Falling Out of Love

One of the most foolish, foolhardy things we can do as people is fall in love with someone we do not know. As much as people show us who they are through their actions, we tend to mitigate those negative actions with false ideals created by what that person tells us. It’s like a relationship where your partner consistently punches you in the face and says, “I love you.” Is that really love?

I have met many people in my life and no matter how influential or meaningless those people are, I learned something from each one of them. What I have found is that I cannot vibe with a person who shifts blame, denies and lies. I cannot take seriously a person whose actions so vividly belie their words when the two forms of communication may very well be night and day. 

Not too long ago, I expressed to my cousin problems I was having in a recently-ended relationship before it ended. “Give her a chance,” my cousin said, and I did. Still, this person lied, denied, misinformed and misdirected. Even when she was wrong, she found a way to shift blame or redirect the blame. For some reason, she could never fully own her mistakes or bad decisions. 

Recently, I had been testing her, asking her questions to see if she had grown because she told me she had. However, from the answers she gave me, I know she hasn’t changed. She is not ready to accept her actions as her own. She is looking to shift blame and not say, “It was me. I am to blame, but this is why it won’t happen again.” She is still at the “It could have been my fault but I won’t say it was because it may have been something or someone else’s fault.”  

Firmly, I am a believer that people do not change people. People change themselves. Dealing with the aforementioned person could have been a case study to prove the previous saying. She proved to me that no matter how nice I was, no matter how much I tried to reason with her, no matter how much I attempted to meet her in the middle, she could not be a trustworthy person who owns her mistakes. 

Looking back on this failed relationship, I realize I too am to blame for it failing. My biggest mistake was getting into a relationship with a person who constantly demonstrated that she was willing to lie and deceive, even when caught red-handed, to make things go her way. My worst decision was choosing to ignore those red flags for what they were. What can I do? Nothing but live and let live. 

This is my advice to you. Love is temporary. It is not permanent. It changes, grows and even fades away until nothing is left. If someone shows you who they are, believe that person. Do not make excuses or think they can change. They won’t change. They are not to be trusted. Run before it’s too late. 

#relationship #relationships

Advertisements

The Mortality of the Writer

Last night, I saw two people die in a car accident. Their car hit a pole, splitting the hood in two. I opened the driver’s side door to see if I could help, but the interior was so mangled, I knew he was gone. I went around to the passenger side and saw a guy I had known in passing, that I hadn’t seen in years, and he too was gone. This morning, I logged onto Facebook, and the passenger’s sister and also my Facebook friend was mourning the loss of her brother. My heart is shattered.

Being a father, an author and MFA student, I sometimes live my life fast and full of anxiety. If there isn’t one thing to do, there is another. I hardly have time to breathe, let alone decompress. What I witnessed last night reminded me of my own mortality. Someone can be here one moment and gone the next.

I write because I will not live forever, but my thoughts, words and ideas can. Even from beyond the grave I can put a smile on one child’s face, give one person the courage to go on or touch someone in some profound way. If there are no other rewards to penning novels and drinking 8 cups of coffee a day, the things I previously named are enough.

I saw two people die last night, and it hurt me to see people in such a way, their lives snuffed out so instantly and permanently. I hope they find peace beyond the stars and enjoy the afterlife even more than they did here on Earth among us mortals. I hope to find a similar peace when the time comes.

 

Our Own Sort of Fun

Drugs. Violence. Police brutality. Hate. Love. Love. Love. 

In 1995, if you would have read about the Robert Taylor projects, the news report would probably have headlined something like this: 

“17 Men Arrested in Drug Sting at Robert Taylor Homes.” 

But inside those forsaken buildings where no one but those who lived there would have gone, children lived there. And those children, like all children, found a way to make the best of their situation. We did so in part by playing “It” in abandoned apartment buildings with holes in the walls.

Looking back on those days so many years later, I know my mother would have had a fit had she known what I was doing. As a father of three, I know I would not ever knowingly allow my daughters to play in abandoned buildings. Yet I also know that those dangerous moments where we had fun chipped away some of our surrounding circumstances and gave us a hideaway. 

Maybe my children will not ever experience what it is like to grow up impoverished in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, but they will hear many a stories from me about those moments. 

Manuscript Anxiety

I once read somewhere the hardest part of writing comes after the manuscript is complete. Later, I read that all first drafts were trash. I thought the people who wrote those things were idiots. How wrong I was.

Some people have problems putting words on the page. This is why most manuscripts are never finished. I don’t have this problem. However, the closer I come to finishing a manuscript, the more anxious I become.

When you write 90,000 words, you think, “Geesh. I just wrote 90,000 words.” There is a certain level of pride that comes along with that. Then, you think in utter horror, “Damn it. I just wrote 90,000 words.” That means you will have to revise, edit, proofread and polish a 90,000-word manuscript. Needless to say, that is quite the endeavor.

I have an awesome Science Fiction novel I am this – close to completing. But I don’t have $3,000 to pay a professional line editor or any editor to work magic on it. In my manuscript’s current form, I’d be laughed out of every publishing house on this side of the universe before it ever sees print. This is why editing and revising are so vital.

I have been writing Carbon Copies since September of last year. When I put the final words on the page this week, the real work will begin. I will have to read for consistency and make notes along the way. Then, I will have to go back and make the necessary changes which include rewording, rewriting, organizing, deleting and fleshing out characters and scenes. Then, I will have to proofread for grammatical errors front to back at least twice. All that should take at least three months.

Writing is a full-time job. If you want to be a writer, you don’t necessarily have to LOVE the process. You have to at least LIKE it though or have an appreciation for it like red lights. We’re not fans of them, but we do appreciate the fact they prevent others from slamming into us. A manuscript in its first draft is like the bones of the house with a foundation to build upon. The revising, editing and proofreading are what make the house a home. They are the paint, the cabinets, the windows and everything in between.

I write this to give insight on what it’s like to write and be serious about it. Take what matters to you and leave behind what doesn’t.

Inspiration Comes from Everywhere

As you’ll find if you read my blog thoroughly enough, I grew up in the Robert Taylor Projects on the Southside of Chicago. If you do any research, you’ll find it was not the ideal place to grow up, being overwhelmed with drugs and gang activity. But it is where I am from, and I am not ashamed of it.

My uncle Milton lived there as well but for over thirty years. When I was younger, he made a painting on my mom’s wall of the cartoon Tom cutting off Jerry’s head. Blood was everywhere in the painting. My mom was pissed to say the least. I was delighted, until she made him paint over it.

Milton is a very sarcastic person who you’ll either love or hate with hate seeming to be the winner in most cases. Yet he is comfortable with whom he is. On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Chicago Sun Times did a spread on him concerning his upbringing, painting and one of his pieces currently on display at an art gallery. This inspires me.

My family is condensed with people in the arts. I’m a writer, my uncle is an artist and some of my family makes music. Most of us came from those dilapidated buildings, but we have success, college degrees and each other.

Someone once asked me why I never failed to mention that I am from the projects. This person has a painful history, having grown up extremely poor to the point of having no running water in the house. Her childhood was traumatic. She is doing well for herself now, but she shies away from her past. She will not discuss with anyone how she grew up. It is this denial that leads her to question me. How can I, having grown up in the most notorious part of the city, be able and willing to speak openly about it?

I am not ashamed of where I come from. It has made me who I am, good or bad. It showed me that the world can be harsh, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference. It is what inspires me to do better for my children so that they don’t have to experience what I did. The point is, embrace your past to know your future as the Sankofa bird of West Africa tells you.

 

What It Means to Be a Self-Published, Indie Author in 2018

A lot of writers who do not have book deals classify themselves as self-published or indie authors. They take on that title and expect instant success. Most of the time, if their first book does not do well, these “authors” drop out of the race to being America’s next great writer.

Over the last two years, I have complete several writing projects, including my upcoming novella “Operation Soul Cast” and my collection of short stories “The Book of All Things Beautiful.” And, let me tell you something: being an indie author is not easy. You effectively become:

  1. Writer
  2. Publicist
  3. Editor
  4. Promoter
  5. Finance Guy
  6. And so on and so forth

There is a lot that goes into releasing a book. First you have to write the book. Then you have to edit and proofread it and revise it yourself if you don’t have money to pay a professional. You have to format it for different versions, like audio, hardcopy and ebook. You have to constantly promote yourself. At times, it will seem overwhelming. It is not impossible.

Although I have been writing for years, I am still a novice in many aspects. I do not want to be an indie author forever. I want to be traditionally published, even though I would probably get to keep a lesser percentage of my royalties. So, why am I self-publishing at all?

Big publishing houses want novels, meaning greater than 60,000 words, but usually in the 90,000-word range. So, I self-publish my novellas, very short books, just to get my name out there.  But I have written novels and I am trying to get them published by a big publishing company. I’m not saying you should do the same.

What I am saying is, keep writing. No matter what. Put words on the page. Plan out your steps to write and release your books.

I hope this helps you pen the next great American novel.

Becoming Writer: Formal Education as an Author Versus None as a Writer

Yesterday, a fellow blogger asked me a good question about formal education as a writer versus no formal education as a writer. A lot of writers struggle with this. Some see education as the end all, be all that will make them a best-seller. Others who don’t have this education sometimes feel inadequate.

It took me four and a half years to get my bachelor’s degree which is in the field of Professional Technical Writing. Unlike beginning authors without training, I have a pretty good grasp on grammar and the technical parts of writing. I learned much of this in high school though and a small amount of it in college.

You don’t have to go to school to be a writer. Writing is a craft. Reading and writing will undoubtedly make you better. You just have to read books on the craft of writing and study hard on your own. Don’t just throw something together and think it will sell. You must edit and proofread meticulously.

Being in the Creative Writing MFA has put me in contact with some great influential writers. You can build similar contacts by going to writing workshops or joining groups.

Publishing houses and literary agents tend to take formally educated writers more seriously. If you can get some of your work published in magazines or anthologies, this will open doors for you.

You don’t need a degree or two like I have. You just need to write good stories, and send them to publishing houses and agents who will read them. If your work is good, the book deals will come.

A Newborn

Nearly three months ago, my third beautiful daughter was born. Her eyes are a color I have never seen before and I cannot name. I was hoping for my first son, but I’m blessed either way. The question is, where do I go from here?

The Pressures of Being a Struggling Writer

Your manuscript should be at least 80,000 words. 

Hearing that may be overwhelming. It’s similar to that part in I, Robot where Sunny tells Will Smith’s character the vast amount of stairs they have to climb. You may think, how the hell do I come up with 80,000 words? Then, you may think, I’ll just write 60,000 and someone will publish it. You should not think that way. 

Writing a novel is a great task. It can be overwhelming. But deviating from the standards of word-count will only tarnish your efforts and limit the number of editors or agents who will take your work seriously. 

Knowing how much work is involved, you may wonder, What of no one publishes it? So what. What if you constantly doubt yourself? What if you never finish a manuscript? Surely, you will never get published because you won’t have anything to publish. 

As a beginning creative writer, I now understand why so many authors fail. They underestimate the amount of work involved. No one magically writes about. The words do not just appear on the page. Someone has to put them there. That someone is you. 

The Cop Who Nothing Except Everything

About two weeks ago, I had the unfortunate opportunity of being pulled over by a twenty-something cop who thought he knew it all about traffic law. It was nearly 11 pm on a busy street when a girl on her cellphone zipped into the street. I pressed my brakes so hard, the tires squealed. As she landed across the street, I heard sirens and saw blue and white lights.

The officer asked for my insurance card which I provided.

“This is not valid for presentation,” said the cop, pushing his glasses over the bridge of his nose.

“It is,” I said, pointing to the card.

“It isn’t. And you failed to yield to a pedestrian and you improperly used your horn.”

“She ran into traffic.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

When he came back to the car, he handed me a ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Of course, my blood boiled, but there was nothing I could do.

Last week, I heard the ticket. I thought I would catch a break when the officers in the other defendants’ cases failed to show and so they were dismissed. Nope. Glasses Cop showed up in a White Sox hoodie.

“If you plead guilty,” said the judge to me, “You’ll have to pay just $214 in court fees, no traffic fine and this will not be reported on your driving record.”

“What if I want a trial?” I asked.

“If you lose, the conviction will go on your driving record, you will have to pay court fees and I could fine you an additional $500.”

I contemplated pleading out. But my ego would not let me. I felt I was right.

“I will take the trial,” I said.

After Glasses Cop gave his side, I gave mine. I argued that the girl abruptly entered the street, endangering not just her life and mine but others as well.

“And Illinois traffic law section b says no pedestrian shall suddenly run or walk into oncoming traffic,” I ended.

The judge was stern-faced. I could not tell what she was thinking.

“After hearing both sides, I find the officer to be credible. I find the defendant credible as well. Since the State has failed to meet its burden of proof, I find the defendant not guilty,” said the judge.

As she read her verdict, I was a plethora of emotions from anxious to nervous. Then, I was elated. As I left the courtroom, I thanked the judge and the officer. But Glasses Cop was highly upset. If looks could turn people to stone, I would have been one.

Someone once told me, “You can’t beat the system, but you can trick it.” I agree.