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Don't Put Me In That Writer's Trap

Please don’t put me in this trap. This “black author” trap. This is no way disrespecting either side, and I hate that we’re still living in an age where I have to mention this, but this is where we are so it must be said. Yes I am black. Yes I am a writer and an author. But NO this doesn’t mean that my books need to be about some kind of racial issue that myself or other black people have faced in the past or are currently facing.

I don’t want to write about those things. If you are one of my readers and you’re of colour and want to read about slavery, black struggle, or some kind of racism or marginalization, I can refer you to some amazing books or literature.

But you’re not going to get that from me. Of course those stories are significant. Their significant to history and to our present culture. I would never dispute that and I don’t think anyone else would either.

But my stories are my stories. They are based on what inspires me, what moves me, what calls me to write. My stories are and will be about culture and characters within that culture that endure real world shit. That can be anything, not just “black” things.

I’ve just heard that question time and time again. People ask me if my first novella “Thoughts of a Fractured Soul,” is about race. They ask if the novel I’m working on now will touch on race.

NO! NO! NO! In fact, my first book doesn’t even mention the race of any of the main characters. And the manuscript I’m working on now is taking that same path. I’m just not interested in telling those stories and guess what, IT’S MY CHOICE.

So again, just please don’t try to lead me to that trap. I’m a writer, and artist, and I am and will always express myself through my words however I want to. All artists regardless of colour should have the freedom to do the same.

#HistoryOrNothing

image by David

 

Sleepless in Seattle – How Environments Influence Creativity

I felt something. Standing on my brother’s balcony looking out at the lake that is his backyard, I felt it. A group of ducks sailed quietly on the water, some dove underwater for what seemed like minutes before popping back up beak first to rejoin their colleagues. I know this sounds like a scene out of a book, but that’s exactly how I felt. Fresh off my trip to Seattle for my brother’s wedding and I’m feeling good. The actual wedding was perfect, and meeting and welcoming new family made it that more special. But Seattle gave me so much more than that, and I left feeling even more inspired then I already am.

I learned something standing on my brother’s balcony that day – environment influences creativity. This is not a novel idea and to some extent I already knew this was the case. But I mean like I really had some sparks of genius overlooking the lake, observing the ducks interact with each other while eagles flew overhead with mountains in the backdrop. I literally sat down and wrote out a bunch of new content ideas along with other more personal thoughts.

Now I know being back in Toronto I won’t be able to create the scenic beauty of Seattle. But I can and I will create an environment that allows my creativity to flow uninhibited. I can take walks down Queen street (once it gets a bit warmer) and feel the energy of this city, I can sit in a closed room with some candles and just lay down. Whatever I decide to do, the goal is to give myself moments out of each day where I’m allowed to just think, feel, observe, and be still.

Now I can’t be the only one doing this so I’m interested to know how other artists go about creating those environments and those moments for themselves.

Chit Chat Turned Powerful

morning-393623_640How often can you say you've truly been moved by the words of another person. I mean truly moved to action, to change, to commit, to be a better person. I recently had one of those moments with a friend of mine through a relatively brief conversation. After some small talk in which I joked about being jealous of her living in warm weather Vancouver while we Torontonians wait in fear for another brutal Winter fighting through ice storms, we got into a deeper discussion about something that I struggle with mightily, and that's acceptance.

Acceptance really is a big deal for me because I really don't know how to get there. Something about the concept seems conciliatory, like I'm settling for something when I know there's so much more for me to do.

"But Kern, I'm not telling you to give up on any of your aspirations, all I'm saying is accept who you are now and appreciate all that you have accomplished thus far. And not just in your writing career, but look at the person you've become, look at the daughter you've helped raise, look at the life you've carved for yourself despite being a teenage parent and a high school dropout. Once you accept all of those victories, you'll elevate your mind to a different level of understanding that will guide you to the future success that you crave so badly."

Finding My Way

Acceptance...the word suddenly didn't parallel mediocrity or failure, or settling for less than what I hope to achieve. Suddenly acceptance became liberating and freed me from the uncompromising burden of not being happy until I reach some intended point of "success" that would supposedly allow my happiness to kick in. That is no longer the case. Instead, I would accept and celebrate all of my victories and be happy throughout the entire journey.boy-185195_640

I am fortunate in that I am able to wake up every day and do what I love to do. I am able to use my voice through my way with words to share thoughts, stories, points of views and life lessons with people who are connected through similar perspectives. I am not an angry person nor am I ungrateful. But it took that conversation for me to accept that it's OK to be happy without feeling guilty; OK to feel proud of my achievements so far even though I'm nowhere near where I aim to be. That conversation brought a feeling of calm over me I haven't felt since writing the first page of my novel so many years ago.

But I am thankful for those few moments. Sometimes that's all it takes to change your life. And I'm not saying that I am a completely different person today since having that conversation, but I am better than I was yesterday and I will be better tomorrow. And when tomorrow comes I will welcome it not with the fear that days are passing too fast for me to grab hold, instead I will accept that it is another chance for me to do fulfill my calling and inspire others with my words. What more can I really ask for....

Let's Not Capture This Moment

It was the perfect moment. Twelve writers sitting around a make shift round table, caps off the bottles of rum and white wine that half filled most of our glasses as the evening got underway. The sun had already disappeared with dim bulbs and a few sparsely placed candles providing more than enough light for us to read. And then it started. One by one each writer read pieces they had created; some that day, others the week prior, others still years before. Collectively we listened, applauded, criticized, and praised each work and how they were delivered. We launched in to discussions about meaning, symbolism, alliteration, all things only a group committed to the art could understand and appreciate. Everyone spoke and everyone listened. And when the moment ended three hours later it left a connection silently acknowledged by all. A connections shared through our common passion for the art of expression.

The entire night was inspiring, and through it all not one single picture.

I couldn't believe it myself. No one tried to gather everyone in a corner to create the perfect Instagram post. No one took pictures of the bottles of alcohol spread out around the tables. We were all deeply infused in the moment, engaged by our own words, our own thoughts, without even the slightest preoccupation of capturing the moment.

But the moment is still vivid in my memory. I can still feel the emotions of that evening without having to visit my twitter stream. We lived it. Every second of it. And it still means just as much

There is something liberating about the ephemeral. Knowing no matter how amazing or how crippling a moment, that "this too shall end." You are free to be free. To embrace that moment and then let it go. No picture can ever capture that. *******************************************************************

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," a tragedy of family, failed potential, and the Millennial struggle with ambition, expectation and the fight for independence.

Available in print and e-book format at www.kerncarter.com.

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