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Getting Started Writing

March 4, 2017

Recently, I reread one of my poems from “Stygian,” called “The Elusive Bird,” about a man chasing1 hope through the arid deserts of his life. I chose to reread this particular poem, because in one of my groups, we had a long discussion about how pointless life can seem. Some people expressed their suicidal thoughts. The last line of the poem is… “He must choose.. chase the bird and its promise of hope (his mind tells him it may only be a shadow) or return to dust…

After the group, I was approached by a young black Muslim man who wanted to know “how I got published.” The only reason I stopped to listen to this dude was because he was usually quiet, but when he spoke, he struck me as intelligent. What I knew about him is that he is serving life inside, as I am, and he’d already done 15 years. Also, he has ZERO support outside, and he has dealt with that fact better than I would have.

On the mainline, I wouldn’t have been permitted to sit at the same table with him, and we probably wouldn’t have spoken. On this day, I took one of my extra composition books out for him to take notes in, and I tried to answer his questions. Too many times, I found myself saying, “It’s hard to explain,” and becoming frustrated. Obviously, I express myself better in writing than verbally.

Finally, I told him, “Just start writing. Start with short stories that will prepare you for the longer works.” We also discussed other aspects of writing, and I told him that as he reads novels to be vigilant of these techniques, spot good descriptive language, and practice.

I gave him a couple of my old books about writing and told him to read those. I also let him know that I’d started writing poems and lyrics when I was 11 years old, but after I started studying how to write and making submissions, it took years before I got published. It took a lot of work cultivating the idea/story, learning how to tell it, learning how to approach editors and publications, and a whole lot of salt for the hundreds of times I heard “No.” Writing, for me, is a spiritual experience (not always bliss, not even always good), but it’s something that comes from inside. Hey, some people got it and some don’t. He’s left the yard now, but hopefully, I’ll bump into him again some day and find that he’s been successful. Then, I can say, “I got him started.”

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