WISDOM BITE #1: SOCIAL NETWORKING IS A GOOD THING. Got me an intro to Larry Meistrich’s Nehst Studios and some kick-ass carrot cake. Chatting up his assistant, Stefano Bonaretti, was a side delight, unanticipated when joining Philly Writers Meetup Group. Should you spend far too many hours staring at your computer screen producing 21st century literature, it’s good to periodically pretend that you’re actually going to meet real, live people.

Don’t want to spend your Friday and Saturday nights with fellow geeks bemoaning the demise of (insert title of most recent cancelled intelligent television show here; think 3 lbs, Raines)? Hie thyself to Meetups.com and find folks who thrill to Dr. Wayne Dyer and Iyanla VanZant just like you do. You can search Meetups.com by city or by topic, and you can specify the mile-proximity so that you are not traveling 200 kilometers to meet the Sunday’s Child Winnebago Lovers MeetUp Group. I’ve joined 13 groups and I get the most enticing emails and invitations ……..

WISDOM BITE #2: SERIOUS WRITERS DON’T SLEEP. Know any thriving novelists, prize-winning poets, spoken word devotees with four or five chapbooks in circulation? Ask them the last time they got a decent night’s sleep. Probably the night they finally put the wrap on “My Memories of DeathTrap: 15 Years in the Theatre and No Awards.”

You aren’t sleeping when the Muse has decided to visit and refuses to even let you dream of the covers. No, working producing writers of a certain ilk, my 76-year-old father included, know that when the idea percolates down from your brain just as you were doing the last pee of the night before somnambulant bliss, well, dedicated writers know Morpheus won’t be seeing you at the 7-Eleven that wee hour of the morning.

If you care about words, shiny new and tingling as they dance over the transom to tantalize you from the Great Beyond, you’ll answer their siren call, wipe, flush the toilet and hope your partner doesn’t catch you sneaking past the bedroom to your office, writing desk, lovely ball and chain. If daily diligence turns your consciousness to mush, but the spontaneous spark quickens your blood and hastens your pace, here are a few ways to cope:

1) Cultivate fellow nightowl friends. You’ll need them at 4 a.m. when you’ve finally finished your new baby and need to know if it’s ugly or not.

2) Wear down your psychiatrist. She’ll try to tell you that you need to socialize more, get out there and meet people; it’s important for your career. Do meet people, socialize and such. Just insist on no meetings before 12 noon. As your social life and psyche continue to thrive, your psychiatrist will eventually shut up about normal sleep cycles.

3) Look for jobs that suit your hours, not convention. They do exist. Hell, you’re a writer—telecommute, baby!!!

4) Blackout curtains are a must. The one thing your psychiatrist will be right about is that it’s hell trying to fall asleep in a sunny room. So knock Apollo off his chariot with Bed, Bath & Beyond’s finest.

5) Don’t let anyone—ANYONE—berate you for occasionally staying up all night. Medical personnel do it on a regular basis. You’re not saving lives, you yell, but your writing saves souls and psyches so back off, you say, with real venom behind your teeth.

6) 24/7 access to writing utensils is a must. No sense in staying up if the campus computer lab doesn’t open til 8:30 a.m. Make sure you have—at all times—working tools of your trade. Doctors don’t leave their scalpels at home, neither should you.

7) Last but not least, when not working, sleep to your heart’s content. If the days collect and the pizza boxes pile up become concerned, but do not avoid catching up on your rest. When the Muse has beat me like a well-seasoned mule for a day or so, I know that the next two nights I’ll sleep ten to fourteen hours. Two days (or nights) of that and I’m back to feelin’ fine.

And remember: you’re in this because you love the work, because your capillaries glow as you watch the newest piece cluck its way out of the printer. You know someone’s eyes are desperate for it. In the interim, fare thee well and yes, bake those cookies. Your serotonin levels could use the assistance of good, quality chocolate.


Author's Bio: 

Niama Leslie Williams (www.blowingupbarriers.com), a June 2006 Leeway Foundation Art and Social Change Grant recipient, and a 2006 (July) participant in a Sable Literary Magazine/Arvon Foundation residential course in Shropshire, UK, possesses a doctorate in African American literature from Temple University, a bachelor’s in comparative literature from Occidental College, and a master’s in professional writing from the University of Southern California. Dr. Williams’ master’s thesis at USC earned her an honorable mention in the University’s 1991 Phi Kappa Phi competition. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, she currently resides in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Williams has participated in several writers’ conferences, including the Squaw Valley Community of Writers (2000), Hurston/Wright Writers Week (1996), and Flight of the Mind (1993). Her work has appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine; Dark Eros: Black Erotic Writings; Spirit & Flame: An Anthology of African American Poetry; Catch the Fire: A Cross-Generational Anthology of Contemporary African-American Poetry; Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century; Mischief, Caprice, and Other Poetic Strategies (Red Hen Press); A Deeper Shade of Sex: The Best in Black Erotica, and Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees. Check the Rhyme was nominated for an NAACP Image Award (2007).

Her prose publications include essays and short stories in MindFire Renewed, P.A.W. (Philadelphia Artists Writers) Prints, Midnight Mind Magazine, Amateur Computerist, Tattoo Highway #6, Obsidian II: Black Literature in Review, and Sojourner: The Women’s Forum. She has 7 titles available for sale on Lulu.com (stores.lulu.com/drni), an online print-on-demand publisher based in the U.K.

Dr. Williams hosts “Poetry & Prose & Anything Goes with Dr. Ni” Friday afternoons from 2-3 p.m. EST on BlogTalkRadio (www.blogtalkradio.com). The show originally aired from February to April of 2007 on Passionate Internet Voices Talk Radio, but was forced into hiatus by fees. Dr. Williams’ short story “The Embrace” was selected for the 2006-2007 Writing Aloud series at the InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia, PA.

Of her purpose for writing Dr. Williams says: "I frequently do not err on the side of caution in my writing, but I believe in the purpose of it: to speak to the things others do not want to speak of, with the hopes of reaching that one woman, or her lover, or her friend, who refuses to deal with her pain, who hides from it, who doesn't think she'll survive it. That's the audience I hope to reach."