Sunday, July 09, 2006

Shedding Obscurity As a Writer

Shedding Obscurity As a Writer

Am I good enough to be a writer with style, substance, and enough talent to be among the published authors with books already on bookshelves? Yes, I ask myself this constantly, and have given it much thought. Your lifelong dream is to write a book, have it published and to see your name among other authors and titles on those same shelves. How daunting is this task if you’ve persevered beyond the nuances and obstacles along the way? You carry your pen and pad savoring poignant and pensive moments by writing it down so that you won’t lose thoughts and mindsets for a future article, or essay for your journal. You may even be reluctant to share at times, not wanting people to see that perhaps you’re not ready to be unveiled. You eschew workshops and other writing classes because you’ve been there and done that.

You lobby in your mind more time to perfect the craft, and be crafty in how you can still be considered worthy. You’re driven by wit, words, and wisdom from your creative mind to be productive and provocative. You have some modicum of success as an Independent Book Reviewer, you have written columns online, and consider yourself an Essayist with at last coun,t 51 essays written within a year and a half; you have joined a number of online book and reading groups to stay vibrant and in touch with the literary Diaspora, and you blog. Blogging is fun, I have three of them and I love It! The website you’ve produced gives you a certain sense of success, but only within the margins of acceptability, but who wants only marginal success?

Obscurity. That word makes me cringe, and I admit it unnerves me in a way that I began to feel like success will elude me. When I sit down to put words to paper, be it via computer or what, I feel the butterflies in my stomach from anticipated fervor knowing that something is going to happen. My creativity is like that, so full of nervous energy until the ink flows indelibly without any inhibitions. This current essay purports to give insight to the persistence of the unknown writer. Ask me am I committed and you wouldn’t find anyone more determined to belong. I know Jean-Paul Satre and his defining principles of existentialism and commitment – the necessity of defining oneself by choosing, continually choosing, always an uncompleted act but simultaneously completing, needing to feel accomplished! I was a young man as far as I can remember being someone who wanted to be accepted as a writer – no, I was already sure that I was a writer, even though I had not started my freelance writing career, and hadn’t yet seen anything published with my name attached to it.

Remembering those days before the monies started coming in were dark and wistful, but I always found the courage to stay the course. To understand the elements that went into Satre’s work, is to be existential and the determining agent responsible for my own choices, and this is what drove me, and continues to give me that burst of psychological energy needed to keep focused. I feel no negativity being connected to his idealism because to some extent, all writers will have experienced what I’ve felt in wanting to be accepted. Talent notwithstanding, vestiges of existentialism is present in the form of terms that are synonymous with productivity, often the harbinger of doubt. We tend to call it anxiety, writer’s block, ennui, angst, or my favorite – melancholy blues. But is this the best way to define moments when nothing of note comes across your pad, the times when you fail to connect the dots?

It gets back to how committed you are and want to be. I’m aware of what needs to be done to give me mental stability and to keep my head above water to reach that higher level. I think about the stages and initiatives to let the powers that be to know whom you I am, and why I write as I do. It means not bowing down to those that may not understand or even have the type of intellect I do to allow them to see me as being pedantic. And yes, I have had a few of them who feel that I must come down to their level to be accepted and understood. I shrug and admonish them to get a bigger dictionary, or turn the other cheek when they see me coming. The persistence of the unknown writer will always be to harness obscurity, and get his/her work out there to be seen. I’m challenged all the time when I write, because I want to know that each and every bit of work I produce can be the parts of a greater whole to obtain that seemingly obscure notoriety. When there’s no check in the mail I feel the sharp edge of terror gripping me, and reality is much more than the imagery I tend to substitute it for.

I lament the fact that no agent has called me and asked for my manuscripts; no editor has offered me a chance to be redlined and marginalized with trial and error; and certainly no options to be given a pink slip of rejection, even. I suppose that there’s a consolatory rung on the ladder toward acceptance for a writer of my caliber, and it’s the hope that perseverance would continue to prevail against all odds, and that continuity is the core of it. What is the lesson for others to learn having to deal with obscurity?
For those of us still languishing in obscurity we have to remind ourselves that we STILL have to keep plying our trade...and that we are not yet part of that viable network until and when we produce something that will be prominent to someone in the right time and the right place. Ralph Ellison in his superb Invisible Man classic in the portrayal of the ‘Battle Royal’, gives an excellent analogy of Black men blindfolded and put into a boxing ring in which they strike out blindly until only two are left standing depicting winners, but actually winning nothing in the process! We are sure that there have been writers who have been told in many ways that their writing is of no significance, who face this serious and continuing crisis every day. I get people e-mailing asking what does it take to be a freelance writer, or what is needed to write with clarity, etc.

There problems are no worse than mine, being obscured waiting for that chance to be seen, recognized and accepted. I tell them to pick up the gauntlet and run…for our proverbial pen will yield the necessary ink one day to smear obscurity with determined moxie. We will honor what it took to get us where we are today, because insatiable desire has always rendered us thirsty enough to not drink only a half-filled glass as long as there’s room at the top with it running over with our inexhaustible desire to make it!

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Wonders of God's Work

Lest we forget why things are as they are, take time to inventory your surroundings and witness the awe of nature blending with the elements. Have you just took time out from life and allowed yourself to be totally mesmerized with things we tend to take for granted? The first quadrant of this year found me traveling and enjoying the lay of the land. Four recent trips I took this year (2006) brought me up front and personal witnessing what God has made for us to enjoy along the way to salvation and for redeeming value. We writers are always looking for those idyllic spots of tranquility where serious and serene mesh define time and place. In February, April and again in May, it was the historic group of sea islands off the coast of Florida northward just above the Carolinas, Hilton Head (South Carolina) and St. Simon's (Georgia) that literally took turns taking my breath away with pregnant pauses and poignant precepts.

Then during the latter part of June, I tackled the majestic heights of the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee (Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge). As far as the coastal island were concerned, it was nothing to do my daily Bible study with the sun peeking out on the horizon...on the beach no less, I imagined Paul starting his day gathering the needed ammunition to shoot straight and true armed with the Word with this same setting!
Of course, I happen to know the historic value of this area, where the Gullah tradition lives on today. Oh yes, I know my history: The name, "Gullah", itself probably derives from "Angola" (and possibly from the large number of slaves who arrived from that part of Africa in the early 1800s). "Geechee" -- another name for the language and culture of black Sea Islanders -- comes from a tribal name in Liberia. Traditions, language and myth stayed longer with the coastal Carolina Gullahs, who were allowed greater latitude of self-sufficiency and were relatively isolated on the Sea Islands.

Most Beaufort slaves in the first decades of the 1800s may have been first-generation African arrivals. So it was not merely the remoteness of the Sea Islands that preserved the African culture and language influences among Gullah speakers. An exorbitant number of slaves came to South Carolina from Africa between 1804 through 1807, and approximately 14,000 of these according to Grolier's Encyclopedic Index originated from Angola, Congo, or "Congo and Angola". The newly arrived slaves breathed new life into African traditions already established on the islands. A new infusion of pidgin influences would have had a profound impact on the existing Creole language. With this bit of information firmly imbedded in my consciousness, my pride knew no limits as I walked the sacred ground where my ancestors labored and lamented against all odds for survival...And here I am some 400 years later blessed enough with the opportunity to be in the write place!A few miles to the South, there's Cumberland, Sapelo, Jekyll, and St. Simon's Islands all of which are exclusive in their own individual right, but it's the collective beauty of the whole area that allows God's penchant for bucolic beauty to shine forth.

The International Youth Empowerment Retreat, under the auspices of the Seventh Day International Ministries (Church of God) invited me as a special guest to mentor and talk to a group of youth for spiritual and literary growth. The Sea enclave, originally settled by John and Charles Wesley, held this retreat on St. Simon’s Island within the Epworth founders of the Methodist movement in 1735. I got a chance to fellowship and give a keynote-like speech on the importance of self-esteem and finding purpose to life. Four days of worship, workshops, and lectures gave youths in attendance both challenge and choices. In June another wonder of God's work unveiled itself. The Great Smokey Mountains in the vicinity of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee was next. Koinonia Worship Center ( , a non-denominational church with their charismatic Pastor, Eric H. Jones, conducted its annual marriage retreat for matrimonial couples and singles alike. Five days were spent here where a series of workshops were inherent along with a dynamic banquet that featured Evangelist and Author, Kenneth Scott who delivered a spirited sermon on familial order and the importance of prayer, devotion, and meditation. There's something about that rarified air that allows eagles to soar and elevation to define a sense of separateness seemingly from the pangs of iniquity.

We stayed in state-of-the art log cabins where privacy begat hot tubs, Jacuzzis, wrap-around porches complete with rocking chairs that I used daily to read one of many books I brought on the journey. Peaks and valleys were abundant, where winding mountain streams and riveting rivers gave rise to 'running free' carving rustic routes to champion good flow. Ah, the wonders of God's work never ceased to amaze me. He gave us awakening sunrises to meditate and start days off on the right foot; He made sure that sunsets wasn't meant to be the end of anything; Gave us reasons to expect the highs and lows of majestic mountains housing valleys and dales where rivers run free, and where precipitous mists of moisture rain supreme! A good time was had by me as I was able to give insight to distinguished gentlemen and young sophisticated ladies...I participated in the various workshops, lectured to the Kids of the Kingdom, and watched with awe as I gave homage to all the wonders that have made God's work majestic and miraculous!
Posted by Picasa