On Soft Hearts

Do not ask me not to care. I will care anyway. I will wonder why the flower doesn’t bloom. Why its petals are dry. Why is there a flower falling to pieces for lack of moisture? I will wonder about the soil and the colors in the sky. I will mourn with those who are sad, rub empathy on the wounds of those who are bruised. I will care about people who probably won’t think twice about me. I will take this heart of flesh and show them that I am hurt too and I too have been trampled upon. Here, see the holes and scars on my skin. But we don’t have to let our hearts grow cold or build walls that are too high for people to climb. When everyone’s a savage, do not be afraid to be soft. There’s got to be someone in this chaotic world who can show proof that there can still be love, after war.

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Play Your Piano

LOS ANGELES, CA – (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET)

Vivica Fox told the story of being on the set of Booty Call. She said that she tried to take a couple naps between scenes except Jamie Foxx kept playing the piano. Being the outspoken person that she is, Vivica was not having it.

“…it was hard to be his dressing room neighbor for a few weeks…he had a piano in there, and he would just play it all the time, singing his pretty heart out!”

Vivica went out and screamed to Jamie to, “stop playing that damn piano!”

Let me give you some background information before we continue this story.

I decided about a year ago that I was not going to limit myself and that I was going to step outside of my comfort zone. This was not an easy decision. I am an extremely shy person who overthinks everything. Whatever I share online, do believe I’ve gone over it repeatedly and have examined every possible outcome. (I am learning to be less anxious however and more centered and balanced.) Anyway, I decided I was tired of reading about what I needed to do to be a better writer. I wanted to “hear it from the horse’s mouth.” Tired of writerly commandments that got me nowhere, I wanted to act. I needed to act. I decided that acting was the only true way of knowing.

So, fed up with my own lack of action, I logged off my computer last year and went around to bookstores, talked with businessmen and ask the questions I’d always been afraid to ask, armed with business cards (side note: No, I don’t recommend giving your business card out like it’s candy. Most people just throw them away. These are facts.) and sample books. This weekend, I ended up at A Cappella Books, a small Independent Bookstore in Atlanta. I spoke to a man there who gave me some advice.

“Get your name out there because even if you’re in the store, if you aren’t a household name people won’t find you,” he said, spreading his arms to insinuate the rest of his thoughts, which didn’t have to be said: you are a nobody so people won’t be able to find your book among all these books by well-known authors.

Now, ya’ll know I gotta be honest. At first, I was offended. Household name? I thought. Who the hell cares? So I’m not worthy?

“Are you going to the Decatur Festival?” he continued. Interrupting my thoughts about how I didn’t like him.

“Yes.”

“Good. That’s a good place to start. I get a lot of {Indie}authors coming in and calling but if people don’t know you…”

“I understand.”

I left the store, still offended but the blow was softened by the confirmation that I’d made the right decision to attend the Decatur event. It was the third time someone had mentioned it to me and I am big on spiritual confirmations. I believe that what’s meant for me will often be confirmed through others. (The first time I heard of the Festival was at the Atlanta African American Book Festival. An older man had bought two of my books and asked me if I was attending the Decatur Book Festival. “That’s where you need to be,” he had said. The second time was when speaking with my academic advisor. I told her I was going to a book festival and she brought up Decatur.)

After marinating on the man’s words, tasting them, digesting them, I wasn’t offended anymore, and I realized that he’d just given me lots of wisdom. It was deeper than selling in a store. He was telling me that as an author I needed to build relationships with others if I intended to sell books. He was telling me, without telling me, that familiarity sells books so I needed to network and give people a chance to get to know me first.

For online this is social media but offline this is events, book signings, meet and greets, lunch and dinner meetings. (side note: think big….introduce yourself to the person running the show…speak with owners and coordinators…also, with social media, don’t feel obligated to be everywhere…go where your audience is or where people have shown they care. I don’t do much on my personal Facebook page and I really just started posting regularly on my business Facebook page. Why? I don’t have anything personal against Facebook but if I see something is not providing value I am not the kind of person to want to keep doing it….if something is not working then I need to get a new something, not force it to work. If I see that the people on my personal page aren’t interested then I am not going to keep bothering them…I am going to go where I am valued and where the people have shown they are interested in what I have to offer. For me that is Twitter and IG so I post to these accounts the most without feeling guilty about not posting the same thing to Facebook.)

Back to the guy…

I knew what he was saying was truth and have known it for years but hearing it from him directly made it more real and helped me to understand how to better sell the books I have on the shelves of the other two stores in Georgia. People must know who I am in order to walk in and request my book. I needed to work harder to build awareness.

This point was further validated (confirmed) when I saw a post by Mixtus Media:

“Even if you’re an introvert,” the caption read, “you need to connect with people to sell your book…I know it’s intimidating to put yourself out there on social media–especially for introverts. I know because I am one! But in order for your book to see success, you have to do it.”

I know now, exactly what is needed for me to take my career to the next level.

Now, let’s get back to the story.

When Vivica screamed at Jamie to stop playing, she didn’t know at the time that he would later win an Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy all for playing the piano, among other things, in his portrayal of Ray Charles in the movie Ray.

What you do tomorrow is determined by what you do today. You think Jamie Foxx decided to play the piano when he found out he was gonna play Ray Charles? No. Jamie Foxx had been playing the piano since he was five years old (back when he was still Eric) and the practice helped him later in life to do something he probably didn’t even know that he would ever do.

Vivica A. Fox Book Signing, 7/22

Whether you write, sing, dance, act, teach or swim, play your piano. In other words, prepare and do what is necessary today even if you don’t understand why you must do it. You have to be ready when the time comes and not trying to get ready.

Being an Independent Author doesn’t mean you should not listen to people who are trying to educate you about improving your craft. As Vivica puts it, “when you receive constructive criticism and it helps you deliver, you have to acknowledge it.”

Vivica had another story. This one about a woman she met who wanted to be an actor. The woman was concerned that she was too old. She had gotten a head-shot and everything and wanted Ms. Fox’s advice.

“Well, you can’t stand by the pool,” Vivica told her, “you have to get in.”

Vivica explained that the work is not just what’s on screen. I think this can apply to those of us in this digital era. The work is not just what’s on screen! On Facebook, on Twitter, on IG, on the blog. The work is constant and much of it takes place behind the scenes.

“I so appreciate that (name) put time into studying,” Vivica continues, “but I always tell people to educate themselves with real experience.”

Ms. Fox is right. Five or ten years from now you may find that the work you put in was preparing you for that one moment.

Additionally, don’t wait for someone you think is more important than you to make the decision of who you are gonna be. I got offended by the man’s words (at first) because I’ve never been a “star struck” kind of person. I cheer for everyone and give everyone the same level of respect, honoring each of our sacrifices and contributions regardless of position. These authors are people like I’m a person. They aren’t better than me and I am not better than them. They just started earlier.

This isn’t about bragging but as a wise person once said, “you will have a very hard time running a successful business with low self-esteem.” You can be humble and confident in your ability to deliver at the same time. You are not better than anyone (humility) but you have to know what sets you apart from the rest (confident). I struggle with being timid and unsure too but it’s something I am learning (quickly) I’d need to get over to take it to the next level.

If you want to be successful at anything you must see yourself as such already. Before I married I knew that I needed to become a wife before I actually was. Jamie Foxx didn’t become a pianist when people started to recognize him as such. He always was. Just like you already are. Everything you strive to be, YOU ALREADY ARE. Act accordingly.


Don’t forget to join me tomorrow for the start of the I am Soul Blog Tour! I will be visiting a total of 10 blogs over the course of the next few months and introducing some of my poetry. Be sure you are following these blogs by clicking HERE. You don’t want to miss it!

Yecheilyah’s 2nd Annual Poetry Contest: Entry Submission Acceptance ENDS TONIGHT!!

You have until 11:59pm EST to get your poems emailed to me!!

When that clock strikes 12:00am I will not be accepting any more entries so yes, you have time to enter after you get off work people!

DO NOT miss out on this. There is NO entry fee to enter and tons of prizes on the line. Money, publishing, promotion, books. Nothing to lose. Everything to gain!

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ENTRANCE GUIDELINES AND PRIZES BY CLICKING HERE.

Submit a poem on self-love / self-care in some way, subscribe to the email list (you need to subscribe so you get updates on the contest) and then email your poem to: yecheilyah(at)yecheilyahysrayl(dot)com

Go Go GO!!


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FINAL COUNTDOWN: Yecheilyah’s 2nd Annual Poetry Contest Ends Soon! Enter TODAY

It’s the final countdown people!

You have until midnight tomorrow (Tuesday, 7/31) to enter your poem into my 2nd Annual Poetry Contest.

The contest is heating up and we have some very talented poets out there!

…and some awesome prizes! We are giving away money, publishing, promotion, books and more! DO NOT miss out on this. There is NO entry fee to enter.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ENTRANCE GUIDELINES BY CLICKING HERE.

Submit a poem on self-love / self-care in some way, subscribe to the email list (you need to subscribe so you get updates on the contest) and then email your poem to: yecheilyah(at)yecheilyahysrayl(dot)com

Go Go Go!!

The Diary

My first practice in writing was the diary. Sometimes it wasn’t an actual diary but a journal I turned into one. It was a special thing for me because prior I had been writing in notebooks but notebooks didn’t provide the kind of privacy that diaries did. With the privacy of the diary, I could be more open which meant that I could be more real in my writing. I could express how I was feeling authentically because I knew that no one else would read my words. I could be angry, happy, sad, and excited. Unknown to me at the time, this was helping me to learn to express myself, to experiment with language and to organize my emotions.

My first diary was something I found somewhere. It had a lock on it that didn’t work and was pink and some other colors I don’t remember. But even though the lock didn’t work the cool thing about the diary is that as soon as it was understood this was a diary, people knew not to read it. To do so was an invasion so strong that you would fight someone over it. If someone read your diary it was like they had read your soul. It was deep because of how deeply you confided in it. I still remember what I felt when the events of 9/11 happened. I remember because I wrote it down.

First, our teacher turned the radio up. Something about New York and terrorists. Then, the school let us go home. When I got home, I stared at the television in the living room and watched as the twin towers crumbled to the ground. It was the first time I had seen something like that happen without it being a movie. I took to my diary to voice my opinion.

“Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I am fourteen-years old. We are at war. God bless America.”

I was so corny and what I wrote was lame but because of writing it down I remember the exact day of the events and my age when it happened. I was fourteen so I didn’t understand all the politics surrounding the event at the time and of course I believed whatever the news told me. I also didn’t realize how writing this down was helping me  with my memory.

I got my next diary/journal when I was fifteen-years-old. It was pink and fluffy with a blue sparkly butterfly on the front. I got it in Cincinnati Ohio during my 8th-grade trip. I got more personal in this one. I was fifteen and the boys had gotten cuter. I wrote more about life in general in this diary. I wrote about when my favorite cousin had gotten jumped so badly that when he came over to our house his face was terribly plump. I wrote about my excitement and sadness over graduating from eighth grade. I was graduating with honors but my twin had to go to summer school. It made me sad we couldn’t graduate together. I wrote about how this boy at school had a crush on me and how I liked him but I didn’t want to “go with him” because he went to my school. I didn’t “go with” people who went to my school. I had standards.

In my next journal, I would dedicate it completely to poetry. It was a gift given to me by my cousin. I was sixteen (I got a new diary or journal almost every year) and my cousin and I thought we were poets. We would have poetry contests (and till this day he wants me to let everyone know that he taught me how to write…lies) to see who could write the better poem. I don’t remember who judged us. I think we judged ourselves. (insert eye-roll)

But I had also begun to express myself in a different way by now. This journal was green, not pink so that the color and the content of the book reflected my maturity compared to the other journals. I didn’t write about my life, I wrote poems about life instead. I started to look around me and write about the things I saw reflected in the world and not just what was reflected in me. I would look up the definitions of words and write whole poems based on those words. Most of the time it made no sense but it did help me to expand my vocabulary. I also wrote poems about sex because I was sixteen and that’s pretty much all we thought about.

At every stage of my life I always had some kind of diary or journal with me to help to organize my thoughts and feelings and I didn’t know then how it would help me with my writing later on in life. (It also helps me to be patient by writing thoughts down on paper before publishing it to the internet. Letting them sit in ink for awhile and waiting to see if  the words are even worthy of being shared with the world. Most times they aren’t.)

Before the internet, before social media, before Facebook posts and blogs, there was the diary. The one place where we knew that we could be ourselves without judgment. I still keep a journal with me today and even though it’s filled with business ideas and inspirational quotes, it still helps me to write down my feelings and to organize my thoughts. It still serves as a powerful tool in helping me to be a better writer.

2nd Annual #Poetry Contest Reminder: Enter Today!! (No Entry Fee. No Hidden Fees.)

Don’t forget about this year’s contest. Submissions are being accepted NOW. Don’t wait until the last minute. Enter now for your chance to win a $50 Amazon gift-card, publication in an online magazine designed specifically for this contest, publication to this blog and across my social media, exposure to the platforms of our judges and sponsors, free books from our sponsors and more.

CLICK THROUGH TO THE ORIGINAL POST HERE TO LEARN MORE ON HOW TO ENTER.

 

REMINDER: THERE ARE NO ENTRY FEES AND NO HIDDEN FEES TO ENTER THIS CONTEST!! ENTRY IS FREE! ENTER TODAY.

Cheap

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

You will not shy away from the sun. Your melanin is a gift, do not fear a darker complexion. You will not tuck your stomach in for pictures. Work it off or show it proudly. You will not hide your smile from laughter. Let the joy crawl its way out of your throat and seep its way from behind your teeth. You will not ignore your gut when it hurricanes its wrath. Listen to it moan of unpleasant vibes and wait for it to prophesy your next steps. Wear discernment like a cape and superwoman/man yourself to the next step. You will turn not a blind eye to boundaries transgressed. Let the world know when it’s in danger of tainting your integrity, of shattering your kindness, of disrespecting your soul. Do what makes you happy without regard to how that happiness looks to others. You are a diamond undiscovered, a masterpiece unknown, a treasure to be dug up and valued. A precious stone. You are a rarity, something to be searched for. Something to be honored. A bumblebee may be the smallest among the fly, but her honey is the sweetest thing. You will be honey. And you will treat others as you are. You will be to others as sweet as honey. A diamond undiscovered, a masterpiece, a treasure. Treat those who love you like treasures and turn away from those who do not. You will not be meat. You will not be snack. You will not be feasted upon by those without palettes and cannot taste. Do not rob yourself by forcing friendships. Do not force connections. Do not smother them into loving you. Love liberates. Love them into freedom. But do not lower the price of your worth. A mountain does not become small for those who refuse to climb. They will climb or they can remain on the ground. You are search-worthy.  Drink humility like water and taste its fruits on your tongue but do not clip your wings. Do not be cheap with yourself.