I made an agreement with myself to write more in this next year (2014). Actually, I made the same agreement last year, but I never got around to doing it. Yes, I wrote a few blogs, finished a book, published a book, wrote a few essays, got published in an academic journal, and wrote in my journal a few times, but I did not write enough for no reason. Much of my writing for the last few years has been for work—grad school papers, writing articles to get paid, blogs to discuss issues and advocacy, technical writing for others, etc. There is nothing really wrong with doing this type of writing, it’s what I wanted to do, but the non-essential writing got me to the place where I can write for money and my non-essential thinking got me to write for scholarly purposes. But I let that go in order to write for others, to live from my craft, to write professionally, to write as an academic. Writing became work.
I’ve been running my mouth all my life. I was the kid whose mouth the teacher put tape on and the kid who rushed to answer all of the questions in class. I was voted most talkative in 8th grade. And all of my Friday folders said, “Maco is smart, but he talks too much, he disrupts the class.” I’ve been writing for 16 years. I started off just writing in my journal because one of my pastors told me to start keeping a journal next to me. I had just started preaching and I began waking up in the middle of the night-particularly at about 3 a.m. That was the quietest time in my house. I began to hear God speak to me about my life and then through my study of the bible. Then I used my journal to express those existential questions and existential realities of my life. After participating in a black history program at my high school, where I interpreted Naomi Long Madgett’s poem Midway, I found out that I liked poetry and that running my mouth was a real gift. I then began to write poetry. I performed spoken word throughout college. I continued to write in my journal. It became therapy before I decided to get therapy. In 2002, I woke up on a Sunday morning because I kept hearing God tell me to write a devotional. I had been reading the Our Daily Bread daily devotional for the past year, so my first devotional was fashioned after that. I sent that devotional out to friends. They were blessed by it. For the next 7-8 years, I wrote devotionals and inspirational blogs that I sent out to over 1000 people via email. I continued to journal. My journal writing became very dark because even though I was writing devotionals and having marginal success in my professional life, I hated myself. I did not love myself. I had these negative ideas about myself, thus my self-talk was damaging and deadly. I contemplated death often. Let me be frank, I contemplated suicide often, and tried it twice. This was the content of my journaling. I kept writing poetry. I edited resumes as part of my job, and I did it for a bunch of friends and family. While in college and in my professional career I had to do a bunch of technical writing, so I learned how to write in multiple styles. In 2008, I got frustrated with writing devotionals because that was not all that I could write about. I remember commenting to my ex-wife that I wanted to write about my political and social thoughts, and she said, “well do it.” But I was still afraid of rejection. This was during the historic campaign of 2008. So I began blogging, and my blogs began to reflect my social and political thoughts. For the first time I was able to express the ideas that I had held captive in my brain. Then I decided to pursue freelance writing. Around this same time, I heard from God about my longing cry/question “How do I use everything that I am good at, and what is my real purpose?” I had so many ideas, but the simple answer was to professionalize everything that I was doing—speaking, writing, armchair pundit and scholar, consulting, and advocating. I had a business already and a domain name since I graduated college (2003). I began to research grad school programs and areas of interest. I needed to become a serious scholar and I wanted my writing and speaking to shift towards serious scholarship. Around this same time I began to feel God leading me away from church ministry, too much broader parish. I don’t understand it still. All along people kept telling me to write a book, but I did not want to write something that did not meet my standards. Yes, I had over 300 devotionals and inspirational writings, but I wanted to write something like what I was reading. I was reading Dyson, West, Gladwell, Du Bois, Kimbro, MLK, C.S. Lewis, etc. I had many book ideas; they would often come to me like sermons. I thought I would write something like Make Me Wanna Holler or something about me and my dad or me and my son. When a lady prophesied to me in 2006, that I would write books, I kept that with me as hope.
In the later part of this process (2009-now) I stopped journaling and writing poetry. I have about two boxes full of journals that are filled with the details of my life—the ups and downs. Although those boxes are full, I have yet to begin filling a new box because there is not much written. Yes, I got busier, but I’ve always been a pretty busy person. Yes, in that time I began grad school and wrote a book, but that is not the reason I stopped journaling. Honestly, I got lazy and afraid.
For a long time writing was part of my therapy process. I had to journal to get that shit out of me. I had to journal to hear from God on the darkness in my life. I had to journal to figure out some stuff. I did not look at it as an art, it was a form of survival, it was medicine. I wrote to keep from calling everybody to get advice. Then I realized I was good at it, and that I was gifted to write. Then I began to professionalize my writing. Then writing began to feel like a chore. While I love writing and recognize it as a gift, it take so much out of me and requires my undivided attention. It requires me to sit and pour out my soul. It is a spiritual process. My entire being is taken over. I hear so many voices (the spirits) when I write. Yeah, it used to be cool, but now I would rather be sleep or doing something else because I hate sitting still. So, sometimes I lie in bed with words running through my the convolutions of my brain to the point of a headache because I choose the pain of the bed rather than the release of writing. Crazy I know. But I feel that I will never get those moments in the bed back and that I can always write in y journal or write that piece of poetry.
I have also been afraid. Although I am a pretty self-reflective person, writing is another level of it. I can’t write bullshit, I have to tell the truth about self and life, which can sometimes be dark and all the time take up a bunch of time. For some reason, I did not want to look at that shit. I also did not want to do this type of writing because I did not want to judge it. What does that mean? Most of my writing for the last three years gets critiqued, because it has been academic or for public consumption so I have to be careful about grammar, style, and tone. These concerns began to infect my personal writing to the point of me not wanting to write.
So, last year I bought this book, The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a really cool book/devotional that gets artists back doing their art. She encourages readers to write morning pages, which is three pages of writing without a clear focus and that you cant’ judge by looking at again. I started off good, but I eventually stopped for all of the above reasons.
I want to write everyday because some advice article that I read said that I should. But that feels like a chore, cause I don’t like routine. And if I don’t do it everyday I will begin to punish myself for not doing it. So I am making the commitment to be committed to writing when writing calls me. This is what got me to writing in the first place. It was organic. This type of writing made me a better writer because it gives my writing color and a soul.
This means that I will get out of bed (or just keep my journal close to me) and write when the words come.
I will free myself to write freely.