Full Blown Rant: If there’s one thing we’re pushed to do these days it’s talk, and there are too many people who think writing is simply the physical equivalent of talking. I have no intention of being nice. Being nice means people who would be better off starting a garden or joining a gym are instead filling the world with useless, incorrect words. To ninety-nine percent of the ever-growing hemorrhoid of people considering themselves writers: you’re not. If you’re writing just for you, that’s one thing, but if it’s out there, whether blog or ebook or random post on Why My Dog Is My Lover and it’s all about how you have been passion to be a writer since high school and you feel that it is your opinion that in your words you are blessed to have peace that your writing... Damn. Let it go. Pick up a book, any book, read it, enjoy it, love it, then come back. We’ll wait.
Main problem is writing is a verb, so people think that when they’re writing they’re “writing.” No the hell. If doctoring became widely used as a verb, would folks decide putting a Band-Aid on constituted doctoring? Writing is a profession. It’s not some grand, democratic, all-embracing activity that welcomes anyone with the desire to join the fold. A bad writer rarely becomes a good writer. A good writer can become better. And a great writer, well, those are few and far between. There’s the physical act of writing and there’s the mental discipline of being a writer. Art used to be something special. Now it’s American Idol and everybody with a computer trying to write Hankty Bitch 4: Rise of the Deceptive Hoes (African-American community, can we finally put to rest anything remotely “ghetto fabulous”? Brother is begging). How do we appreciate an artist’s efforts when we wrongly say “Aw, we can do that” when we can’t?
Dig out the album “Around the World in a Day” and listen to “Pop Life” again. It’s by Prince, you ignorant sonsabitches.
We can wait.
I’m passionate about music. But I’m not about to stand up and make myself look a fool thinking because I can play the opening notes to “The Beautiful Ones” I need to perform. I can air-guitar like a mofo, but put a real guitar in my hands and watch it spontaneously combust. Somebody says to me, “You can’t sing,” I don’t get offended; hell, I can’t sing. But I do sing. I’ll bop around my house trying my best to hit a baritone and melt my wife’s draws off like the second coming of Barry even though I sound more like I need to take something for a cold and lie down. A lot of y’all out there cannot write. That ain’t harsh, that’s truth. And you don’t get points for trying. That’s what’s wrong with the world, everybody wants the right to fail in flames of glory but get points for trying. No. Not when your lack of preparation guaranteed you were going to fail. Let’s stop coddling ourselves, people. Do what you wanna do but be who you are. A writer is somebody whose words coil around your mind like somebody who’s studied the Kama Sutra and is itching for the final exam. If they take you where you’ve been it’s only to show you what you missed, but more likely a good writer is taking you someplace you might not have thought to go.
I’m not trying to dash hopes and dreams. I’m trying to be honest. If you’re more concerned about what picture you post on your online writer profile or cutesy screenname you come up with in order to show the anonymous world that you have a fabulous personality, than with wondering whether you’re offering anything to the stew by showing what you wrote, then, no, you are not a writer. President Obama had the word “elitist” thrown at him a million times during his campaign. What’s wrong with being elitist? The incorrect perception is that it automatically excludes ninety-nine percent of us (yes, I’m making up figures) from playing in the reindeer games. And if it excludes, it’s bad, right, because that’s how the Man keeps us down! Fight the power! Lovely people, to borrow the old expression, that’s some fatback bull! Elite doesn’t mean stay out, it means come on in, but wipe your feet and turn off the cell phone and keep your kid from climbing on top of the dining table and be prepared to be intelligent. And nobody out there (all three people reading this) better pretend America ain’t the dumbest it’s EVER been. Black folks, come here, come here: Listen. Slaves. Yanked across an ocean. Separated from families. Split from their native languages. Getting the daily beat down in America. What the hell’d they do? They learned other languages—-not the least which was ENGLISH—-so they could communicate. What other languages do you know? Besides “Papi”?
But I digress.
I’m elitist. I expect a certain level. Not that I won’t eat some fast food like it’s Pam Grier on a summer day, ‘cause I can tear the hell out of a Wendy’s double, even when it’s stacked up all weird by high school girls too busy flirting in the back to pay attention, but I will turn away from that in a heartbeat if somebody is firing up shrimp and mushroom peppers with baked sweet potatoes. Elite doesn’t mean keep out. Elite means you ain’t there yet but the door isn’t locked. Like I said before, we used to appreciate good music. We expected Earth, Wind & Fire to pronounce from the gods; we heard lyrics full of emotion, metaphor, beauty—-hell, damn near literature!-—and we felt something. We felt the artist respected us. Artist brought his A game. Otherwise, it’s an insult. You better not tell me Usher’s “Make Love In This Club” will be on rotation 30 years from now in the same block as the soulful anguish of the man singing, “I want you but I want you to want me too.” I will kick you in the balls.
Don’t play with something you should cherish for life.
Love your art, and it will show love.
For those who want to learn about writing as a hobby, cool. Nothing but applause. Gardening, hitting the gym: same thing. Hobbies are the playground of the elite. (And for those of you thinking elite means money: I grew up in the worst ghettos of Detroit; we moved around about four different times before I hit sixth grade; the neighborhood drunk—-when he was sober-—taught me to play checkers; I know poor and I know ghettoes, and I knew then—-as I do now—-that a ghetto ain’t a place until it’s a state of mind.) But don’t write awful shit thinking somebody needs to see it. Write it, then put it away, then go out and meet somebody. Be a part of the world. Have no fear. Don’t think you’re a writer till you’ve put in the work to be a writer, same for any profession. Writer, doctor, musician, farmer, basketball player, film maker, reporter—do what you wanna do, but be what you are.
“I know I’m no poet, but I don’t wanna blow it. I don’t care to win awards. All I wanna do is dance, play music, sex, romance; try my best to never get bored.”
If you feel all right let me hear you sing. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-yeah!
(Intermission. So we’ve got writing, art and Pam Grier: definitely moving towards something. I plan to hit you with a story in Act 3.)