Tag Archives: On Being An Artist

How to Write the Truth: I’m Still Learning

Toni_1 - Copy-tifThe little girl in me wanted to write. Sleep in my eyes, teeth unbrushed and pillow imprints still on my face, I wanted to write but I couldn’t bring myself to sit with the word. Sometimes your heart wants to tell stories that are not yet meant to be told. Sometimes your words want to scream and holler in a way that your voice just doesn’t seem to support in this moment. This path of vulnerability that I have chosen and committed to pushes me to the edge of dealing with my stuff on a constant bases. There is no comfort zone except for the reality of knowing some of this self expression will stay safely filed away on my hard drive until I am ready.

I mean, I wanted to dive deep into the waters of friendship and sisterhood. There is the friendship with the woman who scheduled get togethers with me 9 times and 7 of those times didn’t even bother canceling. I released the relationship. Somehow in her mind she is a victim of something but I cannot figure out what. I made a few attempts at the Landmark style completion conversation then surrendered when I realized she wasn’t here for it. Of course, I could’ve, should’ve spoken to it after the third time but was still in a space of providing more compassion for others than for I did for myself. My time is valuable too – – yada, yada, yada. Some call it sucka shit but we all go through things. There is the friend I miss but her envy scared the hell out of me and the friend who was so judgmental that it felt like a toxic boyfriend. So these experiences inspired one of my most frequent chants of the year. It’s the affirmation: I let it go, I let it all go. I take full accountability for all that has transpired and I let it go.

Part of me would also enjoy the release of being completely naked and transparent about love, love relationships and matters of the heart but then we have to deal with how that impacts others, projects, business and image. One of my friends constantly reminds me to be mindful of my brand and intention. As a poet first and as a poet whose first pieces at 8 years old were rooted in calls for justice, fairness and truth, this part of adulthood feels completely wack. Why can’t we all just have an authentic conversation and confront these issues that plague so many of our lives? Oh, if only it was as simple as a conversation.

One of the most challenging issues is the one of a cousin who is bi-sexual and in a same-sex marriage. Some of the responses of family, God fearing, God loving, practicing Christian family members, constantly disappoints me. My heart has been broken more times than I can count. I sit quietly. I pray on it. I try not to lament on the absence of my grandma and grandpa from this earthly plane. I know how different our lives would be if they were still here. Then I remind myself and little Toni that there is no time machine and my dreaming will not bring them back to the physical. So I speak to them while on my knees and while in the shower as the water hides my tears I chant again: I let it go, I let it all go.

In my dreams, I am confident enough to tackle the most personal and painful of experiences with creativity, spiritual maturity and transparency but I’m not where I want to be just yet. This is still just an activity in my mind. Years ago I remember sitting in the African American Resource Center with E. Ethelbert Miller.  He was at his desk handing me a stack of poems marked up with red pen. There were 30 pages of text and at least 25 pieces, but he gave me five that he considered to be good poems. I suddenly realized I was far from the book I planned on publishing that semester. He watched both my ego and heart deflate right before his eyes as I sunk into the old wooden chair. Poet Carolyn M Rodgers Name

He began talking about a list of writers I should read as he set up a seat for me at a table with a stack of books with everything from Carolyn Rogers and early Don L. Lee to Alice Walker’s prose and Larry Neal’s critiques. There were journals from the Black Arts Movement and the Harlem Renaissance. As I stood up I could hear the big clock outside and see students scurrying across the yard below.  I remember many things Ethelbert taught me over the years but that afternoon he talked about the need for courage.  It takes courage to expose oneself.  Exposing your joy and your pain, your most sentimental feelings, your family stories – both the good and the bad, the struggles of life, the weaknesses and the strengths are all a part of the nakedness of being a writer. You may find a formula to become a popular writer but great writers are willing and able to write themselves naked and fully exposed on the page.

I can still inhale and smell the scent of old paper and books in the stacks of Founders library at Howard University. I also clearly remember how heavy my spirt was during those years. Ethelbert was a guardian angel to many of us. I am much lighter now and authentically happy, but I am still struggling to be a great writer. I am still learning how to write the truth, my truth. The blog format is like a gym to work out and build my muscles. Every once in a while I get on the scale to see where I’m at and today is one of those days. Three bomb ass writing prompts came to mind and I punked out on each one. I’m here laughing at myself as a way to not slip into the Virgodom of self-critique and thoughts of I-am-not-good-enough. Pressing publish on this post will serve as this morning’s creative accomplishment and thumbs up to an exercise completed. May your day be equally as blessed.