Originally published June 6, 2017.
I’ve never been good at leads (or is it lede?). I try to set the scene, create these great moments of tension, keep readers on the edge of their seats. It never works. Usually, I just say what it is. I blame the years I spent writing for my high school newspaper and yearbook.
My first (and favorite) writing teacher, Ms. McKinney, would tell me to say exactly what I meant. To get to the point and not keep writers guessing for too long. It’s funny because the (former — more on that later) managing editor of MIZZOU, the alumni magazine at the University of Missouri would tell me the same thing. “Just say the words. Don’t keep readers guessing.”
The writing process is like a puzzle. You’ve got your interviews, your research, maybe some photos or video. As a writer, it’s my job to put the pieces together for my audience.
Reading is not like a puzzle. I want to know what I’m reading and why right away. If you stumbled upon this entry from one of my social channels, then you know why you’re here. You’re nosey and want to know all the juicy details of the 140 character sentence that led to you clicking this link. However, if you just happened to come across this on the internet, you’re probably confused (and potentially getting annoyed).
For the most part, I saw it coming. Unfortunately, I’m starting to feel like a pro at this. I was laid off from my first job too (advertising). I chose higher ed because I thought it wouldn’t be as cut throat, that there would be more job security and that I’d actually see my (super expensive for mid-Missouri) apartment before the sun went down each day. I was right about one of those things.
I was barely six months out of college when I lost my first job. I was embarrassed and scared. I didn’t tell anyone. At the time, I didn’t realize it was pretty common in the ad industry. The agency loses an account, you lose your job. I knew I wanted my next move to involve writing, I just didn’t know how hard it would be to land a full-time gig.
I had zero intentions of moving back to my college town to write for my alma mater’s alumni magazine, but that’s what I did. The editor took a chance on me when literally no one else would. I’ll never fully be able to explain how much that meant to me, to my career.
In February 2016, I joined the Mizzou Creative staff with maybe six clips worth mentioning. Half of those were about vain things like nail-polish and the perfect co-washing routine. I was embarrassed to even submit them as writing samples. But, it’s all I had.
Now, 17 months later I have dozens of bylines in MIZZOU magazine and on the news site. I’ve had the audacity to pitch to sites like Bitch Media, Pacific Standard and The Establishment. And by sheer luck, Ebony picked up a piece of mine that I first wrote almost a decade ago.
I didn’t love every day at Mizzou. I was the only black person in my office, I often served as the millennial/Gen Z voice and one time I worked on a semester-long video project only for it to get canned at the very end. So, no, things weren’t perfect. But it was a good 17 months.
When I knew layoffs were coming I began telling myself lies just to get through each day.
- You already were laid off once, the universe couldn’t possibly make it happen again.
- You’re the only black person in the marketing and communications department, they need your voice if they don’t want another fall 2015.
- That story you wrote got hundreds of likes, who else can cover Black Mizzou like you?
My layoffs were not about how good or bad I was at my job. They were just business. And that’s all fine and dandy, but I’ll be damned if I find myself in this situation again. Every time I hear of someone getting laid off it’s a reminder that 1) I never wanted to work for a company anyway and 2) that I’ve got to make my own income to really live the life I want.
In May, when Ebony laid off half of its editorial staff, former EIC Kyra Kyles had some great insight that I want to share:
Correction, you were liberated and primed for even more greatness. *dusts your shoulders off* https://t.co/VDj0Yvp4AK
— Kyra Kyles (@thekylesfiles) June 3, 2017
I’ve been here before and I can either stress eat like crazy, cry and gain 30 pounds (seriously, that’s what happened last time) or I can finally do what I feel God has been calling me to for years.
So, that’s why I’m here. That’s why heyitsbkay.com exists. I’m not focused on huge endorsements, or over dramatized stories to get clicks and views, I want to keep it real. Like 100 emoji real. I want to build a life where I can write, edit and work from anywhere in the world. And I’m going to do it. This blog is my journey.
You’re going to want to see this. So, if you haven’t already, subscribe for the latest posts, unsolicited advice and Beyoncé gifs. Trust me, this is only the beginning.
Got some ideas you’d like to see on the blog? Know a #blkcreative I should work with? Shout them out below, or tag both of us on Twitter. Let’s work.