Fam, a funny thing happens when you’re an artist.
Well, at least for me.
I’ve been writing since I was 7 years old. And while I know I was born to do this, writing for most people is consider a hobby.
Honestly, it would have stayed a hobby for me, too, if I hadn’t been bullheaded enough to follow my heart and figure out how to make a career out of it — First, as a journalist and now for the past 30 years as a filmmaker and screenwriter.
Thankfully, I had enough sense to protect my first God given gift of writing poetry by not trying to make a living at it.
Yes, I fell in love with rhyming thanks to Dr. Seuss, Uncle Remus and Nikki Giovanni. And yes, a poem was the first thing I wrote as a child before I matured into a woman spitting on open mic stages and publishing pieces in Chicago.
But I wisely never took a poetry class, because I never wanted to to figure out the magic sauce behind what I was naturally doing.
No, I wanted poetry to remain my safe space — similar to the way I protected playwriting. And I didn’t want to shackle it with the pressures of economic strain.
Instead, I focused on screenwriting. Wait. Focused is too soft a word. I’ve dedicated my life to it.
And along the way, I neglected to give myself a hobby.
This may seem trivial to be writing about this, but think about it: Back in the day, people toiled from 9 to 5, and then went bowling after work. Or dads donned conductor caps and played with their model trains. Or kids spent their weekends riding around in circles at roller skating rinks.
I wasn’t any different as a kid. I had a hobby, too. A garden.
My people were sharecroppers in Georgia and North Carolina. And when they moved up north to Detroit, they kept the farming tradition going for themselves. My late grandfather taught me and helped me start mine: A small one with string beans, tomatoes, and collard greens.
I was so proud of myself and I got such a thrill giving my mom my veggies to cook for dinner from my garden.
Then, I became a teenager and well, yaw know what happened.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, that marked the beginning of my laser sharp focus journey to become a screenwriter. I stopped playing sports: Softball, volleyball, basketball. This was before the WNBA was a thing and I although, I was a good 6th woman off the bench, I wasn’t about to leave everyone I knew and loved to go play ball overseas.
Nope, my goal was to write movies. Period. I had no time for anything else.
Fast forward 30 years later and I’ve achieved my goal. A few times over. Have I won an Oscar for screenwriting? Not yet. And I’m still chasing a sole screenwriting feature credit like a greyhound dog chasing a rabbit at the track. But basically, I’ve done what I’ve dedicated my life to do.
And I’m exhausted.
See here’s the thing about prioritizing goals over balance that folks don’t tell you…
It’s draining. Alienating.
And at the end of the day, and I don’t mean to sound cliche...
It makes you unhappy.
I’ve been feeling this, if I’m honest, for years now. And I’ve tried I don’t know how many times to walk away from writing. So, I know that’s not the answer. My solution? Handle this like the Libra that I am and find a hobby to bring some balance back into my life.
But there was a caveat. It could have nothing to do with writing.
You’re probably way ahead of me. I took up gardening again, right? Nope. My husband and I live in a one bedroom 4th floor walkup with a back balcony that barely gets any sunlight. So, gardening gonna have to wait until we finally buy a house.
Instead, I pulled the trigger on something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile now: Rock climbing.
I know. Random. But not really.
See, since I was a kid, I’ve been gifted with a tomboy super power. I can look a tree. Any tree. And see the path to climb it.
Growing up, I used to act on my gift and climb my favorite tree in my mom’s backyard (and even a hidden waterfall in Jamaica once) whenever the whim moved me.
But as I got older, I stopped climbing trees. It was un-ladylike. Too dangerous. Childish.
I stopped having fun.
OK, not entirely. I admit, I’m being a little dramatic here. But the sentiment I’m nibbling at is true. Climbing trees wasn’t a goal. It was just a hobby. Something I enjoyed doing just for the sake of doing it. With no attachments. No end game. Just joy.
And I’ve only now just learned — as I googled climbing trees online – that it was good for me! Yep, climbing trees has physical, cognitive, emotional and social benefits.
This totally explains why rock climbing makes me so happy. Before I climb, I have to focus on the puzzle in front of me and as I make my way to the top, all I can think about is climbing. Where to place my hands. Where to dig in my feet.
The workout is also so amazing, because I use every part of my body. And the real test comes when you reach the top, because you can either climb or propel back down.
Obviously, climbing back down is the safest. But it also takes the longest. Propelling back down? That’s a test of faith.
To propel down, you have to let go and lean back for the harness to catch you. And as it catches you, gravity slightly swings you back into the wall for you to walk or propel hop down to the ground.
Sounds simple right?
Well, I’m a Black woman in America. So, telling me to let go and have faith that a harness will catch me as I dangle 12-feet above the floor ain’t a easy thang to do.
But I’m learning.
And I’m happy.
And my new hobby got nothing to do with nothing, but pure joy.