TWENTY YEARS in the BUSINESS:
WHAT AN AMAZING ADVENTURE!
We start with gifts. Merit comes from what we make of them.
Jean Toomer, Novelist
I am celebrating twenty incredible years as a professional freelance writer and author! While I savor this awesome milestone, I am also speechless! Has it been twenty years? Seriously??? Will I wake up and find it was just a fanciful dream? Mercifully, the answer is no. I’ve been toiling in the trenches, chasing my dreams, pursuing my passion, and enhancing my craft in good times and bad for twenty years! As so often happens, I looked up and realized what time it is! Ah, here I am twenty years later, still figuring things out; still doing my thing with gusto and feeling blessed beyond measure. I feel giddy with excitement!
I’ve told the story of how I fell into writing plenty of times. What I find incredible is the beauty of the journey. It hasn’t been straightforward, easy, painless, or untroubled, yet it is my story and I own it. A career forged out of pain and deep disappointment has brought me so much joy.
I continue to create because writing is a labor of love and also an act of defiance, a way to light a candle in a gale wind.
Ah, the foregoing so eloquently and aptly describes me… Thank you Alice Childress! Sadly, we never met, and she died before I knew who she was. Through the divine mystery of a miracle, Childress brought those words to life just for me. I’ve found my voice as both a writer and an author of fiction. Twenty years later I celebrate it…
Writing well is no mean feat. Both the literary and media landscapes are littered with stuff passing as prose, text, information…call it what you will. The challenge is finding a way to be heard. I am a womanist writer of the African Diaspora. My voice is often overlooked, disrespected, unappreciated, or dismissed. I’ve never seriously contemplated giving up, yet I am painfully aware how name recognition, or lack of it, can affect one’s dreams, desires, desideratum. So yes, for me writing is a labor of love, an act of defiance, and a determined effort to light a candle in a gale wind. I’ve been in the business for twenty years and my journey has just begun!
As I ponder the reality of this milestone, I am immensely grateful for what it means to acquire years of experience…to develop expertise, gain knowledge, and have a demonstrable set of skills. I have a track record, an increasingly valuable set of assets I love to use, and a vast repository of resources to draw on. I have honed my craft in classrooms, teaching, and working with other aspiring writers; as a volunteer composing text for a variety of media, as a consultant, author of short stories, and a blogger.
And as my journey continues, I must take time to reflect on what I’ve learned. Over the years I’ve become a better writer, yes, which is to be expected. The most meaningful lessons emerged in four key themes, the pillars of my success and I believe they speak for themselves:
• Time management.
• The value of human intercourse.
No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helps you.
There’s no debate, or there should be none, regarding the importance of commitment, however, no one ever achieves success in a vacuum. My parents nurtured my love of reading and immersed me in social and educational experiences meant to broaden my horizons. College professors, mentors, newspaper owners, publishers, editors, acquaintances, and colleagues have had a great deal to do with where I am today. And you, my friends and supporters are a wellspring of encouragement. I appreciate you! More than words can say – oh, yeah!
I didn’t get where I am on my own steam, by virtue of my own efforts, or through a single-minded effort focused exclusively on myself. Family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have seen me through the rough patches, dry spells, and moments of crisis. You and they have witnessed my evolution and hung in there with me. Thank you so much; I am humbled by your support.
I never intended to become a run-of-the-mill person.
The late congresswoman has been a shero of mine for more than forty years. While pregnant with my daughter, confined to bed due to Pre-Eclampsia, and bored out of my gourd, I caught a Barbara Walters special and the Honorable Barbara Jordan was one of her interviewees.
Walters hit Sister Jordan with a criticism regarding her supposed lack of activism on behalf of the women’s movement. Well, let me tell you, Sister Jordan sat upright and without so much as batting an eye, she responded to Baba WaWa and said something like this: “Every morning when I get out of bed I’m helping the women’s movement!” I recall watching the program with two cousins, Lulu and Mad. Sister Jordan’s timely response so moved me I yelled, “Right on, Barbara Jordan!” She didn’t allow others to define her worth or categorize her actions.
I am a Black woman writer with twenty years in the business. I toil in relative obscurity, yet I hold fast to my dreams believing in their viability. This anniversary is a manifestation of my intention to create and leave behind a body of literary work to be analyzed, dissected, discussed, reviewed, loved, appreciated, and shared, For me writing is a labor of love, an overt act of defiance, and a purposeful endeavor to light a candle in a gale wind. Or, as James Baldwin put it, “Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent.” I will continue to put pen to paper and raise my voice, employing soaring, stylish, persuasive, and unforgettable prose. I can do no less! After all, I’ve been in the business for twenty years and I’m just getting started!
We all have ability. The difference is how we use it.
Copyright May 31, 2019, by Theresa W. Bennett-Wilkes