The False in Our Starts (part I)

BXP135660

Starting Blocks at Vacant Starting Line Before Event

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

“The try and the fail, the two things I hate…”   -Jay Z

It starts off small.  Sea monkeys.  Remember those sea monkey kits?  I never could get my sea monkeys to hatch.  All I ever managed to get was a tiny aquarium of murky, stink water, where all I ever managed to see were my tiny hopes and dreams dashed.  I believed in sea monkeys!!!  I tried several times to witness the wonders of a mini under sea world come to life before my eyes.   I followed all the instructions, but all I ever got was murky, stink water.  They made it look so simple, so I must have done something wrong.  I must have failed some how, right?

It starts off small, but it can expand quickly.

The try: auditioning for theater company in high school.  The fail: getting rejected two years in a row.

The try: starting college and double majoring in English and Speech Communications. The fail: having to drop out thousands of dollars in debt.

The try: feeling empowered to start my own small business.  The fail: worrying excessively about start up money and possible failure, then not following through.

The try: earning a livable wage while pursuing my dreams.  The Fail?

Free Trial Period

I have tried and failed many things.  Until fairly recently, I believed that made me a failure.  Trying and failing, it doesn’t feel good.  And no matter how many times it happens, it never gets any easier.  It always sucks.  If I may borrow from Jay-Z, trying and failing are two things I hate.

Correction:  Now that I think about it, I don’t hate trying.  There’s a reason I’ve tried all the things I have tried.  To try, is to take a risk.  To try, is to be willing.  To try, is to hope, to experiment, and to learn something new.  I have tried a lot of things, and many of those things failed miserably, but I don’t regret trying.  As long as I learned something, none of my efforts are wasted.

If I apply the same grace to my failures as I do my attempts, then every so-called failure is actually a teachable moment.  Scientist have to do experiments in order to test their hypothesis.  If the outcome disproves their theory, they adjust the experiment and test a new hypothesis.  I love to learn (I am a proud nerd), so, really… I can no longer consciously hate “The fail” either.

Should I even label the things I’ve tried, that did not go the way I planned, as failures?  And if my failures aren’t really failures, then how can I think of myself as one?

You see, I get these residual failure pains.  Whenever something I attempt doesn’t come out the way I planned, I internalize it as a character defect, and the pain lingers long after the loss.  I have spent so much of my life feeling like a “constant screw up”, “the family disappointment”, and other colorful self-deprecating titles.  And I played the roles dutifully.  However, the real truth is I am not a screw up: I am a person who tries many things; I am willing to risk; and I dare to hope.

Try Outs

In Spring 2015, I took part in this crazy 5k called WipeOut Run that involves an obstacle course of ridiculous proportion.  There is foam, and swings, and inflatables, and big red balls galore, including the unforgiving wrecking ball.  This event can be made even more epic when participants fully commit to the foolishness by wearing costumes.  Being a book nerd, I decided to create a costume inspired by one of my favorite books.  I started a team for friends and fellow book nerds, and I gave us an awesome name befitting our love of words.  The team name, you ask?  The False In Our Starts.

The team name was an homage to a great book I adore, “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.  Even more perfect, Green’s title was already an homage… to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet!  (Do I get double points for literary cleverness?)  What is less obvious about the name choice is that it is also a metaphor, influenced by the idea of the false start in the creative process.  The concept was first introduced to me by a great guy named John Pluecker.

Tried and True

Allow me to introduce you to John.  We met while I was working for an art, culture, and community organization called Project Row Houses.  John Pluecker, with his organization Antena created an installation at PRH.  As part of the installation, John was the creator and facilitator of a read/write club.  He created a space and an experience where students, community members, and artist could buy and read books, talk about them, then create our own words inspired by them, and share them.  He introduced me to experimental poetry, several daring new writers of color, and to small-press and handcrafted DIY works from independent presses.  We got to meet with, or skype, some of the authors whose work we read.  John supplemented each session with audio recordings from the authors, music, and visual media made by or which influenced the works we studied.  My fellow participants made authentic connections by relating to the works we read and sharing our own personal experiences.

My favorite part was the writing sessions.  I started taking myself and my writing more seriously after being a part of Antena’s read/write club.  At first, I felt intimidated, because I didn’t think I was a “real writer” or a “true artist”, and I was afraid I had no talent and that everyone would realize that I didn’t belong.  However, John created an environment of inclusion, support, and encouragement that allowed me to break out of my timid shell and be less fearful about sharing my work.  As a matter of fact, it was John’s words that helped me have words to share in the first place, when he introduced me to the concept of the creative false start.

After each writing session, John would open the floor for us to share what we had written.  We could have called it a read/write/show & tell club.  He noticed that I was usually reluctant to share.  I hesitated to share, because my work was often so incomplete.  I always felt like I was just getting started when it was time to end.  As he looked at the pages I had written, he noticed all the scratch outs, all the starts and stops, and all the editing.  I opened up with John about my work being incomplete, and I told him about how I felt compelled to constantly begin again.  I was unproductively trying to process my thoughts, capture my ideas, and improve them all at the same time.  I would decide that something wasn’t working, then I’d get a better idea, or the thoughts would finally come together, and I would be compelled to rewrite.

John told me, “Each false start has meaning and value.  You could go with it.  You can use them”.  His words were simple yet powerful to me.  Immediately, it was as if they created new synaptic pathways in my brain: the work I had already done was useful; it could lead me to what I really wanted to say and do.  John even found me a book in which the author repurposed his various false starts.  It was an entire book of false starts!  Before John rewired my brain, I had only ever associated false starts with racing.

As a kid, my friends and I were very serious about racing.  We would quickly disqualify anyone whose toes went over the starting line or started running before “GO!” was called out.  In racing, false starts get you in trouble; they get you disqualified.  Now the definition of a false start has expanded to include any unsuccessful attempt to begin something.  The idea of a false start having value and meaning was therefore revolutionary to me.  It’s been a few years since I learned this from John, but it has stuck with me ever since.

As an overly critical, self-inhibited writer/creative artist, false starts happen.  Our minds are a wealth of ideas, a playground of projects, but all these possibilities can lead to starting things but not finishing them.  Especially if we have perfectionist issues!  (For instance, that last sentence isn’t a complete one.  Don’t tell the Grammar Nazis.)  This is an important paradigm shift for me, as a recovering self-destructive who viewed every mistake as, not only a failure but, a personal character flaw and evidence  that I was a screw up and family disappointment.

Try, Try Again!

“My life has been long, and believing that LIFE LOVES THE LIVER OF IT, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring still”.

-Maya Angelou

In effect, John Pluecker rescued me from myself, with his insights.  Every false start/misstep/mistake is usable, not punishable.  They are experiential learning opportunities.  This new perspective is especially valuable to other writers and creatives, who constantly struggle with an inner resistance that keeps us from creating and completing our work.   Ultimately though, it is helpful to anyone grappling with The Try and The Fail.

Maybe you are a blogger, like me, having trouble completing and sharing posts.  Perhaps you are a creative artist struggling to complete and share your work.  Perhaps you messed up at work.  Perhaps you screwed up in a relationship.  Or maybe you are having trouble forgiving yourself for all the time you feel has been wasted, trying things and not succeeding at them, on the road less traveled, yet full of obstacles and detours, and making mistakes while figuring things out.  None of it is time wasted.  It has meaning and value… if we allow it to teach us.  

 

________________________

I really enjoy reading your comments, and would love to hear from you.  What’s one of your try and fail experiences?  How are you redifining what failure and success mean to you?

If you’d like to learn more about the amazing work John Pluecker and Antena are doing, please visit them at antenaantena.org.

________________________

20160124_094110

 

The Ice Truck Cometh

Where I am from, I don’t see a lot of snow, and when I do… the city pretty much shuts down in response to the slightest flurry.

I am in Washington, DC now, and it is Winter time.  It’s been a mostly mild Winter, void of any extreme cold temperatures.  Which is exactly how I like my Winters to be: void of any cold.  Despite this, I am still fascinated by snow.  It’s still a novality and mystery to me.

The first time I drove in the snow was last night.  I felt wonder and uncertainty in equal measures.  The snow seemed both magic and dangerous, as I made my way to my evening class.  In some places the snow cover was so complete, I couldn’t see the lines on the road.  At other times, the snow seemed as delicate and weightless as smoke, dancing in vortex on the surface of the road.  The falling snow swirled all around me everywhere and came directly at my windshield, reminding me of a 3-D movie experience.  I genuinely felt like I was inside of a snow globe.

Being behind the wheel did not make me feel anymore in control; although I was comfortable and warm, I kept wishing I had taken public transportation.  I didn’t want to be the reason something bad happened.  I was acutely aware that I was driving on ice, and it made me hyper vigilant about being safe.

At some moments, traffic speeds reduced to less than 15 miles per hour.  I ended up arriving late to class.  When I got out of class at 10pm, the roads were still teaming with commuters trying to get home.  My normal 30 min drive took me an hour and thirty minutes.  I began celebrating as I passed under the green stoplights of the next to last intersection right before my final turns home.  Normally after passing that intersection, I travel a short distance to the next intersection, where I make one final turn left onto the street my complex is located on, then one last right turn onto the road leading directly home; it normally takes me no more than 3 to 5 mins.

As it turns out, my celebration was a bit early and short lived.  20 mins out of the entire time it took me to get home was spent traveling that small distance, stalled between two major intersections, stuck on the other side of a greenlight that ironically did not mean “go”.

Being so close to home, made the stall more unbearable.  I played myself music to relax into the uncertainty.  It was a song titled “In the Meantime”.  I sat and let the music and the warmth from my car’s heater wash over me.  As the fatigue of the long day, which began at 4am, and the strange exhaustion of sitting still for so long, began to set in, I began to fall asleep at the wheel.  My head bobbed up and down as if agreeing with something, yet actually in a tug of war to remain conscious and alert.  It was about thirty minutes until midnight; I was losing the war.

Then suddenly, a space opened up.  The gridlocked cars in the center lanes were suddenly not gridlocked.  I don’t remember seeing them move out of the way.  I just remember the opaque road being visible.  Then I heard a mechanical noise stirring behind me.  Pulling up next to me, taking up probably three lanes, was what looked to me like a massive yet much speedier Zamboni.  Behind it, a powerful shower of white crystals was propelled across the road.  Not more snow… it was salt!  The sprinkling of salt managed to reach each lane.  I imagined a person throwing salt over their shoulder for good luck.  And I felt my fortunes change.

The truck became an immediate symbol of hope and freedom to me.  The salt truck literally paved my way home.  A little salt transformed the stalled and stranded into a slow moving victory parade, with the snow still falling like ticker tape and the salt truck as the premier float.

At least that’s what it felt like.  I was so relieved to be moving forward.  It felt so good to be going home.

20160122_012920

Here I Go!

I am waiting for my train, unable to sit still, as I make my way to my first day of class.  You see, I have recently been accepted into an acting conservatory, and today is the very first day of the program.

I had to submit an application, get letters of recommendation, write an essay, and audition.  I was so nervous about getting in; they only accept ten people into the program every year, and I was worried my audition wasn’t… enough.  It was a fun audition though, I was given notes and a chance to deepen my performance.  I also learned a lot about what not to do… like, just because you’re nervous, don’t apologize at the beginning of your audition, that puts the auditioners off, and makes them think you’re an unprepared amateur.  Despite that slip up, I got in!

I am now about to embark on a year of intensive professional actor training.  I am so grateful, excited, and anxious at the same time.  It’s been a long time since I’ve trained formally, and I’ve never trained on a professional level before.  This is huge for me.  I had to first admit that I have been afraid all these years but that I still really want it.  The desire to perform and tell stories has never gone away.  No matter how much I tried to follow a “normal” path and get a “real” job.

So here I am, riding the subway train toward my new beginning.  Here I go…

 

By the way, you’re coming with me.  #FieldTrip  I’ll  be sharing my experiences along the way.

2015 in review

FB_IMG_1451193899212The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for my blog.

This tool was a great way to see how far I’ve come, and I’m motivated to do more in 2016.  The first things I did were reorganized the past post and planned for the future ones.

Thank you to all the readers who have stuck around to see where this thing goes.  I appreciate your support so far, and I can’t wait to share more.

Keep Reading!

-Bry

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 810 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 14 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Storytime- “Who Is This Kid?”

Before we begin, a little background:

Along with a myriad of other gigs, I am a barista.  I serve both coffee and connection.  In exchange, I have the flexibility and freedom to pursue my education and creative side projects.  This story begins at the small coffee shop where I work.  There are all sorts of random things adorning the walls, desk area, lobby, and even in the espresso bar area.  For instance, to many of the customers’ wonder, an unknown person managed to reach the rafters of the high ceiling and place four cups of descending size.  Side by side, they remained for many years until recently when my store was remodeled.  The store scavenger hunt also includes tiny stickers of adorable dogs and the store logo hand drawn in several inconspicuous places.  I got accustomed to the random wall coverings.  One such random artifact is a tiny black and white cutout photo of a nameless baby.  It’s been there long before I starting working at the store and survived two renovations.  Last year someone taped up a note near the picture begging, “Who IS this kid?”

I thought it was interesting that other people noticed and wondered about the baby as well, so I posted a follow-up note.  A proposition.  The note invited people to create a short story about who the baby might be.  Much like the art assignment (mentioned in my last post; link here), I gave my fellow partners some homework.  Use an old photograph to tell a story.  Without realizing it at the time, I stumbled upon Ransom Riggs thing and stole it for myself.  It was an extra credit assignment so not that many people took part in my little “short story contest” (there was no prize).  Two other people besides myself wrote stories.  One was written as a fairy tale, but when she couldn’t finish it, she revised it down to a one-sentence story.  It read: “Decafaniquequa.  The End.  I WIN!”.  I found it clever and hilarious.  The second entry was a haunting tale about the disembodied cry of a baby that was heard each night as the baristas closed up shop. The following tale is my contribution to the collection.  A narrative.  The story itself is fictional, but many of the people and details are real.  Most of the drink orders are authentic too.  It is kind of historical fiction.  I wrote it to seem true to the partners and customers who read it and from the point of view of my store manager who has been at the store for over 10 years.  Her name is Jennifer.  I leave it up to you to ponder which parts are truth and which parts are make-believe.

I Hope You Enjoy,

-Bryanda Minix


Who Is This Kid?

written by: Bryanda Minix

(February 4, 2014)

The Barista

     They say nature abhors a vacuum, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the faded black and white photograph, which to me became as much a part of the structure of the building as a load-bearing wall (but to the other baristas was just a question mark, an open-ended question unanswered), elicited curiosity.  “Who IS this kid?”  “LOL, that kid stares at me while I am on my break”.  “Whose baby is that!?!?”  “What’s the deal with the creepy baby on the wall?”

     The years sneak up like pounds on a scale, before you know it, you’re looking down like “who added all these numbers?”  Have I really been at this store for over ten years?  I am the only one left who knows that the faded picture, the “creepy baby”, has a name.  I know the story very well, though part of me wishes I could forget.  The other more sentimental part chose never to take down the picture.  I guess someone had to remember.

     The story goes back pretty far, back to when I first came to this location.  I can’t tell you who the baby in the faded photo is without starting there.  Not without telling you about my first regular customer… the first person whose name and drink I memorized.

The Customer

     Her routine was dependable.  Monday through Friday, I could set my watch to her arrival.  I always knew it was 6:30am because she’d be there: her hair gathered loosely in a bun on top of her head, a bird’s nest of long red curls; the laces of her running shoes never tied; always paying with five dollar bills and always leaving a tip.  Her drink was dependable too: 1 pump vanilla syrup, 1 pump hazelnut syrup, non-fat misto topped with creamy foam and cinnamon.  I always had it ready for her.

     All it took was three visits.  The first visit, I learned her name and could recall 50% of her drink order.  The second, I remembered her name, nearly forgot the cinnamon, and learned that she worked in the Medical Center as a nurse at Texas Children’s Hospital.  On her third visit, I had her drink ready for her as she pulled into her usual spot in front of our store on S Rice Ave.

     She was the first customer to mention how this location use to be a hardware store.  I joked that we still sold tools… battery packs and generators in the form of caffeine.

     It took a few weeks before I realized another favorite customer, equal part nerd and rock star (tortoise shell P3 glasses, Cary Grant hair, and lots of tattoos: the Pythagorean theorem and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 among them), was her husband.  He usually bought a pound of Verona on Thursdays, because even thou they came every morning, they still made coffee at home, enjoying one or two cups before hitting the road.

     Some mornings he’d be with her at 6:30, his running shoes also untied.  They came together the morning they announced they were expecting their first child.  They would also stop by our store after each visit to their OB/GYN who was another regular of ours, who always got a grande non-fat, no whip mocha… in a personal cup.  The couple became everyone’s favorite.  They continued leaving generous tips even after every barista, seeing the increasing growth of the belly bump, insisted on giving them decaf (her, because she was pregnant and him, because it wouldn’t have been fair).

     Her routine changed a little after the baby was born.  She started getting sugar-free syrups and opted for breve instead of non-fat milk; she miraculously learned how to tie her shoelaces; and she showed up at 6:15 instead of 6:30, toting a wide-eyed red-haired baby girl in one arm.

The Baby

     The baby had her mother’s red hair but lacked her mother’s punctuality; she arrived nearly two weeks past her expected due date.  I lost $20 dollars in the pool we had going.  She had her father’s nose and his family’s forehead, but her eyes, neither mother nor father’s, seemed to belong to someone 60 years her senior.  An older retired regular, venti-extra-hot-two-Splenda-cappuccino remarked, “Oh my, why, it’s like she’s been here before… just looks at yah so… just like she’s gettin ready to tell yah the answer to a question yah hadn’t even asked yet”.

     That was it.  She had an old soul.  She was a very quiet baby who seemed to pay acute attention to everything.  She didn’t smile at everyone, but the whole team knew how to make her laugh.  All we had to do was hide behind the register or espresso bars then pop back out looking lost or surprised.  It always worked and we never got tired of the sing-songy coos that followed each giggle.

The Day

    I made her coffee like I always did, had it ready at the register before 6:15, but she never came.  Her coffee got cold.  Days later, it was Ms. Melanie, another regular, who enjoys her coffee with a newspaper, no cream, no sugar, had brought me the newspaper clipping.  I didn’t need to read the article thou, I already knew what happened.

     She had been up all night with her baby girl who, sick with fever, kept waking up wailing.  You see, it was his turn to sleep.  The day before, he got a call from the daycare informing him that his daughter had a sudden high fever.  They requested that he pick her up immediately.  He dropped everything and cancelled the rest of his day, so he could care for his little girl.  He never got the chance to stop by our store for his pound of Verona.

     Her routine was off that day, from the start.  She woke up with a stiff neck, having slept in the rocking chair next to her baby’s crib.  The baby’s fever broke around 3am.  Usually, she naturally woke up at 5am, but the clock on her coffee maker read 5:45am.  Though intellectually she had done the math and figured she had about two hours of sleep, she felt as if she had only rested her eyes for a moment.  There was no coffee.

     In a fog, she tried to recover her routine.  She had already called out for the day, with the intention of bringing her baby to the doctor, so she allowed herself little cheats.  She threw on a sweater over her pajamas and shoved her tired feet into her running shoes; she didn’t bother tying the laces.  Afterward, it was that small act, the image of her untied shoelaces, that haunted her with regret.  She believed it evidence of her distraction and neglect, a red-flag that had she taken notice of, could have rescued her.  She never stopped blaming herself.

     Still in the brain fog, and purely from muscle memory, she strapped her still sleeping baby into the car seat.  She took her familiar route, driving the 5 blocks toward the place she felt could make everything better.  Her favorite coffee shop.  Our store.

     Two seconds.  Had it only been two seconds?  She drifted to sleep at the wheel, and into the intersection of S Rice and Bissonet, for maybe two seconds.  But that is all it took.  She blinked back into consciousness, having enough time to see the grill of the dairy truck and the terror on the face of the driver trying to make is delivery on schedule, but not having enough time to avoid the impact.  The clock on the dashboard stopped at 6:13am.

     Inside the store, four men we nicknamed “The Board Members” (due to their diligent attendance, “reserved” seating, and lively discussion) had an unimpeded view of the intersection.  Myself and the one other barista on duty could see only the lights from the vehicle headlights as they reflected through the windows, creating a grotesque dance of shadows on the walls.  We could all hear the tires screeching, the metal crushing, the glass shattering.

     It was Gil, at the time just a rookie officer, that regretfully informed us that the impact had ejected a baby and her car seat from one of the vehicles, killing the tiny child instantly.  The baby had been sleeping the whole time; she never woke up.

     In the officer’s hand was something he retrieved from the wreckage, in the hopes of making a quick ID and gathering eye witness accounts.  I saw what was in his hand, and immediately thought about the now cold cup of coffee at the register: I pump sugar-free vanilla, 1 pump sugar-free hazelnut, breve misto topped with creamy foam and cinnamon.  A shiver shot through my spine, blanketing me in an icy numbness.  He handed me the personalized Starbucks mug, remarkably still intact, all the baristas had gotten it for her as a shower gift.  On the cup were two messages: “No more decaf, we promise!!!” and “You’re gonna be a GREAT mom”.  We had all signed it.

The Photo

     I carefully cut out the photo from the article Ms. Melanie gave me and taped it to the wall near my desk.  Our store baby.  The baby who we had observed as a growing belly bump, the bump we took care never to give caffeine, the baby with red hair and an old soul whose eyes were her own, was gone.

     Her picture remained, even after two remodels.  I knew she was there.  I simply allowed her to fade into the background.  However, human nature abhors vacuums too, the cavernous voids left behind after someone we care about is lost, as well as the empty space behind a question mark.  So this time… rather than let you fill in the blanks, I decided to fill the vacuum, answer the question, and tell you what really happened.

     And I’ll go ahead and answer the other question you’re probably about to ask anyway: what is the baby’s name?  That, I could never forget, for it is the same as my own.  But we all just called her Jenny.


Thanks for Reading!!!!! 

Let me know what you think.  Should I post more of my short stories more often?  Any feedback from fellow writers is welcomed and appreciated.


When April Fool’s Joke Goes Wrong

I started writing a screenplay once.

It happened last April.

On April Fool’s Day, I posted to Facebook something I thought would be ridiculous and obvious and that everyone would just have a good laugh at.  But something unexpected happened… most people didn’t realize it was a joke.  They didn’t realize that it was an April Fool’s joke because they accepted the story I made up as plausible.  They believed in me.  So the joke was on me.

Here’s what I posted:

2015-04-14 14.22.55

The title was foolish yet believable enough to pass as a Tyler Perry movie, so that even after I revealed the status was a hoax, I kept having to explain to people that is wasn’t real and that there was no forthcoming Tyler Perry production titled “God Don’t Like Ugly”.  The majority of the Facebook comments were super encouraging regardless.  I thought about it, and decided if they believe in me, perhaps I AM capable.  I thought, “why not write the screenplay… just as a joke”, but then I decided maybe it could be worth something, so I decided to write it for real.  The big problem was that I am just not a connoisseur of Mr. Perry’s work (no shade), so how could I write an honest spec script?  Understand, it’s easy to be a critic, especially when one is not putting his or her own work out into the world; I choose appreciation rather than criticism.  I appreciate the work for what it is.  I appreciate Tyler Perry for working hard to make his ideas happen, carving out a market for himself, persevering in the face of criticism, taking risks and constantly putting his work out into the world, and being the best at what he does.  His plays and movies make his intended audience happy.  I do not fault him for what his work is not, most of the time, it is just not for me.  I haven’t seen most of his body of work simply because it may not showcase characters I most relate to or does not reflect the kinds of stories I am drawn to.  Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”.  The onus is on me to start telling stories I want to hear… yet, I still wanted to prove something to myself, or at least to the people who believed in me, so I still set out to write someone else’s story: Tyler Perry presents “God Don’t Like Ugly”.

PhotoGrid_1429056455149

The screenplay I wrote was pretty raw: I never came close to completing it; the characters weren’t fully fleshed out, and the plot lacked clear direction.  However, I was content with what I did.  I finally stopped because I realized I wasn’t wholeheartedly invested in it.  My heart wasn’t in it and my initial motivation couldn’t sustain me.  I was only writing something I hoped to sell off to Tyler Perry productions and then remain hands off.  Just take the money and run.  I was not even concerned with my name being attached to the project.  If it actually did get produced and did terribly, I would have regretted receiving credit.

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end with an unfinished screenplay collecting dust.  Two unexpected things happened as I wrote the screenplay.  First, I had to confront the things I did not know.  I was unskilled at writing a feature length screenplay.  I was both naive and arrogant for thinking that I could quickly write something that takes years to master.  I did not even know where or who to submit my work, even if I had finished.  Secondly, I began sneaking into the story.  The type of story that more closely related to the kinds I like to see started edging it’s way forward and demanding to be heard.  All the late nights I spent writing and all the daydreams I devoted to sculpting the story and characters got me attached.  It was no longer okay with me to ghost write a script, to give birth then give it up for someone else to raise.  I was going against my nature.  I am a nurturer, and nothing I do is purely motivated by money.  Money is a tool to me.  It has influence to provide needed resources.  It keeps me from going hungry or naked.  It is instrumental in the fulfillment of goals and detrimental to them when you don’t have enough.  I have never felt comfortable doing something simply because the money might be good.  There was very little chance of selling the screenplay or earning any money, yet even if it was a possibility, I couldn’t pretend that I was willing to do that.

I couldn’t pretend that I was doing it as a satire either.  I had thought about it too deeply and invested too much of my creative energy.  Parts of me, my own style of storytelling and the things I value, kept slipping in.  The project was becoming less “Madea’s Family Vacation” and more “The Diary of a Precious Black Women” based on the novel “Move or be Pushed” by Aquamarine (my birthstone *wink*).

I learned a lot about myself last April.  One was that I was serious in my desire to make a living as a writer, and two, that I had done little about it and was clueless as to how to make it happen.  I enjoyed the challenge of learning what I could and developing the story.  I stopped writing the screenplay and started looking for more ways to write for myself.  I also started seriously thinking about what I wanted to say and the type of stories I wanted to tell.

When you tell people that you love to write and that you want to be a writer, one of the first questions is… “Oh, what do you write!?”  It is a genuine question, but it stumped me one too many times.  My previous attempts at answering this question lead to ambiguous responses like “nothing” or “everything”.   Response A: “Oh, unfortunately I’m not writing anything right now; I am still figuring it out”.  Instantly AMATEUR was stamped across my forehead.  Response B: “Oh let’s see… I love to write poetry, and short stories, I am working on a play, I also love screenplays, eventually I hope to write a book, and…”.  CLUELESS AMATEUR gets stamped on my forehead.  I am sure many other nascent writer’s can understand the struggle: when we are still discovering our voice, figuring out what we want to say, but are forced to vocalize to people what it is we are doing or hope to do.  What we know is that we want to write, that the unspoken words eat at us, and that we have an itch to write which unlike in real life doesn’t go away when you ignore it.  As for the continued plot and details of our future… they are unwritten, and we hope that they will reveal themselves as we edit the next draft or write our next chapter.  My advice for the loving and curious friends and family of an emerging creative artist is to “wait for the book to come out” and “don’t skip ahead”.  This is a period for me to not only discover what I want to say and what mediums I wish to use to share it, but also to develop the creative habits necessary to build and sustain a career as a professional writer and creative artist.

Please wait for the plot to reveal itself; everything will make more sense in the end.  (At least I hope it will. *wink*)