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Advice For Writing Your Success Story From Award-Winning Playwright And Author, Trey Anthony

On October 14, 2007, Trey Anthony’s ‘da Kink in My Hair debuted on Global Television. It was a historic moment. The show was the first primetime program to be created, written, and produced by a Black woman for a major Canadian network.

But Anthony’s success story started long before that. ‘da Kink in My Hair was originally a stage play that debuted in 2001, breaking box office records in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. The play earned Anthony four NAACP awards, including Best Playwright. Since ‘da Kink in My Hair, Anthony has created and produced another wildly successful play, How Black Mothers Say I Love You, worked in production for Women’s Television Network (now known as the W Network), and developed her career as a motivational speaker and lifestyle coach.

This January, the creative multi-hyphenate added a new accomplishment to her resume by publishing her debut book Black Girl in Love (With Herself). Drawing inspiration from her life and experiences, Anthony has filled her new book with advice to support and empower Black women to forget who they are ‘supposed’ to be and truly fall in love with themselves.

“I want for Black women to know we don’t always have to show up strong and think we have all the answers. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is being vulnerable and taking care of my mental health. That’s all in the book, and I’m really hoping this level of vulnerability really resonates with other Black women,” Anthony said.

Anthony is no stranger to writing to the hearts of Black women. She describes herself as ‘unapologetically Black,’ and she has become known and loved for how she writes authentic representations of the Black community. In her work, she explores painful subjects and difficult truths through humor in ways that keeps her audience engaged.

“I talk about suicide. I talk about colorism. I talk about homosexuality. These are things that are not center stage in Black people’s experiences, and they didn’t want to talk about it. But combining humor and drama—I call it dramedy—I’m able to get away with certain things,” Anthony explained.

While Anthony’s focus on Black stories has won the heart of her audience, she acknowledged that the mainstream media has often been reluctant to get on board. From executives telling her that her subject matter wouldn’t resonate with broader audiences to a book agent declaring that her book idea could not be sold, Anthony has heard ‘no’ many times. She’s never let it discourage her.

“I always see it as a lesson. It’s the ability to say, ‘I’m going to prove you wrong…I’m going to make you wish you had said yes to this,” Anthony said.

Whenever her ideas were declined, Anthony had the tenacity and persistence to get things done on her own. She self-funded both ‘da Kink in My Hair and How Black Mothers Say I Love You by taking out lines of credit against two properties, one of which she bought when she was just 25. She is proud to say that the risk has always paid off.

Anthony took a similar get-it-done approach to landing her publishing deal. A long-time fan of author Louise Hay, Anthony recognized that Hay House (Hay’s publishing company) was missing content that catered to women of color. So, she pitched her book idea directly to the publisher. When an editor wrote back to say that the idea was great, but the book proposal needed work, Anthony spent two months learning how to write a proper proposal and pitched her book again. After six months of back and forth, Anthony secured a book deal with Hay House.

Anthony’s determination and dedication to her goals is admirable, but it hasn’t always been received that way. She said that her race and gender have affected the way she’s perceived, but she’s committed to revolting against the idea that Black women shouldn’t take up space.

“If I was a white man, I would be called a genius for doing all of these things. But as a Black woman, I’m taking up space…An ex of mine said to me, ‘You move through the world like a white man.’ And I said, ‘I have to have that level of audacity.’ I always say, ‘What would Chad do?’ And that’s my motto. It’s right over my desk. And whatever Chad would do, I do it.”

Anthony has applied this rule to much of her career, including money matters. She explained that she once struggled to negotiate her rates or even discuss money amongst her peers, citing the shame that many women feel around talking about income. Now, she has begun speaking to peers about their deals and offers, in the same way that men often do, to ensure she is being compensated fairly. This practice recently helped her negotiate a six-figure deal for her brand.

“Ever since I started talking about money with other women, it has helped me leverage how much I’m charging and what I expect,” Anthony said. “I went in there and negotiated for myself, and I was very proud of myself that I didn’t just take the first number they gave me.”

Anthony recommended that all creative women take up the habit of speaking openly about money and negotiating for their worth. She also had this advice for creatives who are trying to write their own success stories:

Write what you know and what’s important to you.

From her book to her plays, Anthony has always found her inspiration in her own life stories and experiences. She suggests that others do the same and avoid the temptation to follow trends or try to predict what audiences want.

“You need to write what’s important to you. Because the audience will sniff when you’re not being authentic. Write what you know and what you’ve experienced. Write so you can say, ‘This is what I know, how it has affected me, how it has affected my family, how it has affected people who look like me,” Anthony said.

Don’t Let Perfectionism Keep You From Creating

Like many creatives, Anthony knows what it’s like to get stuck on wanting to create something perfect. But she agrees with Sheryl Sandberg’s advice that done is better than perfect.

“Know that it’s never going to be good the first time around,” Anthony warned. “You’re going to make mistakes. There’s a time where I just say, ‘It’s done,’ and I put it out into the world. If I need to revisit it, I will. But you have to give yourself some kind of deadline.”

Protect Your Creative Time From Distraction

Anthony had her hands full when she began writing Black Girl in Love (With Herself). She had a newborn baby and was getting little sleep. But that did not stop her from making writing a priority. She hired a nanny, set writing hours, and committed to her schedule.

“You have to have a level of discipline because you want to give yourself excuses. But I definitely think the key to my success is that I get very laser focused when I need to be,” Anthony said.

Study Your Craft and Allow Experts to Mentor You

Even as a seasoned playwright, when Anthony began writing her book, she made sure to study successful self-help authors like Iyanla Vanzant, Eric Thomas, and Sarah Jake Roberts to learn from their work. She encouraged other creatives to do the same.

“I’m always shocked when writers say they don’t have time to read. Then you don’t have time to write. Because you’ve got to know what’s out there and you’ve got to see how other people are getting stuff done. I’m a big believer in the idea that success leaves clues. You can have mentors from afar. Study the people who are doing what you want to do,” Anthony recommended.

For Black women, creatives, and writers who want to find the ‘clues’ in Anthony’s success story, Black Girl in Love (With Herself) is available now.

By Pauleanna Reid, Founder of New Girl on the Block, a mentorship platform for millennial women who are dealing with major life and career transitions first published on https://www.forbes.com/sites/pauleannareid/2021/01/25/advice-for-writing-your-success-story-from-award-winning-playwright-and-author-trey-anthony/?sh=3c00bb061514 January 25, 2021