Writing is a labor of love. In fact, anything that one sees through from beginning to end, exhaustively checking and re-checking, making adjustments and tweaks, asking for new sets of eyes and opinions - arguably is a labor of love. But it is not just about the method of writing that drives the process forward. It is the art of writing. It is the passion and commitment to lend voice to an experience, a life, a series of events, an issue. It is the skillful/raw/real/imagined/mysterious/concrete development of a story that needs/wants/craves to be told in a way that informs and engages the reader. And searching for that best voice to articulate the story - selecting and organizing the words so that the voice may be heard, felt, tasted, seen - is part of that artistic experience.
So having recently been a part of a process of writing, re-writing, editing, publishing, publicizing and organizing discussions; having struggled with other members of the team over what should go in and what needs to come out and how what remains should be articulated; having stayed with this process, even (and especially) when it felt as though i was not making progress or pulling my weight - my love was tested over and over again. I knew this was a story that needed to be told: The voices of the ancestors reaching across time and space to share their best wisdoms and lessons with us; wisdoms and lessons that we then modernized to have greater applicability to the lives and realities of people now.
The writing, editing and publishing of Maat: Guiding Principles of Moral Living taught me many things, including:
- The knowledge - in practice - that we could do it; that a group of working class black folks could do this work from beginning to end.
- Sometimes the voices calling for expression are so strong that they will speak to the hearts of the hearers in a relentless fashion, and to honor those ancestors (or that story that needs to be told) allows us to play an important role in connecting people with one another across time and space, linking the inner self with external environments, and unifying the past, present and future.
- By staying in charge of the process, we didn't have to seek acceptance or validation from mainstream publishers, which would have required a substantial gutting of the essence of our work...that is, if they even saw value enough to comment on it.
- Even the small stuff helps to move the process forward. Making edits here, re-reading there, and doing other 'little' things moved the book toward completion during the periods when i had mental blocks, became tired or were bogged down with other tasks. The little things do matter.
While there were many more lessons, i will stop here for now. Today we officially release the book, which is another very new experience; one that will come with many new lessons, i am sure.