When People Just Don’t Get It: The Writer’s Edition

I’ve written about the obstacles of being a writer before, but back then, I was bit more cutesy about it, and still holding own to the silver lining of “our day will come” thoughts. Truth is, once again I had the unfortunate experience of trying to explain myself to someone that really didn’t understand the beauty and the struggle of being a writer. I always find it amusing how easy it is for people that aren’t part of a specific industry or talent pool to offer what they naturally consider to be their own version of sage advice. I believe we all in some matter have experienced this and it is highly exhausting. It’s like telling a brain surgeon which direction to go first while their patient awaits their life in someone else’s hands.

While it’s okay to offer kind words of encouragement and share life experiences towards helping you prevail on your own journey, it clearly becomes intolerable when observation leads to exposure of their ignorance. In this case, either telling a writer what to write about or how they should write. If you’re a English professor or a fellow scribe, fair enough. You more than comprehend writer’s block, the battle between writing real shit vs. fodder (or what I like to refer to us “shit-aticles”), maintaining your own unique voice through the process of editing, and adjusting to various publications styles and formats as a freelancer.

When I moved to New York, sure it was to get a writing job, to possibly earn an opportunity with a more renown title and what I envisioned to be endless chances to write about whatever, but I also secretly moved to scare the shit out of myself. I had saved up money for about two years and a half to move. I had a work study job at my university and a part-time job at a nationally known clothing store. From both checks I would save half of what I earned and placed it in a shoebox in the closet with a notepad and pen to keep track. I felt proud of myself every time I placed more money in that Sam & Libby box that once held a pair of black ballet-style flats because I was getting myself to New York, and doing so through humble bread. I had tried to score some writing chances before, but it was hard still being based in Boston. I managed through a previous interview I had with PAPER to eventually wind up interning for them fours months after having moved to New York. I soon left and I interned a few other places, including VIBE, and while my resume my building, I wasn’t necessarily making money. The tide was turning and many of the pop culture magazines I loved while growing up in the ’90s had become like root beer floats. As a fan, I was disappointed that seemingly the quality had gone down, having a influence didn’t matter as much, and it was all becoming about getting web hits and being the first to “report” about a celebrity happening that sometimes had yet to be confirmed. I was experiencing a battle from within. Just because we write about popular culture doesn’t mean it can’t hold weight. It doesn’t mean it can’t begin real conversations about each other’s lives and the thoughts around us.

Professionally, I sometimes carried a heavy heart. All I wanted to do was write about how popular culture connected to us and the greater society, but the same titles I once looked up, I suddenly wanted no part of. I left internships and had freelance jobs here and there, but gracefully I would bow out disappointed. I wasn’t offered any full-time jobs yet because I often ducked out before I gave myself a chance, but their stories were not my stories. Luckily however, because of my resume, I was often given the leverage of picking my own topics when I did write for other people.

Though it was unpaid, I wrote for JET as a Op-Ed Columnist, which I gained through a contact and a few months after I had received my first check from BlackBook for an interview I did with Luke James (which was very exciting). But still, I found myself internally clashing with the ideals and presentation of major titles I use to love with my own values as a writer. Not to mention so many opportunities I did find were quick to add “unpaid” or “non-paid”. I thought to myself, “this sucks”. For long do I have to work for free? I’m not trying to do this retail life forever, and why is everyone trying to make me into a gossip columnist? The New York Times even months ago published an Op-Ed from a freelancer pleading to his fellow pens to no longer write for free because the abuse was getting out of hand in our circles. I’ve met writers that even after earning a position at their former internship continued to work as a waitress to make ends meet. I know only one person that a month after quitting retail was offered a position at her internship to join the editorial staff and hasn’t looked back since. You know what’s funny? I’m not perfect. I love popular culture. So while I am highly lettered on history and the artful side of literature, film, music, and of the like (I’m a black girl that’s actually aware of the movie Eraserhead), I can also easily name all the Kardashian and Jenner sisters and brother in chronological order of their birth. From the hidden gems of art to the ridiculous things I can actually remember, popular culture has always been fun for me. I’m as quick to visit BusinessInsider as I am Bossip.com, but when it comes to my writing, my name is attached and I want it to be something I look back on and say, “Yeah, I wrote that. And I love that piece”.

I can talk bullshit with the rest of them, but I also greatly care about discussing women’s rights and feminism, civil rights, world cultures, and asking heavy questions as to why in a nation and world that’s come so far, why are we still so hurt and dividend by one another? Since I was little, I’ve been a juxtaposition of knowledge. You are currently reading the work of someone that watched Tila Tequila’s inane dating show (just the first season) and read a biography on Golda Meir before the age of 14. I’m the girl that views Sephora or the makeup aisle in a drugstore as the original sugar factory and posted a picture of Dorothea Height on Instagram in honor of her birthday. I’m the same girl that wishes she wrote Langston Hughes’ “I, Too, Am America” and can also shamelessly quote Entourage. I’ve got One Tree Hill on DVD but let’s also forget Brown Sugar is not too far down the shelf. Confusing to some, this dichotomy I’ve always liked about myself and in return has honestly made my work rich because I know so damn much. Unfortunately, I don’t always have a platform that agrees or wants to pigeon-hold me, thus, I sought to be more active in a space of my own.

Under the moniker of Lavish Rebellion, I wanted this to be my ultimate home of writing and of pieces that wasn’t already written for others. While great moments exist in seeing your name in print like a actor does for Broadway or a big movie premiere, being able to write without micro-management feels amazing. My voice is heard and I feel secure that whoever visits won’t immediately click away, maybe even learn something new or hey, just simply appreciate my work. Another note about this time period as a writer is that after one has read my work, they sometimes give me a quizzical look and directly ask “and why haven’t you been hired yet?” I know why.

I don’t like the politics. Whether interviewing a celebrity, attending a press event, or just being in the presence of entertainment, I never felt like I had to sell my soul to be respected as journalist, and in return I’ve gained, even if minor, unknown admirers and interviewees that were grateful I actually did my research. Whenever I felt like I was expected to kiss ass or play the game, I shook my head. I didn’t The Canterbury Tales for this. I didn’t spend time comparing Edith Wharton to Toni Morrison to be TMZ. And maybe I’m foolish for that sometimes, but it’s my name on that article. If you’re looking to see me go down the rabbit hole of bullshit, don’t look surprised when I bring you with me, or will at least try. And this brings me back to when others give advice on a topic to which after awhile it really isn’t their place. Asking me to write on what makes money and telling me to not wear my heart on sleeve as a writer is insulting to all the training I’ve gone through, to the authors I adore and have led me towards an English degree in the first place, and hurtful to me as a person. You’re saying that my thoughts don’t matter and to be like the rest. BE AVERAGE. After all these talks of being an original and to go your own way, I’m just expected to be another basic “writer” in the era of the blogger and Tumblr.

I’ve got a long way to go before I may see my name in  The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or even my hometown paper of The Boston Globe, but until I get there, your advice on writing about what Perez Hilton writes about is not going to do it. Maybe I’m just not talented enough YET. Maybe I still got a lot of work to do. I sometimes feel as if my best writing days are behind me and were achieved while I was an undergrad when my brain was always working. It’s amazing how I found the time to write eloquent essays, hang out with friends, date, work two jobs, and go to a weekly dance party back then.

Clearly, I’m not willing to bend to be some kind of minion to the game. Let Hilton write about what he wants to rollick about and let me do me. There’s room for both us and just because I can talk about so and so’s wedding for 20 minutes doesn’t mean I want to immortalize it in writing. Right now, I just want to maintain my talent which is the purpose of having a blog space. If I can gain regular readers, then great! If that’s a slow bargain, still great. I did my part. It’s easy for someone else outside of this special world of reading and writing to tell us what to do when they’re tourists. It’s a circumstance that they use against you in an argument as they bash you for having not made it yet in writing, and berate you for even having the temerity to write for free. Considering these same individuals likely never even heard of the word “temerity” it’s imperative to remind yourself, they just don’t get it. They’ll be better off asking themselves, “How’s that humdrum life treating me, since I was too chicken shit to go after my own dreams full-throttle, even if that meant I wouldn’t be rich and famous?”

Bottom line is: don’t tell a figure skater how to triple 8, we’ll do our best to not tell you how to parent, how to actually make lasagna, to fully explain the double-helix, so don’t tell a writer “how” to write. Talk to me when you trade that Sharpie for a Bic.

“I thought you came to New York to be a writer?”

“I AM A WRITER”.

And when it comes to the editorial and journalism industry, the singer P!nk (Pink) could not have summed it up best way ahead of my journey when she had released the single “Funhouse” off of her album of the same name. The first lines of the chorus? “This used to be a funhouse…now it’s full of evil clowns…”

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