Friday, June 23, 2006

Hanging with D.Wash and Another Stanford Writer

One of my childhood friends hollered at me a few days ago. She was just checking in with me, making sure everything was ok. It seems she was a bit perturbed because I hadn’t posted anything new for awhile on

“You’re leaving folks hanging” is how she put it.

Sorry for all ya’ll folks who feel that way. But being a public writer/blogger has made me realize just how much I enjoy my privacy. Being known is a good thing, especially in the written world, but I still like being plain ol D.Wash from the Southside of Houston, Texas. I’ve never been one that felt like I had to talk all the time, I just step out when I feel like I have something real to say.

I was in the barbershop a couple of weeks ago waiting to get my haircut and I was sitting next to a young lady there with her young son. I had seen her son in the barbershop before with his grandmother (her mother), but this was my first time meeting her. We struck up a conversation and found out that we knew some of the same people.

She now lives in the same neighborhood that I grew up in. So as we talked about the hood and all the young black boys without any positive male role models in their life, and dead beat dads and all the things that are causing the increasing epidemic of such phenomena, she started smiling and said something that freaked me all the way out.

“You mother has this little book that she got from Curvey and it talks about a lot of these same things.”

Instantly, I knew she was talking about the preview chapter to Real Game that we had printed out awhile back. It was probably wrong of me for not telling her that I wrote it, but I couldn’t help but cherish the moment of being a fly on the wall while someone else discussed my work

“Little book huh? What’s the name of it??”

“I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s a little blue paperback book. My mom keeps her copy in her bathroom. Even one of the preachers from my church has one and we were talking about it. I can’t wait until the full release comes out, cuz the dude who wrote it is off the chain!!!”

For those of you who don’t know, ‘off the chain’ is a common expression that we use on the Southside. It used to be ‘off the hook’, was the common colloquialism, but ‘off the chain’ is even more throwed, or ‘out there’.

It actually is a reference to bulldog fighting, but most people probably don’t realize that. When you have two dogs that you want to bump around a lil bit and see if they have any real game in them, the handlers keep a collar on them or maybe even a leash, and let them tussle a little bit. That way, they can easily snatch them out of harms way if the dogs really started going after each other.

But when there’s money on the line and/or a dog is being tested fo real, then you take that leash and collar off and you let em go butt naked. Off the chain, no holds barred.

That’s the best way I can describe my first foray into the public pit of the written word.

I’ve had to pay the price for it too. Some folks have read it and turned up their noses in disdain. Too much gutter talk and curse words for them.

Others have turned away from my pen, because they don’t feel like reading about Jesus and what He did for them. They ain’t trying to hear it, see it or read it, not from no pastor, preacher and especially not from no throwed off writer from Sunnyside who calls himself a Christian.

I’ve had ministers offer to lay hands on me and exorcise the demons that are inside me.

I’ve had people laugh at me and mock me for being another janky n’ga out to clip yo dollar, all in the name of Jesus!!

Fortunately, I have an editor who has been in my corner waay before anyone else even knew about the writer in me, so I have a witness to where my heart is at. And I could write a whole new book, just on the experiences that we’ve been through while working on this project in this past year.

Don’t ever think that the path of serving the Lord is made to be easy. It’s very narrow and the only way to navigate it is through prayer, meditation, studying the Bible and building a relationship with the Lord. I’m not there yet, but I’m striving daily, and I can’t even begin to explain just how real this game is.

But what I can tell you, is that our Lord and Savior is coming back, of that fact, I have staked my life.

So my normal routine (for those who want to know), is to wake up every morning and pray. I thank the Lord for another day. I pray for direction and understanding. I pray for the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart to be acceptable in His sight. I thank Him for all the blessings He has so graciously bestowed in my life. I thank Him for my loving and beautiful wife. I thank Him for my healthy and full of life children. I thank Him for my parents and all of my family and friends He has put in my life. I even thank Him for my health and sound mind, even though some folks might argue against the latter.

When I’m not on the road traveling for work, I’m part of the routine of getting the kids off to school. My wife and I both have jobs as well as careers that we are aspiring to succeed in. I’m striving to stake my claim as a publisher/writer, she’s marching towards her purpose of being a realtor/designer and we're both hustling to get it..everyday we hustle-N!!

We’re also both active in our church, Sunday School, 11 oclock service, Bible Study, she’s over the praise dance ministry, I’m the president of the brotherhood, we’ve got a full plate.

I always take time out every morning to read the local, national and world news. I like to have a good idea of what’s going on in the world. I also take time out every morning to read the Bible. It may be a few verses, or it may be going through the study guide on Spiritual Warfare that our church family has been studying these past couple of months. I gotta get me at least a bump of that Word evraday.

And let me tell you, if you read the news and see what’s really going on in this world, it should make you want to read your Bible too!! It’s wild out there mane. Seek the Lord while He may be found.

The more I get into this writing, the more I find out I have yet to learn. So I always have a book that I’m reading and 9 times out of 10, it’s by a writer that’s dead. I’m trying to catch up on my classics, cuz there’s so many of them that I still haven’t read and I learn so much from reading classic writers work.

My favorite is the prophet Isaiah, then comes Paul, then David’s Psalms, but you know, all Scripture is God breathed and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16 MKJV)

I also enjoy non-canonical writers, brother C.S. Lewis laid it down like a soldier, I like Jack London, Truman Capote ( who writes kinda gay, but his mastery of the English language deserves applause), and Milan Kundera is all the way off the chain. When I read his, The Unbearable Lightness of Being for the first time, I almost felt like jumping up and down and giving someone a high five, it was that live to me. I’m not the only one that switches persons midstream!?! Hah!! I told them n’gaz I wasn’t as crazy as they thought I was!!

I know there are a lot of readers out there who have their own private pen thing going on too. You’re still in the closet and you haven’t unveiled any of your work to the rest of the world. Don’t be scurd. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Period. There is no other way around it. Hemingway says you have to ‘bite the nail’ everyday.

But the beauty of the written word, is being able to touch someone, and make them feel what you’re feeling. Make them taste what you already ate.

I have this book called ‘On Being a Writer’ that has a collection of advice and inspiration from famous writers such as Hemingway, Mailer, Faulkner, Giovanni, Bradbury and a host of other legends on the pen. There’s this one letter that John Steinbeck wrote that I know helped me, so hopefully it will help all those aspiring writers out there too. It’s real.

Reprinted without permission, of course. I’m from the Southside, we be jacking.

"Dear Writer:

Although it may be a thousand years ago that I sat in a class in story writing at Stanford, I remember the experience very clearly. I was bright eyed and bushy brained and prepared to absorb the secret formula for writing good short stories, even great short stories. This illusion was canceled very quickly. The only way to write a good short story, we were told, is to write a good short story. Only after it is written can it be taken apart to see how it was done. It is a most difficult form, as we were told, and the proof lies in how very few great short stories there are in this world.

The basic rule given us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from writer to reader, and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, there were no rules. A story could be about anything an could use any means and any technique at all- so long as it was effective. As a subhead to this rule, it seemed to be necessary for the writer to know what he wanted to say, in short, what he was talking about. As an exercise we were to try reducing the meat of our story to one sentence, for only then could we know it well enough to enlarge it to three or six or ten thousand words.

So there went the magic formula, the secret ingredient. With no more than that, we were set on the desolate, lonely path of the writer. And we must have turned in some abysmally bad stories. If I had expected to be discovered in a full bloom of excellence, the grades given my efforts quickly disiilusioned me. And if I felt unjustly criticized, the judgements of editors for many years afterward upheld my teacher’s side, not mine. The low grades on my college stories were echoed in the rejection slips, in the hundres of rejection slips.

It seemed unfair that I could read a fine story and could even know how it was done. Why could I not then do it myself? Well, I couldn’t and maybe it’s because no two stories dare be alike. Over the years I have written a great many stories and still I don’t know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.

If there is a magic in story writing, an dI am convinced that there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes but by no means always, find the ay to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that make a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.

It is not so very hard to judge a story after it is written, but, after many years, to start a story still scares me to death. I will go so far as to say that the writer who is not scared is happily unaware of the remote and tantalizing majesty of the medium.

I remember one last piece of advice given me, it was during the exuberance of the rich and frantic 20’s and I was going out into the world to try to be a writer.

I was told, “It’s going to take a long time, and you haven’t got any money. Maybe it would be better if you could go to Europe.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because in Europe poverty is a misfortune, but in America it is shameful. I wonder whether or not you can stand the shame of being poor.”

It wasn’t too long afterward that the depression came down. Then everyone was poor and it was no shame any more. And so I will never know whether or not I could have stood it. But surely my teacher was right about one thing. It took a long time, a very long time. And it is still going on, and it has never got easier.

She told me it wouldn’t."

- John Steinbeck, 1963.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Praying 4 My Homies

I don’t really remember the exact moment that my eyes were opened, I can’t even tell you the exact day. All I know is that there was a struggle going on inside my heart. My spirit was vexed.

Despite my childhood upbringing, formal education, corporate training and experiences of life, I still felt like I didn’t really know anything. Looking back on it in hindsight, I guess the adjective that could best describe my state of being was that I was thirsty.

And the dryness that was in my throat could not be quenched by water or beer, not any kind of sports drink or juice. I needed something living and real.

So it is at this point that I felt the burning desire to get down on my knees and cry out to my Creator. Despite my avoidance of organized religion, I knew in my heart that God is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek after Him.

I have several family members and friends who have gone (or are going) through this same experience. Some folks turned to yoga, or self improvement books. Others just brush their thirst to the side and pacify themselves with temporal anesthetics like drugs, alcohol, exercising, working until they pass out with exhaustion or sexual pleasures.

I’ve actually tried all of those things too, but whenever that buzz wore off, I still felt unsatisfied.

It’s almost like you find yourself staring out into space pondering the meaning of it all. Why are we here?? What purpose does God have for me?? Does He even care about my life?? Is this all a big joke or what???

So after I had tried almost everything else, I decided to give the Word a try. I had heard so many people talk about it, preach about it, teach about it, testify about it and I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to rely on what somebody else told me, I had to read it for myself, in it’s entirety.

It was a task that took several months, I’d usually start reading at night, after dinner. Some nights I wouldn’t crawl into bed until the wee hours of the morning. I almost felt like a dope fiend, cuz I was hooked.

It was full of intrigue and miracles and amazing displays of the power of God. And by the time I made it to the 55th chapter of Isaiah, I went from being a Bible skeptic, to being a Believer.

“Ho! Everyone who thirst, Come to the waters.” – Is 55:1 NKJV

After I finished reading the Bible that first time, it opened my eyes to God’s plan. It was like a light switch just went on inside my heart and I got it. I would later learn from talking to more mature Believers that I had been convicted by the Holy Spirit.

Imagine that, God could even touch a Hard Head like me!!

Cuz like most hard heads, I never wanted anybody to tell me anything. I always wanted to do, whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t like rules and laws. I often found a thrill out of breaking the law, whether in my parent’s house or the laws of the land.

This conviction was not a finite occurrence. I was not perfected at the moment of my epiphany. I’m still not perfected now, but yet I’m striving to reach that mark.

When I started telling those around me about the Bible and the things I’d learned from it, I started getting some weird reactions. A lot of my friends weren’t trying to hear anything about what thus saith the Lord from me, because they could vividly remember so many of the ways that my life did not line up to the Word.

The next step was when they started witnessing the ways that God had changed my life. When they could see first hand the things that I had turned away from and left behind as I started walking toward the Lord. That’s when they started trying to label me as a Jesus freak or one of those born-again zealots, “You go be a preacher!!”

It was obvious that they hadn’t read the Word for themselves. Because the instructions that are in the Bible for how we are supposed to live our lives and tell others about Christ, isn’t just for pastors, preachers and deacons. The life that Christ calls us to live is supposed to be followed by all who are called by His name.

The problem is that too many people don’t want to drink that whole cup. They want to use Jesus as a genie. Rub on that lamp and get their blessing, maybe put a couple of dollars in the tip jar as they pass the offering basket around, but yet there is no obedience to the Word.

When people attempt to use Christ as a philosophy, instead of a relationship, they’re trying to take the cross out of Christianity. If it wasn’t for the Resurrection, Christ would have been just another philosopher. But instead, His life, death, burial, resurrection and promise to come again transcended all philosophies and religions. Jesus Christ is our Creator that came to this earth in the form of a man. If you don’t believe that, then you’re not a Christian.

Now, the hard part for me, was realizing that everyone isn’t going to believe. Just when I was worried about the non-believing Hindu in India, I realized that we had non-Believing folks who grew up surrounded and immersed in the Word. Pastor’s children and preacher’s sons who deny the Christ.

I believe that it is God’s will that ALL should be saved, but yet, everybody ain’t go accept that cup. And what’s even worse than those that completely deny the Christ, are the ones who want to just take Him in sips, but never embrace Him as Lord of their life. Lukewarm folks ain’t go make it. Either you’re all the way in, or you’re out. Ride or die.

Now the wild part, is that no matter where you are in your faith, there is yet a mark that you have yet to obtain that you have to strive for. Just when I had put all of those blatantly sinful acts aside, like lying, stealing, adultery, drunkenness, and I was almost feeling good about myself. Ready to thump on my chest and declare myself ‘righteous’ God showed me the error of my pride. I have a LOT of other things to work on. He’s not through with me yet.

But as I strive to obtain my crown, I am comforted by the fact that He will never leave me or forsake me, no matter where I may go. Even when my friends stop calling, I know that He is right here with me. In a lot of ways, my journey has been a lot like being the first n’ga to jump into the lake.

Most of my podnaz are still on the shoreline, looking. Some n’gaz take their shoes off and put their feet in, just to feel the water, but yet they’re too scared to make that leap for themselves because they’re so used to walking on land, and they’re afraid of giving the control of their lives over to the Lord. They don’t have the faith that He’ll keep them..yet.

But I know as long as they can see me doing my thang, and enjoying this life that God has blessed me to have, their spirits will be strengthened. And there will come a day where I will hear those big splashes and turn around to see that all my podnaz I used to pull stunts with have jumped into this pool of the living God also. That’s when it’s going to be a party FO REAL.

That’s my prayer for all my homies.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” – Joshua 1:8 NKJV