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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

 

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." 

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," 

Pain Doesn't Change Anything

15 is when I first lost someone close to me, stabbed 7 times in his own apartment building. I got a phone call from my cousin at 5:00 in the morning, and when he broke the news it was like I couldn’t breath. I remember thinking that the pain from having our friend taken from us would change everything. That everyone close to him would change their ways, that they would realize that nothing positive comes from their lifestyle, only death. But after a few blunts and even more rounds of dark rum, everything went back to how it was before; everyone went back to how they were before. Nothing changed.

That lesson always stuck with me, though I’m not sure how well I’ve practiced what I learned so many years back. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I’m laying in a hospital bed, two bags of morphine being pumped through my veins. Another bout with migraines, a condition I’ve suffered with since I was 16. It happens only once a year, but lasts for about a month each time, and every time I go see my doctor he tells me that something needs to change.

This go round was the worst, like the absolute worst, and when I could finally open my eyes, the doctor looked at me and said, “Kern, you need to rest your brain, you need to feed your brain, you need to hydrate your brain. Something needs to change.”

16 years of going through this year after year, and it took being hospitalized for a day for me to finally accept that sleeping four hours a night and working and partying the rest of the time isn’t going to work. I needed to change.

What I’m getting at is that pain doesn’t actually change anything. Only extreme pain does. 15 years of yearly migraine pain didn’t force me to change my lifestyle, one time laying on that bed not able to move is what’s finally getting me to sleep 6 hours a night (getting closer to Thriving, Arianna). Having a friend murdered not change anyone around him, is the same mindset that keeps people in marriages for years and years even though their partner treats them like shit. Being treated like shit just isn’t enough pain to make the change from marriage to starting a new life on their own.

It’s like being an addict. Change only happens when you reach bottom, when you’re at your absolute lowest and literally can’t deal with the pain anymore. Similarly, I think success is achieved in the same way. You don’t truly begin the sustained road to success till you feel that burning pain, that hospital bed, hate my life, hate my wife/husband, need something to be different or I’m going to die kind of pain. Once you experience that level of pain in your current life, then and only then does the urgency to change become real.

I’m happy to say that I’ve reached that pain point. That hunger for ultimate success was always there, but I had to figure out how to balance it out so it doesn’t kill me before I’m able to fully realize and enjoy it. It took a few years and some drugs through the bloodstream, but hopefully you all can learn from me when I say it shouldn’t take nearly that much.    

#PassionAndPaper

Purchase your copy of Thoughts of a Fractured Soul here.

Just A Millennial Looking for Validation

I’ve had some really amazing conversations this week. Some have been 3 hour marathons on multiple subjects, others have been simple text messages that have sparked powerful realizations. The one conversation that has stayed with me centered around my friend asking me to verbalize in one word why I do what I do. Essentially, why do I write. After dancing around the question and talking about how I want to touch as many people with my words as possible, and impact lives blah blah blah, he turned to me and said “one word, Kern. Scream it.”

I looked at him and said I want to “impress.”

He nodded his head and chuckled. “I sense some need for validation, Kern. Am I right?”

I thought about it for a while and up till now still haven’t responded. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how right he is. I can’t escape being a Millennial and in fact embrace it to the fullest. But when I think about many of my friends or people I know who rather take photos than work retail, or live with their parents so they can build their freelance careers. When I think of all of the amazing Millennials I have met through social media who have a voice or are looking to be heard, I have to say that we are a generation who more than anything are looking for validation.

And no I haven’t done any case studies or conducted any research polls. But I interact with my generation every day. I see them moving from job to job till what they do actually matters, I read their blogs and follow their posts on social media and hear them all screaming their own "one word." I can feel their emotions when they don’t want to settle for this now mythical 9-5 lifestyle.

Through the criticisms of laziness, self entitlement, being overly ambitious, all we want is validation. We want to know that people are taking notice of what we do and that what we do actually matters. That we actually matter.

When I think of myself, I want to be considered one of the best writers of this generation. Yes I want to touch as many people as I can with my words and incite new thoughts, visions, questions, or perspectives in my readers, but at the core of all of my ambition, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I just really want them to be impressed.

It’s funny how simple this notion truly is. But we are a generation of endless noise, constant clutter, and a neverending stream of content. And though we’re birthed from a past generation whose goals were more aligned with doing a job and ensuring the security of those directly around them, it’s not hard to see why being validated through all of the mayhem becomes important to us Millennials. It means more to make a ripple in the ocean than it does to make a splash in a pool.

#PassionAndPaper

Join my Passion and Paper newsletter here. 

 

 

Don't Fight For Perfection

Coming from me, someone who took six years to finish my first book, this piece of advice may seem hypocritical. But it's actually something that I've learned over the years and has helped me to advance through some tough projects. Opaint-315803_640f course you want your work to be the absolute best it can be, as near to  perfect as possible, but you can't get trapped by fighting for perfect. You  can't  let perfectionism prevent you from moving forward, from submitting  a manuscript, from taking part in an event or starting a project. I'm not  even sure  if perfect even exists.

I remember watching an Interview with the Foo Fighters a couple years  ago while they were on the red carpet of the Grammy awards. They spoke  about  making what was then nominated for album of the year from Dave Grohl's garage (or maybe his house) and how music is not supposed to be perfect. I  always remembered that interview, and recently began applying it to my own life and career.

And I have to say it's been working, to perfection none the less! Releasing that burden of having to get everything right, having to do everything right, pretending as if I don't make mistakes has been liberating and has actually helped me produce better work and be a lot easier going in my personal life.

The key is to find a balance between being obsessed and being satisfied. Having someone you trust be a second set of eyes could be helpful, but I know that can be tough for many creatives out there. My suggestion is to step away from your work for at least a day, maybe longer if possible (this means no procrastinating) and then going back at it to see if it accomplished what it's supposed to accomplish.

Be hard on yourself, but not too hard. If you're confident in what you do then let that confidence be a gauge for your work. And most of all, enjoy it. Most things aren't as crucial as we make it out to be.

Till next time...

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