by Patia Braithwaite
I’ve always been a writer. I’ve been writing poems since the third grade. I’ve always wished that speaking came as easily for me as writing.
I was born with a stutter, and –as a result – I was extremely quiet. I don’t stutter anymore, but I’m still extremely quiet. I get nervous when I have to use my voice. Somehow I teach everyday.
I also, kinda sorta, sound like a dude. I have this deep voice that some people think indicates singing talent. I don’t have any. I’m like one of those freakishly tall people who can’t play basketball. The voice is just for decoration. Writing is all I’ve got.
I thought, for some reason, that being a writer made me unlovable. No one would want to be with me because, in my mind, my type of writing was useless. I was raised in a household that values accomplishments over creativity; I’m still a product of that household. My father’s a photographer, which though creative, is only valuable to him insofar as he can see quantifiable results: awards, accolades, revenue. Thus, becoming a writer – an unpublished writer, was, well…worthless. It had no value-added.
Yes, it makes me an intuitive and sensitive soul. Yes, it informs how I see the world. And YES, I’m pretty damn good at it, but I wasn’t published, so writing had no “socio-romantic currency.”
So, I was a writer in secret. My boyfriends all knew that I “liked to write,” but they didn’t care to see the work. They never asked for me to share with them, and they didn’t have strong opinions about my creativity. My writer self was something I kept in a drawer – like period panties. They were only brought out when no one was around.
The last ex changed all that; he proofread my work and recommended books for me to read. I shared my passions with him and he challenged some of my thoughts. He had a lot of flaws (some I’ve been vocal about), but he gave me as much space as I needed to be myself. In my fiction, when he showed up as an abusive, volatile, alcoholic version of himself I asked him how he felt about it?
Fine, he said. It’s weird, but it’s not me.
When I told him I would need to reach out to my ex regarding a book I was writing – he was less than enthused, but he understood.
You’re a writer, he said. I get it.
He LOVED my writing and (whether or not he lied and told people I was published by The New York Times), he supported me. He was the first boyfriend who allowed me to experience myself as a writer in relationship. Prior to that I was a writer in isolation.
I get it. It’s hard to be in love with a writer. They do weird things, they know weird people. Sometimes they don’t bathe, and they get really depressed. They crave adventure and experience, they fight and cry and throw things – all in the name of art. For a writer…any decent one, at least… everything is fodder and nothing is off limits.
Enter…the relationship writer.
Over the past year I’ve developed into something of a relationship writer. This isn’t something I set out to become. I didn’t even realize it was happening. I had this book idea about men God and relationships (this should’ve been my first clue), I started a blog revolving around the same topics. THEN, to promote said blog, I started writing relationship articles for a break up website. These articles found their way to Yahoo.com’s relationship blog. And More recently, I’ve been guest blogging at Single Black Male.org
What, you ask, do I tend to discuss at SBM? You guessed it. Relationships…
So yeah, somehow I’ve become a relationship writer, and I am IN LOVE with the task. I was born a poet, went to school to become a novelist, but here I am writing about relationships, God, and men that cross my path. I LOVE it. Writing about this stuff gives my life meaning. It organizes my existence — when things happen, I look for the lesson to share with you all.
This is my life’s work, I am certain of it. I want to be a writer/life coach who helps people sort out all sorts of relationship mess: relationship to self, relationship to other, relationship to calling, and to lover.
Here’s the thing: The only way I know how to coach/write/teach is from vulnerability. The only way I know how to heal others is to share from my own broken places. And so here I am putting my business on Front Street.
This was fine when I was talking about exes and stuff, but as it turns out, I’m not so single anymore (another post for another day) and asking someone to sign up for this visible life of mine is a challenge. I’m asking for my boo to also be a writing partner…a supporting character in my melodramas, a co-writer who never types a word.
Be a character in my life, I whisper. Let me use our intimate moments to illustrate larger points.
I don’t know if this is fair. My only consolation is that I’m a character in my own damn narrative, and sometimes I’m the villain. I look bad, I offer myself up to be judged, and I truly share (maybe over share) myself; I leave it all on the page…well, a lot of it.
My only consolation is that I would never share anything about my partner…that I’d hide about myself. That might not make anyone feel better, but I have to hope that’s enough. Please let it be enough…
Because there’s no alternative. This is who I am.