Some Lessons For Aspiring Writers Everywhere » VSB

Featured, Theory & Essay

Some Lessons For Aspiring Writers Everywhere

iStock

 

Last week, I set my momma up for the fall. Not on purpose, of course, but the end result was the same nonetheless. I took an assumption – my mother MIGHT vote for Trump – and couched it in two stories that without context (and for some people, even with context) painted my mother in a less than stellar light. Not to mention that the piece didn’t have an ask or create much in the way of conversation in the way I wanted it too. What started out, in my mind, as a discussion about family members with significant ideological differences, ended up being a personal statement about my mother where others filled in the blanks that I left wide open.

I pretty much said this: My mother is probably a Trump supporter and makes inappropriate statements at inappropriate times in a racial nature while attempting to prove a point full of blind spots about Black people. My mother is a ___________.

Folks here at VSB were super respectful and I appreciate that. From the heart. On Facebook, however, it was a different story. I can’t tell you how many people approached me offline to ask me why I wrote the piece, or more commonly, what was the piece’s point? Including family. To be fair, I got several other people who also said that they appreciated it because it raised questions for them in their own families, etc. We all have family and they’re not all perfect. The difference is that I put my mother on blast without any defense. I pretty much pulled the goalie then put the ball in front of the goal. Then scored an own-goal. Three times.

I know what I was trying to do; I failed at it. And because I’m evolved, I’m always looking for the lessons, and there are plenty to be taken away from that episode. Learning never stops and its important to pay it all forward. With that being said, and for you aspirational writers, and even those who submit pieces to us here at VSB, I’d like to talk about a few lessons that were learned here.

1. Writing is reading (and re-writing).

One of the most important things you can do when you write something is re-read it. Over and over. At this point, I’ve moved past the point where I re-read things I write four and five times. However, it bit me in the ass last week. Typically, I write something, do a quick scan for easy edits (I fail on copyediting many times, sue me…actually don’t) and then post it when I’m done. I trust myself as a writer (both a gift and a curse at times) to convey what I’m trying to get across. I’m a pretty stream of consciousness writer as it is, so most pieces I write work best when I just let them bitches breathe. It’s also why I spend a lot of time writing things less based on what’s in the news and more based on what I feel or matters to me at the moment. I provide that balance here to Damon’s immediate delivery on the day’s happenings. For instance, many of y’all were probably wondering where the hell a piece on Lena Dunham’s cry-baby Darth Becky ass was or is. Damon typically would have been on that like white on rice, which is all pun everything. Thing is…

…you know what? You see what I just did there. I did what I normally do. I just go where my mind takes me, which can be so far from where I started that I head in a totally different direction. For me, it usually works. But it isn’t a style that works for everybody. Basically I stray. And I stray and I stray. I will re-read that one day and cringe, by the way. Also, that rhymed.

Point here is, when you write something, re-read it to make sure that you get your point across. Hell, make sure you have a point. There’s a difference between having a voice and just plain ole talking. That piece last week? I was just talking. Don’t just talk unless its in your journal or to a stripper.

2. Context is everything.

We all know this. Many of us fail at this often. In fact, I’d bet most people think they’re great communicators when the truth is, most people are shitty at the art of communication. We often expect others to fill in the blanks or use all of the context clues or just be willing to give us the benefit of the doubt. And no diggety, I got a lot of that with what I wrote. Because we have the luxury of being many years in the game and lots of people feel like they know us, some of the things we write here are given significant benefit of the doubt and buttressed by the history that people have with us or know about us.

People have asked me, in a very personal fashion, about my mother, family, etc. based on from things posted on IG or Facebook. When somebody feels they know you and have some grounding in who you are they treat you differently than they do if they don’t know you. Here on VSB, I feel like I got the respect treatment because folks know me. On Facebook, when a post gets shared thousands of times and ends up on the timelines of people who still don’t know about VSB (the horror!), you get somebody coming at you sideways. And it’s not their fault. It’s my own fault for not providing enough context where context was definitely needed, especially in a piece ALREADY brimming with heat.

Even though context is everything…

3. Some shit is just unnecessary to put into a piece because it takes away more than it adds, context or not.

Look, I shared two stories that were pretty innocent on their face in the real world. They were nowhere near as bad as they came across. They were also two personal moments between my mother and I that really didn’t help matters at all or needed to be shared. I presented them as part of a piece that ALREADY had a super negative lean so it didn’t help matters at all. Had I really done a thorough reading of what I had written, I likely would have started to expand on them, or smartly, taken them both out. They’re funny stories to me because of how they happened. But y’all don’t know my mother. My friends do, and they remember those things.

But if you don’t know my mother OR me as well as you might need to in order to understand how that can happen, then it just sounds like my mother is ridiculous. And a racist. And I’m not here trying to change minds or hearts, I’m saying that the lesson for writers is to make sure that when you add a story to something you write, you make sure its relevant and gets across the right idea or point. And if you can’t do it right, just don’t do it. Less is more isn’t just a saying, it’s real.

Of course, if my piece had a point in the first place, then maybe those stories could have been legit jumping off points for discussion, but alas, they didn’t so most people did their best to dance around saying what they really wanted to say but because of the respect factor and laid off the button.

Nothing I’ve said here is ground-breaking. In fact, it’s all common sense. However, we can all stand to be reminded of that every so often. For those of us who write and are ultimately the last word on what goes up on an outlet, it’s an important reminder. Damon and I have the benefit of all of the freedom in the world to post what we want. Since there’s nobody yaying or naying things, there are times when things we put up, whether written by us or others,  don’t go the way we want for various reasons. It’s important to revisit how the way something is framed dictates the entire tone of the conversation following. I didn’t forget that, but I got lazy with that. And I  need to remind myself to do better.

So for those of you who write and enjoy the art of written word, just remember this: Write drunk; edit sober. And re-read your shit.

But most importantly, don’t set up your momma.

As always, thanks, Obama.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • LMNOP

    I’m imagining the phone call PJ got after his mom read that post…

  • Other_guy13

    Yea…don’t put moms on the internet…its some vultures out here PJ. Still we still got love for you and Moms PJ
    http://www.eldiario.es/cultura/harley-quinn_EDIFIL20160804_0001.gif

    • panamajackson

      Thing is, I have something I was going to write about my mother and still might. But now, I’m not ready for the comments bc of the subject matter that go, “sorry to hear that PJ, your mom is still a racist.” It’s my fault. now that story just might not get told.

      • Other_guy13

        You mom isn’t a racist though…but again…context is everything. The internet can be a dangerous place to open up and if it’s something you don’t want moms looked at crazy about…I wouldn’t. FB and Twitter are the devil in my eyes.

        • panamajackson

          Context is everything.

          • NonyaB

            While you’re here @panamajackson:disqus and speaking of context: Please do a post on consent. Invite guest poster with relevant background to do it and/or post open call here for it. Had it at back of my mind since recent related posts (on Nate R*pesome Parker, survivor’s POV and stealth hating of women) and the startling nature of some of the comments section.

            • Cheech

              I nominate Amber Rose. Seriously.

              • NonyaB

                I’d be interesting to hear what what she has to say. I’d trust that PanaMayne and DayMoan would ensure it met editorial standards before publishing.

                • Cheech

                  She laid it out with Rev. Run and Tyrese. Can’t find the link at work. She was emphatically clear.

                  • NonyaB

                    Cool, looked it up and found this:
                    https://twitter.com/i/videos/tweet/701104120157999105

                    • Cheech

                      I spent some time looking now and still can’t find the full interview. Maybe it’s on OWN or something.

                      But she had a great example: let’s say you tell your friend he can borrow the car, and then change your mind and say no, and he drives off anyway. That’s called stealing your car. Even if he already made plans, and you gave him the keys, and he’s in the car, and has it started up and is backing out of the driveway. If you come running out of the house saying, “no, wait — I need it, you can’t have it–” and he drives off anyway, he still stole your car. And everyone recognizes that. Same concept.

                    • NonyaB

                      Good point. I didn’t bother searching for full show because I can’t stand Tyrese and his ashy perspectives.

            • LMNOP

              Maybe you could write it.

              • NonyaB

                Why you tryna give me homework? LOL. I definitely have some insight and opinions on it but feel that others, especially those who may work or have additional schooling in the area would be more knowledgeable. But I’ma keep my side-eye on it and may respond if I don’t see anything up soon.

                • LMNOP

                  Lol, consent is a surprisingly hard thing to put into words, considering how simple and basic a concept it is.

                  • NonyaB

                    I view the core concept as: Accept nothing less than a clear and enthusiastic yes. When in doubt, don’t worry about ruining the mood because you stopped to ask for that yes. If the other party is in the mood, then 1 question is not interruption. Also, altered states of consciousness (from drunk to full unconsciousness) means inability to give informed consent, so shouldn’t be in consideration. …Which leads to side discussion of why anyone would find s*xing an unconsciousness body desirable in any way.

                    Another problem is unwillingness to apply it the underlying principle neutrally to every situation, especially when discussing it: Regardless of how you feel about a person/what they stand for, you should be able to view given facts surrounding a story and determine whether breach of consent occurred or not.

        • Mochasister

          I don’t do really social media for this very reason. No Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. I mainly comment here and sometimes on Youtube. That’s it.

  • Measure once, cut twice.
    Measure twice, cut once.

  • Courtney Wheeler

    One day i’ll submit something to VSB and not feel like vomiting. One day.

    • Other_guy13

      Or you could post and I could bring a mop….just saying

      • panamajackson

        This is actually very sweet and supportive.

        • Other_guy13

          I thought so…maybe I just need to stop commenting.

      • Courtney Wheeler

        These are all viable options. Thanks for the vote confidence all

    • Fear is the first enemy. Just do it.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      We can submit stuff? What?

      • panamajackson

        Believe it or not, we get quite a slew of submissions weekly. Now, everything don’t make it. But people do frequently send in submissions to VSB.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          My submission didn’t make the cut………

          • Aly

            Why not? What did you write about?

            • panamajackson

              I’m not sure he’d know why he ain’t make the cut if he didn’t.

              Damon and i don’t publish everything we get.

              • Aly

                Oh ok. I wasn’t sure if you guys give feedback to submissions that don’t make the cut – i.e. how writers can improve, what topics you’re looking for, etc.

                • Sigma_Since 93

                  Look lady. You are the O.G. of the VSS singles post. You had all the fellas beating down your door AND you chose! #winning

                  • Aly

                    Ummm haha ok.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      Did I lie?????

                    • Aly

                      Smh stop it Sigma lol

                  • NonyaB

                    What post was this?

                • panamajackson

                  I try to offer as much help as possible. I definitely try to give feedback where it’s possible.

            • Sigma_Since 93

              The best G.T.D. songs of the 90’s

              • Aly

                Ok, I’m stumped. G.T.D.?

                • Sigma_Since 93

                  get the drawers

                  • Aly

                    Ohhhhh :)

                  • Nik White

                    Thanks I didn’t know what it was either.

                  • Brother Mouzone

                    What were the top songs?

          • panamajackson

            Also. Don’t take it personal if we haven’t gotten to something yet. I can go through and check, but trust me when I say that Damon and I wade in the waters heavy.

            • Sigma_Since 93

              Nah. I knew Damon had a lot on his plate when I sent it over.

          • TheCollinB

            Nobody liked your review of Clarks 2016 close ties sandals collection? Get Champ on the phone!

            • Sigma_Since 93

              I’m so weak right now I can’t even be mad. lol

              • TheCollinB

                glad you aren’t my g. these comments are for entertainment purposes only.

        • TeeChantel

          I need to submit an article on why Total is the greatest group in the 90s. Y’all best ta publish it.

          • Drugs are NOT the answer Tee!

            • TeeChantel

              Womp Womp.

    • Other_guy13

      What I should have said is….Do it…I actually felt a huge weight lifted when I said a few things on here. You have nothing from support from the VSB community…and if someone step wrong…we got ya back jack.

      • Courtney Wheeler

        Aw thanks. This is a pretty safe space and I really do enjoy others comments and humor. I just want to submit the right thing. The stupid perfectionist in me.

        • TheCollinB

          There is no right thing tho. And the dope part about the crowd the site draws is that someone will immediately connect with what you’re saying. The Internet is cool that way.

          • Courtney Wheeler

            Indeed. Appreciate all of this..it’s seriously giving me that extra confidence boost.

            • TheCollinB

              Now do that shyt fam! I read probably 13 articles a day. Put yourself in the mix.

      • QueenAnnaT

        Please believe they will have your back. I said something {sideways} in a critique and it was like black on beans. I did stick to my guns, but realized context is everything.

        • Kas

          Pretty sure I called you a meanie.

          • TeeChantel

            The pot callin’ the kettle black.

            • Kas

              I save my vitriol for regular commenters. Authors and people baring their souls in the comment section get nothing but the utmost respect from me.

            • Other_guy13

              Simmer down tee

              • TeeChantel

                Kas knows it’s all love.
                ETA: And what YOU gonna do?

                • Kas

                  :)

                • Kas
    • A.G.

      I’ve had the same thought. Fear is paralyzing.

      • miss t-lee

        You’ll be good, as long as you don’t come for The Color Purple, or Coming To America.

        • TeeChantel

          Or single black women.

          • miss t-lee

            Not single black women, but wack single black women…lol

            • Other_guy13

              ^^^this

              • miss t-lee

                I have a long memory.

                • Other_guy13

                  Clearly

                  • miss t-lee

                    Been here too many years not to.

                    • Janelle Doe

                      since the dark website with reggae color font?

                    • miss t-lee

                      maybe not that long?

                    • Janelle Doe

                      i might have imagined that, mea culpa

            • TeeChantel

              You’re right!

            • *Thinks about the bad old days*

        • A.G.

          Noted.

      • Other_guy13

        Please do…I’ll even share my co-worker story if you do.

    • miss t-lee

      Do it! Do it!

    • TeeChantel

      Not the way this comments section is set up….uh uh.

    • AnswerMe

      BUT if it’s a series, please don’t leave us hanging like some others have :/

  • Jane Dempsey

    I understand your point completely :)
    Now we need a similar post from that dude who wrote the “The Color Purple is a bad movie cuz a white guy directed it” piece..

    • Yeah. It’s gonna be confessional week on VSB.

    • panamajackson

      LOL. Listen. Linda listen.

      He and I had a mini debate over email about hat.

      • Janelle Doe

        glad to hear it.
        people were convinced you and Damon were trolling us. Authors at VSB need thick skins for sure…

        • panamajackson

          I can’t tell you how many folks have written for VSB thinking this was all roses and unicorn farts, then email us with newfound respect for what we’re doing ’round here.

    • Other_guy13

      I need a personal apology…Color Purple and Coming to America hit me in my soul.

      • Dee

        Dude, I’m with you on that. I am still convinced that was a troll post.

        • Law Ware

          Nah. Not a troll. LOL. I posted above. check it out.

          • Junelkrause4

            Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !oe217f:
            On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
            !oe217f:
            ??
            ??;?? http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash477NetworkCustomGetPay$97Hour ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????::::::!oe217f:….,….

          • Miriamanordstrom1

            Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !re58f:
            On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
            !re58f:
            ??
            ??;?? http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash348MediaFoxGetPay$97Hour ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????::::::!re58f:….,……

      • You’ll love..lmao

      • CY414 .

        that hurt about Coming to America.

    • Lisa Necole

      LOL. The color purple is bomb – side note: Interesting part of my relationship is white bae trying to sit through it this weekend, After i explained all the Rape and watching his face. I NOW ask my own self WHY do I like this movie so much?

      • miss t-lee

        Because Miss Celie is a G.

      • Kas

        I don’t like the movie for that very reason. There are scenes I love, but I will never watch the movie again in it’s entirety.

        • Val

          It’s a very complicated film if you watch it critically.

          • Kas

            I don’t like films that are depressing for more than a quarter of the screen time.

        • grownandsexy2

          I watched it once and that was enough for me.

          • Other_guy13

            Twice for me…had to make sure I never needed to see it again.

        • Mochasister

          I haven’t watched that movie since I was an overly melodramatic teenager. I bawled like a baby. I tried to watch it as an adult but I can’t get past the music. It’s too treacly.

        • Tomesha Rene

          I am with you Kas. I cannot watch that movie. It was brilliant though. Now Baby Boy? I will watch it every time it comes on and I howl. Oh it is a comedy. Isn’t it?

      • Gibbous

        Sometimes, after I watch a movie, I determine that it evoked a certain feeling, good or bad, and decide to never watch it again. If it was good, a second viewing might diminish that good feeling. If it was bad, why go through it again?

        Now ‘days I have to protect myself from too much emotional movie angst. For some reason, I’m easily wrecked by movies. Unless it’s prescriptive (I need some catharsis) I stay away in case I need that energy IRL.

        I will never watch the Color Purple again!

    • Law Ware

      No. Not a troll. A few things:

      1: I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m trained in aesthetics, etc–but I know these are subjective metaphysical disciplines. Meaning, we gon’ disagree–and that’s ok.

      2: I never disparaged the quality of the films–I merely had a critique. Both are brilliant.

      3: I maintain the importance of black filmmakers, especially directors–considering the power they wield over the final cut. Yet, I’ve been persuaded by many of the rather BRILLIANT conversations I’ve had on here. I can see the power of the blackness even if ol’ dude was at the helm.

      4: If you read this, I’m sorry for talking bad about your favorite film momma.

    • tipartsy

      RIGHT! He should’ve just focused on Baby Boy. It seemed like that was his original idea and the attempt to turn it into a listicle just…well…failed….bad.

  • TeeChantel

    PJ your mom is still cool with me.

  • Stanley

    Major props for being able to reassess and critique yourself. I am also one of those stream of consciousness writers. I do best when I let it flow and trust my instincts, but that doesn’t always work out for the best. Great advice.

    • panamajackson

      I try to be self-reflective at least twice a week. lol

  • YeaSoh

    Not to say I told you so but…

    • panamajackson

      You didn’t actually. What you said was, if we cant talk about your momma what are we supposed to do. But I told you so’s aren’t even necessary. I knew what might happen when I wrote it. Ultimately, I should have written it differently. This isn’t some post where I say, hey, I really messed up. I’m not cleansing my soul. I’m good. I’m just looking at an opportunity to make something imperfect educational.

      • YeaSoh

        A little lemons into lemonade, huh? I can dig it but I was just playing witchoo anyway.

        Any my I told you so’s are always necessary. You know why?

        • panamajackson

          Cuz I’m awesome.

          • YeaSoh

            And modest hehehe <3. Bye, PJ.

  • Can I both say that PJ should stick to his guns and that people should know better than come after his moms? I thought the piece was good BECAUSE it was personal. Then again I tend to talk to people that aren’t strippers so what do I know?

  • miss t-lee

    “Nothing I’ve said here is ground-breaking. In fact, it’s all common sense.”

    I’m glad you typed this so I didn’t have to…because I said this like 17 sentences into this post.

    My little bit of advice–just remember, some things are best kept in-house. This can apply to a myriad of things in life. Pick and choose how to apply that.

    • panamajackson

      Sometimes Captain Obvious really can be a superhero.

      • miss t-lee

        Indeed.

    • “My little bit of advice–just remember, some things are best kept in-house. This can apply to a myriad of things in life. Pick and choose how to apply that.”

      There’s transparency and then there’s doing too much. Blogging and tweeting through it is for single folks and orphans sometimes. Every time… Sixty percent of the time. No need to start fires that didn’t need to be started.

      • miss t-lee

        Yeah.
        Can’t have all your biz out there.

    • cakes_and_pies

      I only read maybe 1/4 of that post and skipped the comments all together
      Didn’t want to risk feeling some way about it.

      • miss t-lee

        Hmmmmm.

More Like This