Category: writing class

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Relativity

For anyone who’s worked 16 straight days in a row, 12 to 19 hours each day, you know how I’m feeling right about now. I’d say the majority of you who can relate to this kind of fatigue works in either the film industry or nursing. I can relate to both. My mom was a nurse for 40 years before she retired. She became the first black head nurse at California Hospital downtown in 1965. I think she might have been the inspiration behind the 1968 television series Julia, because a lot of Hollywood producers, directors, writers and movie stars were frequently under her care. I can remember her leaving in the day and coming home at night. I never knew how hard she worked, but anyone who dedicates more than half a day to their profession has got to be someone special.

She earned a place in Los Angeles’s Civil Rights history, but there was no Urban Intellectuals headlining her breakthrough promotion, nor did a #blacknursesmatter cause draw attention to the lack of diversity of management in her field. There wasn’t even a mention in LA’s perennial black dispatch The Sentinel at the time, heralding her pioneering role. She just did her thing, and three years later, I was born in that same hospital. At the time, I was the only colored baby in the nursery. I know this because my grandpa told me when he came to see me he couldn’t miss me! (Cuba Gooding, Jr. was born on the same day in the same hospital, but I have a darker complexion) After that, Grandpa flew out to see us from New Orleans every Christmas. I’ve seen photographs of him holding me. I remember at six years old, smoking on one of his cigars when he wasn’t looking, and the intoxicating and nauseous aftermath. I remember his last visit in ’92, the year I flew out to visit him for a change. The following year, he passed away.

I didn’t have a blog then, to exorcise the demon of despair that possessed me. He taught me lot about life in the three months that I stayed with him in the Big Easy. He is the reason I decided to write a memoir, but he knew nothing about this digital world that would one day become the overlay of the analog one he mastered in his ninety years of living. Now I find myself so busy living life by his tenets and instruction, that I don’t really think about taking the time to write about it on social media as much as the next person. I should be writing everyday regardless (see Morning habits). I even installed a digital journal on my phone to record my private thoughts on the go… much easier than taking a backpack with me full of physical journals and books.

Alas, it’s taken a few months, but I’m finding that my Circadian writing rhythm goes a little something like this:

  • Work
  • Kids
  • Sleep
  • Write

Where’s the fun, you ask? Trust me, it’s in every aspect of the above. I love being on a film crew, creating the next new thing; my sons are my joy and inspiration; what more can I say about the joy of sleep than what you don’t already know? And writing is my release and salvation, and that brings a sense of satisfaction and happiness and peace to my soul.

Between the phases of this cycle, I may make a jump onto the digital plane to see what everyone is up to, since we’re all connected on the Matrix. Facebook used to be my thing, but Instagram is now by far my social media app of choice. A picture really does say a thousand words, so why does it matter if I write a blog or not? Pictures can capture and express a moment, but writing captures and expresses a feeling. You can pick out the details in a picture, but words themselves are the details when you’re reading, the pixels in the paragraph. Words are a slowly developing Polaroid picture, compared to an instantly destructible Snapchat.

I have more ways and means to broadcast the events in my life than I can keep up with, a sharp contrast to what my mom and grandfather went through in their days. My mom told me that when she first heard a radio broadcast, she checked behind the massive floor model RCA for the people who were talking through the loudspeaker. As a Gen Xer, I crossed into a digital divide where the people behind a profile may not even really be people, yet I am bound, mind, body and soul, to the technology of the 21st century. I’ve formed for social media a love/hate relationship, much like the one I’ve formed with hip hop culture. It has its strengths, but going back to the old school basics just works better for me sometimes.

I wish I could share more. The digital me has been gone too long between posts I feel, and those who know me outside of this realm wish they could see more. It’s hard for the analog me, with all the new hobbies and adventures and life commitments drawing my attention, to give my online audience a sense of the satisfaction and elation I get from these experiences instantly, if not minutes after the fact.

I’m not one to give up and let the immediacy of social media deter me from mastering this realm, though. I’m just getting started. I’m reading all kinds of online writing books I found on Kindle. (Gotta love all the gratis libri in the Digital Age!) Last month I took a great online course called Cast Your Net: Web Presence and Social Media for Writers, taught by my good friend Brodie Hubbard. It helped me pay more attention to the presentation of my literary self to the online world. I want this blog to be a city within itself eventually, a place you can tour and visit and come away with some memories. I’m learning how to engage y’all and keep you coming back for more! I just wasn’t sure how to separate the personal from the professional, when my personal is such an integral part of my professional. It sounds to me like the life of a celebrity, but hey, when I was a kid, Flip Wilson had somewhat of an influence on my career choices.

Right now though, I’ll take the slow and easy road of observation and report what I see when that phase in my cycle comes around for its turn to play. I feel it’s my best work in the moment. Word by word, the pictures are developing, slowly, like a Polaroid.

YouTube Video courtesy of jayceemediaofficial

“Live for love.” – Prince

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Transmission Complete

It’s a big day for me. My online class is up for the offering. It starts October 25th. I’m in the middle of preparing the syllabus and I think that it will be an interesting course for anyone who writes creative nonfiction. It will be nice to teach again; it’s been over ten years since I’ve been in a classroom. The major difference is that this is a virtual classroom. The coolest thing about online education is that you show up to class when it’s convenient for you. As long as you meet your deadlines and participate in the discussions, you’re okay. I did it for two years of grad school, so I’m really looking forward to the experience being the online instructor this time.

Also today, the official announcement goes out that I am an assistant editor at the online literary journal Drunk Monkeys. At last! I’ve broken the digital barrier and now I’m writing for an online magazine. It seems like this blog came just in the nick of time, to chronicle the bridging of the gap between where I left off twelve years ago in my career, and now. I made a little money in between working in the film industry, but somehow the appeal of being a near broke starving artist, working for pennies and cred, is alluring. The feeling is always “this is going to lead to something great!” In the meantime, I’m wondering if they’re gonna turn off the lights because my payment arrangement is a few days late. There’s a sick thrill in relishing in these types of opportunities. I’ve lived with the same kind of hunger since my first article was published in 1991.

I didn’t know where my literary efforts would lead me, but I did it again and again, and man did I have some memories behind a lot of those articles and encounters: interviewing Notorious B.I.G. the night before his first album Ready To Die dropped, snapping photos of Tupac performing at the record release party for 2Pacalypse Now, his first album, interviewing the entire Wu-Tang Clan, to name a few. I was broke, but happy. My grandfather told me back then, as long as you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food to eat, you’re doing alright. I’m still doing alright, and my sons seem to be pretty happy when they’re at my apartment playing on the Xbox and eating homemade ice cream.

It’s a hustle to keep this dream alive and make it grow in the process. The digital age is still a new landscape to me. I’ve peeped it out through virtual binoculars and I can’t even see the horizon, which means that there is plenty of ground to build these dreams into realities, just like the artists I knew in the analog age, some who didn’t make it this far. Their inspiration and belief in the hustle gives me reason to keep reinventing the hunger that I felt back then and use it to feed the muse.