Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Put Some Ass In It: Today’s Writing Mantra

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She stood on the stage with an acoustic guitar and sang to her son about how it is alright for men to cry, about the need for safe sex, about the pain of being oppressed as a woman, a black person, a lesbian, about how God is the only who can make her whole.

Gaye Adegbalola

Then, Gaye Adegbalola said, “Now, I want you to sing along on this one . . . and put some ass into it.”

I leaned over to P and said, “I’m stealing that.”

I was so impressed by Adegbalola’s music because she spoke her truth, her way.  She’s a blues singer, and she’s got a stage presence – more of a spirit really – that stretches out and hugs you hard, the way your best friends hug you when you hurt or when you need to be reminded that you can hurt other people.

As a writer, that’s who I want to be – not Gaye Adegbalola – but me, the woman who speaks truth as I see it, who lays it out there in my way with my words and my stories.  And, yep, I want to “put some ass in it.”  I want it to be out there and a bit brazen, a little dirty – not sanitized, not too pretty but real, solid, something you put your weight on.

Sometimes, I think we make art too pretty, too easy to digest, especially if we are Christians.  Sometimes, I’m not pretty (especially with this stage of the growing out my hair – anyone know magic tricks to grow hair faster?); sometimes what I see and hear and feel is barbed and prickly and, on occasion, downright gross.  But to be true, to be real, to be honest, I have to tell these things sometimes – not for the sake of being controversial or simply to stir the pot – but to be a true witness.

So today, I’m taking my inspiration from Gaye Adegbalola . . . and putting some ass in it. . . taking a little bit of those pieces of pain that live in my heart and laying them out there . . . because sometimes they are our most beautiful parts, the gritty ones.

What do you think of this idea of “putting some ass in it” in terms of your art? Do you feel like you want to show the grit? Feel like you can? 

***
Today, I’m finishing up the God’s Whisper Manifesto, and you can get a copy for free.  Just sign up for my email list (in the left-hand corner of this page).  You’ll get my daily posts, a monthly newsletter, free giveaways, and a copy of the God’s Whisper Manifesto.  I’d love to connect with you this way.

 

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Author: Andi

I'm a writer, teacher, and editor who is currently working on a book about the slaves who lived and worked on the farm where I now live. I blog daily at http://www.andilit.com I have three cats - Oscar, Emily and Charlotte - who have taken to living on the farm quite well - bird-, frog-, and butterfly-hunters all.

25 Comments

  1. Great post – agree completely! Thank you!

  2. I would love to put some ass into my music and writing. I’m trying my hardest to be real and vulnerable. I think it’s easier in writing than it is in music, at least for now. I’m still learning so much on the music journey.
    Jamie Kocur recently posted…Why I just sing when I lead worshipMy Profile

  3. I want to put some ass in it, too. I know exactly what this means. It means head shaking, finger wagging, down to earth, no nonsense cut the bull say it how it is. But it has rhythm. It has grace. It does not knock you down with bullish truth but hipchecks you like doing the bump, so you say, Oh, I see. Put some ass into it. Aww yeah.

  4. Hmmm, I like the fact that you and others put their asses in it. However, it’s a different story if it’s me. I tend to think noone will want to hear it… or it may not be palatable for some… so I don’t bother… I keep it to myself or write it in my journal instead. :)

  5. This is why the blues preaches gospel to us. It moves the soul, it gets honest, it drives us away from pretense and social posturing. More believers should learn the blues.

    I’ll out some ass in it, and some damn, and some shit where needed. Hell, I’ll even drop the revered (and feared) “f word” when it fits my needs. I’m not a vary sanitized writer. Most of that is because I don’t have a sanitized life. It’s to messy, to broken, too full of redemption and wounded people.

    My aunt (who is a pentecostal preachers wife) was taken aback, offended, and theologically outraged when she discovered that I cuss on my blog. I love her to death, but I cant live in her language. It is full of religious phrasing and statements that only make sense if your “in the spirit”… I’m too much of a heretic for that.

    Give me something that is real. Give me something that God can redeem, and some honest emotion about the rapture and the pain of the refiners fire. give me nothing for shock value, but everything for the sake of wholeness.

    I might be a white boy, but I like the think that I can put some ass in it.
    Aaron recently posted…The Faith That FailsMy Profile

  6. Andi, I’m new here and this is FAN.TAS.TIC. I was born with “some ass in it”. I don’t know how to live without being in the middle of the great paradox of grit and grace. It has been super hard at times, especially if you’re surrounded by stereotypical conservative Christian’s. But God made me this way – for a time such as this. To confrom would be horrific!

  7. Oh, yes, please put the ass in it. And the stomping feet and the swinging arms!
    Victoria recently posted…On the RoadMy Profile

  8. I’ll pray for courage to put some ass in it, cause I got a feeling it would fly with more ass backing it up. I just haven’t figured out who my damn audience is yet. If it’s pious Christians I can’t put ass in it. But if it’s the Sojourner or Anne Lamott crowd I feel more free. I know, I know. Just write it the way it comes.

    http://debrasblogpureandsimple.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-lonely-place-apart.html

    • Thanks, Debra. . . .I think Lamott would say she’s pious in the meaning of the term as “devout.” I would say the same of myself. I just don’t believe that life is all clean, and what I read in Scripture doesn’t seem to say that either . . . so write it as it comes – amen to that – and trust that we’ll be here to read.
      Andi recently posted…Letting the Writing Push Me Back Into ShapeMy Profile

  9. Funny you should ask that.

    I just came here from damnyouautocorrect.com. I had a pretty rough afternoon with my darling offspring screaming for over an hour nonstop, so I went to make myself laugh.

    Most of that site is rather… coarse. But, presumably, it is all real. I was thinking – if one were to write a book series that took place in the here and now, shouldn’t something like that happen? Shouldn’t an innocent text get garbled beyond recognition, just as a testament to the world we live in?

    I don’t think I could do it, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. It’s be a real shame if, in 200 years people remember that we lived when the internet was born, but the humor of emerging technologies was lost.

    • Oh, I love that idea, Shannon, that we need to live in our moment – with all the mess and swearing it entails. And yes, those auto-corrects are crude sometimes, but man, they kill me, too.

  10. How do you put the grit & dirt into art without hurting people is the question I most often ask myself. That’s why I don’t put a lot of myself out there, especially in my blog. I want to be painfully honest with my readers, yet some of them are the ones that make me who I am, dirt and all.

    I don’t know if that makes any sense at all, but I find it very difficult to put it all out there, or even just a part of it, because I don’t want someone to walk away feeling worse because of something I shared.
    Denise Dilley recently posted…Good Attitudes Make the Day BetterMy Profile

    • It is such a tough balance to keep. I don’t believe in being brutal, even with the truth, but sometimes we hurt one another. For a long time, I thought it was my job to never hurt anyone and just pretend like I was okay if they hurt me. I don’t think that’s right anymore. We hurt; we need to lament – just look at the Psalms, more laments than anything. Do we need to name names or give all the details of the pain? Not necessarily but sometimes. But I do think we need to own it and say it, even when someone else has hurt us. I think there’s freedom for all of us in that.

  11. My favorite fiction tends towards Appalachian literature because I love to read about the grittiest parts of life. Those are the most beautiful moments, not the ones coated in sugar and pretension. “Put some ass in it.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve been adjusting to a new city for a few months now, and I’ve missed writing more than anything. I think I’m ready to start writing again..but I’m going to put plenty of ass in it from now on :)

  12. I love this! I am on a journey to learn to be my most authentic self – in whatever way that plays out. It may the causes I champion, the “secret” things I reveal, or even the language I use. It is a scary journey, because judgment is everywhere, particularly for “good Christians” who are only supposed to act, think, and speak in “acceptable” ways. I need courage and encouragement along the way. Thank you!
    Jan Roberts Culpepper recently posted…My Latest ExperimentMy Profile

    • I want to throw out the term “good Christians” altogether because none of us is good, and none of us is worthy. We are all just loved. . . for who we are. Write on, my friend. . . be you.

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