If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree

When I was a teenager, my cousins joked that I had discovered the cure for AIDS. It was their way of saying I was smart because I read a lot.

I even overheard my mother telling my aunt I was special. I got offended because I thought she meant special as in slow.

That’s because when I was a kid, I thought I was stupid.

In grammar school, I was a terrible student. I got straight Fs in the early years. And when we had to take the IOWA Test, I started to get held back. I can remember going to summer school as early as third grade, and I failed sixth grade twice. I failed seventh grade too, but someone had mercy on me enough to add my name to the eighth-grade roster, and that is how I entered the eighth grade.

I honestly cannot tell you what happened. I never learned the details. As far as I was concerned, it was a miracle.

Once in the eighth grade, they routinely removed me from class to go with the Special Ed teacher. My specific area of difficulty was math.

Whenever that teacher came to the door, all five of us would get up and walk out, and everyone knew what for. It was embarrassing, and I felt ashamed.

If I was so terrible at school, how did I graduate with honors with an armful of Creative Writing awards? And how did I end up in ILCA?

ILCA is short for International Language Career Academy. It was a program at my high school where students had to take four years of language instead of two, and all their courses were advanced except for the electives.

By my junior year of High School, I was not only enrolled in all honors classes, but I was also taking courses at Robert Morris College in downtown Chicago.

I would go to school during the day and then hop on the Green Line and go to college at night.

At the time, I was a member of the UMOJA Spoken Word Poetry club, trying out for track, and the only member of the yearbook team.

My schedule was crazy.

I was also on the drama team, where we wrote and performed plays at school assemblies.

At one of these plays, I recited my poem, “Black Beauty.” It was the first time I had ever shared my poetry with the public.

But let me back up just a bit.

I never explained how I went from Special Ed for math to taking advanced math classes…and passing.

Writing.

My eighth-grade teacher discovered I knew how to write, so they built my assignments around writing.

I excelled.

I excelled so much that I passed math, graduated with honors, and was placed in an advanced High School Program.

There’s an old saying, usually attributed to Einstein, that goes something like:

I was this fish. I used to think I was stupid.

Something in my brain just did not click. I didn’t even learn to ride a bike until I was nine years old.

At the time, The Robert Taylor Projects were considered the poorest urban community in the United States, second only to Cabrini Green. We did not ride bikes. We made tents out of dirty bedsheets, seesaws out of bed railings, and rollercoasters out of shopping carts.

Ain’t nobody have money for bikes.

And even though I’m a full adult now, I still get anxious about math and count slower than most.

People think I’m book smart, but the truth is it wasn’t until I focused on what I was good at (my purpose) that I started to do well.

It was never about being smart, but I was also not stupid. I just needed to find what worked for me, even if that meant I had to work harder than others.

The Point

Passion is connected to purpose. Those things you love to do (with or without payment), has a lot to do with what you are called to do.

Some of you are struggling with something, and it’s not because you are stupid or slow or incapable.

It could just be because you are a fish, trying to climb trees because that’s what everyone else is doing.

Find you some water.


I am Soul is 99cents through February. If you have read this book, be sure to leave an honest review on Amazon!

Will There Be a Fire Next Time?

“I am very worried about the state of the civilization which produced that photograph of the white cop standing on that Negro woman’s neck in Birmingham in 1963.”

– Lorraine Hansberry


Fifty years from now, when you do not see protests on the news,

sixty years from now, when George Floyd’s blood has dried up,

and Ahmaud Arbery is nothing more than a Google search,

when you no longer see your brothers and sisters marching and protesting in the streets for justice,

forty years from now, when there are no more hashtags

on which to hang your consciousness

and no Instagram to snapshot the revolution

when “black,” is no longer “trending”

will there be a fire next time?

 

When the news goes back to its regularly scheduled program

and the American flag is still soaked with the blood of the saints

their memory etched into the concrete we walk on

who will walk on?

When the history books forget to mention Breonna Taylor’s name, will we?

Did you know there were five little girls injured during the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963?

Did you know that the fifth little girl, Sarah Collins Rudolph, lived?

twenty years from now, whose legacy lives?

Who will Emmett Till Trayvon Martin’s memory?

When America’s anger sizzles into complacency

will there be a fire next time?


“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” – James Baldwin

The PBS Blog Podcast Ep 7 – The Power of Passion and Purpose

Today we’re talking the power of passion and purpose. I believe it is always wise to follow your passions because they are connected to your purpose. Your passions reveal what it is you were put on this Earth to do. When you invest in your passions you invest in your purpose. And this purpose is not just one thing but a combination of things and is revealed to us, I believe, little by little as we grow and develop into who we were meant to be.

Be sure to subscribe to my Soundcloud page for notification of new episodes.

Episode 7 – The Power of Passion and Purpose

 

Blogging: Establishing Your Fine Print (Blogging with Purpose)

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A couple years ago I wrote a post Does Your Blog Reflect Your Purpose? about how focusing on my purpose helps me to continue to write and also about living in the moment as a catalyst for post ideas. As I sit here, I decided to update my views on this topic with a follow-up: Blogging: Establishing Your Fine Print (Blogging With Purpose).

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Each blog is different because each individual is different. We each have our own set of thought processes and routines that we feel makes our writing better and our blogs overall capable of expansion. As such, I have noticed one thing in common with each blog that I follow, the ones I have come to really enjoy: Purpose. Most of the blogs I follow touch on a variety of topics. Our posts have the potential to scan the horizon. From poetry, to short story, to news articles, to quotes, you name it we’re writing about it. I love this because variety makes it possible to reach  more people than a singular subject ( or niche) and for this I love diving into varying topics.

The Fine Print

fine-print

Fineprint – inconspicuous details or conditions printed in an agreement or contract

While my blog, like most, is filled with variety, there is also a primary purpose that remains in the fine print and I have found it in each of the blogs in which I read. That purpose is the inconspicuous detail. It doesn’t matter how many topics the blogger touches on, each person has his own primary purpose for blogging and that is the foundation I think we should each take into account as we build readership. I call this The Fine Print. Everyone has one because we all have a certain set of values that govern how we live. This doesn’t mean we have to shout to the rooftops about it, but it is the underlining foundation to how we live our lives. If we apply this to blogging, I think it will help us to build and maintain focus. By us I mean myself as well. These posts are not professional blog advice, in fact its not really advice at all but thoughts I tell myself to help me to become better that I’d like to share.

Finding Your Fine Print:

1). What are you passionate about?

Think about what matters most to you outside of blogging. Your passion usually will lead to your purpose. Your purpose is then incorporated into your everyday life: including blogging.

2). What is the one thing that motivates you to blog? 

I didn’t ask you what your blog was about because it’s deeper than that. Your reason for creating your blog is also not necessarily that thing that keeps you blogging. Your blog can be about puppies but puppies do not get you up every day to publish posts. I also did not mention why you write because not all bloggers are writers. Some bloggers are photographers, chefs, etc. But I asked you what was the one thing that motivates you to blog because if you can name that thing that insists that you must blog, that thing that tugs at your being and demand that you release words into this public forum, then that is the first step toward finding your Fine Print.

3). Do not Preach Your Fine Print

Your Fine Print is for you. To help to keep you focused. Once you’ve defined your purpose, it’s not going to help you to preach to the choir. The reason this is called a Fine Print is because it’s a foundation to the entire document. You can read through an employee handbook, but the fine print is what sets the document apart as serious business.

A bloggers fine print is their driving force, their purpose, their one motivating factor, their reason for doing. Its not something they have to bring up in every conversation, but it is that thing in which they strategically incorporate into their blog in a way that drives curiosity and helps readers to get to know them better. If you bring your purpose up in every post it will drive people away. No one wants to be preached to or forced to accept anything. Your fine print is to help YOU to stay focused. When people sign a contract they are agreeing both to the contents of the document itself and also to the fine print. Fine Prints are that underlying message. When you follow a blog, you may not know it, but you’re not just supporting that blog, you are also agreeing with that blogs Fine Print, which is the whole point. In other words, that bloggers purpose for writing intrigues you in some way and has prompted you to endorse them.

Does your blog have a Fine Print?

Find out what drives you to blog and keep that as the underlying message to everything that you post. This is your Fine Print. It doesn’t mean bash everyone over the head with your ideas. It is instead using your purpose as a driving force to produce quality material. People follow blogs for so many different reasons that it is possible that your one weekly feature was their sole purpose for following you. In this way, you have reached them. Though your Fine Print is inspiring people, your weekly feature became the catalyst for which this was done, the method that has proven effective in a way that will continue to drive traffic.

4). Stay Focused

Purpose – the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

Don’t get so caught up in the purpose of someone else that you subtly make their purpose your purpose. Your fine print is not really for them, it’s to help YOU to stay focused. Blogging is a communal activity. This means that one thing we all have in common is that we want our blogs seen by the online public for whatever reason (< your fine print). Otherwise we would all just keep. private journals, diaries, notebooks, whatever but we would not be writing so openly on the Internet. For whatever reason (fine print, purpose) we are writing online. No, we are not just writing for ourselves. I do not believe that. To publish material as openly as the internet has to be for a reason deeper than personal gratification. For whatever reason, we are blogging. We serve this community by interacting with one another. In essence we serve one another. But what I think keeps a good blog going is the individual’s  focus on their fine print once they’ve found it. It is not something they are willing to compromise and it is not something they will allow others to take away.

Have you ever read a book that was so good in the beginning but towards the end it fell short? That can happen with our blogs. We must remember that the fine print is not so much for readership as it is for our own individual marker to help keep us focused. This naturally makes it easier to produce material without compromising the integrity of the blog.

And that’s it for me. I hope these tips are helpful to each of you as you continue your blogging journey.

When Did You Fall in Love with Writing?

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No. Not when you started writing, but when you fell in love with it. I’ll go first.

Freshman year, High School, Survey Literature. Mr. Clark didn’t know it, but his vocabulary list had me open. He thought I’d look up definitions. He was wrong. I devoured them. I tried using every new word in a sentence and like most people in love for the first time, I sounded like an idiot.

I became obsessed with their meanings, their pronunciations, how they looked on the page and, most importantly, how they made me feel.  Seduced by the euphoria of getting words off my chest, letting the emotions ooze from my heart and out of my flesh; stitching my soul into the page one heartbeat at a time, and riding the wave of stillness while traveling through books. I fantasized about how words would pair; how they would rhyme, mix and match. The smells of metaphor, and the taste of simile calling out to me from the words of healing written in a language I didn’t quite understand and yet, knew it was a necessary part of my sanity. For if I could not depend on writing to be my stepping stone to mental clarity, then I was truly lost. Forgotten in a world without meaning. No explanation for the question mark of our existence. No saving grace. No salvation to play just the right scripture to guide us back to the music sheet. Writing. It was my music sheet and goodness, how I loved him.

What about you? Are you in love with writing? When did you fall for it?

Not in love yet? Here’s a post about how to get there! 6 Ways to Fall in Love with Writing

Ink Pen

Writing-freelancer

Dear Ink Pen,

No, just listen.

I want your lips

nestled

against the collar bone

Of this page

I don’t care that people do not hand-write anymore

I need you

nibbling at history

and touching passions

I desire your soul

pressed hard against my fingers

I need you

touching minds

and resurrecting souls

In private places

Let your hands roam their computer screens

Kissing the interior of their hearts

Freeing the thoughts of men

Leave us naked with hope

Vulnerable

And open with the desire

For your nose against the nape of our necks

Let us drink of the truth dripping from your mouth

The taste of light lingering on your breath

But first I need you

Your lips

Nestled

Ball pointed

Against the collar bone

Of this page.

Yes, that’s it.

Now

touch them.