It’s funny how so many people want to write a story these days, but don’t know what they want to write about. How does that work? Continue reading “Writing Your Story|The Concrete Elements”
The Henrietta Lacks movie is finally here and after months of being so excited for its release, I don’t think I’m going to see it. I had the privilege of meeting the Lacks family in October 2016, when I was assigned to do a story on them for a Baltimore-based magazine. This was definitely a privilege that I will always hold dear to my heart, especially because the Lacks family are very weary of people approaching them for information, understandably so, since they’ve been taken advantage of over the years.
When I first met the family I knew next to nothing about Henrietta Lacks. I was shocked that in all my years of schooling and time in a health education environment, I’d never heard of this woman and the remarkable contribution she made to science. The more digging and research I did, the more I realized why I’d never heard of her…she was a poor black woman from Virginia with limited education, who was being medically treated during a time when consent was non-existent. As far as researchers were concerned, she didn’t exist…some of them didn’t want anyone to know she existed by changing her name in connection to her specimen over the years. While talking with the family, I learned that no real compensation has been given to them, and many of them still struggle to get the medical care they need. Huh???? How is it that the descendants of a woman, whose cells reshaped and magnetized the world of research can’t afford medical care? So when I learned that a movie was being done based on her life story, I was super-excited. The movie is being done by HBO – awesome!!! Oprah is going to be part of the project as well – super awesome!!! This meant the family would get some type of recognition and compensation not only for what their mother/grandmother went through, but for the invaluable contribution her cancer cells made to global research. We’re talking vaccines for polio, HIV research, and cancer resistant research; that doesn’t even begin to cover what Henrietta’s cells have done for the world of biomedicine. Just look up the term “HeLa”. According to the family, enough is not being done and they’re not too happy with Oprah either.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a medical expert nor am I a lawyer in any way shape or form. I don’t know how the world of bio-based movie making works and how the family should be involved. I just figured since Henrietta’s life was headed for the big screen that the family has been recognized or compensated at this point. Well according to them, that hasn’t happened, and they’re tired of being overlooked. Should Oprah have cut them a check? Should Johns Hopkins give them unlimited access to medical care? I don’t know – the family should’ve been taken care of by now. One thing I do know as of this moment, I won’t be seeing the movie.
If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.
Like many of you on a Sunday evening, I was fixated on the latest episode of Power (between watching Usain Bolt slay), a TV show on STARZ network that highlights the struggles of a drug dealer trying to change his ways for good – known as Ghost. His best friend, Tommy has struggles and weaknesses of his own that he’s been dealing with as well. Welp, one of those thorns has been his lover Holly, a chick who started working at Ghost’s nightclub and ends up in an intense-sex-filled relationship with Tommy. Eventually, she came between the life-long friends and wanted Ghost dead and gone. This desire of hers continues to grow until she crosses the line and ended up hiring professionals to smoke Ghost in cold blood. At some point both her and Tommy believe that Ghost is dead when she confesses what she did to get rid of him “It can be just the two of us now”, she tells him (deranged!). She really thought that her presence and body would be a prevalent priority in Tommy’s life, despite his life-long deep relationship with Ghost. In short, she crossed the line, her plan blew up in her face and she basically (or literally) got choked out for it. I’m being really sketchy and basic with the details here on purpose – if you haven’t watched the show…go get your life, please.
This. Episode. Was. Everything.
I usually don’t talk about TV shows or movies on this blog, but there are important things to point out that are heavily related to writing and getting started on building your voice.
Sometimes, you just gotta clean house!
I’ve said it before, you’ve got to get rid of people who are slowing you down, confusing you or just plain hating on what you’re trying to accomplish. No you don’t have to put them in a violent choke hold like Tommy did, but you do have to put them in their place, even if they don’t know they’re being checked. For instance, there are people who know about my upcoming book and people who don’t. They’ll just find out when the book is released because I know the type of negative energy they bring and how that may affect me and my progress. The other day, one of these negative-energy carriers accidentally learned that I was working on a book and they immediately started laughing at me. “Why are you writing a story?” they asked with a scrunched up look on their face, as if I was doing something illegal. Why wouldn’t I write a story? Why are you so quick to be negative about it without knowing ANYTHING about the story? I simply replied “yes, I am” and continued typing. Then they tried to take a look at what I was typing and started asking 101 questions. I stopped typing, looked at them and politely let them know that the conversation was over and that I needed to focus on what I was doing. They eventually got the message and left me alone. This person and I don’t have the best relationship, so there wasn’t going to be a positive outcome anyway.
I’ve had to distance myself from significant people who’ve been in my life for years, who know some of my darkest secrets, in order to get certain things done. If I didn’t detach from them, I would still be in the same place of incompleteness and frustration, and that is a fact. I thought they were happy for me, but they weren’t. Out of their own insecurities, out of their own hatred towards themselves, they constantly attempted to deflect that on me and I had to put a stop to it. You have to protect your craft, especially if you’re learning how to develop your voice. If you’re still developing a certain level of strength and resistance, naysayers can have an effect on you along the way, which is why you have to be careful about who you share your information with. Some people are simply not ready to hear about your progress and success. They can’t take it, so they gotta go.
Stick to your plan and don’t back out
Trust me, there will be times where you’ll feel silly about sharing that poem you just wrote, or reading that excerpt from your draft that you’re working on. You’ll even feel scared to start blogging or sharing your ideas with others. This is perfectly normal, but should not take over your thoughts and confidence that you’re building within yourself. Keep writing in that journal and working on that draft – It’s just you and the pen, free to do or say whatever you feel. There’s no one around to mock you or ask dumb questions. The more you do this the more confident you’ll feel. The time will come when you’ll have a platform to start using your voice in ways you’re not used to. The more you write the more organized your thoughts will be. You’ll be ready to face any audience at that point, just stay consistent with managing your thoughts, ideas and feelings on paper.
It’s debatable whether Holly had good intentions or not, but she was definitely selfish and insecure. You need to take a look around and determine if you need to make any changes before the connection to your growth and success gets shot down in cold blood.
Now go write!
When it comes to writing your story, it can be a heavy toll, especially if it encompasses pain and struggle. You want to disclose every detail and highlight every emotion you felt and experienced. Now this is good, especially if this is something you decided to do as a way of healing or letting go. But there are a few things you should keep in mind in order to maintain a healthy interest from your audience.
It’s okay to have some humor.
It can be tough when reflecting on memories that aren’t so happy and were challenging to live through. I definitely experienced this regularly while writing my own book. Yes, there is a lot of pain and tough memories to deal with, but it wasn’t all a journey of misery. There were definitely some good days and I don’t hesitate to include that information. You can and should incorporate that into your writing/book
Remember the balance.
Your story has a certain theme or genre, so of course you have to stick to it in order to make sense to your reading audience. Just be sure not to add too much humor or seriousness or else your audience will be confused. Once you get into the flow of writing the details of your story, you’ll be able to evaluate this balance through your writing and the editing process, which is a step you should not skip. Read it out loud to yourself. Does it make sense? Does it sound engaging? If not, get someone else to look at it or if you have a writing coach, they can probably help as well. Remember, don’t oversaturate, just insert certain moments at the right time. This doesn’t just apply to writing a book. If you’re blogging, course writing, or anything that relates to communicating with an audience, you have to insert moments to keep them engaged with your message.
Remember to keep it human
If reading about the breakdown of a dying branch in the forest down to the molecular levels in a biology textbook is more exciting than your story, there’s a big problem. Like I’ve said before, listing a bunch of events from the day you were born to present day isn’t really telling a story. You’re just going through a list of things that happened to you which is the same as reading a resume or job application. You’re writing a story which requires you to use your voice. Not anyone else’s. Again, this also depends on your reading audience. But if you’re trying to describe emotional moments or build up to certain scenes in your story, the human voice must prevail throughout the story. It never fails, I’ve enjoyed books written by people who tell their story every time because they used their own voice. The honesty was there. They were not top-notch writers or Steven Kings, the were strictly themselves and let you know that without shame or reserve. Be who you are when telling your story. It’s the only way it will make sense to your readers.
Read what others have done
It’s not because you want to copy their work, you just simply want to see what they’ve done. Keep in mind these authors were once where you were, trying to put their story together and didn’t know where to begin. But look at their finished product, visit their website and ask them questions. Many authors are more than happy to share their journey in the story writing process. Many of them will tell you it was something that wouldn’t leave them alone and they had to let it out on pen and paper. Of course there are different reasons and origins of a story being written. Just be sure to remember yours and pace yourself accordingly. It could be a book of poetry, a particular experience, or a fictional story based on what happened to you or someone you know. As long as you start writing and keep working at it, you’re on the right (or should I say write) path!
So the pen and paper route is not for you. That’s fine. It hasn’t been the route for a lot of successful writers. That’s where tape recorders, Google Voice or scribes come in – to transform the voice into a story. Once it’s on paper, don’t avoid reading those drafts. Connect with what has been written and make sure it’s your voice on paper and it’s saying exactly what you want it to say.
I want to laugh and cry when reading your book. Now go write!
Business Writing is an element that has fallen off the wayside over the years and that’s pretty shameful. People don’t take the much needed time to invest in their written communication skills. Personal and business relationships have fallen apart because no one took the time to get their point across properly. If you want to stand out as a business writer and amp up your skills, take some pointers that are listed for your betterment! Continue reading “10 Most Common Mistakes Made in Business Writing”
Writer’s block. Blank pages. Frustration. The list goes on when it comes to writing a novel or writing your own story. Not just writing it, but making sure the end product is worth getting. You have a message to deliver and it has to be powerful and have impactl. So why are you struggling to come up with words?
From personal experience, let me tell you – you’ll be surprised.
As New3Creation continues to evolve (and make so many twists and turns in the process) one of the needs that has come to surface is the want or need to write a memoir of sorts. Everyone has a story to tell, but a lot of people don’t know where to start. Well, there are some things to be mindful of and questions to ask before embarking on such a critical journey. When I finally started working on my story, I didn’t know what laid ahead for me. But once a few things were thought over and put into place, things started going in the right direction. Continue reading “Writing Your Story”
There’s nothing worse than that empty, out of place gap that throws everything off. It brings the most awkward feeling of incompleteness and unjust due! This couldn’t be more true when it comes to communication. When you’re struggling to have a meaningful conversation with that colleague, but the connection just isn’t happening, you feel annoyed and helpless. The two of you are just standing there, neither one of you knows what to say or do next.
First of all you have to remind yourself that you ARE a writer. You are here to make a difference through your work by the simple act of expression. Every now and then the purpose has to be re-visted. It’s necessary to do this in order to get the ball rolling and to start getting noticed for your work. You ARE a writer. Go ahead and say it out loud if you need to!
What inspired you to become a writer in the first place? Was it because you read a certain book or admired another writer? The fact is, when you’re truly inspired to do something, your heart is set on doing it no matter what. Some folks write because it’s a way of release and expression. They literally cannot rest until they get whatever is rolling around in their head onto paper.
Maybe it’s your own story you’ve lived that inspires you to write. Whatever the reason may be, always re-visit it to give you a boost in keeping up with your writing. Many writers will remind you to look around you because there’s inspiration everywhere. It could be something as random as a corny magazine that will give you fresh ideas. It’s important to get out there and find inspiration at times. J.K. Rowling uses this to find ideas for her own writing:
“And the idea of just wandering off to a café with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for a while is just bliss.” – J.K. Rowling
So much writing material can be developed from relationships – good and bad. As far as the good ones go, it’s important to have a healthy circle of folks who aren’t afraid to remind you of who you are and what your plans are as a writer. Having people around you who doubt or criticize what you’re doing can make it more difficult for you to grow and develop to your full potential as a writer. I’ve experienced both; the people who are in my corner and aren’t afraid to nudge me every now and then when I start slacking and those who don’t understand or don’t relate to what I’m set out to do. I’ve taken both experiences and used them as a motivator for me. Not only do I have good material but I can apply certain concepts and thoughts to my work and the way I get it done.
This is a very challenging area for most writers. Cracking down and getting the work done. The bottom line is, the dedication to your writing comes with the discipline. Not that you have to write 24/7, it’s okay to take breaks, walk away from assignments and come back with a fresh mind. But there should be some type of structure in place in order to stay productive. Here are some simple ideas:
- Make a weekly checklist of assignments and tasks to complete. You’ll feel much more accomplished and encouraged as you check them off!
- Figure out when you’re most active and productive. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you get more done on the weekends because of your full time job? Determine when you’re at your best for performance and schedule yourself accordingly.
- Move away from the TV. It’s often difficult to type out articles or case studies while watching The Real Housewives of Wherever. You may have the intention of being productive in front of the tube, but it never plays out that way. Sometimes you may have to leave the house altogether, i.e. the library or café in order to be more productive. You know it’s the truth!
A Realistic Vision
The beautiful thing about a vision is that it’s always changing. It doesn’t have to start and stay the same way. That’s why it’s important for you as a writer to come up with a realistic vision for yourself and your work. Don’t create goals that are out of reach and exhausting to accomplish. Have a reachable vision and once it comes to fruition, enlarge that vision. Do it by steps or levels.
Confidence in Yourself
Lack of confidence can definitely lead to no production in your work. If the confidence isn’t there, then your writing journey will be very short-lived. Keep in mind confidence doesn’t come overnight. It has to be cultivated and nursed to a strong level. A good place to start is practice. Write up some drafts for yourself until you’re comfortable to share a piece of your work with someone to review. Without practice, you don’t develop rhythm and it’s impossible to develop your writing voice. Your voice will not be the same as J.K. Rowling, Robert Frost or Shakespeare. Everyone has their own voice and you have to find your own. Find out more about developing your confidence in a previous post where I share secrets for writers to improve their work.
What slows you down as a writer? How do you overcome that obstacle?