Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Series: On Being A Writer: Space & Time

             


So I’m starting a new series. I know; I see your face. You’ve rolled your eyes, because it’s the third one I’ve begun within the last six months. (Shameless Plug: Go Check out Digital Crush and In The Meantime.) Welp. Get used to them. I’m trying for consistency here.
This series, “On Being A Writer” will zoom in on my plight with maintaining a balance between my full-time job, freelance, novel work, and other projects. I’m a full-time education non-profit administrator. By full-time I don’t mean 9-5. I mean 9 to whenever I’m finished. (When is the work ever really finished?) I love my work, my students are the perfect handful and they give to me in the same ways I give to them. However, working 50+ hours a week, writing articles at night and in the wee hours of the morning, and trying to hold on to my artistic integrity in other endeavors is incredibly difficult.
I remember being on a radio show, back in college, and the interviewer wanted to know how I juggled spoken word shows (out of state), my classwork, and a part-time job. I remember telling him a joke about suitcases filled with Norton anthologies, skinny jeans, and napkin poems. After leaving the interview I had one thought: Once college is over and I’m all settled into a job this runaround is over, right?

Wrong.

These days I carry more than heavy textbooks around to maintain equilibrium. In one day, I could be found running a curriculum meeting, changing into more comfortable performance clothes, shouting rhymes from a small cafĂ© stage, arguing with my editor about a title, and falling asleep in the middle of late night text flirtation with my boo thang. My bag is filled with books and electronics, because multiple tabs won’t assist when you have to answer a work email on a specialized server, check your regular email, and take notes on the current meeting you’re sitting in. Contrary to popular belief in multitasking, I’m actually incredibly good at it.
Some days, the constant upkeep of each segment of my life is tiring and frustrating. Other days, it’s rewarding and magnificent. The two balance each other out. After a day of handing in late assignments and being reprimanded, I’ll get an email from a loyal reader that says that I’ve changed their perspective on something life altering. My heart once riddled with anxiety swells with pride.


 On this blog, I often talk about the necessities, not being superwoman, and maintaining balance. However, it’s rare that I talk about the intricacies of the process.
 The mornings: where doubt is stronger than fear. The invasion of your private space, when your boss is calling or your roommate needs to talk. The nights that you’re too tired to keep up with your lover’s needs. Giving up social events, because you know that you have work to do. Telling your mother that your Saturday morning chat has to be shorter than usual.
There have been a lot of moans, complains, and irritated grunts when I tell those I love, that I have to excuse myself to hone my craft. However, if you truly want something, sacrifice is a requirement.


Today’s lesson concerns the space & time you need, as a writer. First thing is first: THIS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. No one is going to make time for you: not your boss, your significant other, your friends, or anyone else. You need to lock down the hours and command yourself to focus.
            Listen to instrumentals.
            Use a self-control app.
            Put your phone on airplane mode.
            Put a do not disturb sign on your door.
 My writing space has been moved to my living room, because I decided on a roommate. Goodbye writing office. Because of the numerous conferences and ventures I have planned this summer, I thought it was best to have someone here while I’m gone. Whenever I’m writing: she comes in to watch television, eat dinner, and a multitude of other things. However, we have cues. If I’m wearing my headphones, she knows not to disturb me unless it’s an emergency. If I’m at my desk engrossed, she knows there’s a certain volume level that the television must be on. I set these standards with her, so that we don’t ruin our friendship when a simple recanting of rules could’ve saved it.
Don’t let anyone tell you about how much time you have to write. Only you know how long your work takes. I’m going to write this segment for the folks who’re writing and the onlookers. Blogging/writing/journaling/etc. is not a one and done. This blog post will be anywhere between 800-1000 words, when I’m done with it. So naturally, I have friends who love to say: That takes a second for you. Come out to this show, you can do it afterwards. You have time.
            NO.
This blog has to be written, formatted, edited, and reedited. It then has to have a picture on the top of it, that has to be resized, blurred, altered, and text put to it. (Photoshop style.) That image must be uploaded to the post and then I’ll decide that I don’t like it. I’ll do it over again. I then have to, after adding tags/title/label, post this link on every social network I have. I might have to boost the post, if it’s truly important, or drop it on the walls of people that might find it interesting. You know the blog post that was supposed to take an hour, according to your friend? You're now up to three hours.
            Your writing is YOUR baby.
            Don’t let anyone tell you how to cradle it.
            Don’t let anything dwindle the time you need to cultivate it.
            Don’t let your work become a neglected child.
            Raise it to the best of your efforts.
With that said....I'm off to my day job. I'm going in for 1pm, because I finish at 8pm today. I spent the morning blogging. See? Allocating time already...








Monday, April 7, 2014

Digital Crush: A Short Story Series: Part 2


Note: This story is part of a series. To read part one, go here.

The Past: June 2001


What was it to truly know someone? I’ve always thought of romance and affection as a physical thing.  Something I could feel on my lips or my skin, like the sun. Love was an invisible tan, a glow my mother could always detect. It was tangible and definite.

            His pictures looked like something I’d pulled out of my mother’s old high school photo album. He was dressed in a patterned school uniform or shirts and ties. His hair was cut into a small fade, unlike the regular Caesar that all the other brown boys sported. I flipped through his online slideshow three times, before I had the guts to say hello.

            His name was Kareem.
            He was 6’4 and fine.
            He was of Trinidadian descent.
            He was going to be valedictorian.
            He was headed to Princeton, on a basketball scholarship.
            I snickered at this mention.

He asked, “What’s so funny? I know that it isn’t really a sports school, but that’s not why I’m going.”
I smiled, “Oh really? So why are you going?”
“It’s a scholarship to an Ivy League. If they wanted me to line dance, I’d line dance my ass off.”
“You’re right. So what do you plan on studying?”
“Business. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do, but I know I’ll be able to wear fly suits and a great smile, while doing it. I could sell anything.”
I reminisced his pictures, “You sure could kid.”
He stood outside of the Broadway Arcade, before it was revamped into the mainstream Dave & Busters. New York City was frigid, the passersby swallowed by brightly colored bubble jackets. Kareem and I had been phone buddies, for about three months.

There was the story about his ex-girlfriend:
“They thought it would be funny to prank call my parents and tell them that I was slacking and not staying focused, because of Andrea. I wasn’t ready to tell them about her, because we were fifteen and technically I wasn’t supposed to be dating yet. I also didn’t want them to think, after all the hard work they did getting me into that school, that I was throwing everything away. I started to spend less time with her, lest they grow suspicious. She started to become apprehensive of me. She eventually broke up with me. I still regret every moment of it. She was my fuel, never a hindrance. I should’ve defended her. I should’ve showed my parents that the prank caller had no idea what they were talking about; that Andrea was the reason my calculus score was suddenly so high. I was a coward. I’ll never be one, again.”

There was the first night we didn’t speak:
His best friend had a dinner at Justin’s. Diddy’s new restaurant was the go to spot for all the teens trying to prove they were fancy adults, at the time. It was the first night we wouldn’t be able to speak. By the time he got home, he’d have to be tucked in for his long train ride to school, in the morning. It was midnight when my parent’s home phone rang. I’d fallen asleep with it nearby, because I’d been doing homework on a 3-way, with friends. I caught it on the first ring.
“Hello?”
“Mira. I just called to say goodnight.”
“Kareem! I could get into so much trouble. It’s late.”
“I know. I just had to hear your voice.”
“Oh that’s sweet. Thank you.”
Just then my father’s voice could be heard on the other line, “GET OFF THE PHONE, MIRA. SAY GOOD NIGHT.”

He was ready to meet in person. I wanted to wait a bit longer, but he insisted that it was incredulous to wait any longer. I stood across the street and watched him. He looked left and right, twiddling his fingers and waiting for me. He watched each and every girl walk by, hoping to make eye-to-eye contact with the girl he’d fallen for over the phone. I swallowed hard, made my way across the street, pulled my hoodie up over my head, as I walked by him and walked right into the subway.

I couldn’t do it. Kareem was perfect. Every guy I’d met online, before him, had a huge flaw. It was the reason they were online, hoping no one would notice. I guess it was the same, for me. My insecurity is something I could hide behind a computer screen. Kareem noticed it instantly.
“Every time I give you a compliment you get silent. Why is that?”
“I don’t know. I’m just not used to receiving them.”
“Well get used to it.”

His morals and values were at the tip of his tongue and he believed so strongly in each and every one of them. He knew exactly what he wanted out of life and couldn’t wait for a woman who felt the same way.

I listened to sound of the conductor’s voice, on the train. Next stop: 34th Street—Penn Station.

Kareem stood right in front of me. Tangible. Definite. Real. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to love him or have him love me back.

The Present: March 2014


            When you’re long-distance, you’ve got to come up with interesting things to keep the conversation going. Every morning, Matthew and I had a ‘Question of the Day’. I’m not really sure who started the ritual, but we haven’t skipped a day since it’s begun.

Today I asked, “How do you see love? How do you picture it?”
He responded:
“Love is lying in bed, with one another, binge watching your favorite show. You’d only take breaks to make love, eat, and stare at the ceiling. While staring at the ceiling, you’d talk about any and everything. You’d have inside jokes and you’d tell each other your secrets/fears. Love is leaving the bed and the other noticing and following you, just to wrap their arms around you and remind you that you’re loved. It’s play fighting that turns into lovemaking, falling asleep in that same space you landed. That’s how I see love.”

These responses kept us alive. He would never admit it, but I knew he was imagining the same thing I was. I imagined rolling in sheets, whispering laughter, and his kisses down my spine. He imagined holding me until the sun rose, reminding me that I was his, and telling me truths he’d never told anyone.

At this point he was an imaginary entity that I ate dinner with, spent my date nights telling jokes to, and accompanied me throughout my entire day. But no one could see him. They would see me lift my phone and giggle, they’d see me get my laptop/iPad ready for video-chat, and they wondered who was putting a smile on my face.  I’m sure they pondered, “Who/where is this man?”

There was nothing tangible about him.
Nothing definite.
Not yet.
However, I knew one thing for sure…
History wouldn’t repeat itself.




Wednesday, April 2, 2014

There's More Than Fairy Dust In My Bag.



My friends always raise their eyebrows, when they spy my work/weekend bag thrown over my shoulder. They're quite uneasy about how heavy it is. Actually, they should be. I carry way too much stuff. What you'll see here is a toned down version of what I used to lug around. Imagine that. Yeah.

I have this need to have everything on me, especially as a writer/blogger/educator. I feel naked when I don't have something to write on, things to plan with, and something to create the final draft. If you couldn't tell that I was on my 'Superwoman', you would only have to search my purse. 

My roommate and I have a mutual friend who phoned yesterday. Having only moved in two weeks ago, my roommate expressed that she finally got to witness my superhuman in action and still couldn't fathom how I did it.

Well she should know...It's all in my bag. Here are the things I must ABSOLUTELY have throughout the day. 

1) My laptop/iPad. Frida always has priority. I never know when an editor will need me to cover something or when I'll get an urge to finalize the edits on something I've been working on. I've been known to jump off the orange line, headed home, just to nestle into a corner of the Midtown New York Public Library and fine tune my novel. 

2) Phones. I always have my work issued Blackberry and iPhone (not pictured, because it took the photos) on me. I need to be ready for work crises and social media domination, at all times. 

3) Lucky Charm. If you've seen pictures of my home or office space, on this blog, you'll know that I have a serious love affair with elephants. They're everywhere. I truly believe that, alongside God, they're responsible for my blessings. 

4) Business Cards. I'm usually prepared for networking opportunities. These are thrown into my bag, before any major social event. However, I've been in random conversation while commuting or I'll meet someone in an unexpected place. I realized that I always need my cards. I always keep a stack on my person. 


5) Planner Pages. I always have my full blog schedule, ideas, and current series on me. I never miss a moment to plan. (Even though I might not always stick to the plan. Sorry.) 

6) Articles. My commute is underground, for 45 minutes, every morning. I print out anything I must absolutely read and throw it into the folder for the ride. I'm usually catching up on The New Yorker, The Atlantic, HBR and many other sites. 

7) Manuscripts and poems. Sometimes I perform right after work. (Shameless plug: I'm performing on April 16th in Brooklyn, New York.) I need to spend my lunch break memorizing and practicing pieces. I travel with my manuscripts for literary conferences. & you never know...I could met an agent/editor roaming the city. *prays on it*


8) Book of the week. Every week I'm reading something different. I used to read a nonfiction, fiction, and self-help book at once. It wasn't until zombies were learning to blog and taking long trips to Mecca, in my dreams, that I realized this wasn't the best idea. I usually finish a book within three days. Currently, I'm reading asha bandele's "The Prisoner's Wife"

9) Makeup Purse. Self explanatory. A girl has to look her best. 

10) Pens/Highlighters. I'm a sucker for Pentel RSVPs and a highlighting queen. A must. 


What's in your bag?
Hope it isn't fairy dust. 
Or it is...
Comment below!

*cues Erykah Badu's Bag Lady*


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In The Meantime, on MadameNoire.

My dating series, "In The Meantime" moved to MadameNoire.com! If you're not all caught up or if you've never had a chance to read the series in its entirety...click here or head over to that self-explanatory button to the right, in my sidebar. I've broken it down, chapter by chapter.

Here are a few quotes from the series, on MadameNoire.com:


Part 1: The Introduction


"Towards the end of last year, I made a promise to myself.

I was done with men. Wait; let me rephrase that. I was done with dating men, until I had some time to heal and some space to myself. I lie down on my queen size bed, on a Saturday morning, after another daunting faux break-up, and spoke to the dust and God."

Read more here...

Part 2: He Was In Love With His Best Friend
"Months later, I’d find out how desperate he was. He vied  for her attention. I’d learn that he longed for her, in the ways that I longed for him. I would also discover that she didn’t want him at all.
That’s the most heartbreaking betrayal. Well, at least from my perspective. It’s one thing when your man is tangoing with someone who is more than willing to learn the steps. However, it’s an entirely different choreography when his prospective partner isn’t even on the dance floor."

Read more here...


Part 3: Intimidated Men



"And ladies, we simply don’t have time for this kind of brother.
You don’t have time to soothe the wounds that ‘career oriented’ women left there.
You don’t have time to explain to him that perhaps she was just a jerk.
You don’t have time to pretend that you aren’t a descendant of queens.
You don’t have time to tuck your accomplishments somewhere neat and unnoticeable.
You don’t have time to lie and whisper dumbed down versions of you.
 You only have time to be great."
Part 4: Best Friends and Semi Cougar Behavior
'It isn’t until you’re in the midst of your sabotage, when you have no one else to blame but yourself that you realize you have so much growing to do."
When you’ve said all the wrong things, even though he was just trying to help.
When you accuse him of wrongdoings, because of past mistakes that others made.
When he’s trying to compromise and you interpret it as selfishness.
When he loves you hard and your attention seems to shift.
When we’re young, we’re roaming.
We’re searching.
We’re always looking for greener grass and brighter horizons."
Read more here...

Hope you enjoy! Be sure to comment on MadameNoire.com!