blogging

Blog-A-Versary: Lessons Learned from My 6th Blog!

JadeTPerry.com is on the cusp of its one year anniversary! #Turnup

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I’m really in awe regarding a) the support that I’ve received and the people who have encouraged me along the way, and b) the fact that I blogged consistently for a year (don’t judge me).

I’ve always kept a journal. Writing helps me to work out my thoughts, current events, and other parts of the world that I inhabit. Somewhere along the way, I let my interests drive me to contribute to other people’s platforms, which was and is an amazing experience. Yet after about 4 years of doing this, I realized I had invested nothing substantial into my OWN platform. People had nowhere to GO after reading my work on other sites.

Before JadeTPerry.com, there were 5 other blogs or microblogs. This is the one that stuck. The 6th time was the ‘charm’. In this past year, I’ve gotten a lot of requests for blogging tips or lessons I’ve learned. So, I find this to be an appropriate time as I celebrate this year’s blog-a-versary.

1) Finding a mission / an intention for writing can serve as fuel.
Let me tell you a bit about the site’s name. It’s my government name. The reason for this is not because I think I’m fabulous…

although clearly…
xdxwg3.

😉 The reason that this site is named after me is because I initially intended it to be a portfolio, of sorts. I wanted to carve out a space for people to get information about me that would represent an authentic version of myself & my work. I envisioned that I’d talk about career topics in mainly higher ed. Then, I wanted to write about careers, in general. But as I stuck to 1-2 topics, it began to feel a lot like getting out of bed on a cold, wintry Chicago morning.

So, I took a class… thinking I just needed to work harder to be more consistent. By the end of the process, I realized, that the intention I had for this space did not align with what I wanted at the core. So, I began questioning what my mission was, on a broader scale. After 2 weeks of asking friends, writers, and professionals about the themes they saw in my life AND comparing it with my own self-assessment, I came up with a mission that fit:

“to offer information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives that will empower readers to thrive and to lovingly & creatively challenge secular and sacred systems toward greater levels of inclusion”.

It’s broad enough to encompass the various topics I like to write about. It weaves these topics together. It allows space for guest contributions from people who might see themselves / their work reflected in this mission as well. What helped JadeTPerry.com to ‘stick’ this year was having a core mission and intention.

2) “Not your Thinkpiece Hand-Maiden” aka Your Platform, Your Content.

Let me tell you how much I love a good thinkpiece. A good friend of mine sent a personal inbox message to me on the day that Damon Young from VerySmartBrothas.com wrote “Sh*t Bougie Black People Love: 23. Thinkpieces”, (pause… it’s satire… don’t get in your feelings). They said it reminded me of them AND cited the quote that MOST reminded me of them, which was:

“The thinkpiece — when a writer spends several hundred words articulating a smart-sounding angle on either a topic everyone is talking about or a topic no one has ever talked about — only ranks behind “the bottomless mimosa” and “Melissa Harris-Perry” when listing inventions most crucial to Bougie Black life, as it gives them four different ways to show everyone how smart they are. They can write one, comment on one, reference one in a regular conversation (“Did you read Coates’ piece on croissants this morning?“), and even just post one on their Facebook page under the status “Exactly!”

Guilty. Because JadeTPerry (the name and the platform) has think pieces on Kendrick Lamar, on why purity certificates are WHACK, on mass media’s re-imagining of Toya Graham, and the list goes on. HOWEVER, there came a point where my inboxes were being flooded with, “Have you seen ____? You need to do a think-piece on _____. Don’t forget to do a piece on ______. Have you heard _____?” It became a game of catch-up and it wasn’t a game I wanted to play. Think pieces work best when… oh, I don’t know… you’ve given considerable thought to something.

I was talking with an E-friend about it in the middle of the year and she wasted no time in responding with, “Tell them to write those words themselves. You aren’t anyone’s think-piece handmaiden”! (I cackled). In other words, if it’s YOUR platform, then YOU dictate what’s important enough / relevant enough to go there. Sometimes, it’s a narrative. Sometimes, it’s a thinkpiece. Sometimes, it’s a list. Sometimes, it’s feature. Your platform? Your content.

3) What I wanted to write about… and why I no longer care about that.

At a very naive point in my life, I believed there was a formula for everything… and that if you knew the formula, you could avoid shenanigans like heartache, unemployment, rejection, lost hope, crises of faith, not-being-cuffed-up-during-cuffing-season (kidding), and more. Then life said…

I’m a helper, by nature and by profession. So, my writing (in the 5 blogs prior to JadeTPerry.com) was very formulaic in nature. Because if I’m honest, I like getting things ‘right’. But life… and writing… isn’t all about getting things right. Sometimes, there is a road map that is only LOOSELY marked. You get on the road and realize it may not have been the best choice. What starts off as an existential crisis becomes an opportunity to re-route. What ends up as a substantial blog-body of work… starts off as ‘wingin’ it’. So, while I still care about helping, I no longer care about neatly packaged premises in 500 words or less. And that doesn’t sell as well… but I feel like that’s a lot more ethical.

4) Share!
In the first months of this year, I had no idea how to ‘blog’. I knew how to write. I knew that I had things to say. However, I assumed that I’d put it into the WordPress ether and somehow, someway, people would find me.

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I was initially very fearful of sharing my work, especially since there was no one target demographic. So, I started with the people that knew me personally. Then, after I’d gotten a bit braver, I shared it with colleagues I trusted. I used tags to categorize information, so that the WordPress system could easily recommend it to others. Then, I shared it on Twitter and after that, I shared it in Facebook groups I was a part of. Sometimes, it was well received. Other times… shudder. But I began to make a plan to PREPARE for critique, to understand it, to use it to become better.

Now, when I contributed to other platforms, I shared the site’s url as well. I select posts to become public so that friends can share with friends. The nervousness doesn’t / hasn’t gone away. I’ve just decided that I cared more about my own development in this platform… and for me, that requires sharing what’s written.

I’m grateful to everyone who has clicked, read, shared, followed, retweeted, and reached out to me via comments / inbox. I look forward to the offline and online dialogues we have about ideas and concepts. I appreciate the support, the initial push to blog, and I look forward to spending another year with you all!

Image Credit: Createherstock.com

On Chronic Illness, Thriving, & Taking Breaks

Many of my consistent readers will notice that it’s been almost a full month since I’ve done a full post on this site. But I’m back so heeey ya’ll! 🙂

Now, my hiatus doesn’t mean I wasn’t up to anything – in fact, I was over at the Mudroom & YoungBlackFeminist.com telling my entire business and writing / talking about authenticity, womanhood, self care, academic success, and more. However, I was also in the process of slowing down due to something I have only briefly named on a public forum…

This month has been a month of intentional rest and healing for my body. During this time, I’ve gotten REALLY acquainted with both the hilarity and reality of Chronic Illness Cat and have also been highly reflective on chronic illness, thriving, and the importance of taking breaks.

As you know, the overall mission here is to “offer information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives that will empower readers to thrive and to lovingly & creatively challenge secular and sacred systems toward greater levels of inclusion…”. And that hasn’t changed. In the past few months, I’ve written about style & style politics, current events & media representation, mental health, and more. But I realized that I can’t fully embody that mission if I don’t touch a bit more on the subject of Chronic Illness, in a broader sense, as it is directly tied to issues of a) thriving and b) inclusion.

Living with chronic illness/es can be intense, especially when it’s something people feel compelled to hide away or pray away. In my experience of living with chronic illness (which will not be named ’cause I do have SOME business I can’t splash on the interwebs ;), I have found that the pressure to hide comes from within AND without – as people admonish you not to share any health struggle at ALL, in order to avoid stigmas. Yet I have also found that when we hide, we sweep the responsibility away from folk to actually practice empathy.

From the genius that is Chronic Illness Cat *Full link below

We sweep away the expectation that inclusion an empathy IS a very real possibility in human interactions, in work places, in sacred spaces, etc. We deprive ourselves of acknowledging and affirming that battling chronic illness (of any kind and to any degree) while fulfilling any other responsibilities you have takes some true kicka**ness. Also, in my personal experience, hiding has showed up in overworking and stretching myself beyond reasonable lengths.

So, for the past eight years I’ve navigated the very tricky space of what to share & what not to share. Because my chronic illness is invisible, I’ve had to craft appropriate responses for when people say things like, “But you LOOK so healthy… but you are so YOUNG… but you DO so many things”.

From the genius that is Chronic Illness Cat *Full link below

Yet, I also acknowledge that because of the invisibility of it, there exists a “passing” privilege (meaning: undue benefits, rewards, and / or centering of experiences due to the fact that at any time, though I have a chronic illness, the invisibility allows a choice to “pass” and benefit from a construct of perceived ableism. This gets sticky especially because ableism is the very construct that assumes that every disability is visible). So, with that said, this month has been dedicated to two things. The first has been using opportunities within my personal life to speak to / about chronic illness using creative means, as I find that it challenges stigmas and creates deeper understanding.

For example, my partner and I ran a quick series of posts that talked about Dating w/ a Chronic Illness & other experiences. A few favorites from that include a quick rant:

… If I have to explain one more time that chronic illness doesn’t NECESSARILY mean that a) it will go away, or that b) you haven’t seen various doctors, specialists, gurus, reiki masters, acupuncturists, yogis, meditation specialists, masseurs, and your Gramma’s deliverance & healing service… I SWEAR TO BOB!

And the dating checklist:

Dating w/ a Chronic Illness, Pt 8: The Date Decision Checklist

a) Is there seating at or around this venue?
b) How much walking / standing is required? Are there wheelchairs to rent? Should I rent one if people are gonna act weird about it?
c) Will u push me if I rent the wheelchair?
d) Is it weird to bring my own lawn chair? Is there space to do that?
e) Would you be willing to carry the lawn chair, if needed?
f) Do you have the medicine or did I put the medicine in my bag already?
g) Should I take my medicine before we go or when we get there?
h) What does parking look like? How far is parking from the venue?
i) Is there a menu? Are there any dairy free options?
j) Is there immediate access to a restroom in case of accidental ingestion of a triggering food?
‪#‎Nosurprisedatevenuesplease‬!

This may sound like an incredibly complex checklist of things, but what’s underlying this relatively funny list are concerns about ACCESS – spaces where my body & being is welcomed, and spaces where I will have to make physical sacrifices to be a part of. Also, chronic illness does not function or exist in a different world,  from my other sociological identities. It is a very distinct thing to be a woman of color with chronic illness and / or disability. Navigating the ways that these identities intertwine with each other requires us to remember that when we challenge stigmas, we are rarely challenging just one. For example, in Carolyn Tyjewski’s brilliant essay on advocacy, disability, and intersectionality she writes:

Yes, the “Strong Black Woman” is a dangerous and limited trope. However, it is also used within the Black community to revere Black women, problematically or not. And if one looks at the historical figures that are most often called forth as the quintessential “Strong Black Woman,” most are Disabled Black Women.

Harriet Tubman had severe epilepsy. Sojourner Truth had a disfigured arm and hand. Audre Lorde was not only legally blind and a cancer survivor, she was a lesbian. And being a lesbian during her lifetime was unfortunately seen as a medically diagnosed psychological disability. I highlight the latter not because I agree with it. Disability is a social construct that shifts and changes over time, space and place. And one’s disability quite often disappears when one is a significant figure within history.  So, while I dislike reminding people of a recent medically created nightmare (re: Sandra Bland’s treatment), I wish to draw attention to the complicated nuances of and between Disabled people and the reading/naming of disabilities.

This is an appropriate reminder that when we talk about these things it behooves us to take a nuanced and sophisticated approach.

The second thing this month entailed for me was claiming the right to rest, heal, thrive, and to take care of myself in those areas where I needed to. This really wasn’t anything that I set out to do intentionally. Yet between working full time, blogging, and contributing, there is a great deal required from my body and from my mind. So, this month was a time to simply focus on the full time gig as we ramp up for a new season, and to let my blogging muscles take a short break before refocusing on new content. My ability to thrive depended on this. So, with that said, I’m happy to continue the dialogue and work that happens in this space and encourage you to check out the following works, in the mean-time:

To see what I’ve been up to during the break, check out my interview in the Meet a Young Black Feminist series.

All memes above are from Chronic Illness Cat, Featured image is by Createherstock.com.

Finding Our Voice By Using It

Today, Nikki Carpenter from Nikki and the City published “5 Ways to Tell You’re Growing As a Blogger,” and posed the question: What are same ways you’ve grown as a blogger? As I reflected on her question, I realized that I’ve grown the most as a higher ed professional, a writer, a critical thinker, and a person by owning my thoughts and realizing that

The way to find your writing voice… is to use the one you’re already working with.

Here’s what I mean:

At the beginning of the year, I decided to re-invigorate my quest to find my writing voice’. I’ve been writing ever since I can remember, and my ‘voice’ has evolved as much as I have in those years of exploration and growth. However, I realized that I was saving all of my best work for outside pitches and submissions. I appreciated the exposure, but realized in the process that my ‘readers’ had nowhere else to refer to: no home base to find my work, until I created JadeTPerry.com.

When the site was created, I felt under so much pressure to infuse profundity into each and every post. [And if you’re skimming and reading ahead, just know, that’s not how any of this works…] It was very easy to feel stuck. It was also very easy to deduce that the REASON why I felt stuck was because I needed to do more work on finding my voice, as a writer.

So, I took a course. It helped in that it gave me a vision, an imagined audience, and a context. But after some time, the question resurfaced: “How can I communicate my full and authentic voice”? How can I make my ‘voice’ match my ‘brand’?

As I was wrestling through a piece, I realized that for me… and so many other writers / bloggers… the notion of ‘finding my voice’ can be used a crutch for not wrestling with, clarifying, coaxing, and using the one you already have. Nikki also alludes to this in her post.

Let me put it this way: I have been singing for even longer than I have been writing – filling in background vocals as needed, directing choirs, working on small projects here and there. My vocal coaches gave me an exercise and eventually, I’d be expected to sing it. I did not find my singing voice through deep contemplation or thinking about my brand. I opened up my mouth, and I sung.

I hit some bad notes, and I was corrected. At times, you could hear the nervousness I felt all throughout my vocal chords. At times, I took the safe route and sung from the most comfortable places within my range. But I would have never been able to truly hear my voice – its strengths, growing edges, tone, quality, and range – if I only sat there thinking about what my voice SHOULD sound like.

So, when I think about my growth as a writer / blogger, I’ve reasoned through the following things: I am a deep appreciator of critical thought & academic tradition (I will use a citation in a Facebook status if you let me…). I am also a #CarefreeBlackgirl who studied Theater and Integrative Arts. I was raised in a charismatic faith tradition (and there are certain points during my writing where I WISH somebody would pull out a Hammond B3 organ so I can ‘write it how I feel it’). I started off ’bout this writing life as a poet and spoken word artist, went into journalism, and am finding the mix between the two through blogging. I studied sociolinguistics briefly and refuse to privilege Standard American English forms over African American Vernacular English dialects on the site or in this space. All in all, my ever-elusive writing voice is a mash-up. It only makes sense when I USE it.

Navigating Exhaustion in a Culture of ‘Winning’

In the words of the prolific & poignant Rakim / Timbaland, “It’s been a long time… we shouldn’ta left you (left you) without a dope beat to step to…” (*if you don’t get the reference, pause and get your life here). SO, I haven’t written in a bit because I was attending, participating in, and decompressing from a national conference that is especially important in the work that I do full time. I’ve done reflection after reflection about what spaces like national conferences can bring to the professionals who engage. There are clear positives: the chance to engage in affinity building spaces, the exchange of knowledge through learning sessions, the ability to network with those who are in your field, the satisfaction of reconnecting with colleagues, and much more.

However, as the years have gone by, I’ve noticed a trend… there is an unspoken push for conference-goers to “win” the conference itself. You’ve probably seen it before but it’s very subtle. It shows up in the questions whispered from professional to grad student, and from colleague to colleague: “How many sessions have you gone to? Are you presenting? Who / how many people came to your presentation?” Conference #winning culture measures its success by the amount of people you’ve networked with / connected to, or even just feverishly handed your business card to. Conference #winning culture shows itself in the race of audience members who put their hands up in Q&A, in hopes of being the most poignant participant. Conference #winning might even include the measurements of selfies taken with “pillars”, the pictures of session titles, and the tweets and retweets conference goers hope to attain.

Now, before you think I’m ‘going in’ on my chosen full time profession, let me state that I see this same culture in the work that I do as a writer / blogger. It is a culture of  hashtag “winning”: the constant comparison of shares, stats, tweets & retweets, likes, dislikes, comments, and even trollage (yeah, I definitely made that word up)! How many Twitter chats have you participated in and how many times were you favorited or retweeted? How many shares did you get and how many posts are you cranking out per week?

And I get it. I get why we have this culture of hashtag winning. It is one that extends itself beyond writing or blogging and into many professional spaces. Why? Because a significant part of success (both on and offline) does come from networking, sharing information, and finding those people who are willing to believe in you and endorse you. I would not be where I am today if I had not done my due diligence in networking, building professional relationships, sharing my work, and being clear about my relevance in professional spaces. I must also state the fact that I have taught this before, influenced the culture of #winning, carefully instructing my students: “Make sure that when you’re networking you get a business card… you write down one thing you talked about… you follow up with them to nurture the network”.

However, if we are honest, we understand that most, if not all, professionals walk a tightrope: What is strategic placement / practice toward a successful career trajectory versus what is merely ‘posturing’ and ‘pretending’?

Writer Allison Vesterfelt alludes to this culture of winning in her quote:

The posturing. The self-promotion. The pretending to have it all together. The only-showing-your-good-side. Can we stop? It’s exhausting.

Posted by Allison Vesterfelt: Writer on Tuesday, March 31, 2015

So, I think that finding that balance between what we NEED to do to be successful in our endeavors and posturing or pretending requires that we ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Do I feel the need to ‘win’ in a conference space, or in an online space? If so, why? What is prompting that (i.e. new job search? career transition? looking to move upward within the field? internal / personal reasons)”? Ask these questions without judging yourself. Simply reflect, understand your answers, and adjust where and if necessary
  •  How can I show up as my authentic self while also fully engaging in strategic writing, blogging, conference going, professional networking, etc? Here is where a written reflection or a conversation with a trusted colleague would be helpful.
  • Finally, if I do not “win” these likes for my blog… or if I do not go to every networking event… how do I process that in ways that empower me as a professional”?

If you are reading this blog and asking that last question, you’re in luck… because that is the only question I have a concrete answer for. 😉 In order to process in ways that empower you as a professional a) talk to your mentors / colleagues because they really can help you get your life sometimes, and b) understand that it is essential to remember why you are doing the work in the first place(I got that one from Shannon Kaiser over at Mind Body Green… check out her work when you get the chance).

I don’t necessarily blog for likes or shares (although if you do share and like I will be on my side of the computer grinning it up and throwing imaginary confetti). Likes and shares are helpful and even necessary for the success of my blog, but that is not the core reason that I engage in an online space. The core reason evidences itself in my mission, “to offer information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives that will empower readers to thrive and to lovingly & creatively challenge secular and sacred systems toward greater levels of inclusion”. 

So, as I decompress and debrief from conference season, I’m asking myself the same question, “Why am I doing this“? I am doing this for those who will benefit from my experience, expertise, authenticity, and accountability in higher education and academia. I am doing this with confident hope that my presence and representation, along with my savvy and innovation, will assist marginalized students in their academic and post-college success journey. I am doing this because I like to! I am doing this because as I do good work, the networking connections will flow easily to me, and strategic career moves will also become clear to me… sans pretending.

So as you reflect on the work that you do, either online or offline, share with me… Why are you doing this work?

Practicing authentic networking (in addition to stylin’) at the conference. (Shout out to A. H. who had my updo lookin’ oh so right).

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Navigating Exhaustion in a Culture of ‘Winning’? by Jade T. Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.