creative writing

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…
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😉 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

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.