It was probably around 2000 or so when I purchased a little book from the bookstore called You Can Write a Column by Monica McCabe-Cardoza. A decade later, I can see clearly this book planted a seed in me that would eventually blossom into the writing life I am enjoying today.
After reading You Can Write a Column, I wanted to do just that, however I was much more interested in learning how to write a novel. African American womenís fiction was experiencing a renaissance and I desperately wanted to be a part of it. The only problem was at the time I did not know how to craft a long narrative. I had no completed works and of course no potential buyers. However, quite a few places were interested in my articles. In the late 1990s I wrote several articles profiling remarkable women for a monthly newsletter called Sisters in Motion. I featured Elsie Richardson, a legendary activist here in Brooklyn. And I interviewed some women who I did not know, but were chosen by the publisher. I wrote about seven or eight pieces altogether before the publisher stopped producing the newsletter and moved on to do other things.
Later, or maybe even at the same time, I began to write for a publication called Fierce Magazine. I met the publisher during a Black Women in Publishing event. We had lunch and I pitched a few pieces I referred to as personal experience essays. As I recall, I wrote one about happiness. A photographer came and took a beautiful black and white picture of me and my then infant son. The article was published online right before the magazine folded. I wrote another personal experience essay for Black Planet about the trials and tribulations of being a mother and a writer, which received a significant amount of feedback. Despite all of this evidence that I was a pretty good at writing personal experience self-help, I remained painfully fixated on becoming a novelist.
Around 2004, four years after I read You Can Write a Column I made a note on my calendar resolving to finally find a place where I could regularly showcase my writing. Iíd finally written, Again and Again, the novel Iíd dreamed of writing for close to a decade and was planning to self-publish. I had no interest in doing book readings, so I thought I would instead promote my writing via other writingóa regular column. At first I did not want to write a column for the sake of writing the column but rather to draw attention to my novel.
Iíd heard of Bellaonline and visited many, many times contemplating whether or not I should apply to be an editor. Finally in October of 2005, I took the plunge and was accepted. Since then Iíve written more than 300 self-help oriented articles for Bellaonline as well as other sites, newspapers and magazines. I still write fiction, but self-help is my primary muse. Iíll be walking down the street and a phrase, a title or an outline for an entire article will just come to me seemingly out of thin air. I wake up everyday thinking about what Iíll write next.
The lesson is to follow your interests, your intuition and your heart. Be open and try new things. Plant many seeds as you never know which will actually grow. Even as I was focused on being a fiction writer, I still pursued other writing interests and lo and behold I discovered where my true passion lies.
What I love most about column writing is I can add to this work into infinity. Itís alive and never ending. And it all started with a small seed, that little book I randomly plucked off the shelf many years ago.
*quotes courtesy of brainyquote.com*