Dear Writers

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Something interesting happened this week.

I was poking around Twitter on Tuesday when I noticed Giuliana Rancic getting THAT WORK after saying Zendaya Coleman’s faux-locs made her look like she smelled of pachouli or weed. While I thought Rancic’s comments were wrongheaded and dumb, I felt the response was…a bit much (because, remember this?) and only furthered the notion that everything some random (white) celebrity says is important.

I tweeted about the dustup because I had a slightly different perspective than what I was seeing in my timeline, which led folks to share their opinions with me (or just straight up call me wrong. Hey, it happens), and then, somebody changed my life by sending me a Toni Morrison quote that perfectly summed up what I was feeling.

I mean…isn’t it just perfect?

What’s funny is that could have been the end of my comments on the matter, but I got an email from an editor at the Guardian asking me to write about it. And so, I did. And I got my first clip in the Guardian (and was interviewed by the BBC!), which I’ve been wanting for years

Mama I made it. Sorta.

Mama I made it. Sorta.

When I sat down to write my piece, I revisited my tweets (and that Morrison quote) because they laid the foundation for my argument–that we pay too much attention to random opinions. And while I’ve gone on sustained Twitter rants about much more serious topics in the past, I rarely turn around and spin those tweets into blog posts, or essays, or books.

Because…why exactly?

Why do I–and probably many of you–constantly give away some of my best ideas to Twitter or Facebook or Storify or Instagram, but don’t collect them in my own space, or get paid for them?

I’m certainly very guilty of this. I’ll tweet or Facebook my opinion on various matters, and drop all kinds of knowledge for free-99, but then never turn it into my own thing.


While it’s okay (and beneficial) to post to social media, we don’t own that ish. Twitter and Facebook can do whatever they want with our tweets and thousand-word diatribes and we’d have absolutely no control over it. And while a lot of people are out here writing hundreds of thousands of tweets and building massive followings, if you don’t leverage it for your own benefit, you’re wasting a huge opportunity. Huge.

Don’t get me wrong, I tweet A LOT. But I also write A LOT, mostly for things that bring me actual cash (like the Guardian piece, or an article for latest issue of Ebony, or my books).

So my advice is this: OWN YOUR WORDS. Don’t let them tumble into the black hole of Twitter for advertisers to capitalize on.


And tell your homies by tweeting this out.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Writers write,” but if the only thing you’re working on is your next tweet, that doesn’t count.

Writers work on books and poems and plays and scripts and essays and everything else they can call their own. Yes, sometimes we tweet, but we should also get paid for our words. Ownership is key.

Write it. Own it. Repeat.

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