“Be your own artist…”

“Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing.” –Aretha Franklin

As an independent Black LGBT/SGL author, this quote has seen me through the times when I would question if I could do this, if I had what it took to be an author/novelist. I have no doubt that most authors have gone through or are experiencing self-doubt and such things as writer’s block and the “imposter syndrome.” However, at the end of the day, it’s how we respond to those situations that counts.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I was in my late 30s when I was inspired to make the transition to published author. Before that, I liked to write short stories as a hobby. As a child, I used my imagination to make up stories about animals. As a college student, I wrote my own flavor of satire for our Black student newspaper. As an adult, some of my short stories were spicy, and others reflected my offbeat sense of humor. Some even were the results of vivid dreams that I had and remembered.

I will always remember the day when a pastor friend of mine planted the seed. For fun, I was making up psychological profiles of imaginary persons, and I shared them with him. His response was, “Why don’t you put these characters into a book?”

Indeed, it was one thing to write short stories and occasionally poetry; writing a full-fledged novel was quite another. It seemed as though so many people had their opinions on what writing style you were supposed to have, how one writes a chapter, rules of grammar in storytelling, what’s trending, and the like. When one is new to this brand of writing, all these conflicting viewpoints can affect your confidence. There is one thing as a writer, however, that makes a difference: the driving force of your passion, as evidenced by such authors as James Earl Hardy, the late E. Lynn Harris, and Toni Morrison.

Following my passion opened windows where doors were shut, gave my imagination free reign to the realm of possibility, and what was a dream some 30 years ago has become the reality of today. I had a story inside me that would not rest until it was told and shared, and I am grateful for that. I learned the importance of finding what is a good fit for me as an author, to turn away from the inner critic in my head and get out of my own way. Writing the books I want to read means writing the books I’m passionate about instead of what I think will sell.

I have read the works of other independent authors, and their work has been first class; to my fellow indie authors, allow no one to tell you otherwise. Through this process, I received the opportunity to become a columnist, and through my original need as a writer I am humbled to have a platform to support other African American authors.

Gone are the days when I thought there was only one game in town and stories by Black authors were limited in supply. Aretha also stated, “If you’re not confident about it, then you shouldn’t be doing it.” Indeed, what we give is what we receive. If you’re confident about yourself and your work, it will show up around you and those you interact with. Your passion will connect with your readers, and your success will come to you, whatever your definition of that is.

Recently, I had the pleasure of being the special guest on the podcast WYATT!, hosted by the amazing and incomparable Renaissance Man, Wyatt O’Brian Evans, from Washington, D.C., and I was one of two guest authors of a panel on literacy on the radio program Conversations with Al McFarlane here in the Twin Cities. Indeed, in being our own artists, with our own unique voices, we never know where our gifts will take us. We can even become someone’s favorite author!

To my brothas and sistahs in the literary universe, let us remember Sister Aretha’s words of wisdom and continue to make a positive difference.

Believe in dreams and never give up.

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