Dreams Do Not Arrive In Neat Packages.

 

This post is an excerpt from Twenties Unscripted: A Journey of Womanhood, Writing, and Relativity. The full essay is available in the book, which is currently available for pre-sale here.

 

My dream did not come to me in the neat package I assumed it would seven years ago during my freshman year of college. And, because it did not arrive complete with a bow the way I envisioned, I mistakenly thought it never arrived. Perhaps the irony is that in the precise moment I gave up on being a writer, I became a writer. What I originally saw as my plan B, my alternative, my watered-down version, was really my dream, bright, beautiful and not at all in the package I expected.

do not hate

I’m living my dream. The hustle is real. The work is hard. The rewards are plenty. The sacrifice is unending. The letdowns are tough. The support is vital. The haters are alive. The love is brewing. I’m living my dream. And, this life, it is so good.

 

The Life of an Artist and Chasing a Dream

Guest Post by Brandon Braxton

Oh, the life of the artist.  It has the potential to be both fulfilling and glamorous.  But the journey to make it to that pinnacle is strenuous and often comes with zero guarantees that you even make the first step.  As a writer, I find that it’s harder for the artist to get to where they want to go than it is for the typical pick-a-color collar working [wo]man.

There are so many obstacles in the way of the artists.  Of course you had to sift through the “bologna”—those who see other’s aspirations and hard work and believe that they could do it better.  Sometimes, you had to eat bologna; it was all you could afford.  But as you grew older, you found out there were foods and ones that didn’t come in a circle.  No longer did you have to settle.  You can aspire to have steak and shrimp and lobster.  Wow, I just got hungry all of a sudden.  The point is there are those who want things and those who LOVE things.  That’s how you tell the difference.

Once separated from the pretenders, we have to promote ourselves.  Sure, you’re aware that you write, rap, act or paint but that doesn’t mean others know.  You can have all the degrees and certifications you want but the old adage holds true:  it’s not what you know but WHO you know.  You have to put yourself out there to anyone who will listen.  Sometimes you’re met with intrigue and genuine interest and sometimes you’re met with skepticism and general ridicule.  It’s a roll of the dice but it’s something that we have to take a chance at because we never know the potential of who we’re talking too.  Our gift, our talent isn’t looked at as a potential career but rather a dream.  And most people don’t like to believe in dreams.  Some call them haters but I prefer the not-so-subtle “soulless fools.”  You have to look past those types and remain focused.  A dream to others is a passion to you and being passionate about something you love will always trump being “successful” in something you despise.

Artists can’t apply for their careers like Johnny B. Good and Jane O. Well.  There is no application that states our desire to become authors, rappers, or what have you and no specific employer that looks at these applications.  It’s literally scratch-and-claw to get to where we need to be.  And an artist can’t go anywhere without a strong support system.  If you don’t have people who believe in what you can do, it’s going to be difficult for the artist to ever make an impression to those already established in their lane.  Think of it like getting references when you apply for a job.  But unlike the typical working [wo]man,  the difficult part for an artist is when you work hard on projects and you share them with others—usually on the wonderful social networks we can’t stop checking every five minutes—and those who have praised your work won’t push and promote for you.

As Tyece has said on here before, authentic support is strongly desired but also hard to come by.  Those retweets or link shares do wonders for the aspiring artist and it only takes a second to do.  But whether it’s jealousy (or as Drake puts it “love and hate at the same time”) or just the universal notion that reading or listening is enough, support is hard to come by if you aren’t established.  Of course, that all changes when you start to get more exposure and publicity.

None of this means anything if what you’re selling isn’t up to par.  There’s nothing worse than putting in time and effort into something you love but constantly facing rejection over and over.  Maybe you network with the right people and find authentic support, but that still doesn’t mean you ever get your foot in the door.  It’s a scary thought that I deal with it every day and that countless other artists face.  It’s stressful but it’s something that need not deter you.  Sometimes you may press too hard, using senseless motivations such as “proving the haters wrong.”  The most important thing as an artist to remember is that you didn’t begin by using your talent for others; you did it for yourself.  There’s nothing wrong with being selfish in this sense.  As long as you’re in love with your gift, then you don’t have to worry about anyone else.

Oh, the life of the artist.  It’s not the easiest of journeys.  It’s a journey where you may not reach your ultimate goal.  But it’s not about that.  It’s about using your talents, your gifts to express who you are.  If that leads to a career, then that’s a bonus.  Even when we fall out of our twenties and into those dreadful thirties and have yet to make a significant step forward, remember that you’re passionate about what you do.  Dreams do come true…so never stop dreaming.

Signed,

Tall Guy

Brandon “Tall Guy” Braxton is a 25 year old author of the poetry collection Random Comments living in Richmond, Virginia.   Being six-foot-ten, he answers plenty of redundant inquiries everyday. Which is fine as long as there is a strong drink nearby. 

Blogs: tallanimetalk.com (various subjects), kingofseizor.wordpress.com (poetry/stories)
Twitter: @dante_diable54

Push Off The Cozy Blanket Of Fear

Recently, I received this email: (edited)

I am a follower of your blog and Twitter. I must say your fearlessness is rather intriguing and gives me hope to continue my blog. I currently have a blog and a column at school. I want to upgrade my blog and in some way combine it with my column.  Bloggers like yourself have encouraged me to invest in myself and my craft. What I worry about is reaching a bigger audience.

I am not sure if I am scared of success or failure but I feel lonely in my enthusiasm and ideas. I do not have much support from older peers and my friends are all about it because they are my friends but how can I get over this? I want to involve myself in the blogger world but I am scared I won’t fit in. I first will like to thank you for taking the time to read this and I now humbly ask for your constructive criticism. Is this normal to feel this way?

You wrote a lot. And, you asked some pretty heavy questions. So, in turn, I am going to write a lot and give you some pretty heavy answers.

It’s interesting that you used the word “fearlessness” because I am afraid every day. All the time. I am afraid I will never be able to pursue writing the way I really want to. I am afraid of what happens when I turn 30 and can no longer write under the tagline of a “sincere, sassy and sometimes smart-assy take on growing up.” I am afraid that I will choose my career over my relationships and lose the people who knew me before all of this. I am afraid that my well of ideas will run dry. I am afraid. All of the time. But, I just keep writing because it does not make sense to do anything else. The pulse inside of me that only beats if I write is what outweighs the fear. It outweighs the fear of losing my brand or my words or my relationships. That pulse is quick and it thuds so loudly that I have no other choice but to write.

There are a few things you touched on including reaching a larger audience, feeling lonely in your ideas and enthusiasm and getting involved in the blogger world. I will tackle those three.

Do not worry about reaching a larger audience at first. No, really. Don’t. Don’t care about that right now. You can’t afford to care about that. You have to build first. That’s what kills me about some people in the blogging community–they want to be a global movement before they’re even a household name. You have to start small. You have to start local before you can even think about being global. There are levels to this shit. Sure, now I have a consistent readership, but I wrote for a year in relative obscurity. The only people who continually read my work then were my oldest sister and a few friends. But, I didn’t care because I knew I had something to say and I believed in whatever that was. So, right now, just build. My blogging trajectory has very much adhered to the mantra of “build it and they will come.” Believe in what you are saying and say it. If your goal up front is to gain crazy high readership, you’ll spin your wheels and sell your soul trying to get there.

But, once your readership grows (because it can and it will), that is when you grow with it. As your brand expands, that is when you make changes. That is when you develop new ideas. That is when you shift. I never set out to have giveaways or an intern or events. But, my blog offspring started to outgrow its clothes and I had to change the contents of its closet.

In terms of your ideas and enthusiasm, you will be lonely. Passion breeds loneliness because no one will ever care about your work as much as you. And, that is sometimes a maddening reality because you want the people around you to get excited when you come up with a great idea for a post or you start working on a new project. But, somehow, the strength of that passion manages to wan every time it moves beyond you. It’s like a parent showing off pictures of their infant and everyone in the office repeating, “Aw, so cute!” No one groaned in pain for 10 hours trying to birth that kid. No one else knows just how tough and rewarding it has been to raise that child. Only the parent knows, so only the parent loves it in that unconditional and knee-jerk kind of way.

The upside to all of that is that passion breeds results. Passion is what you come to rely on even on the days when you are tired or don’t have the best idea for a post. It’s that loud pulse that won’t stop thudding.

Your friends will be all about it because they are your friends, but the more you work, the more you will find uninhibited, no holds barred support from unlikely sources. I love some of my closest friends, but I would not call all of them my biggest supporters. They read some of my work. They know I write. They see how much I tweet about writing. But, they are not necessarily the people pushing me and inspiring me on a routine basis. The people, and particularly women, who have rallied around my work are people I hardly knew before I started my blog. Let the support rise from a place or person you never considered.  Let the love come from unexpected corners.

As far as the blogging world goes, you don’t need to fit in. Bloggers exist in the land of misfit toys. That is why we blog–because our worlds, our words and our lives make little sense elsewhere. You will fit in if you bring every piece of who you are to what you produce and if you do so consistently. The only people who think blogging is competitive are people who are threatened by someone else’s voice. The people who think blogging is about connecting and creating a sense of community are people who stand firm in the uniqueness of what they have to say. Stand firm. You already have a blog. You already have a column. I do not have one doubt in my mind that you have something to say and the world needs to hear it.

And, finally, do not think too much. Just do. Just write. Just produce. The accolades will come. The readers will come and so will the haters. But, for now, just create. Don’t let apprehension stymie you from doing something that you are so clearly meant to do. You asked if it was normal to feel this way. It is more than normal to be afraid. But, too many people rest in the cozy blanket of fear. They never push it off of them long enough to do anything substantial in this world. You reached out to me. You are already invested. You are already ready. You are already as unafraid as you need to be to do this crazy thing called blogging. Now, you just have to go do it.

Xoxo,

Tyece

The Advice Twenty Somethings Are Sick Of Hearing

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth. Mary Schmich, “Wear Sunscreen”

Most of my days begin with reading some sort of article. Some days, I find it on Twitter and other days, like today, someone sends it my way. This morning a coworker sent me an article from LinkedIn entitled, “The 7 Things I Would Tell Myself 25 Years Ago.” Any time I see lists like this, part of me cringes because I know I am most likely not going to read anything new. I’m going to read the same aphorisms, clichés and recycled pieces of advice that clutter every list of this ilk.

And, still, I’m sucked into the vortex of washed-up advice, partly because I write a blog whose primary audience is twenty somethings and I feel obligated to keep an eye on information thrown out there for this audience. Plus, I’m a sucker for quotes or inspiration and, every now and again, these lists contain some sort of gem that I want to pocket for a shitty day.

But, the first piece of advice on the aforementioned list was “Follow your passion.” I let out a heavy sigh and prepared myself to read every piece of advice I have already heard one too many times.

We get it. And, by we, I mean twenty somethings. We’re young, we’re dumb, we’re in debt, we don’t eat healthy, we need more sleep, we need more water, BLAH BLAH BLAH. But, you know what we don’t need? Any more lists or articles with the same supposed pearls of wisdom. I’ve amassed some of the “advice” that it is time to recycle, thanks to my own frustrations as well as a quick social media poll of the people who are foolish enough to follow me.

“You’ll understand/change your mind when you’re older.”

I have a coworker who is acute enough to always say “if” when she refers to my potential child-rearing. It’s not much of a secret that I’m not one of those people who is completely sold on the idea of having children. It makes my skin want to burst into 1,000 individual flames when people say, “Oh, you’ll change your mind when you’re older.” Please. Stop making assumptions about the future activity of my uterus. If any sentence includes “you’ll understand when you’re older” or “when I was your age,” please think twice before letting the sentence escape your mouth, you old fuck.

You don’t have to “make” it in your twenties/you have your whole life to get ahead.

Not only is this advice old, but I also find it to be extremely inaccurate. Right, you don’t have to “make” it in your twenties. We get that. I don’t know that many people who think they will conquer the entire world in one decade. You know why I don’t know those people? Because I don’t associate with delusional maniacs. But, the inaccurate piece is “you have your whole life to get ahead.” No. You don’t. Because there are people who will use this decade to hustle their ass off and they will be miles ahead of those who don’t. If you wait your whole life to get ahead, you’ll just end up behind.

Enjoy being single; you’ll find love when you least expect it.

Stop any sentences that sound like the beginning of a Carrie Bradshaw column. Please and thank you. And, also, this sentence does nothing for you when you’re curled up into a ball of feelings, drinking red wine and belting out Adele. Being single is like being in a relationship: there are good days and there are bad days. There are times when you are enjoying it and times when you would like a significant other. But, just no more of the amorphous and ambiguous, “Don’t worry, he/she will show up when you least expect it.” Gives me too many visions of someone popping up in a genie-like way or materializing from a cloud of smoke.

Settle down.

Or, any other iteration of “your clock is ticking, go make babies, go find a husband, BLAHHHH.” No thanks. Bye, ashy.

Get a mentor.

Coming from someone who has a few unofficial mentors, I still absolutely hate this advice. Someone mentoring you is a very organic process, born out of a natural rapport you have with a person and your respect for them, their work, etc. You don’t just go pick out a mentor the way you would a cucumber in the produce aisle.

This is the best decade of your life; enjoy it while it lasts.

Listen, I’m looking forward to my life consistently getting better, not worse. More earning power. Divorcing Sallie Mae. Jumping on yachts and other fancy shit. Witnessing weddings and births (weddings in person, births…not so much.) Writing books and books and more books.  I am looking forward to a lot of goodness in this life, not just in this one decade.

Follow your passion.

I saved the best (or, in this case, worst) for last. I have truly started to hate these three words with every fiber of my being. Saying, “follow your passion” assumes privilege. Telling someone to sacrifice and take a low-paying job in an industry they love assumes they have the financial freedom to do that. It assumes that you are in a position, whether it be geographically, financially, emotionally or otherwise, to jump and do whatever the fuck you want to do. Newsflash: most of us are not there. At least not entirely. You know what was sad? Today, on Twitter, I said I wanted to read an interview with a full-time blogger who has student loans and could speak to their income stream. Crickets. Absolute crickets. If you know of that interview, please drop it in the comments section of this post because inquiring minds want to know.

I follow my passion, but I also have a salary and keep a roof over my damn head. I have not yet cracked the code on how to do this writing thing full-time, and I am perfectly OK with that. What I am not going to do is jump and leave my job and then try to figure it out under the guise of “following my passion.” No, sir. Not me. For now, following my passion means busting 9.5-hour days at my day job, coming home and then spending two or three hours on my side hustle. My passion is still very much alive and well and my lights are still very much on and running.

What are some other trite pieces of twenty something advice you’re tired of hearing? Drop those bad boys in the comments section.

Xoxo,

Tyece

Don’t Quit Your Daydream.

As I rolled over in bed this morning and finally gave in to my alarm beckoning, I did what I always do; I checked my email. Before I’m out from under the covers most days, I have already checked my email, Twitter, perhaps Instagram and, if the aforementioned three are not filled with much new info, Facebook.

Today, my inbox contained three separate emails from my friend Jazz who shot the photos from my showcase a few weeks ago.

I have never been so excited about photos in my life.

I’ve always admired photographers because I can’t even shoot a decent iPhone selfie. I’m amazed at what these people are able to do with a decent camera and pure knowledge of how this photography shit works. Seeing all of the photos Jazz sent over gave me chills. It gave me a chance to relive that night and remember just how beautiful it all was. (That also means that after you finish reading this post, you should head over to the “Events” section of my blog to see all of the photos.)

Oh, what a night.
Oh, what a night.

I wish I could credit myself with today’s post title, but the truth is I saw it on a phone case in Forever 21 last weekend. Who knew Forever 21 could produce such wisdom?

I almost bought that phone case because it sums up a lot of what my life has been for the past year or so. Writing and building out Twenties Unscripted as a brand are really my daydreams. Today I thought to myself, “I am living out my dream.” And, sure, it sounds trite and maybe it seems corny, but it is the absolute truth. I’ve been riding the high of the photos and the showcase and the recent Blog2Print order I just placed that houses the past year of my writing (160 pages…wtf.) I have been riding the high of seeing things that were once my ideas become my reality. I am riding the high of throwing myself wholeheartedly into something and watching it pay off. When I quiet my mind enough, I remember how fortunate I am for any of this.

I think there’s this misconception that unless you’re living off ramen noodles while you try to make it on Broadway, you’re not fully chasing your dreams. That’s such a bullshit lie. I think the hidden beauty in life is that every day you can live your dream. Every day you can create a world that makes you happy. Every day you can do something that fulfills you in a way that not much else does. You don’t have to be starving or piled up on top of six roommates in a NYC apartment to be someone who is living out their dream.

The world is filled to the brim with people who are OK with the status quo. They do not challenge it. They do not change it. They just accept it. Every day there are zombies walking this planet, people who settled into a mediocre existence because they didn’t see many other options. They didn’t love something enough to let that love fill the entire width of their heart. They didn’t want something enough to chase it as far as their feet would run. They didn’t care. So they are just there.

That’s why you can’t quit your daydream. Because if you are one of the people in this world who is convinced about your path and crazy enough to follow it, you are one of the lucky ones. You are fortunate. And, when the universe molded you, it gave you something special in hopes that you would be acute enough to follow that something with every last bit of fuel that you have. The world needs more dreamers. It needs more of the people who are brave and audacious enough to believe and not just breathe. It needs more people to create and not just suck up the air. It needs more people who squint at the status quo and question it. Challenge it. Change it. The world needs more daydreamers. Don’t quit.

Xoxo,

Tyece