A Writer’s Journey

We all find ourselves in this particular season of uncertainty and anxiety as people across the world are forced to come to a stillness. We hope this blog post finds you well and in peace.

 

The personal essay below is written by Aeran Baskin, a member of The Beautiful Community and a dynamic writer who participates in Maya’s Room, our writing circle. This time we’re in is a good time to awaken the artists inside all of us. May Aeran’s words inspire you to encounter the artist within yourself, to reflect, and to create. 


At 14, I wrote in my closet with the door closed. The closet light had stopped working at some point. Daddy never committed to fixing it–there were more pressing things to do–so I would bring in a flashlight. I would bring others into that closet, too. My books. My pens. My thoughts. And God. We would giggle to each other on blank paper. Those times in the closet were girl talk. 

I can’t recall how much time would pass between when I would pull the doors of my closet shut–trapping myself in sanctuary–and when Momma would pull them apart–exposing me to the world. “It’s time to eat…you didn’t hear me calling your name?”

How could I hear her? I was creating worlds. I was speaking light. This was my way. This was my worship. Infinity bound by blank paper.

But I’ll tell you a secret. 

The girl in the closet grew up. I got tall and thick around the hips. I started thinking about my future instead of imagining it. 

And then I traded writing for security. 

Perhaps it was because I thought that artists starve (lies the devil tells). Or that writing ain’t a real career (another lie the devil tells). Or I just got scared of showing people what I wrote (there he goes again). 

I was committed to my lies. My security and I jumped between two coasts and 5 major cities. But, secretly, I kept a box of notebooks, loose pages, and napkins with poetry and scenes in the passenger seat of whatever U-Haul I was driving. I would sometimes revisit the box, wondering if I could fall back in love with the words it kept. 

Last year, Maya’s Room invaded my security. 

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Perhaps I thought that I would just attend and write a few scenes. Maybe I thought that I would just revisit the Artist’s Way and go on an artist date or two. I suspect that I had no expectations at all beyond being present. 

But whatever my expectations Maya’s Room took me on a journey. 

I lie. 

Maya’s Room took me on three journeys: A Journey Towards Self, A Journey Towards Sisterhood, and A Journey Towards Artistry.

A Journey Towards Self: If I’m honest, which I should be, writing had turned into a hustle. Writers write. My writing was limited to legal memoranda, grant reports and the occasional poem. When I wrote, it was because I was writing towards what I thought I should be. I wrote because writers are supposed to write. 

I discovered in Maya’s Room that I write because I am. I am before I write. Writing comes from a place of wholeness and rest and not hustle to become something or someone. 

A Journey Towards Sisterhood: The journey towards self was traveled alongside my sisters. At some point, our conversations evolved from exploring ourselves as writers to discovering ourselves. Even in those moments when I wanted to close the closet door to only sit in the darkness, I had women around me asking me if I heard them calling my name. 

A Journey Towards Artistry: I have always considered myself a good writer. One of the most exciting revelations was understanding why I am a good writer and where I can improve to become a better writer. Talking with other writers helped me to identify where I was strong. 

I often felt that I was writing towards a dragon that was constantly changing form or deliberately moving away from me. I also found myself engaged in a tug-o-war with myself because I did not want to dive into the personal details that would give my writing more meaning, more flesh. I suspect that these difficulties may occur when writing on any topic of personal significance. I suspect that they won’t go away. But I did notice that my comfort with the discomfort of writing towards the dragon increased each time I shared what I wrote. 

Maya’s Room has, unexpectedly, revived my love of writing. I no longer feel inclined to have security over wholeness. The question now is what will I do with this new love? I definitely don’t intend to abandon it again as I have before. I plan to make writing, even if for five minutes a day, part of my daily practice. Besides the daily practice of writing, I plan to develop further as a writer by continuing to let others read my work. This is Maya’s gift. 

I’m grateful. I suspect that the little girl in the closet, writing by flashlight, is grateful, too.


Aeran N. Baskin developed a love for words at a young age from her mother’s spontaneous storytelling about warrior princesses, crafty assassins, and misunderstood dragons. Aeran channeled this legacy of storytelling into an affection for building worlds through poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. She deeply believes that writing is a spiritual baptism that provides the writer and reader with an opportunity to commune with God. Through the word, Aeran has dedicated herself to tell the stories of and advocate with Black women, girls, and families.

 

At The Beautiful Project, a primary goal is to create a space where Black women and girls can cultivate confidence in their artistic voices, whether that is through the pen or the lens. One of the spaces where we accomplish this is in Maya’s Room, a writing circle for Black women to gather, explore, discuss, and write. 

During her long, dynamic writing career, Maya Angelou had a practice of going to a hotel room with her legal pad, pen and a dictionary to be alone with her thoughts and write. Influenced by Maya’s commitment to a writing practice, we have decided to offer space for Black women to take up their crafts in community. 

In the fall of 2018, we launched our first year of Maya’s Room with a group of prolific and dynamic Black women. Over the course of a year, the women of Maya’s Room learned to embrace their inner artists and discover the words and stories that have been stirring inside of them. Below are a few reflections from the women in the writing circle about their time together.

“Participating in Maya’s Room has given me the courage to continue working on my writings without fear of criticism from those who come across my work.”

“Maya’s Room has impacted my confidence as a writer and an artist as well.”

“In some spiritually beautiful ways…the time has provided some beloved community and a much needed boost to my creativity.”

“The space has been incredibly affirming, encouraging, and fortifying. It has enhanced my ability to think about my life and, in so doing, it has strengthened my voice for my writing and the purposes behind my content.”

We are excited to welcome new members into Maya’s Room this month, starting on February 20th! If you’re looking to connect with Black Women writers and need some accountability to just sit down write, we hope you’ll join us. 

Maya’s Room will be open for new members during the following dates: February 20th, March 5th, and March 19th. In April, we will close the writing circle. 

Date: Thursday, February 20th 

Time: 7-8:30pm 

Where: The Beautiful Project’s office: 411 W. Chapel Hill Street C-2, Durham, NC 27701

For more information and to RSVP, please visit here.