The ‘summer of false starts’


Graphic by Joshua Awolade
Graphic by Joshua Awolade

When The Cord asked me to share my experiences working for an independent magazine this summer, and as a contributor to a New York based hip-hop website, I realized it was more because I made all the wrong decisions. At least that’s what it seemed at the time. And that brings me to the summer of 2011, one that I now have dubbed the “summer of false starts.”

Looking for inspiration I visited my old boss, mentor and friend for advice on what an aimless, socially awkward 16-year-old could do to make the most of the summer. After throwing some ideas back and forth in her office, she got me writing more. She knew I had a keen interest and maybe the beginnings of what could be a great talent. I spent all summer pitching ideas to local magazines. Some publications had me submit three or four pieces at a time, only to reject all of them.

Looking back now I can see I picked topics those publishers wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Part way through the summer, I thought I’d try to drum up some attention on my personal blog I started to host some of the rejected articles. But not surprisingly, it proved to be another false start. To date I’ve received a total of 25 views on that blog and ten from Russia.

Little did I know the following summer something did bite. One of the articles, an interview with an independent rapper from my area, ended up getting picked up by a website that promotes local arts and events. The success of the article, as modest as it was, got me writing again — this time with more of a focus on music.

I spent a lot of my free time over the next year meeting local musicians and pitching articles to small publications. Now lets fast-forward to this summer. My current, more expansive writing portfolio and experience pitching helped me land a full-time job for one of the magazines that rejected my articles. By the end of the summer I had written a cover story, handled dozens of advertising clients and even been appointed editor of our quarterly special edition. I also picked up a part-time gig contributing to the website of a New York based hip-hop magazine, RESPECT.

By the end of this summer I can say I’ve hung out backstage at one of Toronto’s largest hip-hop festivals, been shown around New York City by one of my favorite rappers and previewed new music with the CEO of an independent music label in Jersey City. And that brings me to the point of this piece. Start now. Take something you enjoy, whether it be writing, singing, running or whatever, and push it one step further. Do whatever you have to. You never know where a series of false starts can lead you.

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