Evolution: I AM Here
When I was about ten or eleven, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I would sneak my sister’s typewriter and save all of the mail that had a blank back side. I would use the blank side of the letters that came in the mail for typing.
By the time I was thirteen, and the world had moved on to word processors, my sister had one. I stole that one too. I would sit in my room for hours on the floor, typing the day away. By the time I was fourteen I had a finished manuscript. “Days Like These.” I will never forget it. I carried it around everywhere I went in a raggedy green folder. I would read it all of the time and laugh. It was like the characters in the book were my friends. We had been together for years, and I knew them like the back of my hand. I loved the story that I had created. It was about teenage love. Before Scandal or Everything, Everything, there was Days Like These. A romantic story about a black girl and a white boy and the issues that they faced in their relationship. I could write it true to form because I was calling myself dating a white boy whose mother could not stand me simply because I was black.
That was over thirty-five years ago. Things happened, and I called it life and the manuscript got buried in a chest. I am not sure what happened to my manuscript typed on the back of old mail, notebook paper and ripped up brown bags, but the story lives on inside of me. Thirty-Five years later and I am just getting up the nerve to put out a sample of my writing. I have written many things, some better than others, but all of them mine. I treat my stories like they are my children, I mean, after all, I did create them, word by word. I shield them from the masses afraid of what people will say and think, worried about if they will be good enough. Frightened that someone will have harsh words for my writing. I guard my stories and read them over and over, but I am hesitant to share them with the world. For years, I let people read the same first draft of my novel, “I Sing.” I have yet to let anyone read the finished project.
I preach belief in one’s self. I teach knowing your worth and never letting anyone tell you what you cannot do. Those words often fall on deaf ears when I listen to them. Hypocrite. I criticize myself and then in an attempt to make it better I go, and I write something. Something else that may never meet the eyes of a stranger.
I have helped countless people to achieve a dream, reach a goal, do something that they never thought that they would be able to do, but for me, doing it for myself seemed so far-fetched. I let fear control me for so long. However, this year something happened. Something made me take a stand and look deep at myself and my life. My youngest son graduated from high school.
Like my writing, I had clung to my children, buried myself in them living vicariously through their lives. Seeing what it looked like to have a family unit, a mother and a father and siblings all in one house. I often told people that we were not the Cosby’s. It is true. I am not a lawyer, and my husband is no doctor. We had our way of raising our children and helping them to become who they wanted to be. Once the last one was all grown up, I had to face who I wanted to be.
I was different now. I was not the same young writer giggle at kissing scenes I had written. I Looked back at journals and poems and stories and screenplays and to be honest, I was ashamed. I had written all of this stuff, and I had not given the world a chance to see it. Then I did what I always do. I trick myself into believing that no one wanted to see it anyway. Something was different this time. I dreamt about the book and the cover. I saw it. I was holding it in the dream. I had never had a dream about a book of my own. I had chased down the mailman for my Eric Jerome Dickey book, lost my cool with Amazon about my Bernice Mcfadden order, went ballistic on Audible because something was going wrong with my Terry McMillan book, but I had never had a dream about holding my finished work. Seeing it like that moved something in me. I wanted it. I wanted to hold it. I needed to hold it. It was driving me, so I set out to make it happen. I had no works called Evolution. Not a single one. I had no work called I AM Here. Nada. So, I believed that meant that I needed to create it and so I did.
Something else happened. I pulled out my dog-eared copy of Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and I read it in two nights. Basically, he was telling me what so many others had already said, “Fuck the rules.” I wrote the book. I put it together in a few months and spent another few reading it every day.
The Accidental Summer, the short story in Evolution was going to be a book, and I had even tried to develop it into a screenplay…well a film short for a school project, but then decided to cut a bunch of it out and make it a short story for this project. Everything fell into its rightful place. I don’t know how it all happened, I just know that I spent countless hours working to get it to finished.
Something happened. When I finished the book and hit submit to send it to Amazon, I felt something. It was like that first toe curling orgasm, the one you want to have over and over again. Probably like the high people chase when they become drug addicts. I have to do it again. I knew that this is what I had been born to do and I had put it off for far too long. It is time for me to let the world read what I have written no matter what. Some will like it, some will love it and maybe one hater will have something negative to say, but the reality will be that I have done what I have admired in so many others, Toni Morrison, Lolita Files, Edwidge Danticat, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Jesmyn Ward, and the list can go on and on. My name is added to the scroll of published authors. I am proud; I am humbled, I am grateful. I didn’t do it alone, my husband and my sister pushed me when I had my heels dug deep in the ground. One held me down, and the other snatched the bandage off. They both reminded me that my words are not just for everyone else, but that I can use them too. BELIEVE IN YOUR SELF.
I do. The Writer