Run, Girl, Run

“For the writers here, are there any contemporary writers who make you feel like a pretender?”


The kids in our “Author’s Club” at Sandburg Jr. High are just so cute.  We teach it every other Friday at Jason’s school.   After Career Day, Tananarive and I were approached by several kids who said they wanted to be writers.  I remember wanting desperately to be a writer,and how much it would have meant to have a real professional sharing tips…so we set it up.


We’ve decided to publish a little e-collection  of short stories, and pay every one of them five dollars. That makes them a paid, published writers.  If we put it up on Amazon for a buck or so, their friends and relatives can buy it. If the money goes to their teacher, she can disburse it to each of them, and now they get a tiny trickle of cash that reinforces their “writer” personality.


Let me tell you–the first time you buy so much as a hamburger or paperback book with the money you make from your writing, you enter a new world.    These kids are  eager.  I suspect they think that if they get across that line, it’s smooth sailing.


They are wrong.


Just yesterday, I saw a writer post the following question:  “For the writers here, are there any contemporary writers who make you feel like a pretender?”


And writer after writer posted the names of the writers who were better than them, and how they felt like “pretenders” in comparison.

That’s fine, and in some ways those voices never go away.  No matter how good you get.  Why?  Because every expert knows a thousand components that make up their craft. And the ALWAYS know people who are better at those individual components, so they ALWAYS know people “better than them.”   Doesn’t matter what field you are in.  Always better people.  You might have the best specific COMBINATION of attributes if that’s where you’ve put your emphasis.  I consider any human being to be better at me at something.  But what saves me is that I’m the best Steven Barnes in the world.  I’m who I wanted to be when I was a kid.   Might I have chosen better?  Sure, and working on it.  But no one is better at doing me than me, and considering that I really dig me, that’s a pretty cool thing to be.


But it wasn’t always like that.  I remember when a Famous Writer read the galleys on  my first solo book, STREETLETHAL…or to put it more bluntly, read the first two chapters and put it down.  “Its not ready to be published, kid.  Needs work,” he said.


It was already at the publisher.  And here was one of my favorite writers, a man at the top of his game, who I admired as I did few living human beings, telling me I sucked.  Disaster. The “Impostor voice” in my head was screaming at me: I sucked.  I had nothing.   I’d never have my dreams.  Larry Niven had only worked with me because of Affirmative Action

I was a pretender.


It was raining that night, and I lived alone so no one saw me curl up in a corner and cry. I was lost.


But…in the depths of my misery, I remembered something I’d learned while running on the track at Pepperdine University, forty years ago. My distance was five miles, and at the two mile mark, every time, the voices in my head said: STOP.  My body hurt.  I was tired.  Everything was working wrong.  YOU ARE HURTING YOURSELF.  The voice said.   YOU WILL DIE, it said.  But if I kept struggling on…I hit a rhythm, and it was like a third lobe of lung opened in my chest, and there was the energy I needed.


And I realized that THE VOICES IN MY HEAD WERE LIARS.   They told me I would die, and all they really wanted was to stop me.  And finally, after it happened a dozen times, I got the joke.  And the next time I was on the track, when the voice said “you are going to die” I answered “well, then die, dammit.  I’m going to live doing what I want, being who I am.  And if I’d die running on the track, I’d probably die by the end of the day anyway.  So…screw you.


And the voice in my head would mumble, and give up.  And I would run like the wind.


I remember that, running around and around the track at Pepperdine, sailing. And there was an old black man, gray-haired and bent,  who had stopped his laborious walk  to watch me.  Around and around the quarter-mile.  And he smiled, and called out to me:   “You keep running boy!   Ain’t no telling what a young black man can do!” And we waved to each other, and he went on his way, and I never saw him again. And never forgot him.




I was curled in the living room, staring at the telephone that had just bit me, crying.  And something inside me got mad.

So Famous Writer  thinks my book  sucks.   Not everyone will agree.  I’ll get feedback.  Keep learning and growing.   I don’t have the obligation to live up to Famous Author’s standards.  I have an obligation to be the best I can be.  The best Steven Barnes I can be.   Because really?  That’s enough.




Remember “Rocky”?  The first one?   He trained like a maniac, pounding sides of beef into tartar and drinking enough raw eggs to fuel an Ihop, but the night before the Big Fight realized that he was a joke, a laughing stock, a publicity stunt.  That he had no chance. Adrienne asked him “what are we going to do?”  (Note the beauty of the “we”?  Masculine and feminine energies, together.)


And at that moment Rocky says the thing that made my eyes open wide, that raised that movie to the status of Truth.    “No one has ever gone the distance with Apollo Creed,” he said.    “All my life, I’ve been just another bum from the neighborhood. But if I can go that distance. If when the bell at the end of the fifteenth round ends, and I’m still on my feet, for the first time in my life I’ll know I’m not a bum.  That I really am  somebody.”

Now…Rocky already WAS somebody to Adrienne.  He was the man she loved.   Given that strength, he didn’t need the rest of the world to give him a victory.  He WANTED their acclaim, but didn’t NEED it.  He already had what he needed, get it? What he needed, what ANY of us ever need, is a sense of love and connection.       He was then able to describe a path to victory that was dependent upon his actions, not Apollo’s, not the judges.


I’m gonna be on my feet. No matter what.  And because of that inner direction, he almost beat the greatest boxer who ever lived.


You keep running, boy.  Ain’t no telling what a young black man can do!   A man of one generation, who had done as much as he could, run as far and as fast as he could…handing the torch to the next runner.


I sat in my living room and realized I didn’t have to write  a best-seller.  Didn’t have to win awards or acclaim. What I had to do was be true to myself, no matter what.  No matter what it costs.  That there will ALWAYS be criticism, from others and from the voices in my head.


Many years passed. Famous Writer and I became friends in time.  And one day he saw my “A Stitch In Time” episode of the Outer Limits, and told me he loved it.   I glowed, because I knew I could trust him with the truth.


And even more years later he grew older and  fell sick, and I was at his house, at his sickbed, and he spoke of regrets. And this man who I had adored for so long told me that he didn’t know if anything he had done matters, if he had ever created anything of worth.     And I smiled, and told him that he was, quite possibly, the most “himself” writer I had ever met.   He was, quite authentically, Famous Writer.  And there was nothing more any of us can do. The fame, the money, the awards come if they come. But the real reward, if you have chosen your goals in alignment with both your childhood dreams and deathbed values, BEING WHO YOU ARE.

I told him I had dealt with fear, that that was the reason that drove me into the martial arts. “How did you defeat it?” he asked.

You don’t.   You make your peace with it. It’s there for a reason…to keep you running.




So…yesterday I asked the kids how many of them had negative voices in their heads.  80% of them raised their hands.    I laughed.  “Very good,” I said.  “The rest of you are lying.”


They laughed.  “Here’s  secret,” I said.  “One of the most important secrets in the world.  Are you redy to hear it?” They nodded eagerly.


“Then who am I?”  A little Asian girl asked.

“You are the one listening to the voices.”

“Well…who is that?”  She asked, eyes shining and wide.  Empty cup.  They are the blessed.

“That is what you must discover,” I said.  “And the answer won’t quite fit into words. But if you are a writer, you will do the best you can to answer that question, with every character you create.”

Write your million words.   Speak your truth.  Do your best.  Enjoy every day, for the simple pleasure of being yourself, separating your is-ness from the voices of the crowd.


Run, girl, run.  Ain’t no telling what a young Asian woman can do.





Words, Actions, and Faith

What is more important? Words or actions?


Lifewriting is an opportunity to apply the same tools we have in life to our fiction, and the same wisdom gleaned from exposure to countless millions of stories to our lives.  For instance:


In the debates about “Team Killmonger” and “Team Panther” one thing that happens is a prioritizing of what is said above what is done.    He speaks revolutionary rhetoric, and has some VERY good points, no question about it: the most natural thing in the world is to want “your tribe” on the top.


But without paying PRIMARY attention to behaviors, it is easy to be manipulated by a good salesman. What does a good demagogue do?


Identifies a problem that causes pain in his potential followers

Intensifies that pain.  Tells them why and how he empathizes with them (“I feel your pain…”)

Gives them reason to feel he is real, often by having testimonials, or having others vouch for him.

Makes them an offer, painting a picture of the rosy future they can have if they follow him.

And gives marching orders (“follow me!”)



And once he has them hooked, they will bend over backwards to justify his actions.  If you remember that everyone starts life just wanting to be loved and happy, and then see people in abusive relationships with their partners, their own bodies and emotions, or their political choices.


Appeal to your values, bait-and-switch to their own agenda. The words can be so sweet.  How can you know?


  1. Watch what they do.
  2. Listen to what they say
  3. Do their behaviors match their words?  If so, and their words are in alignment with your values, and you have determined that your values are in alignment with both love and strength…fantastic.




My first girlfriend Sandy had a friend who was in an abusive relationship. He actually went to jail for beating her up, and while he was gone, she took up with a new boyfriend. When the first one got out of jail, he came straight to her house and found her with the new guy, beat him up and then…well, I don’t want to trigger anyone, but it was ugly.


And…after she recovered, she took him back.  When I asked her “why?” she replied:  “you just don’t know what love is.”


I guess I don’t.    But I know we all start life experiencing love and nurturance, or we die.  And we spend our entire lives trying to duplicate that sense of blissful connection to the mother (at least) and father (hopefully).


Love and strenght.   Hopefully, you got both from both.  But if they are role-playing, you can at least get what you need from the team.  Sandy herself had grown up without her father…who was notorious (a story for another time) but I remember that she believed strength WAS love, and didn’t feel safe with a man who wouldn’t push back.  In fact, on a couple of occassions she tried to manipulate me into hitting her.


Let’s say I saw where she and her friend were on the same continuum.   We WANT love, but we NEED survival.   And strength seems a direct connection to survival.  So if we have to choose between love and softness, or  brutality accompanied by the strength that would enable survival in the crunch, we’ll take the strength.


This is why a very simple set of rules can really help here:   Would you want your son or daughter treated the way this person treats people?


That question works so damned well.     Sandy and I broke up, and it was many, many years before I saw her again. It was in a supermarket, and I almost didn’t recognize her. She seemed softer, sweeter.  She recognized me first: “Barnesy!” she said, and we hugged.


She told me that she had been married, and become very much a church lady, and her heart was happy. She apologized to me for having been so hard and critical, and realized that she had been a lonely, frightened girl looking for a Daddy to make things right.


Look at the Hero’s Journey, please:


For Sandy to have a healthy relationship, she needed to connect to the love within herself, demand to be treated the way she would want her daughter to be treated, and feel strong enough to protect herself.


Faith.  In her strength, in her worthiness for love, in the notion that she was as beautiful as the night and  (to paraphrase Tanith Lee) as precious as the stars therein.


What are the three components of Faith?

  1. Faith in yourself (your innate value)
  2. In your companions (that there WILL be someone who can love her, if she can love herself.
  3. In a higher power (she found this in Church.  A sense of love and protection, giving her a route to finding human love in alignment with the divine.)


How wonderful for her.  I have no idea what ever happened to her friend.   Many people in abusive relationships with others…or themselves…find their way out of the maze.  Many do not.



Never let yourself be treated worse than you’d want your children treated.  Never prioritize a person’s words above their actions.


The life…the heart…you save may be your own.





What does the Killmonger tragedy teach us?

(Warning: Black Panther spoilers ahead.   When we look at movies LIFEWRITING style, that happens!)


Lifewriting says that our fantasies and myths reflect our inner world. And our inner worlds are shaped by the fantasies and myths and stories.  The best are touching us on a deep level. Let’s take a look at a story thread people have debated, not from “this is truth” but “this is a way to connect the fiction we love with the lives we lead.

Is Eric Killmonger hero or villain?

Make no mistake: a case can be made for either position.    On the one hand is his revolutionary rhetoric: why NOT switch the power structure? What possible reason would he have not to want to be on top? On the other hand is his behavior, which clearly suggests we are looking at a baby tyrant, that when they say “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” they were talking about HIM, and if you aren’t careful, you’d end up being one of those “gee, I thought we’d be able to control him.  Gee. I thought he’d settle down.  Gee, he SAID he would change…” enablers.


You are a good man. With a good heart.  And it is hard for a good man to be king“–there’s your theme!   King T’Chaka killed his brother.  Why?   Ego perhaps (he was angry.  Also possible: he didn’t’ want the disgrace of his brother’s trial).   It was NOT a measured action.  Once done, those eggs were broken, and couldn’t be unbroken.   He had a horrible dilemma: IMO, if you are watching a story about a man who kills another man, who has a son…aren’t you waiting for the other shoe to drop?  WHEN WILL THE CRIME BE KNOWN?  When will the son take revenge, and how juicy is it going to be?  “Black Panther” is a Hamlet and broken-eggs omelet.

I mean, think about it: if so much as a single whisper, look, action, clue EVER came to light, that boy would move heaven and earth to kill his way to the throne.  So…T’Chaka abandoned him in America.  If he’d been more ruthless, frankly…he would have killed him. Too much risk to his own bloodline.

How about if ANYONE ever learned, they’d realize how valuable and dangerous that boy was, and would either want to kill him or use him to topple the throne.  IMO, the best choice T’Chaka had would be (if Wakandan tech allowed it) to wipe Erik’s memory and have him adopted by a good American home, anonymous, far away from Wakanda.

Even that might not have worked (the level of coincidence and synchronicity in comic books is off the chain. Do you REALLY believe this wrong would never have come to light?  Really?)

But by abandoning him, T’Chaka created a monster.  A sociopath with revolutionary ideals, who (as far as we know) grew up on the streets, fought his way to excellence powered by a dream of vengeance.  Killmonger never knew love or softness–demonstrated by the casual way he killed his girlfriend.  With no safe home, he needed control.   And used seduction, lies, violence, strategy…anything and everything to get to what he really wanted:


Home.  Love.   He talks about his “Auntie” “princess” (cousin), “Uncle”.  This is personal stuff.  All he really wanted…all ANY of ever really want…love and peace.  And he was prepared to kill his way to it.

What would a good king/good man do?   We saw T’Challa willing to see truth (in the 21st Century, Wakanda must forgo isolation.   In our world, to rectify wrongs and become one people.  In the Marvel universe, to stand against Thanos with the rest of humanity.  The power of a simple metaphor. “Thanos” which means “noble” in Hindi and “Immortal” in Greek, is a cool name for a cosmic villain.   In the comics, he is enamored of the Goddess of Death.  Get that? Immortality and Death, together again?   Yin and Yang, anyone?).  But T’Challa was also willing to come from love (extend help to enemies.   Offer of life to Killmonger.  Earth must pull together.  We must see the humanity within each other, or die as a species).  Incidentally, he was also strong enough to stand against tyranny.  Not alone–alone,   he was defeated.  When his family and his people connected to him, he went to his ancestors, rejected them AND THEREBY PROVED HIMSELF WORTHY TO JOIN THEM.  He was his own man. A good man. And a good king.


Killmonger had the right idea, but a broken heart.  Moses couldn’t enter the promised land.  MLK couldn’t make it to the new world with us, although from the mountain-top, he could see the gates.


This is cost of corrupting our children: the healing is multigenerational, and takes either time, or an epiphany.     We all have a Killmonger within us, have abandoned our hopes and dreams and values for expediency.   The answer is STRENGTH, LOVE,  AND TRUTH.

We need the wisdom of the Elders, and the dreams of a child.  Otherwise, those poisoned fruits come back to haunt us.  We cannot disown our own inner children.

Or ignore the lessons of the past




Got an email today, from “Andrew”, who said:

“One of the biggest issues I’ve encountered in myself was the NEED to have an editor go through my story before submitting.  I can’t tell you how bogged down I would get because I needed to have someone proofread it and then find an editor to go through my short story. In reality it was just my own fear of being rejected.  As of now, I’ve been submitting the stories after I make a cursory check to make sure there aren’t any obvious issues or typos.  Otherwise, it’s in the (e)mail and will stay there.  If an editor gives me feedback then I’ll take that into consideration and apply it to my next story.


“I figure time is short and the faster I get to a hundred short stories the faster I’ll be published.   I’ve been writing so many stories back to back I seriously don’t even remember writing the earlier ones.  I have to read a few paragraphs before I even know what it’s about and I outlined and wrote the damn thing.  My thoughts are consumed with the current story and the next one in the pipeline.

“I know I’ll use editors eventually but for now I need to just concentrate on volume.  I’ve held myself back for too long.

“I’m finally learning to trust myself.  I can’t thank you enough.”–Andrew


How does the care and maintenance of your child fit here?

  1. The child is frightened of rejection. But the more love he gets from YOU the easier it is to move forward.
  2. If you are committed to protecting the child, you stay on your discipline.  You do the “work” so that the child can “play”.  Stay on task: write one #$%% sentence a day, no matter what.
  3. Trust that you are an endless fountain of ideas. And if your “child” feels safe, you will be.  And I doubt you can come up with a hundred ideas without one of them being good.
  4. If your child trusts you, and you trust her, you have the connection you need for endless creativity. So long as you are heading in the right direction, you cannot lose.


Trust.  Love.  Faith.  Truth.    Constant work, motivated by love and guided by truth.  Strong enough to resist fear, from within (insecurity)  or without (aggression).


T’Challa was strong, and unafraid,  so he earned Killmonger’s respect (“that was a move”)  and was t and was clear enough to hear the truth (“we are one”) beneath the fear (“I must control”)

If only both of them had had that connection sooner…it would have been a very different film.  And in some ways, I’m sorry we’ll never see that one.  Erik Killmonger…known as N’Jadaka, son of N’Jobu, nephew of T’Chaka and cousin of T’Challa…deserved better.

So do we all.




I think that people become addicted to arguing.  Why?  Well, sometimes it does work. But they forget their actual outcome: to solve a problem or determine “what is true.”  To experience more pleasure than pain in life.


Why then do people so often get exhausted, express frustration, anger and fear because of conducting or witnessing apparently endless argument?   Because they have forgotten their ultimate goal.


ULTIMATE GOAL: To be happy

LONG TERM GOAL: to remove an obstruction to happiness

SHORT TERM GOAL: To create alliances to achieve something that cannot be done alone

IMMEDIATE GOAL: To determine “what is true?” in the “who, what, why, where, how” categories.


And since SOMETIMES, arguments can lead to clarity, and that to creating alliances, solving problems and achieving happiness…arguments can seem like a good idea.  Oh, I’m sorry: “debates.”


But you can also become addicted to debate. Just as “combativeness” is a positive quality in some arenas, people engage in it inappropriately.  Sometimes referred to as a component of “toxic masculinity.”  (A question: would aversion to conflict, a positive quality in some arenas, if engaged in inappropriately be a component of “toxic femininity”?)


Another discussion. Anyway I think it is important to know when battles are not worth fighting.


I recently  watched something fascinating happen.  I asked:  “who has ever changed the mind of someone who believes X?” (A controversial and polarizing political discussion).


Not a single person indicated that anything they said ever had changed a single mind.    Not one.   But, amusingly, people started arguing the subject right there and then.


Excuse me.  What part of “apparently this doesn’t work” wasn’t understood?    I say because people mistake the process for the goal.  If the process leads to the goal, fine. But when it leads to frustration, fear, exhaustion, shouldn’t we consider that argumentation is the wrong tool?  Aren’t we being toxic?


Let’s apply Lifewriting  to  problem solving on a social level, shall we?


CHALLENGE: To solve problem X

REJECT: There is no apparent answer

ACCEPT: to take the position that because we cannot see an answer doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist (otherwise, you slide into despair and destructive rage)

ROAD OF TRIALS: to keep trying DIFFERENT approaches, modeling successful approaches in a variety of contexts until an answer is found.

ALLIES AND POWERS:   Whatever teachers, role models, comrades, friends and family you can enlist in the effort. Brain storming is a good thing!   Try this question: “a hundred years from now, this problem will be solved, no matter how it looks now.  What was the process?”    It is nothing but ego to assume that if YOU can’t find an answer, an answer cannot be found.

CONFRONT EVIL, DEFEAT:  you are gridlocked in argument, and the problem recurs again and again.

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: Exhausted, you fall into the ego state of “If I can’t find an answer, there is not answer.”  Let alone the “all is lost” thingie, considering that people have this need to believe that somehow, their generation is so important that they have front row center to Armageddon.  Every generation seems to think this.  So far, they’ve all been wrong.

LEAP OF FAITH: Remember that every generation creates answers the previous generation hadn’t thought of.  Of course, they also create new problems.  That’s another story.  Over and over again, the adults of one generation have insisted that they are the shit, that they have all the answers, and that if they have failure of imagination or will, That’s All Folks. They are almost always wrong.

CONFRONT EVIL–VICTORIOUS.  You keep trying, and either find the answer yourself or  inspire others to find it.

STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER:   You share the answer you have found.


This is a way the “Hero’s Journey” can work. If there IS no answer, it doesn’t hurt to keep trying.  If there could have been an answer, and you stopped trying, you have betrayed your grandchildren.



Now, that said, there are distinctions along the way. Role models will demonstrate the proper logic patterns (first: is it true?) or tactical approaches (“nurture your tribe.  Don’t argue with sleepers or snakes”) and so forth.   But the overall pattern is pretty solid.




MODEL SUCCESS.  If other people, groups, or countries have solved the problem…look there.  What were their belief systems, emotions, tactics and strategies?   If opponents disbelieve these things would work for us, are they assuming we are more basically different as human beings?  Is their basic view that of human equality (“their answers won’t work for us!”  Could that be true if human beings are basically equal? Yes? No?   If not, does that match YOUR core belief?  Remember, no matter what they say, their ULIMATE belief in equality/inequality is faith-based.    Ultimately, if what you are saying challenges that faith, they will reject it regardless of the logic used, until or unless their belief changes.  It is best to consider them “asleep” in this arena, remembering that you are asleep in others, and may actually be wrong now.  “Asleep” is probably the kindest way to attribute “wrongness” about such a core issue, as it relates to universal humanity, and doesn’t require you to consider them “evil” or “stupid”.  Just…asleep, and may awaken at some future point.)



  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Study history, embrace humanity without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Support your Tribe, avoid sleepers and snakes.
  5. Win with integrity.


In combination with a belief in Equality, and the Hero’s Journey, you have a syntax for success, if success is possible.


Frankly, I always believe it is possible to win.  But sometimes you have to define the terms for yourself.

Like…not having your time wasted.





I’m not really going to review this film.  I love it.   If you want to know more about my reactions and thoughts, check out the FB Live video T and I did yesterday: BlackPantherAfterAction   or:


SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS   Do NOT read unless you’ve already seen the movie PLEASE!!!





When I say that this may be the most important “Popular entertainment” film I’ve ever seen, I mean it.  Myth matters, at least partially because it embeds the patterns of life at a deep unconscious level, where all wisdom must reside to be useful.


Let’s look at the pattern of the Hero’s Journey  applied here:


  1. HERO CONFRONTED WITH A CHALLENGE: T’Challa wishes to be a good king…and a good man as well.
  2. REJECTS THE CHALLENGE.  He believes he can do this by simply following in his father’s footsteps.
  3. ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE: Tradition and his own heart puts him on the path, although his father’s ghost warns him:  “it is hard for a good man to be king”
  4. ROAD OF TRIALS: Return to Wakanda, the kinghood ceremony, travel to Korea to capture an enemy, return to Wakanda empty-handed, challenged for the throne by a cousin he never knew.
  5. ALLIES AND POWERS: His family, his country, his ancestors, his friends.    Courage, intelligence, martial prowess, and deep emotional reserves of wisdom: he knows who he is, even if he still hasn’t fully awakened.
  6. CONFRONT EVIL–DEFEATED.  He discovers that his father killed his own brother and abandoned his nephew Eric “Killmonger” in America. This breaks his heart: he no longer has the strength of his ancestors.  He fights his cousin, and is defeated (but does not submit).
  7. DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: Thrown into the abyss, he suffers a near-death experience.
  8. LEAP OF FAITH:   He rejects worship of his ancestors to become his own man.  Ironically, this is precisely what must be done to honor them.  His father had made an error. Accepting his father’s humanity allows him to take the positive without being limited by the negative.  And even more: to embrace the spirit of the Black Panther without being limited by the flawed human beings who represent her.  Compare to the “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him” notion.  To become a king, he must kill his IMAGE of the king.  Reject father-worship to be a worthy son.
  9. CONFRONT EVIL–VICTORIOUS.  He defeats Killmonger, and offers him mercy.
  10. STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER:  His mercy offers Killmonger enlightment or awakening at the very end of his life: he sees the waste he has made of his life.  That he was consumed by vengeance and hatred when he could have found family. Became the evil he sought to fight. But dies with defiance on his lips–teaching T’Challa in turn.  And T’Challa unifies the goals of his ancestors (to protect their people) with a 21st Century obligation to help build a better worldfor all.


Was that goal valid?  We can argue about the “real” world, but in the MCU–absolutely. Remember why Tony Stark built Ultron? Because in Avengers, he saw a vast alien armada, a force before which humanity is, in Nick Fury’s words, “hopelessly, hilariously outgunned.”


Fury built the Avengers.   Stark built Ultron.    Isolation from humans makes sense if your enemies are humans. But if your enemies are off-planet, countless SF movies have posited that we will need to pull together.


ONLY A UNITED EARTH CAN SOLVE THE ULTIMATE WORLD PROBLEMS. The history of mankind is one of growing complexity and connection.  T’Challa sees the bigger picture, and must find a way to step into it. That is HIS fate as king.


Killmonger, then, was correct in his vision but poisoned by the dragon he had fought, a broken-hearted orphan who only “awakened” in time to save his soul…but not his body.


T’Chaka stained his soul making a choice to protect his crown…but an act motivated by love (for his children, because make no mistake: Patricide is NOT forgiven. It is entirely reasonable to fear Killmonger would have arranged an “accident” for T’Challa and T’Chaka and taken the throne.  Presumably, his father was all he had.   The best thing T’Chaka could have done is wiped the boy’s memory and found him a good family to raise him as their own) and anger (rage at betrayal) and arguably shame (the humiliation of a public trial for his brother would have created vast problems. I don’t know if Wakanda uses the death penalty, but if they did, he might have considered killing his brother to be Royal Justice.  Its messy) created a Shakespearean nightmare. Black Panther is a  Hamlet and broken eggs omelet.

T’Challa had to find a way to the future, while respecting the past. A path for his people, and all mankind. This requires forgiveness. Is it reasonable he could do this?


Did he kill Zemo in “Civil War”?  No?  Do you have the slightest empathy with Tony Stark’s “I don’t care. He killed my Mom” pursuit of Bucky, even at the cost of killing Captain America? Even thought Bucky had no control?


If you can buy that T’Challa had more emotional mastery in a week than the brilliant Stark had after 30 years and half a billion dollars of therapy, you are believing in a human being who can also move beyond racial and national conflicts to see the larger picture.  T’Challa is such a Magical Negro that if he weren’t balanced by an entire country, he’d be Harry Potter singing “Mammy”.

But he IS balanced by Wakanda. He has mother, sister, father (deceased), friends, counselors, subjects, lover (ex and future), and alliances. He is probably the most fully realized character in all the MCU, with the possible exception of  Thor and Spider-Man.


Now, Killmonger, T’Chaka, Suri, and Nakia all had their own lovely arcs weaving in and out. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to plot them out, and see Coogler’s beautifully woven braid.  THIS is fine storytelling, world-class, and totally deserving of its success.


This is the power of myth.





(If you would like to learn more about Afrofuturism, please accept the gift of a free lesson from our DREAMS TO BANISH NIGHTMARES course, available at: www.WAKANDALIVES.COM)

Healing Your Heart

How to Get Rid of Loneliness, Emotional Pain and Regret


My name is Steven Barnes, a NY Times bestselling author, master hypnotist and and martial artist, creator of the “Lifewriting” system of personal development.  And after working with thousands of clients for three decades, I have something wonderful to offer you.


If you suffer from depression, fear and emotional isolationif you feel unworthy of loveif you are frustrated with life, believe you will never find love, and can’t motivate yourself to strive for your dreams… then this message is just for you. Heres why


    No one ever taught you that the purpose of life is happiness. And that the door to happiness, success and healthy relationships is to LOVE YOURSELF FIRST.


    And you need to realize, there is a cost to not dealing with this


If You Ignore That Hole in your heart,  It Just Gets Worse


    What most people do when facing loneliness and anxiety is believe it is their natural state. They try to salve it with  external accomplishment, meaningless sex, compulsive eating, drugs or alcohol.  Does this sound like someone you know?  Maybe someone you see in the mirror every morning?   If so you know an ugly truth: None of that works.  

      • Every meaningless action simply sinks them deeper
      • Relationships fail because desperation is the un-sexiest thing in the world
      • If success doesn’t lead to pleasure, their motivation to even TRY dissolves, so that they spiral into failure after failure until their despair is clear for all to see.


    And what happens if you just do nothing? If you just keep doing  what youve been doing?

Let me tell you the moment I hit “threshold.”

I remember teaching at a kid’s summer camp about twenty years ago.  There, one of the other counselors, a young martial artist named Uli asked me: “when will I stop being afraid?”

To my regret, he took me by such surprise that I had no answer for him.  And within six months, Uli  had taken his own life.

How I learned to help people learn to love themselves.

When I heard what had happened, I swore never to be without an answer again.  NEVER.   Haunted, I searched exhaustively, until I finally found an answer that works.

Searching through martial arts, NLP, Eriksonian Hypnosis, Transcultural Shamanism and more, I  learned some terrific techniques for dealing with fear, and experimented with them on wealthy clients as a stress and movement counselor at the prestigious Moonview Clinic in Santa Monica.   It rapidly became clear that removing fear wasn’t enough: unless my clients loved themselves, removing fear could just leave them feeling “numb.”  Feeling nothing at all.

In fact, if they could learn to love themselves, instead of fear, what they got was ENERGY, the power to protect those you love from threat. They became DYNAMOS.

So…I went more deeply, and combining methods from a yogic, Western psychological and Shamanic traditions I created a process I called the ANCIENT CHILD, and taught it to clients paying FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS A DAY and up.  They were floored.

Experienced healings they called “magical” and “amazing.”  That’s well and good: rich people have a LOT of options.  I wanted to create something that ANYONE could use.

And did.  

It Worked For Me, and My Clients, and It Will Work For You

Heres what it did for me…I use this technique every morning to prepare myself for a day of writing, healing, working out, and being the best husband and father I can be.


But more importantly, this discovery has enabled me to help others, even when separated by thousands of miles:  Daniel Christopher Riewe, a student of mine in Europe said:


Thank you Steven Barnes. Strange. After living in a state of “sleep” including depression, anxiety and panic (and much more) for 44 YEARS (!!) a door opened. It happened after an incredible painful separation from  a woman I loved deeply. But despite the expectation of even more desperation HAPPINESS came.   I feel profoundly whole and integrated (more than “healed” as I never was sick/wounded but just not “whole”). I don’t understand the “logic” of this process, but maybe that IS the point: there is no logic. It’s about having the balls to confront suppressed negative emotions without any drama…. and giving yourself attention as long as they persist…   Let´s see where this leads to!”

That’s great, Daniel!

And La Veda Mason said:  “Thank you Steven Barnes. You more than changed my life. You SAVED my life.”


THAT’S what a healer wants to hear. That somehow, after thousands of hours of practice and research, desperately wishing to help those who trust me…that I found something that works.


Finally, Its Your Turn

When you get the  ANCIENT CHILD THIRTY DAY CHALLENGE, youll get the key to


      • Healing childhood trauma
      • Loving yourself enough to fight for your dreams
      • The key to living every day at the top of your game.


It all comes as part of this downloadable collection of visualizations and PDF lessons.    Imagine spending a few minutes a week listening to an MP3…then doing a few simple, pleasant things every morning to “anchor” your new emotions in…and being  on your way to a new life, one where love replaces fear in your life, and your feet are on the path to real happiness, emotional health, and success.    

“Winning” every day, for the rest of your life!

And you are 100% safe to try this out. Thats all Im suggesting. Just try it for 30 days to see if it works for you. If it does, youll be delighted – and I think thats exactly whats about to happen. If for some reason youre not delighted with the kind of joy, peace and self-love you deserve,  then just let me know – and you get all your money back.


Its Decision Time


You have a choice to make: Do what youve been doing (or worse, do nothing at all). You know where that can lead. Is that really where you want to go? Take a new action, and get a new result. Finally get a new life, the life you deserve, one of love, and possibility, and the abundant natural energy you deserve.  


Answer this one question: what would you do to protect and nurture your own most beloved child?  If you would do one ounce less for yourself, right now, YOU NEED THIS AMAZING COURSE!


Which do you really want for yourself? Heres what to do now… JUST GO TO:   WWW.THEANCIENTCHILD.COM


I’ve sold this originally for $99.00.  Then after I’d made a ton of money, dropped the price to $49.95.   Now you can have my Valentine’s Day Special for only $39.95!


Please, do yourself a favor.  You only have one life, one heart.  


Live it.  Heal it.


Yours in love…

Steven Barnes

Happy Valentine’s Day


One of the groups I belong to is Matt Furey’s email copywriting group.  The “Zen Master of the Internet” is a fun guy, who has created a life that fits him just fine, thank you, and has aligned his voice with his intents in a way that allows him to make boucoup bucks in a flow state.  He said something valuable yesterday:  “The true goal of the truly successful people I admire is to be locked in on a process. The process is the end result rather than the end result bring the end result.”


Get that? The PROCESS is the end result.


In other words, you want to live your life so that the natural flow of your days provides the values you seek.  Chop wood, carry water. Get up, brush your teeth, wash your face, love your family, support your friends, laugh, love, play…and at the end of the day, look back over those 16 hours, happy that you’ve helped make the world a better place, and fall into slumber.


And because you have given to others AND properly aligned your adult and child personalities, you find your wealth increased, your body stronger, your family connections more intimate and satisfying.


Just…naturally.  It starts with love.


Love for yourself. A willingness to strive to create your dreams, and to protect yourself from predators and the drowsy drivers one encounters on the road of life.


Love another person enough to extend that love beyond your own skin. To create a world together, perhaps children, anchoring you to the external community, beginning to see the same patterns of growth and life everywhere.


Understand humanity enough to understand that those same fears and yearnings exist in every heart, however their actions manifest.   We are all doing the best we can. If we could do better, escape more pain and/or gain more pleasure…we would.  That’s how we’re wired up.  And to do better, we need more resources and role models and better strategies and more faith.


Find a tribe of people who hear your song, and strive to uplift them. And if you have aligned your child and adult selves, this becomes your “business”.  It is just hunting and gathering for your tribe, and having the heart to care and the head to demand to be treated with respect, and the healthy body to be an energetic force for good.


And to always be in the flow of your life. Hard? Easy?  Joyous?  Stressful?  Be with it.  Flow with it. Be kind to yourself, and to others. There is never a need for casual cruelty, even if you must from time to time defend yourself.   Remembering both kindness and strength.   That those who sleep can be awakened. That snakes are not evil and rarely aggressive unless hungry or fearful. That in the light of day, or reason, or love, even monsters are  often revealed as wounded children seeking lost love.

If we can forgive and love ourselves….we can forgive and love others.


One day a year, let us be gentle with each other.  Love each other.  Remembering that that is how we began, and with any luck at all…it is how we will end as well. And that the road between birth and death is one we all travel, and that, again, love is all that makes it worth while.



The divinity within me salutes and acknowledges the divinity within each and every one of you.




“Star Wars” X “Roots” = Black Panther

People giving you the fish-eye when you say “Wakanda Forever”?  Ask you what was wrong with “Meteor Man” or “Falcon” or “Luke Cage” or even the beloved “Blade”?  Getting sick of the faux negative reviews and thinly veiled insult.  Well, you aren’t alone.


I find that the set of people who don’t understand “Panther Fever” overlaps nicely with those who don’t grasp   SF in general, or comic book movies in particular.  And…to be honest, those who don’t understand or approve of BLM.  They tend not to have many black friends, either. Yeah, I peek at their FB friend lists, and it matches what I see in the real world among the same people with the same tired complaints.


I remember back in 1977  when Star Wars came out, and the frenzy. People spending overnight in tents for days to be the first in line. The cultural take-over was huge.   Or the Star Trek phenomenon, with people creating languages, legally changing their names, wearing Spock ears to work and getting married in Star Trek ceremonies.  Remember all of that?  And people asked me why the weirdos were acting like that.


I never slept on a line.  Or wore Vulcan ears. BUT I UNDERSTOOD.  Understood how hungry we are for myths that connect head and heart and body.  That say we matter.  That say it is all right to be different, that there is a place for all of us in the galaxy.


I needed that myself, God knows.


Now: that’s half the equation.   Here’s the other half.   Remember  the “Roots” miniseries?  I distinctly remember a lady at my college who had always mocked black concerns. After seeing “Roots” she was in tears. She had literally had no idea. How would she?  There were forces pushing against clear representations of the issues in film, such that the dominant images were those in “Gone With The Wind.”
I don’t know nothin’ bout birthin’ no babies, Miz Scarlette.” If you can read that without throwing up in your mouth a little, you are luckier than I am.


To this day, there are sleepers and snakes  claiming slavery was no worse than immigration, or that “Liberal social policies” were more damaging than 400 years of captivity,  Jim Crow, and segregation.   These are voters, employers, lawmakers, justice officials. How do you think those people interpret the statistics on income and arrests?  Think they believe in equality, no matter what they politely say in public?


No, they do not.   And we’ve been surrounded by them for centuries. And the  stranglehold on media and society that these attitudes have had is just breaking down, leading them to feeling desperate and afraid.  Fear leads to anger, anger to violence. Be careful–myths have power.


“Roots” had that power because it was the story of one man who fought through the walls, rebuilt historical bridges, connected family myth on the American continent to family myth in an African village.  In the process, regaining a slender thread of what had been ripped away from slaves:    Names. Language, culture, history, mythology, religion, agency.  The memory of a  time when people defined themselves in terms of their own people, or to the natural forces of the earth–not in reference to oppressors and colonizers, kidnappers and even kind but patronizing allies.  Alex Haley was the first black American to accomplish this connection and write of it widely, and for it he was both enriched and attacked.


I sat in my Mom’s living room, watching this ground-breaking  program over the course of a week, and for the very first time in my life grasped a history that was not created and approved of by the very people who needed to kidnap my ancestors and brainwash them into working for a fraction of their value, as well as giving up all agency over their lives and bodies and families…whose descendants would blithely claim that offering someone free sandwiches for a month is more damaging than torturing and raping them for a year.


I mean…the bald-faced temerity of this is staggering. AND THEY GOT AWAY WITH IT for decades.  But they cannot get away with it any longer, if you know who you are.  It was too late for me to be blown away by Roots. I had already done an end run around race with countless hours of meditation, connecting me directly with the heart of being.    There was no strength or power in being black, not in my house, despite the surface happy talk.  It took decades to revisit those questions, and the price for doing so was just as severe as I had feared.    I’m strong enough to handle it…but the cost of developing that strength was severe.  I do not want the next generation to pay such a price.  And see enough changes in business, politics, economics, and yes, entertainment, to convince me they will not.


If you want to understand the reaction to Black Panther, all you have to do is look at the “Star Wars” phenomenon (which is about the power of myth and family identity), and the “Roots” phenomenon (which is about the power of myth and social identity), add or multiply them times each other, and BANG, you have the explosion of joy.


“Star Wars” X “Roots” = Black Panther


Look at the reactions from people, black and white.   As with the Wonder Woman “No Man’s Land” sequence, the reaction is “I didn’t even know I needed to see this.”   That it is filling a hunger so deep that we were numb to it.  To be connected to our ancestors, our land, our gods, our sense of centrality in the universe. The precise thing every other group of people in the world have. Africans have it, even if they have material poverty. Colonized people have it.  Brainwashed and kidnapped people do not.


And whites?  Most just want to live decent lives, raise their families, deal with their stresses with integrity.  For our children to be able to play with each other without dragging the past back up again and again.  But until all of that past is actually dealt with, until the liars stop claiming they would have “gotten over it” faster, or that immigrants who fought to get here had the same experience as kidnapped Africans who fought to escape…until we are a generation beyond those lies, it is irrational for anyone to expect us not to join ranks and say “back the hell off.  Go back to sleep. Unless you’re a snake, in which case slither on over. To paraphrase Nick Fury in “The Avengers”:   “Snake?  Meet boot.”


But you will not enter the nursery, even though baby Jason could strangle you in his sleep.  Black Baby Hercules?

No.  Little T’Challa.


What can you do? Just live a good and decent life with your eyes open.  Or…enjoy and support art that speaks to a wider world.   If you want to go deeper, share what you learn with your children, or children you influence.


And if you want to go deeper still, and are a creative artist, create your own inclusive worlds.  We need you: black, white, brown, yellow.  Christian and Jew. Male and female.  Liberal and Conservative. We need your perspective, and so long as you believe in human equality, you are welcome in the new world.


This is an opportunity, a NEW opportunity to close the door on the past without forgetting its horrors. To embrace a future grounded in a pretty new and revolutionary notion: that people can be different without being less than. We can create that world for our children, and must, or we have failed them. Let them deal with the new challenges of the 21st Century.  For God’s sake…don’t ask them to keep carrying the burdens of the 19th.


Science Fiction is just the mythology of the 20th Century.   Afrofuturism is nothing but this concept applied specifically to the children of the Diaspora–to their hopes and dreams and identities.  And if you never missed us from “Star Wars”, you have no right to complain that we are creating our own worlds now, and inviting all to share in the fun.


If you want to go beyond Black Panther, or understand its roots, we have everything you need in the “Afrofuturism: Dreams to Banish Nightmares” class–everything you need to understand, research, support, create, including the emotional tools and a full writing course, worth at least ten times what we’re charging.   Be part of the answer. To order it, go to:


And…I’ll see you at the movies!  Got my ticket!



Wakanda Forever!


Turning a weakness into a strength


I recently had a conversation with a reader who  made a “terrible mistake.”  Call him “Quint.”

Quint:   I find myself in a position to ask you for some quick advice, if you don’t mind.  I made a mistake this weekend, got out of hand, and while no one got hurt… feelings were hurt, people were scared, etc. I apologized profusely, owned up to the mistake… took responsibility for it. But I cannot stop obsessing over it myself. I cannot stop beating myself up over it. I will, with time, but it’s frustrating and hurting my productivity. This is a pattern with me. I’m working on cutting it off, but if you have any suggestions, I’d be open to hearing them.

Steve: All right. Tell me what happened, and what you specifically request of me.

Quint:  Drank too much at a friend’s party (I don’t drink often)… got far too drunk, got into a tussle with some folks later on outside. No one was hurt, but my friend was embarrassed by my behavior (as am I) and I apologized profusely, accepted responsibility for my actions, and promised it wouldn’t happen again. Yet I’m beating myself up for the mistake, to the point that my close friends are more worried about that than what I actually did. What’s a good suggestion for breaking this cycle of beating myself up over my mistakes?

Steve:   Love yourself more. Never say anything about yourself you wouldn’t say to your most beloved child. The entire “Ancient Child” technique is designed to hook you into this. Heartbeat Meditation as well, and the Morning Ritual as well. Love and forgiveness toward yourself gives you the foundation to improve future behaviors.

Quint:    That’s what I’ve been working for, but it’s been a challenge to let go of the obsessiveness of my nature.

Steve:   Don’t “let go” of your obsessiveness. USE IT. Become obsessive about healing, about positive things.


Yeah, I like that. Are you obsessive?  Then be obsessive about meditating, visualizing. About your Morning Ritual.  THAT’S the proper use of obsessiveness.  Why fight it when you can use it?

Here is a good man, who simply wants to be a good person, walking the Road of Trials called life.   Like the rest of us, he makes mistakes.  And like the Heroes before him, he reached out to friends, associates, and potential mentors for advice.

The problem is not that he made the mistake. That was done with. The problem is that he kept the pain and shame with him, beat himself up.  Now, if beating yourself up worked to make you a better person, that would be fine. But the trouble is that it really only works if you have EXCELLENT role models.  For instance, if you have loving, healthy parents, and you are on the wrong life path, it can actually be healthy to crush your ego and allow them to help you reconstruct yourself in a new mold, much as a white belt would be wise to find a teacher who can be trusted to  crush and reconstruct your ego.

But for adults? In general? Not a good idea, as your crushed ego will diminish your confidence in yourself, and lead to a descending spiral of results, as well as attract predators: you have become one of the halt and the lame.   Limping sheep attract wolves.

So you have to start by loving yourself.   Simply imagining yourself as a helpless child will work for most people even over the internet, and in personal coaching I’ve NEVER met anyone it didn’t work with, although I might have needed hypnosis or deep visualization to get down to the core survival circuitry.  Those who have been neglected or abused often have no conscious memory of ever having been safe.  Sigh.

My heart breaks for you, but that means that YOU have to do it.  YOU have to commit to protecting yourself.

That’s the first step.   The most important step.  As an individual or a culture, you MUST start here, or you won’t have the motivation to do “Whatever It Takes” to change your life.

  1. Love yourself to begin the healing process, and find your strength. If you would fight for a child, but wouldn’t fight for your own life and dreams, you have work to do.
  2. Love another person.  Love forces us to empathize with others, to see our own soul in their eyes (intense sex is great for this!). If we can love ourselves despite our flaws, and love another despite theirs…we open the door to deeper understanding.
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame or shame.   Core perspective: people are just people. If you can see the same basic motivations and behaviors playing out in a variety of circumstances without hating or thinking “they” are less than “you”, you’ve taken another step. Can you embrace humanity without thinking either black or white are superior, “better” or “less” in any significant way?  How about male and female?  We have a LOT of stress there now. And a LOT of men and women who don’t trust each other.    Here’s a hint: you can trust other people to the exact degree that you can trust your own judgement.   If you cannot relate the behaviors of men and women to core humanity, cannot see how they are two sides of the same damned coin, you haven’t gone deeply enough, and have disowned half of your own nature.    Get to work.
  4. Embrace and protect your tribe, while avoiding sleepers and snakes. All you have to do is embrace the humanity of people willing to embrace yours…and all will be well. Not immediately.  Not tomorrow. But the human race is knitting itself together after the Great Migration.  And you can be a part of it.


Let me tell you a little story.  When I was researching GREAT SKY WOMAN in Tanzania, I had a bit of private trepidation. What would I see and experience? What if I found the negative stereotypes pervasive, and the sneers of the racists justified?  Could I be honest enough to admit that possibility?  Because if I couldn’t, I couldn’t be certain of my POSITIVE perceptions either.  So…I steeled myself, and went.

Interacting with as many people as possible at every opportunity.   Played little games testing abstract thought, reflexes, perceptions, memory and other things. And… was delighted.  The children, even those who had been living in very simple circumstances, were so quick and beautiful.  Compared quite comfortably with kids in far wealthier circumstances in America.

The damage, then, could easily be explained by  differential patterns of interaction with the rest of the world, distance from the Road of Silk and that pesky North-South continental orientation (domesticated grains and animals can migrate east-west much more easily than north-sound.  By the damage of colonialism, and the plunder of the slave trade.  In comparison, the Eurasian Land mass seemed almost custom designed for spreading genetics and information.)  Multiplied over tens of thousands of years, how was sub-Saharan Africa to catch up?  Copper phone lines were being scavenged by desperately poor people, crippling the attempt to wire together a communications infrastructure.

I brooded for a couple of days,  and then saw something that made me laugh:  Maasai warriors, watching their flocks, standing on one leg leaning on their spears…talking into their cell phones.

I laughed and laughed, knowing at that moment that all would be well.   All I had to rely on was a sense of universal humanity, and there was no problem.

There is work to do, but we cannot let ourselves be dragged down into the muck by wasting time with trolls who infect us with dualistic, oppositional thinking.

Step 5:  Win with integrity.  Respect the rights and humanity of others.   While keeping the strength to protect your heart and family, come from a place of love. Of knowing that most anger is just fear. Understand what they are afraid of, and you can forgive them.  Understand that enough fear creates enough psychological pressure to shut down frontal lobes.  An educated person can believe in a Flat Earth if they delete enough contrary data.  Might such a person be someone looking for simple explanations to an increasingly complex world?  Be compassionate. If for no other reason, remember that YOU do this too.  You will need help, support, compassion, understanding. You’ve been wrong in the past, and will be again in the future.  Also…there is nothing more common than oppressed people becoming oppressors. The abusers turning out to have been abused.


I have to remember that I, too, am asleep in some ways.  That I, too, seem a snake to some.  That in some eyes I, too, carry the Monster in my heart.


Start by loving yourself.  End by loving the world.    Whether as an individual, a family, or a tribe, the pattern is the same.


And always has been.





A lesson from “Shelly”


I remember my first girlfriend in college was a smart, pretty lady we’ll call Shelly.  I met Shelly in the music department at Pepperdine when I was doing a nighttime radio chow. We started dating and finding out more about each other, as people do at that phase in their lives.


One day, I remember just hanging out with her, and she started talking about the life we could have together. Me teaching martial arts, her teaching music.


It was a lovely dream.  I could easily see myself enjoying the cycles of life, learning, growing, helping people and growing closer to this lovely lady who shared my life–




Wait a minute…I didn’t want to be a professional martial arts instructor.   I didn’t know WHAT I wanted to be, but at that point in my life I knew that wasn’t it.  She DID know what she wanted, and that was being a music instructor, and being married.


Even though we were walking different paths, and eventually drifted apart, I remember that conversation, and how easy it was to drift into a lovely trance…


–of fulfilling my own dreams. (Being a martial artist, having a family)


–of a partner on the road of life (someone supportive of my dreams, but with her own destiny)


Because she had painted a picture of how things could be, rather than ask a direct question, I got to FEEL what that life could be. And had I known what I wanted, I might well have said: “well…not a martial arts instructor…but how would you feel about a writer?” And we might have laughed and dreamed together, and who knows?


That’s what storytelling does.  It slips past the filters, touches our hearts.


T and I just did an interview for a social activism podcast, asking questions about Black Panther.  What should people do to get ready for it, we were asked.  While we discussed the history of the character, the reasons for the excitement and the place of Afrofuturism within the broader category of science fiction, my real advice was: just go and have fun.


Yep.  If Ryan Coogler did his job right, you don’t have to consciously THINK about the component parts of the story to get the value, any more than you have to know the names of the macro and micronutrients in a dinner salad to get the nutrition. They are right there.  Enjoy.  Have fun.  Nourish your soul, or just release stress and get swept away for two hours.


But then, if you wish, go out with your friends afterward, have coffee and talk about the movie you just experienced.   Share your FEELINGS about it.


That’s building community.  Want to do more?  Become a more discerning consumer of film, patronizing those that support your values.


More? Teach others about the connection between myth and consciousness.   Use your knowledge of that connection in your own life, and with your family.


More?  How about creating your own stories, learning how to KEEP rapport with your audience (so they don’t “pop out” like I did!), singing your song, expressing your view of humanity, or the universe.  I know that I felt that if I sang MY song loudly enough, I would find another bird in the forest who was traveling in the same direction.


Shelly needed someone on a particular life path.  So did I.  And she did the smart thing: declare “here I am” and if I’d been the one, if I’d wanted such a path, I could have done far, far worse than that young lady. She kept telling her story, until she found a man who shared her dream, and they’ve been married all this time.


You can change your own life. Change the life of another.  Build a career.Change the world.


Myth is magic.   If you would like to learn more about the Lifewriting notion applied to the myth and fantasy of the African Diaspora, check out the AFROFUTURISM: DREAMS TO BANISH NIGHTMARES class at



And if you’d like to “merely” understand how writing can change lives…and life change your writing, join us at



Write and live with passion!


Art, Craft, and the “Rocky” road to Black Panther

One great working definition of things like “Art” and “Craft” that all synchronize with a view of human existence in a useful way.


“Art” is Self-expression.   If a two-year old Jason has a creative urge, reaches into the potty and smears feces on the way…points at it proudly and says “look!” That is art.


“Craft” is the language that allows you to COMMUNICATE that creative urge to others.   You perform, the audience reacts.  It is like a language.  You are in Mexico, you want to say “that tree is beautiful” but simply don’t know how to say “El árbol es hermoso” you will be reduced to gestures and imprecise communication.


Every artistic discipline has craft. And the more difficult the technology of the discipline is to master, the harder it is for the creative “spark” to pass that gate.


Remember the four steps of learning?


  1. Unconscious incompetence (you don’t know bicycles exist)
  2. Conscious incompetence (you know they exist, and that you cannot ride one)
  3. Conscious competence (you can ride one if you focus all your attention)
  4. Unconscious competence (“look Ma!   No hands!”)


Stage #4 is where you have to be to express an emotion in your chosen art.  So what makes that possible?


  1. A clear idea of the specific tasks ahead.
  2. A role model of a successful person who started as close as possible to your own position, and got as close as possible to your chosen end point.
  3. An understanding of process. What does a person do between “here” and “there”?  The Hero’s Journey is wonderful for this.
  4. A flock of overwhelming emotional motivations, without which you won’t make it through the “dark night of the soul.”
  5. A model of humanity to understand how to organize your inner world to traverse the steps of the HJ.



Step #4 should provide the “creative spark,” the impulse.   There should be something you are trying to express in your work. A perspective, a dream, a nightmare, a fear, a love, a passion.


That passion not only gets you up in the morning, and powers you through the bad times, but is the thing that your readers really want from your work.


“Make me FEEL” they say. Now, you might simply have enough craft to manipulate them, but you will never do your best work if your heart and mind and physical energy are not in alignment.


This can be risky.   It can often feel that if we speak our truth, if we reveal ourselves, the world will not reward us.  In fact, it is easy to believe that the world will specifically reject us unless we do what everyone else does.


The problem with that is that “what everyone else does” is a “red” ocean.  A big audience, yes. But an ocean filled with fish that is also full of sharks.


You have to find a “blue ocean”, a sub-set of that larger group, where there aren’t so many sharks feeding on the same tuna.  And the way to do that is to find your voice, your special gift, your unique contribution to the world.


Then with craft, you learn to convey that essence within your heart so that people can feel it.


Ever watch the “Rocky” movies?   You have there a perfect example.  And in Afrofuturism Month, I think it important to acknowledge Sylvester Stallone.  Because of Stallone, Ryan Coogler was able to make “Creed”, which brought him to Disney’s attention, and led to Black Panther.  Sly?  I love you, man.

Let’s look at Stallone’s journey to help us understand how passion works.

Stallone was a struggling actor who decided to create his own project. He took his desire (to express himself, to succeed in his art) and created a visual metaphor of a boxer who longed to find love (express himself emotionally) and prove he’s not “just another bum from the block.”

Quote:   “I took my story and injected it into the body of Rocky Balboa because no one, I felt, would be interested in listening to or watching or reading a story about a down-and-out, struggling actor/writer. It just didn’t conjure up waves of empathy, even from me and I was sure it wouldn’t do it from an audience either.


He was inspired to write it watching Chuck Wepner, an unknown pug, fight the world’s greatest boxer, Muhammad Ali.  Went home and wrote that script in something like three days.


What did he see?  Someone desperate to prove himself, to say “I’m here!” to the world.   Took that, joined it to his own hunger for success, created a story.


Over the next year he submitted the script to dozens of producers, and was turned down by all of them.


What kept him going?   A dream. A vision of what his life could be. Desperation.  And desperation. By the time he sold it, he had about 100 bucks in the bank, and had sold his car and his DOG  to keep going.


He was offered over eight hundred thousand dollars for the script, by producers who wanted it for stars like Robert Redford. Stallone refused. He saw himself in that role, knew it would make him.  The producers finally agreed if he would keep writing for free (it went through eight more drafts) and the studio agreed if the entire thing could be made for a million dollars.  Overages came out of the producers’ pockets.


Winkler and Chartoff mortgaged their houses to raise the extra hundred thousand dollars needed to complete the movie.  Why would they do that?


Because an unknown actor had infected them with his passion.


And the rest is history.  Belief.  Emotional power. A clear goal.


What is YOUR passion?  Is it personal? Cultural?   Philosophical?  Political? What change do you want to make in your life?  In the world?


THAT will be your creative impulse. Add to that the craft to communicate it, and you have something special, something precious.  But you will need a clear vision (the outcome) and enough emotion behind it to drive you through the dark nights, and a commitment to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to succeed with honor.


I have personal, familial, social, philosophical, and spiritual reasons to do what I do.   That cascade of emotions means I never have any lack of motivations to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to succeed.


Never.  I can literally stop at any moment in anything I’m doing, and know a dozen different reasons I’m doing it.   When you have that kind of inner fire, nothing can stop you except death.


That’s what I want for those of you who believe in a just world. Who believe in the unity of mankind.


The snakes and monsters have their hunger for raw meat and chaos.  They wake up in the morning looking for things to bite.


The heroes have to know what they are fighting for, and who, and why.  Only then does it matter what tools and strategies they will use.



Be a hero in the adventure of your lifetime.





(and by the way…after Stallone was paid, he bought his dog back.  That was “Bupkis” who appears with him in the movie!)