I’ve been gone for a minute and I loved every second of it! Silence is my place of rejuvenation and reflection in a world that never stops talking. If I could, I would never say a word and in that muteness, soak up all the wisdom I could emanating from others. Watching in solitude at their actions, and reading their thoughts. In this time, I’ve had the opportunity to sit back and listen. Listen with my eyes. Watching and reading new year’s resolution posts, plans, goals, and aspirations for the new year. I’ve seen many authors jump for joy over new projects and ideas, and silently I rejoiced with them. I’ve watched my emails and opened to find those I’m subscribed to talking about how to write better for 2017 and to overall be a better version of your author self. I’ve seen everything pretty much except for one thing and let me begin with a little bit about myself before I tell you what that thing is.
I grew up on the south side of Chicago and spent the first nine years of my life growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Unites States. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been hungry. I’ve had to wipe myself with newspaper and clothing because there was no tissue. I’ve, at times, had to feed myself by stealing candy bars from Walgreen’s, clothe myself by stealing just the same. I’ve been jumped on so badly I had to get staples in my head. I’ve been hit by a car and had to get staples in my leg. I’ve been hospitalized, psychologized and the list goes on.
I tell you this because people often ask me if this is the reason that I write. While every experience has its influence I am sure, it is not the reason that I write because without the overcoming, the struggle is nothing. I did not start writing because I’ve had a not-so-pleasant life. It is not the life itself, it is what has been drawn from that experience. Human thought, emotion, trial, and triumph. It is as Maya Angelou described as facing evil or the good that comes out of evil. Though the rape she suffered as a child drove her to silence it was what came out of that silence that made the difference. The reading of every book in both the black and white libraries and the memorizing of whole plays.
Who Are You?
While I too have goals and plans for this year, I decided my first post of 2017 won’t be about any of that. Writing is much more than a series of goals, plans, and even passion. It is the purpose. A written monument of who you are and why your contribution to the world is significant.
Purpose. It is a word that’s been thrown around so much that perhaps it lost its flavor, became tasteless. Maybe we’ve underestimated the power of purpose. That drive that compels you to do something not just because you want to do it but because if you don’t do it then others will suffer. As Will Smith once said, it is when you wake up in the mornings and your life means something to someone other than you. It is when you know in your hearts that your work is special, not for yourself alone but special because of how your influence makes people feel. In that if you didn’t exist or if you gave up today then there are people who will suffer.
Who Are You?
I’m not asking about your occupation. You’re not a writer and neither am I. Writing is what we do but it is not who we are. Do not misunderstand me. Who you are drives the writing and thus, it is more important than the writing itself and you will not write until that foundation of self-awareness is solidified, least you crumble under the pen of imitation. Trying to mimic the latest trends, writing what you think a writer should write, and doing what the majority is doing instead of being an individual and doing what the majority are not doing. Before plans and goals, writers need to discover who they are because the energy of who you are and what you put out into the world always comes back to you, drip feeding itself into your relationships and your work.
Who we are drives our writing. Moves it. Pushes it forward. Who you are will dictate what you write and how you write it. Who you are is made up of what you value, what’s important to you. Who you are represent what matters to you. It is that thing that wakes you in the mornings and sends you to the keyboard whether you get paid or not. Who are you? The answer to this question will compel you to push on despite opposition, never allowing your clarity to be fueled by how others respond because trust there will be days. Days where the business of writing will strangle your love for it. Yes, it’s true. You will get tired. You will get overwhelmed, and you will question if you’ve done the right thing, made the right move, or are on the right track. This is when purpose steps in, that thing that far exceeds talent or passion and even skill but reminds you why you do what it is that you do because trust, there are days when you will forget.
Who you are is much deeper than the blank page and your pen will give birth to not a single word until you are first capable of answering this question. Further, the words on the page won’t have a heartbeat until you are first capable of answering this question honestly. For the heart, will determine the direction of your life since out of it is the sources of life. The heart will lead and guide and be there even when we think it is not. The heart is ever present, and yes, even in your writing your heart is there. It speaks and it dictates every single word. It is your purpose for being. Not just for writing, but for being. It is you.
Who you are is important because who you are will always be right. In the words of Maya Angelou, what is right may not be expedient and it may not be profitable but it will save your soul. It is the why in why you write and until you understand exactly what it is (not what you think it is or hope it can be but what it actually is) then writing itself will never make sense.
Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of eight books most notably, The Stella Trilogy, Blogger, and Poet. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release July, 2017. For updates on this project, sneak peeks of other projects, nuggets and tidbits, video tutorials, writing inspiration, and more, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.