Author Aesthetic

I think a lot about my author aesthetic. For me, that means thinking about how I want to show up in the world , and to know that I need to know what kind of writer I aim to be. It’s more than just a personal style, though I believe that this is a lot of it.

I think about this because as a young writer who gathers a lot of strength and courage from Black feminist writers, poets and activists, I want to put intentionality at the forefront of everything I do. Intentionality and care are deeply intertwined when I think about my aesthetic. I want to make sure I am moving and showing up in a way that aligns with what I value: Black women’s history and love practices, compassion for self and others, and freedom and futurity as two halves of a whole, to start, but also Black girlhood and joy.

So what does that mean exactly for me? I think it means that I aim to present myself as the truest version of me at any given moment in the hopes that it will inspire others to walk in their truth as well.

I want to always carry a part of Black girl and womanhood with me, in the form of the biggest gold hoops I can find, as a reminder of recognition and value of us– but also how I came to love myself.

I want to wear my hair natural or in protective styles (the bigger the better) because it reminds me that every part of me, my big body, my big hair, were designed by God to take up space. My hair defies gravity, and coils and weaves together while also springing up alone as a reminder that there are parts of myself are crafted in union with others to create unique, rule defying strands.

I wear my identity on my chest as a nameplate necklace so that there’s no concealing my pride.

I will never stop wearing glasses because it reminds me that I ruined my eyes as a child reading in the dark before bed– always a reader with a wild imagination.

Heeled shoes will always have a spot in my closet to combat all the years I refused them, thinking it would make me too tall, before I realized I was an Amazon and Amazons didn’t make themselves small.

Tattoos that convey meaning, tell others about the people and places and words that have shaped me, will always have a place on my body, which I will cloth with love because I had to learn to love it.

Yellow for happiness, the sun and my Grandmother, Thelia; purple for calm and regality; and black for artistry and confidence will always be me go to colors, with a mix of earth tones to remind me of the rolling acres of land in Wakefield I spent my childhood exploring on Sunday afternoons.

Yes, I think of outfits and nail colors, cute statement jewelry pieces and bold lip colors.

But in the end, if you remember me with a yellow pen in hand and a hardcover journal, ready to see if I can assemble a collection of words into a truth…then that will be more than my author aesthetic.

It will be my legacy.

How To Make Yourself Small and Other Impossible Feats

  1. Believe them when they say that your emotions are too much, because everyone likes to make Black girls feel like any one of our feelings is a threat.
  2. Believe them when “your emotions” become synonymous with “you.” Believe them even though you know that everyone fears that which is bigger than them because it makes them unknowable…and potentially, unstoppable.
  3. Let other people tell you what you are feeling is too intense. As a result, make yourself small and delicate; fold your long limbs across your chest; press your lips together in a firm straight line; cast your eyes down and wait. Because no matter how we compress the air right out of our lungs to take up less space, they will scream, “Smaller!”
  4. Tell yourself that if you cannot feel, then you must work. Tell yourself that that in-ten-si-ty is more ac-cept-able when channeled into work. Toil even though they steal your labor, devalue your contributions, and yet dare fix their lips to ask for m o r e.
  5. Blame them, because societal expectations have done a number on your ability to love and because you’re scared of your own vastness because it scares other people, you build walls around yourself.
  6. Stop talking about love and hurt because you’re afraid other people will call you crazy when
  7. You know it’s human to love and to be hurt and to heal and to fall in love again but because they all think, you all think, we all think, Black women are superhuman, we are denied that courtesy. 
  8. Pretend you’re fine.
  9. Review steps 1-8 and:
  10. Fail.

Ravynn the Writer

Yesterday, I asked my mother if she knew I was going to be an author when I was young. She said, “No. But I did know you were going to do something with books. You loved books.”

I spent a lot of time during my teenage years and early twenties going back and forth between a long list of potential careers, which included:

  • A Concert Pianist
  • A Civil Engineer
  • A Teacher
  • A Diplomat
  • A Lawyer

Surprisingly, none of the careers I spent all my time daydreaming about included writing. It never really occurred to me that I could write and people would pay me for my words and ideas.

Once, when I was perhaps in middle school, I also asked my piano teacher, Ms. Diane, what she thought I’d do when I grew up. As I saw her every week for an hour without fail during all of my formative years, Ms. Diane was probably the adult who knew me best outside of my parents. She said that she didn’t know, but she sensed I would probably have a very creative career– with all my degrees propped on top of my piano.

I think about Ms. Diane’s vision for me more often now that I’m 26 and almost done with my Ph.D. and have a stack of unpublished novels on my hard drive, ready to make their way into the world. After several years of accumulating degrees, I’m feel like I’m finally on my path. And, as Ms. Diane’s vision predicted, it’s much more creative than I would have ever imagined for myself.

All things considered, it is amazing that I never truly pursued writing as a profession until college. Three things were true about child Ravynn:

  1. I loved books.
  2. I loved to write.
  3. I loved to make things.

Elementary School Ravynn entered every the Young Writers Contest every year; she attempted to start a magazine with her friends in the fourth grade; she wrote newspapers and comics: The Stringfield Times and Power Squad; and she wrote an entire novel about a preteen detective that her father graciously printed out for her at work.

Middle School Ravynn infamously fictionalized her life in a novel called, One, and kept detailed journals during those tumultuous times.

High School Ravynn entered, and won, NaNaWriMo every year; attempted to fuse music and writing in an original musical; and, of course, was almost expelled for writing X-Men style stories that featured her and her classmates against their teachers during English class.

And that’s not even half of what I got up to as a child.

Somehow, still, I never let myself imagine what it would be like to see my name on the cover of a book. To hold a few hundred pages of my own words in my hands.

Recently, I have been imagining it.

I’m giving myself permission to daydream.

Even though I know the various versions of my younger self had certain plans for the future, somehow, I know that there’s not a single version of myself that wouldn’t love where I am now, and everything that’s to come.

I’m still reading.

I’m still making things.

And I’m still writing.

And one day, maybe, you’ll get to pick my book up off your shelf.