What Langston Hughes Taught Me About Writing

Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes, Google Images

What known historically famous writers, like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, have taught me is that writing (far as fiction, / non-fiction, poetry, novelist type writing), is not about making money. Before you throw your stones at the computer screens listen carefully: You can surely make money, but writing is not about making money, if you can understand that. Though I write for a “living” I can honestly say, with my integrity intact, that I have written not one book and not one poem with the intent to make money. I don’t think any writer sits back and says, “Self, lets’ get this best seller on out the way shall we?” Personally, I write because I love doing it and I publish because I love sharing it. But, how did Langston Hughes help me to understand this?

For those of you who are not already familiar, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston are two of the biggest names in literary history. Just mention The Harlem Renaissance and their names are the first to come to mind. When you look into the lives that they lived however, you see two interesting facts: a). Both were very famous b). Both were very broke.

You wouldn’t know it from the looks of it. Not the way their names are plastered into history books. Not their quotes and faces and the people they’ve known. In fact, to the untrained eye one may come to think these people were rich. Yes, just like any “successful” Traditional or Self-Publisher always before the face of the people. The truth is that Langston Hughes had many side jobs throughout his career that made him money. This included many speaking engagements, teaching, traveling the world, and even working as a bus boy at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington. Hughes attended Lincoln University but that was because he couldn’t raise the scholarship money to attend Howard. In addition, both Hughes and Zora worked closely under Charlotte Manson, their rich white patron (she was also a big racist but that’s another story) who paid them for the work they published (she also dictated the works they could / could not publish). They also worked closely, most especially Hughes, with Carl Van Vechten (infamous for his book “Nigger Heaven”) who got him lots of work.

I do not say this to discourage anyone from being an author. I say this to say that there is a passion and a drive to writing a book that has nothing to do with royalties and books sales. This is what the promotion and hard work is all about, or at least mine is.  Writing and promoting books that people want to read. There were times where Langston Hughes could barely pay his rent and yet he still managed to know pretty much everyone there was to know during the Harlem Renaissance and the era to which he lived in general. This is a man who was surrounded by millionaires and billionaires on a regular, not because he necessarily  made the same kind of money but because of the way that his work changed people who were drawn to his message. This is what it’s all about: Changing lives. This is also why the Traditional-Indie argument is so stupid right now. It doesn’t matter how you publish the book and whether or not you’re “making it rain”. What matters is whether or not your book has a voice. If it does, then the people will gather to hear you sing.

Diversify Your TV / Movie Selections

I know we all have our favorites but it is time to upgrade. In a couple weeks we’ll be moving on into another year. As such, I would like to propose an upgrade in entertainment. Last month I wrote a post called “Before The Weeks Ends” about diversifying our bookshelves. In this post, I spoke about how dedication to only certain kinds of books can limit our perspective in life. I proposed instead a diversity in reading selections. Don’t just read Romance but have a few “How-To” sprinkled in there. Don’t just read Erotica only but throw in some African American Literature every now and again. Have something that you can go to for a little fun but also something that will educate you and give you insight beyond the norm. That said, this same logic can be applied to TV. What you put out and also what you take in is reflective in your life. Meaning that if I put positive energy out there I expect positive energy to come back to me. But if Flavor of Love, which projects a negative image of my people, is the only thing I’m giving my energy to, how can I ever expect to grow beyond that way of thought?

tumblr_inline_nuhk0uWWZZ1tb2t60_540

We can sit back and convince ourselves that these are just shows but it would be naïve to think it has no effect on our minds. While were on the subject (*climbs soap box*) why are some of these shows even out there in the first place? Why did Flavor of Love even exist? What was its purpose? Yes,  I watched the TV show back in the day and as I look back, what did it produce for me? What did it teach the teenage me? Did it teach me how to love? Did it teach me how to take care of a man? Did it teach me how to interact with the world? Own a business? What did Flavor of Love teach me as a young woman who needed to be guided?

Hype-Hair-Basketball-Wives

And why do black people support these kinds of shows anyway? The ones that take the worst of your people and highlight it to the entire world and is popular only because you watch it. Even though they do nothing for your growth as an individuals. There is nothing profound or mentally stimulating about these shows. There is nothing that will give you an understanding of life in these shows. These shows do nothing but highlight the activity of wild women that no man would ever commit to. These shows produce all this negative energy and then we wonder why we can’t get along with our men. Why we can’t stop using profanity. Why we can’t get along with other women. It’s because of what we’re feeding our minds. In your subconscious you’re imitating the women you watch every week and mimicking their ways.

*Gets down from soapbox*

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you what to watch and what not to watch. I am not your judge and we’re all adults here. What I will say is this: use a little wisdom in your selection. Like I said  I published a post on diversifying our bookshelves and I think this same logic can be applied to every aspect of our lives. Diversify your movie  and TV selections as well.  Don’t just sit back and watch the same shows over and over again. Throw some documentaries in there, some historical films, or tune into something that is new. It may be boring at first but so is everything that is different to your way of life. You never know, it just may give you insight into something you may not have known before. We cannot possibly think that what we read or watch or make permanent parts of our lives have no bearing on our lives. It takes more than just talking about growth to actually grow as individuals. It takes some form of change, not just for black people but all people. It begins with what we give our attention to because what we give always come back. Everything around you has an effect on you in some way. Choose wisely.

From the Foundation of the World

We bask in decisions we have already made and dance in the reward of work we have already put in. My unborn children are dancing circles around my womb. I am pregnant with goals that will give birth to the life they will one day live. Does the life you live today prepare you for the future? Have you ever wondered what makes up your final destination? Considered that the decisions you make today will determine the outcome of your life tomorrow. Or, to go deeper, that the decisions you make today will determine the outcome of my tomorrow? I am someone you do not know and you are someone I have never met, and yet the result of our decisions may very well cling onto one another as if torn from one flesh. What is my reward for being respectful today? For being considerate, for being mindful, or for being innovative. Will this be credited back to me? Can I depend on someone to love me when I am old and incapable and if so, how did I solidify that future today? Will my offspring reap the benefits of my labor? What eternal existence have we created out of the dust life birthed us with from the foundation of the world? Will we gather the elements of success into our hands so that we may mold the outcome of someone else’s future? Or will we allow the rains to devour that final taste of hope as if relinquishing our breaths to the sky in place of Noah’s ark.

Words Are Worth It

LondonBridgez03

Corroded behavior reveals the unpolished stains left dangling from the heart
Brimming from the mind and falling from the mouth
A surge of power tap dancing in the air and building meaning on the ground
A melting pot of consonant sounds and vowels finding way to my skin
Seeking to build homes in the goosebumps on my arms
Making noise
Unnecessary sounds like the mimic of my own voice
But you do not live here
Have not walked on top the coals that once found residence between my toes
to know what this ground taste like
a skin black leather like strength
I was not born among glass
and will not break easily
I doubt then that this impression will go successful
Sneaky words
Empty tongues
Idle existence
a reverberation of shame creaking against emotion is your birthplace
dare you seek to give of me a world of illusion
a day dream of fairy-tale hopscotching around in my mouth
an elusive sleep walk
a collection of letters too light to gravity the ground
too corroded to fly
bouncing off the walls of thought
dare you pretend the taste of burnt ash that fell from mouth and consumed a life
did not first have a home in heart
all these bodies collecting black and bruise
bruise and black
and bone and stitch
I am no fool
Dear Words
I choose to choose you carefully
To examine your wings before deciding that they should take flight
To taste your essence one syllable at a time
Seasoning as needed
You see words,
I’m on to you
I know how powerful you really are.

The Liebster Blog Award

liebster-award

Special Thanks to Lisa Tetting (again!) for nominating me for The Liebster Blog Award. This is now my 5th Award and I would like to take the time to first say that I accept the nomination. I am always excited to take advantage of the opportunity to reach as many people as I can. My hope is always that I can deliver someone with my words, to impart upon someone something of substance; something that they could use and expand on and to be a part of. While I do not strive to please everyone, I do hope that everyone who has found interest in this blog has been enjoying themselves so far. If not, well…now is not the time to be negative lol.

Here are the Rules:
1. Link the person who nominated you to your blog post and let them know you answered their questions.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by the nominator.
3. Nominate other bloggers for the award.
4. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

Questions:
1. What is your favorite color?
My favorite color is brown and anything else earth tone in nature, green, beige, orange, tan.
2. Why did you start your blog?
Well I’ve had a couple blogs in the past because I’ve always enjoyed sharing my poetry. But this blog was initially started because I had recently published a book and I thought starting another blog would be a great way to engage people with my writing. I also thought it would be a great way to measure the continual improvement of the skill. To have people to comment  and to share their thoughts with me, their perspectives, and to engage in challenges and blog awards is for me such an excellent way to gauge where my writing is going and the kind of messages that truly speaks to the people.

3. What is your favorite place to write?
My favorite place to write is at my kitchen table in the dining room at home next to the window.

4. Name your favorite person in the world and why?
Great question. My favorite person in the world is my husband. The reason I say my husband and not my mother or other close relatives is not to downplay their most excellent influence. I choose my husband because of the close bond that I have with him. He is a man filled with much understanding, much compassion, and much faith. I cannot say for sure if I would have been where I am had I not had him standing here to share in the trials that got me here. He is the other part of my strength.
5. Do you have a pet and if so what?
I do not have a pet but I am currently nagging my husband for a German Shepherd. We used to have a Rottweiler (Hubby’s Fav) but I fell in love with Shepherds because of my neighbor at the workplace. She works in a pool and spa place next door to our community center and recently acquired a puppy I have literally watched grow before my eyes. Extremely adorable, no joke.

6. Who is your favorite writer?
Funny I was just thinking about this. I love Terry McMillan and Toni Morrison’s books because they are such visual writers. I love the use of the poetic language and symbolism usually incorporated into their novels.

7. Who is your favorite singer?
My favorite singer is…I’m not sure that I have a favorite exactly. My taste in music kinda wanders over a large range of folks, some of which whose names I don’t know off hand but whose music I love. But I do enjoy some Stephanie Mills, some Whitney Houston, lil bit of Stevie Wonder, Anthony Hamilton, Toni Braxton, Sade, Bob Marley.

8. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Chocolate

9. If you could be anything in the world what would you be?
If I could be anything in the world I would probably be a butterfly if given the chance to turn into anything any second. A butterfly so that I can travel the world quickly and deliver  words to as many people as is possible in my lifetime. I would just say a bird but if I’m a butterfly I can be beautiful too, yesss.

10. What is your super power?
My Super-Power is probably Endurance. I’ve been through a lot in the short time that I have lived but I have not lost hope of everything good.

11. Where is your favorite place to vacation?
Jamaica. Though I’ve only been there once I had an amazing time and my husband and I are dying to go again.

I now nominate the following blogs for The Liebster Blog Award:

SeasonedSistah2

Lucile de Godoy

Wine By Ari

Fill Your Own Glass

Here are Your Questions:

1. Why did you start your blog?

2. What is your favorite city to visit?

3. If there is one post you think best defines your blog, which is it? Post the link too!

4. What’s your favorite color?

5. If there is one thing you’ve learned about blogging that has helped your writing or career, what is it?

6. Other than Writing/Blogging, how best do you like to spend your time?

7. How would you define happiness?

8. Coffee or Tea?

9. What is the one thing that keeps you motivated?

10. What’s your favorite movie and why?

11. If you follow The PBS Blog, what do you like most about it or would like to see more of? 🙂

As an added bonus, since this is my first Liebster award, I just wanted to share a cool definition I looked up that contributed to my choosing of these great blogs:

“It has German origins – the word “liebster” has several definitions: dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, endearing, welcome, and sweetheart.”

And that’s it.

Wow, this post is way longer than I expected lol.

What Inspires You?

Sunlight spilling over the edge of clouds

flowers clothed in fine silk

an assembly of family and friends

a kind word playing joy against the backdrop of your heart strings

or maybe just the way that words are sculpted by other writers, ever so elegantly contextualized

what in particular insists that you MUST write?