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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

 

18

18 was the age. The most memorable. Finally legal in my country, but that wasn’t the distinction that forced me into adulthood. 18 was the age. I dropped out of high school, paid rent for the first time, felt broke for the first time.

18 was the age my daughter was conceived.

It was the first time I felt real fear, real insecurity about my abilities to be a father. All I wanted to do was play ball, chase girls, laugh with my friends. Instead I was nervous, anxious, dealing with family split between being unforgiving and empathetic.

Either way, 18 was the age I trained myself to not be sensitive. To know that from here on in I had to be strong. My existence wasn’t all that was at stake, my ego wasn’t the only thing to be scarred.

18 was the year I became a father. A child myself, but who had time to think about that. Who had time to try to make sense of what that word really meant.

Father.

Didn’t have one myself, but vowed to be better. Didn’t care that he was never there because I would be.

And I was.

And I still am.

18 was the first time I looked into my daughter’s eyes. First time I held her. First time I heard her cry.

13 years later and I can’t help but reminisce sometimes.

18...

#PassionAndPaper

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul."

 

Me First

Yea, just like that. Me first. Selfish, yes. Necessary, unfortunately it is sometimes. And that doesn’t make it any easier for someone like me who has a hard time saying no to people I care about. I remember years ago, before I was a full time writer, telling my girlfriend at the time that she’s going to have to make a decision. I told her that my time, effort, and energy will be primarily on building my career, and that wasn’t going to change until those career goals were reached.

If you’ve read all of my posts, you know how that ends. And I don’t blame her at all for eventually leaving. But now that I’ve gotten to phase one of my career, I guess it’s only normal to wonder if the sacrifice was worth it.

To be honest, even in my weakest moments I say yes it was worth it. In my strongest moments I say I had no choice. But that’s not true. I did have a choice, and I made it. And she made hers.

Was I selfish? Is it possible to make a “me first” decision without being thought of as selfish? Either within your own mind or by everyone around you?

My mom retired on January 1st of this year. I threw her a retirement party and invited all of her friends. Near the end of the night, I asked some of them to come say a few words.

They all had their own special and unique experiences with my mom, but one message was consistent among everyone. And that was how giving my mom had been to each of them. How she had sacrificed in some small way to better their lives.

And when they spoke that night, each of them told her it’s her turn to now be selfish. To live her life in retirement for herself.

After over 40 years of giving, they gave her a pass to be selfish.

I guess it’s one of the characteristics of me being a Millennial that I don’t want to wait that long to get a selfish pass. I live my life the way I want to live it right now. And I’m working everyday to keep creating my ultimate vision of how I want my life to be.

“At what cost” is probably one of the first questions that comes to mind. And the closer I get to that dream life, the more I realize the parallel between sacrifice and success. So as you see me grow, see me write more books, see my fan base expand, know that I gave up a lot along the way.

#PassionAndPaper

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul." 

What a Great Time to Be Young and Creative

  What an amazing day. I couldn’t be more thankful. A group of high school students from two different art schools came together to celebrate their work towards my Beauty Scars Book Cover contest.

First off, ALL of the submissions were incredible. All of them are still up on my website so head over to the Beauty Scars tab and take a look. You’ll be just as impressed as I was with these pieces.

And all from high school students!! Young, enthusiastic, gifted art students who created these cover images with very limited information. Yet they worked with what they were given, and over a six week period were able to design images that in some way match the theme of my story. They did this with no certainty of anything other than the opportunity to be part of my future novel.

But that’s art right. Creating without promise of any appreciation, or monetary gain, or even without the guarantee that it will ever be seen. Artists dedicate their lives to ideas, and bringing those ideas to life. For many, the accomplishment from that alone is enough to nurture their souls. I have to thank 50 of these souls for being so willing to put their work up for ridicule. The excitement inside of Artscape was electric.

I still remember starting my own writing journey. I was so confident in my abilities, and even as feelings of doubt, fear, and hesitance emerged, I was still able to endure and put out a high quality, creative piece of fiction. I'd go as far as to say that it was the fear that partially motivated me. There was no way I was going to let it win! 

I’m still very much on that journey, enjoying each and every step. This was a good day!

#PassionAndPaper

#HistoryOrNothing

Read my fictional novella “Thoughts of a Fractured Soul.”  

(Image shot by Robert Young)

Take a Break

  I had one of my readers unsubscribe from my mailing list the other day. This was someone who found me over social media and became a heavy supporter of all of my writing. So I reached out to ask them why they decided to leave.

“I just need a break,” was the answer.

It was that simple. Just needed a break. They went on to say that they still very much supported me, and would catch back up with me in due time. But they really just needed a break from social media, emails, and other things happening in the digital world so many of us call home.

And I had no hard feelings. As much as I love most of the engagement on social media and online overall, I get it. It’s a lot. And it’s non-stop. Literally non-stop. Between the emails, notifications, and endless stream of content from whatever platforms you prefer, it seems like an infinite wave of information.

So just take a break. Regardless of if you do it during the holidays or not, take a break. Stop looking at life through a screen for a little while and see what happens.

And I’m not saying go away on vacation or anything that extreme. Limit the smartphone to phone calls and text messages. Limit the laptop to only what has to get done. With the way we consume pretty much everything right now, it could make a real difference in how you function day to day.

Being a writer, I know I need to take breaks. I write about real life stuff, and so if I’m not aware, not observing, not being present, my writing suffers. And while the irony of this post isn't lost on me, I really do hope everyone reading this finds some time to step away for a little bit. 

#HistoryOrNothing

Read my novella "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," 

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.

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