What would it take to make a living as a writer? Listen, man. This putting word to screen stuff is just much a mystery to me today as it was 10 years ago. I have no idea how I write, or how the words fall into place the way they do when I’m in the zone, as it were. It’s not a matter of willing myself into a state of inspiration these days so much as it is managing my moods and emotions to help facilitate the process of producing decent work. I don’t care how many times someone tells me that they’re a fan of my writing, or that they see areas for improvement; I’ll never be satisfied with what comes out of these fingertips. That’s what drives me to keep digging, to keep picking at each sentence like a neurotic child with a perpetually unhealed scab.
I type maybe 95 words per minute on average, in a clinical setting with controlled variables and a stopwatch attached next to my on-screen prompt. When I played football back in high school, I distinctly remember Coach LeLe Te’o always bringing up the concept of track speed vs game speed. The ultimate measure of a football player’s worth, to most self proclaimed experts, can be summed up in the time it takes them to run a 40 yard dash in controlled settings. This is what they call track speed. Some of the fastest timed players should, according to this logic, end up being superstars out under those hallowed Friday Night Lights, the crisp autumn air causing steam to condensate on the inside of players’ reflective helmet visors. To borrow a phrase from Lee Corso, the much heralded college football analyst and play-by-play color commentator, “not so fast, my friend!”
Grantedspeed isn’t something you can teach to a prospective football player, but at the same time, it doesn’t make up for a lack of intangible skills that make the difference between a fast person who happens to be on a football field and an outstanding football player. So that’s when the concept of game speed comes into play. Simply put, it defines how fast a player reacts to specific, in-game situations and how their natural ability to remain cool in high-pressure situations translates into a knack for making big plays. Someone with game speed will look a lot faster on game footage than they will on a timed track. The difference is obvious, and to the uninitiated observer, almost inexplicable.
I never had speed, either in-game or on the track, but I was always blessed with the ability to observe and internalize my surroundings, almost to a fault. I liken my understanding of game speed to a do-or-die scenario: say when you’re late for a critical day at work and your car broke down and the bus you need to catch to be on time is about to leave the station, but you’re about 3 blocks away. You run like your life depended on it, because your livelihood just might if you don’t catch the bus in time.
I’ve always been slow, and to that I will be the first to admit, but I recall times where I’ve been so motivated to catch a bus that I could have broken Olympic records (at least in my mind). That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s no stretch of the imagination to picture someone demanding more of their body than you would think physically possible in normal circumstances. To my understanding, that comes down to a matter of mind over matter.
The human body is weak, temporal. The human spirit, the mind, is something that existed before the body and will continue to do so after this physical form has long since decayed beneath 6-9 feet of terra firm. The body wants nothing more than to convince the mind and spirit, that they are one: that as soon as the body ceases to be, so too shall the spirit. It wants to convince you that your lifespan is limited to its own lifespan, purely out of selfishness. Since when have you heard of a flower vessel dictating the terms of service to a flower that happens to be lying within it? That’s like a hermit crab being told of its own limitations by the current shell that it happens to inhabit. It’s asinine as hell, but hell’s gotta make a living too, right?
If you ask me, I’d say that the trick to game speed is merely a realization that, when motivated, the human consciousness is capable of pushing its body to accomplish tremendous feats on command. The fingertips that spit out this garbled jargon between these pre-measured indentations are nothing else if not an extension of that same human body. It shouldn’t be that difficult to picture a future for myself wherein I command these here appendages, all ten of them in a perfectly coordinated dance of dialect, to provide for not only myself but the family whom I wish to be held responsible for.
When you get past all the creeping self-doubts that every writer or artist goes through in relation to the quality of their work, writing is a source of peace for me. To write means to get a literal grasp of my thoughts, sift them through palms like Barbados hot white sands and ultimately release them into the 7 winds like the ashes of Neanderthalian campfires long since extinguished.
When all else fails and nothing feels right in my life, writing is the mental equivalent of a bottle of 7-Up in any black household: it’s a cure-all for any ailment, from broken pinky toe to existential crisis. Nothing salves my heart quite like two things in this world: listening to/reciting the Holy Quran and writing about anything and everything. Running comes in as a close third to these two natural suppressors of negative emotions, but running is not a luxury that one can always afford to partake in. So what does it all mean, where is it all leading to? I wish I could tell you, but I do know that imma keep trusting my instincts and live my life one ink blot at a time. Yeah, irregardless is a word if I want it to be, red squiggly lines be damned. You should write about that, my guy. Let it out in 4/4 time. Clock a 4.4 at the combine.