I knew early in life that I wanted to write for a living.
We were a family of modest-to-humble means, to put it mildly, and I used to think that if I could make a lot money from writing, something at which I happened to be pretty damn good, and something I've always loved anyway, I'd hustle my ass off to get it done. I was tired of being poor, broke and wanting, and if writing would be my hustle into some place better, I would write. I wanted to have things and give my family things. It never happened the way I'd planned.
Thank goodness for that, because if I'd had my way, while I was getting my writing hustle on, I might have managed to hustle all of the love right out of it. And that would have been tragic.
"Getting money," as we now call it, is all well and good, but I'd rather exploit my craft for what can be gained and given out of my love for it...thinking, learning, teaching, sharing, remembering.
My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Shawn Fish, at Anna K. Davie Elementary School, in Rome, Georgia, gave me the nerve to read in public, assured and reassured me that it was okay to be a black kid who enjoyed and embraced words. And so I did. Because of her, I run this race, striving to be a better, sharper, swifter, more adept student of the written word. Mrs. Fish was a mentor before I ever knew the word existed. I thank God for her blessed assurance. She was and is a precious jewel, still teaching after 30+ years.
My uncle (Harvey) Greene Penn Jr., probably without knowing it, through his own compulsion to give away such beautifully simple thoughts, uncomplicated phrases and rhymes, that he'd always strung together without affectation or pretension, taught me the value of these. For as much as his words moved other people, I pray that his example continues to move within me. I love and miss him very much.
Money is great, when and if you can get it. We can do great things with it and because of it, but thank God, it doesn't own me.
For me, writing for a living means writing to live, that others, Mrs. Fish and my uncle Greene among them, may live through me.