My Summer Rewind: An Ode to Self-Care 5-“Liquid Swords”

Merriam-Webster defines style as A) a distinctive manner of expression. B) A distinctive manner of behavior or conduct of oneself. C) A particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed.

From 1999 until 2003, “You write how you talk” was a phrase I heard from every high school English teacher; it wasn’t a compliment. put words to page to express whatever I had to say, the best way I knew how. Despite their critiques, I saw and considered myself a writer. With all the confidence in the world, I told my AP English teacher, I was a writer. She snickered and told me “I don’t know about all of that…” and uttered the quoted phrase in the first sentence of this paragraph.

The origins of my current style as a writer are rooted in hip hop. When 13-year-old Chad Milner, decided “I’m a rapper,” and chose the God-awful name El Niño, I became a lover of and obsessed over words. My book of rhymes went everywhere; even if at first, it stayed hidden from my friends and family because I lacked the confidence to share.

I developed what I have dubbed “rapper brain;” a construct in which an emcee somehow absorbs and observes the world. They train their mind to keep an obscene amount of information in an accessible part of their limbic system because any-and everything-must be an available reference to use as a bar or word to rhyme with another. To synthesize information into rhythmic couplets, over and over, and string words together in a matter no one else has ever done requires skill.

Some used to say real emcees can freestyle off the top of their head. I took this as gospel and practiced, all the time. My favorite exercise was to freestyle to “Bombs Over Baghdad” by Outkast. The tempo of “B.O.B.” was 155 beats per minute and the average rap beat at the time was around 95bpm. I trained myself to think and recite brand new lyrics almost twice as fast as my peers and rivals. If this doesn’t make sense, here’s an analogy: One could argue it is almost against the laws of physics to hit a major league fastball at 95 miles per hour. If the average MLB fastball was 95 miles per hour, and a player was used to pitches clocked in at 155 mph during practice; imagine how slow every throw from the mound 60.5 feet seems during a game, with thousands of fans screaming at the top of their lungs. In 2020, trap music, programmed between 50-88bpm is a beachball.

A metaphor to compare “B.O.B.” and baseball is a perfect example of “rapper brain.”

I hated when I was referred to as a blogger when I began Single Dadventures in 2012. I felt as if the terminology inferred one was an amateur. I didn’t see myself as neither and considered myself a writer. I still wrote how I talked; however, I used what I knew as an emcee. I wrote every day and it paid off. Within a year, I got paid to write.

I like to think a few of my editors saw potential in me. I would often tell editors “I know, I write how I talk” because I’d been critiqued about it for as long as I could remember. Their reply was “So? That’s a good thing!”

A few months into my first professional columns, one of my editors had a hunch and pushed me. Kweli Wright planted a seed in the form of a text message. She asked if I had any editorial experience in a tone as if I was a peer. After our exchange, Kweli sent me on press junkets, movie screeners, and celebrity interviews to broaden my perspective and become seasoned. She was both hard and helpful. Her tutelage gave me the confidence and encouragement to develop my style.

What is my style? I use lots of detail. I am aware you are not in my head. My childhood insecurity-I felt misunderstood-has prompted me to describe as much as possible and put you in my shoes. Because I write how I talk, I scribe passages to feel like intimate conversation instead of some words written on a page.

Most of my paragraphs are between three and five sentences. Readers drift off and begin to skim if they’re much longer. I want to my audience to hang onto every word and anticipate what I have to say next.

My pieces and passages are a funnel. I like to start with a sentence, conversation, or quote to grab your attention. Most writers save their existential extrapolations full of intrinsic value at the end of their work; it’s what we’re taught in high school. I do this in the first couple of paragraphs and narrow down into a specific story.

I don’t use the words this, that, or just; words seldom and almost never end with ing or ly. In the rare event any of the previous exist, I have either exhausted my options, or spent too much time obsessed on one word. With intention, I will drop one of these to emphasize a point…truthfully, it’s flaunting my way with words is nothing short of elite.

Fuck you, Ms. AP English teacher…Prose is my literary device of choice and I’ve mastered it. My work has been read in over 160 countries. I needed to get the previous sentence off my chest.

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