|Photograph: Erhan Dayi / Alamy/Alamy|
It is a peculiar thing… this desire to pick up the pen.
Perhaps, it is born out of the desire to interpret or create life through the people that we’ve met or people that we’ve imagined. Franz Kafka spoke of his torment in writing and how difficult it was to produce a story at times. Ralph Ellison would write for years just to produce one American classic, Invisible Man. Zora Neale Hurston continued to write long after her celebrity had faded; there were dozens of manuscripts found in her personal trunk after her death.
This congenital impulse in me was conceived through the Black oral tradition. My grandmother, Eunice, was the family griot. I would listen intently to the stories that she would tell me as a child. These were stories passed down to her by her elders and she was more than willing to pass them on to me. I was an inquisitive, bright-eyed little boy with dozens of questions about who we were and who we are. She sometimes marveled at the seriousness of my questions that involved the existence of God and the purpose of man. She would usually share these stories while cooking or while she relaxed in her favorite chair. The images that she painted on my imagination were wonderful. I could see all of the characters vividly in my mind. I imagined how they looked. I imagined their lives. I imagined their hearts. These were my people, and I loved them through the stories that I heard about them.
Eventually, I picked up the pen in college and soon realized its power to communicate. I’ve always imagined that a pen is to a writer what a paint brush is to a painter. The words represent color. Honorable mention: Toni Morrison can paint the most beautiful images that I’ve ever seen on paper. These words can evoke emotion and stir the soul to take action for change. There’s power in the pen!
It is a peculiar thing…this desire to pick up the pen.