is no formula that will guarantee success. No one can predict how long a trend will last. Back to blogging as an example. Say a post garners a lot of attention and receives numerous comments. Sure, you can continue to post about the same subject, but the readers will want something fresh.

Statistics, for all its worth, can’t measure everything. It cannot define who we are and what we do. As a new blogger, reading a notification about fifty people following my blog means I must be doing something right. But I shouldn’t let it go to my head. I can improve. And that’s something that cannot be measured.

2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge: R is for Religion

AtoZDay18Religion is a touchy subject these days. It seems anyone who professes a certain faith is labeled a zealot, an extremist. Now there are some people who take their way to the extreme and use it as a justification to berate and heap violence against those who don’t share the same views. I think they tend to forget they’re human, not God or Allah or whatever higher power they worship. I am proud to say that I am a Christian and that I make mistakes.

Having said that, I admit I have a gross misunderstanding about Christian fiction. Or any religious fiction, for that matter. I always thought that authors used their books to push their beliefs onto their audience. An example is the Left Behind series. I’ve never read one book in that series, but I know its subject matter revolves around the End of Days, as the Bible prophesized in the book of Revelation. Outside of that, I am ignorant of the plot itself. But that is what authors want the reader to believe. Now, I might be wrong that the author is pushing their propaganda onto an unsuspecting reader. It’s hard, at the same time, to not refute it.

This is kind of ironic because when I started writing, I wanted to write Christian fiction. But because I didn’t research the premise, I steered away from it. Now, there might be other books who try to push religion, and there are some that do not. Again, I haven’t read any of them to discern the difference. As a writer and reader, I need to appreciate all works of fiction, no matter the genre.

2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge: Q is for Quitting

AtoZDay17I’ve read blogs all morning, and most people are blogging about the dreaded “Q” word, quitting. Seems to be a fitting subject among writers. Everyone struggles with it. Without further ado, let me talk about what quitting means to me.

I confess to the blogging world. I have quit on several things in my lifetime. I’ve quit jobs because I felt I wasn’t getting paid enough or felt enormous frustration. I’ve quit certain books because it didn’t keep me interested. That’s not to say I didn’t try in whatever I attempted. I think I’m one of those people who loses interest quickly. It was believed that I had ADD, but that hasn’t been proven. But, that’s for another post.

But the worst activity I’ve quit on is my writing. It’s not because I lost interest, to a degree. I account my quitting to two factors. One is a lack of discipline. I know, again with that word, but it’s a facet that cannot be ignored. As I said before, I took my Creative Writing classes too lightly. I wasn’t as serious as I should have been. Because I didn’t build and develop healthy writing habits, it led to self-destructive behaviors.

The other is a fear of my own writing. The writing business is as unpredictable as the weather. No one knows what the next trend in literature is going to be. And there’s no guarantee of success. And that’s what scares me. I fear that my writing is not going to be good enough for the masses. If you follow my blog, you’ve probably seen two of my short stories. I haven’t crafted more because I’m afraid how people will respond.

So after my spiel, the question becomes “Why I haven’t quit?” The answer: I’m not sure. I think it’s because I love writing too much. It doesn’t make any sense to quit something you love. And after waving back and forth on whether to take this profession head-on, I read a craft book called The Courage to Write. It inspired me and spurred me to take on this task and pursue my passion that I ignored for so long.

So while I’m still developing those healthy writing habits, I am making the decision to not quit this journey, ever. And if I wane, I hope my writing buddies will spur to take up the pen and write. Or, turn on the laptop and type.

2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge: J is for Journaling

2015AtoZDay10When I took my Creative Writing courses in college, the one constant exercise was journaling. I was always told to keep a journal. Write down anything and everything I observed. I admit that I did not see much value in keeping a journal. I didn’t see the link between journaling and the writing process. I didn’t take journaling seriously. But ideas would randomly pop in my head, and they would vanish as quick as they appeared. I regretted not writing them down when the opportunity presented itself.

I believe all writers need a journal. We have all sorts of thoughts running through our brains: characters, paragraphs, stories, miscellaneous thoughts that have zero connection to writing. I have two journals: one for my stories and one for random thoughts. And when carrying a big notebook isn’t practical, technology steps in. Every phone has some kind of camera and voice recorder. And there are apps on smartphones for dictation, note-taking, and journaling. My go-to app is Evernote. With it, I can organize notes into notebooks without worrying about space. And recently, my wife told me about an app called One Day. It’s a journal app that reminds you to write something in it, even if it’s just a sentence. I will be downloading that soon.

After I graduated, I started keeping journals to record everything. The one regret I have now is not keeping them when I filled them up. It’s interesting looking back on them and read what I recorded, to remember what I was thinking at that moment. So, I need to find a box to keep those precious thoughts so that I can come back to them if ever I need an idea or if I’m feeling nostalgic. Journaling has become part of my writing process. I regret not doing this sooner.

2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge: D is for Discipline

2015AtoZDay4Today’s subject is one I don’t like to discuss. Something I know I’m sorely lacking. Discipline. To be a writer, like anything worth pursuing, takes discipline and dedication to work toward your goals.

Yesterday, I made the notion that had I made more of an effort to write in high school, I think I would be more confident in my writing. I also noted that things like writing daily, having a schedule, and reading are essential in establishing good writing habits. I didn’t fully envelop into my routine while taking Creative Writing classes. I would write in journals when the assignment called for notebooks to be filled. Most of the time, I would make up things to fill up space, which was a disservice. One reason I “filled up space” was that I didn’t make the time to write. I wasn’t very observant of what was around me. I didn’t read when I wasn’t writing. All these things are important to the writing process. I admit I did not take things as seriously as I should have back then. I think that is why I drifted back and forth in pursuing writing full-time.

The good thing about discipline is that it’s not too late. A week ago, I participated in a Facebook chat about tips for developing good writing routine. We spoke about clearing clutter physically and mentally, creating “writing shifts”, setting time and word count goals. While these habits are good to establish, it takes discipline to push through when you don’t feel like writing. Discipline is the difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a career.

This past year, I made the decision to take this writing journey more seriously. Being disciplined is important. Otherwise, this will be nothing more than another sprint, then a period where I don’t write for a while, and then decide on writing again. It’s a vicious cycle that I want to break.

2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge: B is for Buses

2015AtoZDay2I’m into Day 2, and already I have a post that may seem out of left field. I guess I should have warned you about that. Some of the posts for the next several days may seem like they come from out of nowhere. But I think that is the beauty of this challenge. You never know what can come out of these blogs.

That being said, let me talk about buses. I find them fascinating because of what can come from them. Buses and the like have set schedules (most of the time), stops they have to make, and an end destination. They go back and forth, back to forth, never straying from the path. And you have passengers and operators that are oblivious to what’s around them. But a good writer looks beyond the mundane and finds jewels amidst the everyday.

I took transit when in college. And I was one of those people who couldn’t find the diamonds in the rough. I’m a little wiser and more observant. To me, what makes these bus rides so fascinating is the plethora of story ideas. While on the buses, stopping at the stations in between, there are people who you can use as archetypes for characters. For example, I met a homeless man who passed out flyers about the second coming of Jesus. Typical homeless behavior, yes, but I’m surprised he had the money to make flyers. I created a story around meeting him. I’ll share the story sometime. The scenery that passes by as you ride these buses and trains is interesting: the urban landscape, the green that gives pop to the gray, the view of the city skyline at sunset. When I took a bus from Atlanta to Baltimore, opportunities for stories flourished throughout.

If there is ever an opportunity to take the bus or any form of mass transit, I highly recommend you do. You never know where your next story idea lies.