An interesting thing about being a writer is that you have writer friends and they do some awesome things. Like really awesome things. Like life changing things.
Sometimes, it really puts your life into perspective.
So, I thought I’d share some of my friends’ work with you. Why?
Because what you think the writing life probably should look like isn’t the reality. Let’s look at some case studies.
Let’s start with my girl Isabella Avila Borgeson. She’s a spoken word poet I met at VONA in the summer. She was so awesome to chat with and when it was time to do a reading, she picked me after she performed what was possibly the most-perfect spoken word piece I have heard ever.
Here she is performing one of her poems, which made her one of four spoken word poets picked to perform in during the climate talks in Paris.
My friend Jasminne Mendez is amazing. I’m secretly jealous of her poetry skillz. She also a Houstonian and it’s been a pleasure getting to know her through her work and by the awesome advice she gives.
Here she reads an excerpt of “El Corte” which was recently named a finalist for the CutThroat Magazine Barry Lopez Creative Non Fiction prize judged by Nick Flynn.
Another friend, also VONA related, Bani Amor became my Twitter friend recently. She’s a queer travel writer and photographer from Brooklyn. Her work earned her a spot as one of the 9 more inspirational women travel bloggers to follow.
And of course, I have friends who released books. One of them is Kaiaia Alderson-Tyson. Her latest book, Calling Her Bluff, was published by Entangled Publishing. LOVE HER WORK so this is definitely a recommendation.
Need one more? I got one for you. Vanessa Mártir is a writer from New York who teaches and … hold on … is a single mother. Yes, she does this life AND she’s a mom. She’s also fierce on the page. She’s an essayist and writes memoir, fearless memoir. Vanessa is working on her second book called Relentless and has had lots of her essays in publications. Her latest was published in Thought Catalog earlier this month. Her work also earned her a place at the Tin House Winter Workshops early next year.
I know what you’re thinking. Icess, these are writers who have been doing things (publishing, creating, getting press for their work) for a long time. How am I supposed to get there?
Here’s the thing. They were once you. They started writing at their kitchen table or in their notebooks. They wrote during school, after school, in line for groceries, etc.
They started. They continued. They applied for opportunities.
All of these writers have full-time jobs and they still work on their craft, publishing or producing poetry videos or participating in readings. That’s what it means to be a writer in modern America today.
Listen, I know you have this idea of a Parisian cafe and spending the day there, writing. That can happen to a certain extent. You may think of the life where you are writing every day in your home office. It does happen for some. However, what defines the writing life in not your butt in a chair but the actions around your art. Writers do. Writing is a verb. You must write, you must do, and, this is very important, you must support others on similar paths.
You learn from your contemporaries as much as you learn from reading the big names.
Still feel like this isn’t or can’t be you? Make yourself this promise. In the first three months of 2016 submit your work for publication – whether it’s to a lit mag or a freelancing piece to a news publication or sending out a query letter. Just one. Then in the second three months, submit an application to a workshop or conference.
Keep going for the rest of the 2016 writing, reading, and submitting. With any luck, by this time in 2016, you will have a list of accomplishments. The point is not whether you have gotten the opportunities you applied for, it’s that you did it and fulfilled one aspect of the writing life most people forget — putting their work out there.
Need to get started? My friend Glendaliz Camacho has some ideas.