I saw this nigga on the train about a week ago. He looked like a bum. Raggedy sweats, nondescript black kicks, a skully with the hood of his hoodie pulled over it despite the fact that it wasn’t that cold. Then he pulled out a book and I started to get a feeling…
I was sure that I was right because of the way that he was reading. He wasn’t enjoying, he was searching. He was looking for stuff he could steal.
Feeling suddenly like a slacker, I pulled out my book. I didn’t try to pull rank because I was reading Proust and he was reading a ‘hood’ book that I couldn’t make out the title of.
I read hood books too. I keep my eyes everywhere. Besides, maybe he’s already decided on a specific audience as apposed to targeting mankind in general and the book that he was reading was giving him insights on that audience.
See, this bum-looking mothafucka was a writer. I can always spot one. The fact that he looked homeless meant that he could have pulled rank on me. See, I’ll be homeless soon, but this nigga could have potentially already embraced the “Homeless Writer” hustle.
Once you’ve decided that writing is what you’re gonna do with your life, you’ve really sojourned into a hefty undertaking. No other art form can lay stake to the claim we seek.
Is there film of Stanislavsky acting or audio recordings of symphonies which Mozart composed and conducted in person? Has a Picasso spawned a religion or has a Michelangelo sculpture been one’s mantra?
Writing is, quite simply, the only endeavor where you take on all of history as well as all of your contemporaries.
Woody Allen’s Ernest Hemingway said in Midnight in Paris, “Writers are competitive” and he wasn’t lying.
And while I’d never give a white person the satisfaction of thinking that my Black life is any harder than his or her own, I will admit that deciding to become a Black writer seems to require just a little more work.
While white writers can dismiss all but maybe 4 or 5 Black writers since time began and still be considered informed, we have to know all of theirs and all of ours.
So here’s my advice if you’re deciding on whether or not to go for it or if you’re on your 10th Best-Seller:
- Don’t write like you’re auditioning. Fuck the New York Times and the Washington Post, write it like you were speaking it to me if we we in a conversation.
- Don’t underestimate your audience’s intelligence but don’t take for granted that they’ll know everything either. Links help if you’re writing online or an actual definition, for example, in Zola’s Story, I wouldn’t have known that “trapping” was stripper-talk for prostitution unless she’d bothered to explain, which she did.
- Don’t mistake criticism for hate. Those that love you want you to be at your best while a real hater will laugh and party right beside you all night, never mentioning the booger in your nose.
Now right on, and write on. I got love for anybody whose chosen this road. We’re all in it together even thought I’ve decided to stand out.
If you need a hand, don’t hesitate to holla at me on Twitter or via e-mail at DickieBhee@gmail.com.
You can even send me your shit. I’ll check it out.
If I tell you it doesn’t suck, I’m lying.
If I tell you it does suck, I’m also lying.