Lessons from Grace Part One

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS

These are the lessons I’ve learned thus far on my journey to give myself more grace.

Commit to Working More on Yourself than Your Business

Because my mindset determines the direction of everything I do, I’ve learned to prioritize my personal development over my business. I’ve realized that adequate rest, a healthy body, and a healthy sense of self-worth aren’t optional; they’re required for increased creativity and productivity. My self-esteem affects how I interact with others and make business decisions.

I accept that to triumph in the daily battle, I must have a strong faith/mind and be rooted in something greater than myself.

I am my best work, and when I am good, everything around me is good. To quote the African proverb, “When there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you.” (Unknown)

Rest well this weekend guys!

How to Eat an Elephant: Breaking My Writing Goals into Small Parts

Photo by RF._.studi

There is only one way to eat an elephant, according to Desmond Tutu, and that is one mouthful at a time. He meant that everything in life that appears difficult, overpowering, or even impossible may be completed gradually by taking on just a little at a time.

I was stressed when I first got the edits for my black history book back. “This is going to take forever,” I thought.

But that’s because I was looking at the entire book with no system or organization to get it done. It was just one big pile of words that needed to be sorted out. So, what did I do?

I left it alone a couple days.

The time helped me to see how I would attack it. I decided to work on two chapters at a time. And by work on, I mean do everything that needed to be done: revise, add citations, summarize. Using a dope Black history planner I ordered from Black Prints on Instagram, I blocked off the entire month of January and February with the chapters I would do for each day, leaving one day (every Sat) as a rest day where I would not work on the book at all.

It’s so cute!

This changed my outlook immensely!

I find myself looking forward to work instead of dreading it (even the boring stuff like formatting citations). If a chapter is short enough, I could do three in one day. With this system, I am already on chapters six and seven.

Doing less feels like I am getting more done!

Moral: Few people who want to write a book get around to doing it because they are thinking about writing a whole book. But how about just writing a chapter? And if that’s too much, a paragraph?

If you can commit to writing a certain amount a day instead of all at once, you will look up to a finished book in no time.

However, it’s equally important to honor your commitments, or this strategy does not work. That’s the thing about writing, no one can do it for you. If you say you will write a chapter a day, try really hard to write a chapter a day.

I am really not all that organized. I just honor the commitments I make to myself.

I would also recommend staying within schedule. While I do three chapters if the two I have for the day are short, I never go on to four.

Which means I have time to draft this blog post!

I hope this helps someone.

Have a great week!

Embracing the Beauty of Unhurriedness

Photo by Lisa Fotios

We might be at the start of a new year, but it is still the dead of winter. Everything else in nature is still resting and storing strength for the spring. By then, the grass will turn green again, and new life will erupt from what I call the real new year: when everything in nature renews and is reborn.

I cannot help but wonder why we, as people from the earth, aren’t more like it. Why do we feel the need to rush ourselves through life? What would happen if we took five to six months to rest, plan, strategize, pray, meditate, and think? What kind of wisdom would we cultivate in this space of solitude? How much more impact would we make if we were well-rested and revitalized instead of busy and drained?

I think of this as I return from my break and continue my work. Except for this year, that work includes rest and joy. I’m not panicked or anxious about letting people know what I am up to or doing. I am not swayed by what others are doing on social media or concerned about needing to do more because I recognize I am not behind or late. I am where I need to be, and the things I need to get done will get done, each in its own time.

I am excited about the future in ways I have not been before because stepping back and slowing down will help me be laser-focused on one thing at a time, which will help me accomplish more.

In no way do I intend to be booked and busy this year. I’d instead be paid and productive because productivity includes rest.

In this season, I am embracing the beauty of unhurriedness.

Is Writing Still a Gift?

Photo by Lisa Fotios

When I was coming up, we treated writing like a special gift, and those who could write well felt like they had superpowers. Or at least I did.

In elementary school, I was a terrible student. I got straight F’s, and the source of my lousy grades was math. I failed the sixth grade twice and almost failed the seventh grade. 

Correction: I did fail the seventh grade, but someone had mercy on me, and I passed on to the eighth grade. I cannot say for sure today how it happened. Only I am glad it did.

By the time I was in eighth grade, I was seeing a special ed teacher. Every day he would come into our class, they would announce the special ed teacher was here, and the four, five, or six of us would stand and leave with him. 

If that weren’t degrading enough, the work we did in that small room was fit for a first grader. Two plus two and four plus four. It was frustrating because the math I needed help with was the eighth-grade stuff.

I knew that one plus one was two. I didn’t know how it applied to the more advanced math in the other room. Still, they would give us these long worksheets with these kindergarten math problems, tons of them all down the paper. Some days, they would give us candy. 

It was humiliating, and I would go home and vent my rage in my diary. I would write about how it felt to be singled out in front of the entire class and for the teacher to utter the words, “The special ed teacher is here,” which I thought was unnecessary. The lack of discretion seemed to me a lack of care for our feelings as students. I felt stupid and if that’s how I felt, I am sure the other kids felt it, too.

And then something happened.

This same teacher discovered I knew how to write. Suddenly, everything turned around. I cannot even say for sure how it happened. I still did not understand the math, but the more I wrote, the better my grades got. By the time the school year ended, I had an armful of academic awards and was graduating with honors.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich

Writing got me out of the eighth grade and into honors classes in High School. (Even honors math.)

Writing got me into College while still in High School. I attended Robert Morris College in my Junior year for early credit. I would go to High School in the daytime and then take the green line downtown for my college course in the evenings. It was dark when I got home every day.

Writing got me into AP Literature, graduating High School with honors, tenth in my class.

Photo by Thirdman

The Point of it All

For writers like me, writing isn’t something we dreamed up on a whim, but is an intimate part of our lives. It is something we can trace as ever-present. For us, writing is a deeply rooted passion that played a major role in developing who we are.

My concern now is writing isn’t taken as seriously as other gifts. Do we even consider it a gift? Indeed, one can learn to write through education, training, and coaching, but is it still a gift

Are there still people who are natural wordsmiths? People, who go the extra mile to string words together into comprehension? People, who devour books like a man starving? And is writing still opening doors for them? As it did for me?

Do we still consider writing a gift, or is everyone a writer?

Let the Words Be Seasoned

Photo by DapurMelodi from Pexels

There are times when Black authors find themselves fighting against those who wish them to edit their soul. Take the salt out the meat. Take the voice out the work, and leave it seasonless. To quote Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “People still have a white, western idea of how intellect is ‘spose to walk in the world.” 

Let it not be lost that how Black people speak, including how we write, has been under fire since the days they forbade us to read and write. Considering us fools (and hoping we’d believe we were), they told us our language was broken. Told us massa was some jumbled version of master to justify our alleged stupidity and inhumanness. (Note: Massah is a Hebrew word meaning burden or oppressor. We called them what they were.)

The audacity to dilute language rich in culture by “correcting” it is just as brutal as stripping away someone’s name and replacing it with your own. What does your Ph.D. in poetry have to do with my grandmother’s tongue?

The way our slang terms do not always mirror what is heard or written within collegiate circles.

The way proverbs and parables roll off the tongue only to be shackled to some white scholars’ standards of brilliance. He think it’s nonsense how Jay Jay and Man Man ‘nem talk about how they be chillin. Or how Aunt Lou tells one of her grandchiren to go wrench off this spoon. She puts her hands on her hips, waves and says ‘How you?’ (She means it the way she says it, leaving out the ‘are.’) 

The way the world attempted to tuck knowledge away from us, hide from us its secrets. (Though, we already knew them.) 

Black writers do not need to sacrifice their soul or shapeshift into white standards of intellect to create something beautiful. They need only to be who they are and let the words be seasoned.

Yecheilyah’s 5th Annual Poetry Contest 2022: Apply to Help

As many of you are well aware, I host an online poetry contest every year. The purpose of the competition is to give back to the poetry community by spotlighting the next dope poet. I also host the contest to shine a light on the power of poetry which can often be underrated. 

We are in our fifth year, but I will need some help.

To help me coordinate this year’s contest, I am putting together a team by choosing people to join me behind the scenes.

If you would like to join me in organizing our 5th Annual Poetry Contest, please click on the link below and submit your application. 

This year’s theme is Freedom.

Do keep in mind that if you are on the board to help, you cannot enter the contest. So, if you are a poet looking to submit a poem for this year, do not sign up.

You also do not need to be a poet to help. I am looking for people in all areas right now, from help with promotion to prizes.

https://tinyurl.com/yecheilyah

Do You Know Your Somebodiness?

Crazy to think that in just a few short hours, this day will be part of history. As I write this, I think about how easily today becomes a memory. The question is, will it be a day worth remembering? Will I remember a cold day with clear skies and the birds building their nests in the tree outside my bedroom window?

As I sit here wearing my I am Black History sweatshirt and my blackballed fists earrings, I am forced to ask myself what it means. What does it mean to be the embodiment of black history? 

When I think about it, I think about legacy. Those things we leave behind for others to grab onto. We live in a world where a person’s significance is realized the most after death. Something about the absence of their presence forces us to consider the nobility of the lives they lived and what we take from it.

Toni Morrison once said, “the function of freedom is to free someone else.” I think about the responsibility of that, and I resolve that being black history in the flesh means to live my life in such a way that black people feel free. 

Still, I am constantly contemplating what that means in all its fullness. How does a person feel free? What parameters must exist for an individual to feel uncaged? These are not simple questions to answer, yet I think we answer them daily with our actions. I think we answer them with the lives we live.

Alice Walker said “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” I supposed this is why Dr. King talked about holding on to your somebodiness, because your somebodiness is your power. Your sense of identity and belonging. Your truth. 

Do you know your somebodiness? Do you know your mother’s name and her mother’s name? Do you know your people? Do you know from what root you sprang? How much time do you spend investigating how to reclaim your own identity? You say you are black history. You wear the shirts, use the hashtags and pump your black fists into the air, but do you know your name? Do you know what was taken from you? Do you know what was not?

Do you know your own somebodiness