As we rush to make the best of this fleeting time every year, it can be easy to overlook the importance of reviewing valuable lessons and celebrating accomplishments that have been learned and achieved along the way. I’m looking forward to all of the things I have planned for 2017, but first I want to take some time to reflect on what I’ve learned and some of the progress that I’ve made this year.
Clarity is probably the biggest thing that I’ve gained in 2016. I am clearer than I’ve ever been about the direction of my writing and my business. I’m particularly proud of coming into this clarity because it came despite the stress of moving to eastern North Carolina for work at the end of 2015 and spending the majority of the beginning of this year adjusting to a new job and a new area.
I was able to find so much clarity this year because of support that I receive from my family and other writers and content creators, particularly those who I met through social media. One of those writers was Ashley Coleman Thomas of WriteLaughDream.com. I know that I’ve talked about her a lot both on this blog and on my social media channels, but I’ve learned so much from her about how to approach a 21st century writing career through an entrepreneurial mindset, meticulous attention to what makes me unique, and prioritizing the craft of writing above all else. Her year-end sum up post detailed some lessons that she is taking with her into 2017, and it inspired me to write about some of my own.
You must develop and protect your authenticity
I started off 2016 by writing about how adhering too closely to other people’s ideas about what is appropriate can hurt your creativity and your understanding of your authentic self. In 2017, I’m going to continue to develop my authenticity, but I will also protect what I’ve gained from the self work that I’ve done this year. I’ve learned that coming closer to your authentic self is a life-long pursuit, and harnessing the emotions that one encounters along the way into prose and poetry is what great writing is in its purest form.
When I made the commitment at the beginning of this year to being more consistent with this blog, I thought at first that this was a book blog. I was so inspired and energized by blogs like TheModernMrsDarcy.com, and I wanted to create a similar literary based space for black women. Although I enjoy all things literary, creating content solely about the literary world didn’t seem to allow me to create the type of content that I’m really passionate about. After spending a lot of time thinking about what I really want to do and say through a blog, I converted my blog into a personal blog, and this format has allowed me to get much closer to the content that I’ve always wanted to write.
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My short stint as a book blogger and my transition into a personal blogger are examples of the types of transformations that happen when you are constantly seeking true authenticity within yourself and your writing. As you get closer to your true purpose, you will notice that the things that you used to struggle to get done will feel more natural because you’ll be more motivated to complete them. It all starts with asking yourself, “What do I really want to say?”
You have to be willing to teach to influence
Everyone these days is an influencer. I first heard this term and the advice to start to view myself as such at an Atlanta lifestyle blogger conference in 2010, a year when the blogger landscape started to become much more saturated. Everyone who wanted to survive in blogging was trying to find ways to stand out from the crowd, and branding yourself as an expert, go-to guru who creates instead of follows trends was the strategy of choice, as it still is today. Influencers enjoy medium to large sized followings, sponsorships from some of their favorite brands, and a general acceptance as one of the “cool kids” of blogging and content creation that many upcoming bloggers look up to.
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Sometimes out of excitement or maybe even in adherence to advice from a college career center, those who are new to the work world, especially the creative, entrepreneurial work world, will reach out to influencers who resonate with them the most with a request to “pick his or her brain” or have an “informational interview” over coffee or lunch. Over the past two to three years, I’ve heard various influencers say, through their podcasts, blog posts, or social media accounts that this is the wrong way to get their attention. They view these requests as attempts to mine their expertise out of them for free or for the pocket change that you’d pull out for a cup of the day at Starbucks.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about this stance on these types of requests. On one hand, I totally understand where an influencer, who has worked for sometimes his or her whole life to obtain the requested information, is coming from. Pretty much every creative dreams of being able to make a living with his or her skills, and doling out free services and advice for coffee will never get you there. On the other hand, I believe that if a person is sincere about helping people, he or she won’t mind answering an occasional pro-bono question.
Maybe this is from my background in education, but I hope that I always make time to help people out in this way. I don’t want to be taken advantage of, but I know what it feels like to want to write yet have no idea about how to manage a writing career. I believe in taking people along with me on my way to success.
There really is room for everyone
I have felt at times that there is no room for me in the writing world. It can sometimes seem like everything worth writing has already been written and that every topic that a writer could focus on has already been covered by scores of writers who are much more accomplished than me.
Many writers feel this way from time to time. I like to remember that although the topic that I want to write about may have been covered by other writers, no one has the perspectives or thoughts about that topic quite like mine. No one can execute those ideas quite like I can. It all goes back to asking yourself “what do I really want to say?” Answering that question every time you write will ensure that you always write from a vantage point that is uniquely yours.
Become confident in what you have to offer to the craft, and consistently create from that confidence.
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I’ve seen some writers try to make the craft of writing more competitive than it should be. Don’t get sucked into believing that you are in a competition with every writer out here. Write for you first. Become confident in what you have to offer to the craft, and consistently create from that confidence. If you do those things, there will always be room for you.
Celebrate your milestones because they are yours
One way to shut out a false atmosphere of competition is regularly celebrating your milestones. No matter how big or small your milestones are, they are steps toward you being able to check off a goal that has been completed. Sometimes social media can cause us to downplay our accomplishments when we compare what we’ve done to the highlight reels that we see on other people’s social media accounts. Start keeping a list of all of the things you accomplish so that at the end of each month, you can look over everything and appreciate how far you have come.
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I saw a tweet a few weeks ago from someone who is lamenting the fact that he’s an artist who didn’t get his stuff together in time to be invited to the Obama White House. While such an invite would definitely be a major high point for any creative, I think this is an example of the types of false timelines and criteria that we sometimes measure our success by. It’s not about being invited to the White House, or writing a New York Times best seller by the time you are 30, or gaining 100K Instagram or Twitter followers. It’s about creating what you were put on this earth to create, and spreading the message that you were meant to spread, which you will do when the time is right for you. Keep writing, creating, and collecting milestones. Your “White House” moment might be closer than you think.
Shut out the noise regularly
This is the key to succeeding as a writer. When you listen to all of the noise around you from other people, social media, mainstream media, or even from yourself, you can’t hear your own voice and you can’t write with authenticity. Take social media breaks, create a habit of going on regular retreats, or make morning journaling time a priority. Do what you have to do to separate yourself from everyday life for a while so that you can become clear on what you truly feel and think.
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In 2017, I am going to be more deliberate about shutting noise out by being more serious about journaling and meditation.
Create your own opportunities
I’m so excited about all of the opportunities that I am creating for myself next year. This past year, I was introduced to so many writers who have built their careers from self-publishing, creating their own information products, and hosting their own events, and I’m ready for 2017 to be the year that I start to build my own career in new ways. I’m working on a poetry book, a podcast, and my first information products next year among other things.
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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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