Hi! My name is Panama Jackson. You may remember me from such do-it-yourself manuals as “Fuck You IKEA, I’m Going To Target Next Time, But Since We’re Here, Let’s Put This UmLaungheffensweisen Together So I Can Put This Nespresso Machine Somewhere” and “Let’s Build A Thing: The Guide To Guiding Through The Process of Building That Thing That Thing That Thiiii-iiii-iiiing”. They both sold pretty well.
Well today I’m feeling very helpful. I’d like to extend some of this game that has never been told or sold to those of you looking to get your writer game on. It’s still the beginning of 2017, so why not make this your year? You’ve been sitting on your ass all 2016 wanting to write that blog or start that blog or marinating on ideas that you know would be dope, if only you had the get up and go to get up and go. Rihanna said to shut up and drive. Do that and be like Nike and just do it.
It would, however, be irresponsible for me to allow you to walk on sunshine without some information. Can you be a shiny, happy people if you don’t know where to go? Yes you can. But it does help to know where to go. So we’re going to do a little helpfulatin’ and drop some tidbits of nowledge. I don’t use the “k” anymore. Okay, I’m lying. I still use the “k”. K? K. It’s knowledge.
1. Remember, ideas become things…if you let them.
I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people who bumrush me at bars, the movies, museums, etc (and no, I’m not making this up) who tell me about this great idea they have for a post they want to write. Me? I’m always like, well, shit, write it. I’d bet a solid 95 percent of those people never do. That’s no bueno.
You’ve got to put your ideas down on paper. That makes it real. Every single person who has ever written something has had to deal with that initial pen-to-paper moment (or typing moment, it’s the 21st century after all).Point is, if you have an idea, don’t shy away from it, embrace that shit. Acknowledge it. Hug it. Fondle its balls like you play for Clemson. Ruminate and let it marinate. But don’t stop there. Like I just said…
2. Write it down.
Believe it or not, the most important part of writing is actually, ya know, writing. Blew my mind, too. Having the best idea ever means shit if you don’t intend to superman that ho. I wrote many, many moons ago that I received a gift that said, simply, “Write drunk, edit sober.” Words to live by, beloved. Nothing you write at first needs to be perfect. It just needs to be written. Even Nas was like, “it was written.” Even Jesus said “it is written”. It’s in the bible somewhere (it’s actually Matthew 4:4 but we’re pretending like I don’t have a clue and being, like, superior). Granted, Jesus added more, and there was a fish and a Jeep Grand Cherokee, but the point is, if it ain’t written, then it ain’t written. And if it ain’t written, then what are we even talking about.
I want you to be great. So give greatness a shot. Our greatest fear and shit. Read that poem.
3. Don’t stop there.
One of the most frequent questions we (and every writer that folks know) get is “how do I do what you do?”
Well, the answer is that you can’t. You can do your own version but you can’t be me. I’m the real don dada. What a bam bam. However, how we managed to get where we are today is through absolute consistency. Folks look at VSB now and say, damn, y’all doing it. And we say, we’ve been doing this for a very long, long time, booboo.
Peep game: There are 3,100 published pieces on VSB. And over 100 more drafts. Think about that. There are entire blogs that have less than 100 pieces up for a whole year. That’s just our draft folder. We’ve been in the game for years (it made us some animals), almost 9 at this point. We average almost 355 pieces per year.That’s roughly one a day, and we don’t even post on weekends. We used to only do one piece per day but that was ramped up. The point here is, you can’t just do the work once…
…you’ve got to do the work over and over and over.
And then some more.
4. Anybody can write a dope piece once.
A few years ago I came across this piece that this cat had written that made all the rounds all over the Internet. I won’t share it (though I could link easily). This piece was dope. Well written, relatable. It was hip-hop centric. I must have shared it with every single person I knew. I even reached out to the author, asking him if he’d be interested in contributing to VSB. Crickets. Maybe he didn’t get the email. Maybe he got so many requests that he couldn’t parse through them all. Yo no se.
Dude is a ghost right now. He tried to write a follow up piece that looked similar to the original but it didn’t quite have the same legs.
He couldn’t replicate it. To this day I still check out his site to see what’s up and google his name for clips. Nada. Point is, and I’m not trying to be doomsday, realize that one great post isn’t going to sustain you forever. You have to keep churning out materials.
5. Don’t worry about the audience first.
I’ll make this short: The most non-sensical discussions I have with folks are those who are more concerned with the size of the audience they don’t yet have before they even have a first written piece. I understand that writing, and blogging is as much of a business now as before, but shit, have something for an audience to even read before you worry about making sure you can get them. I hear that SO much. It’s annoying. How you gonna reach people without any hands, b?
6. Find your voice.
What you think you bring to the table versus what you actually bring to the table could end up being two different things. Your voice, the thing that distinguishes you from other people, is your most important asset. It is also a difficult thing to come by, at first. Most people take a page from their favorite writers and attempt to mimic to some degree. We’ve all seen it firsthand through twelthhand. And while it can be annoying, I get it. But if you don’t ever take the time to create your own signature, why should Solange or anybody give you a seat at the table. But you have a voice. I promise. The question is, is it one people will resonate with.
7. Everybody can’t be Michael Jackson.
What I mean here is that every single writer isn’t supposed to be EVERYBODY’S cup of tea. Your thoughts might resonate with a million people…or ten people. You won’t know unless you try. Everybody’s not filling stadiums. Some people are filling smaller venues with the most impassioned fans ever. Now, you can make a fine and decent living reaching your most fervent fans. But if you want to be stadium status, you have to work that much harder and determine what it is about what you do needs to change – authentically – in order to gain those readers you want. And if you’re willing and able to do what it takes to get there.
8. Be consistent in thought, word, and deed.
Don’t write once every two months. Nobody will care. You have to be quicker than that. If writing is what you want to do, you have to keep it up or else the people who do read you won’t continue to look for you. Stay true to who you are and people will respect it and if the word is good, they just might stay and bring others along for the ride.
9. Have fun.
What’s the point of doing something if it brings you no joy? If you’re writing because you think you should, you’re going to fail. I promise. But if you are writing because you enjoy it and it brings you some modicum of happiness, your soul glow, and you should let it shine through.
10. Don’t wait for somebody else to give you a platform. Create your own.
We get a lot of submissions at VSB. It ain’t all meant for VSB. By no means am I saying that people shouldn’t submit to us, heaven’s no. We love them. But the good thing about the ‘net is that anybody can have their own platform. I get it, working within larger platforms enables more eyes to see that work that you think needs to have million eyeballs on it, but, if you do it right, and stay true to the game, pretty soon folks will be coming to you for some shine.
It’s 2017, y’all. Make this year your best one ever, dear writer.