Empty Stage

Thank you, thank you, Thank you. You’re far too kind.  Now can I get an encore? Do you want more? –Jay-Z Encore 



I started blogging in January, 2009. Not sure why. It wasn’t a part of any grand plan. I just wanted to write stuff. And a blog seemed like a cool way to do it. My first book had been released and I thought it made sense to have some kind of presence online.

I had no idea what to say.

A few days earlier, Jermaine Hall, my friend (and sometimes boss), emailed me about a young lady named Jenny who was looking for advice about writing. She sent me an email and when I finished reading it, I fired off a harsh response. Jenny was being mealy-mouthed about her desire to write. She didn’t want to say it clearly. And I told her about herself; if you want to be a writer, say it.

A thought occurred to me soon after. What I had said to Jenny in that email is the same thing I had said to a gazillion young writers over the years. I emailed Jenny and asked her for permission to use our conversation and emails in a blog post based on something I told her about writing, “Succeeding as a writer is about tenacity, not talent.”

And thus, my first blog post here was born.

The next two years are a complete blur.

I blogged every. Single. Day. Without fail. Sometimes on the weekends too. I wrote like a madwoman. I walked around looking like a normal mother/wife/writer. But inside, millions of mini-Aliyas were constantly scouring the world for another blog topic. What’s that? Your nephew Jordan says you’re not a traditional wife? Get on it girls! Wait. Did you just wear a onesie to your husband’s high school reunion? We got another blog topic coming through! Can’t do your kid’s hair? Got a book coming out? Your ex-boyfriend blocked you on Facebook? Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go!

I remember going to an industry event one day and running into my friend Anslem Samuel. Anslem’s popular blog had been one of the reasons I’d decided to start blogging.

“Yo,” he said. “How are you blogging like that?” he asked.

“Like what?”

Anslem looked at me like I had snakes spiraling out of my head.

“Like, every day!”

I really and truly did not understand why Anslem was so incredulous. I decided to start blogging. I needed to put content up every day. So I put up content every day. The end. Isn’t that how it was done?

I didn’t get it. Until I got it.

Eventually, me and the mini-Aliyas collapsed. The blog stopped being fun. It was hard coming up with topics. And my regular work was suffering. My whole life was suffering. I wrote a dramatic au revoir post and shut down my blog.

And of course I started a new blog almost immediately. I posted less and felt less pressure. But it wasn’t the same. I removed the au-revoir post, (the one and only time I have ever taken down a post). And I quietly returned; I woke the mini-Aliyas up and put them back to work.

Work became intense. I wrote five books in five years. And I had more in progress. The WordPress dashboard was starting to give me hives. A week off turned into two, which turned into months. My second novel, Diamond Life, was published in February 2012. I knew that I had to write something on my blog to let folks know, even though my heart wasn’t it. When I logged on to the Dashboard, I realized it had been a full year since I’d posted. I was disheartened and disillusioned.

Blogging had been so much fun. I had built such a vibrant community. The blog had become a great place to vent, rant and of course market myself and my work. And it kept my writing fresh and snappy. You post on a blog every flipping day for two years and you will not have a problem doing your freelance writing work. Those words will be flying out of you like the roaring rapids.

As the most recent post on my blog became more and more outdated, the mere sight of the blog really bothered me. It didn’t help that I was twenty pounds overweight in the picture of myself in the post.



I changed my settings so that Google would be my home page instead of my blog. I didn’t do any of the WordPress updates. I simply pretended the site never existed.

Eventually, I retreated further from writing in general. No Tweeting. No Facebooking. I did the assignments I needed to do. Didn’t attempt to come up with anything new. I sank into a deep depression.

And then one day, I tried to pull myself out of it. I took a deep breath, opened up my laptop and told myself, just write anything. Anything that comes to mind.

My hands were frozen in mid-air. I could not think of a single thing to write. My mind was blank. I felt dull and mentally clumsy. When I looked down at the keyboard it felt like all the letters were on the wrong keys.

This continued for a long time.

One day, I sat in my living room across from my husband. I tried to explain to him that I felt like something had physically happened to me, like I’d had a stroke or a session of electroshock therapy. He tried to convince me that it was just a phase and I started howling. I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. It was just a phase?

If Lebron James woke up one morning with one leg, he’d realize immediately that he would never play pro-basketball again. He could get a prosthetic and get on the court in a much different way. But the NBA would be a wrap. Forever.

Now imagine Lebron crying, telling his wife about how devastated he is that his basketball career was over.

Now imagine his wife saying, don’t worry. This is just a phase.

Lebron would look at her like she was nuts. A phase? Chick don’t you see my leg is GONE?

That’s how I felt. My husband thought my inability to write was just a phase. And I was convinced, convinced I tell you, that the writing section of my brain had been permanently damaged. I felt like someone had shifted things inside my brain so that when I felt like I was raising my arm or kicking my feet I was really sticking out my tongue or blinking really fast.

I later learned that our ability to write—and create as a whole—is controlled by the frontal lobe in our brain’s left hemisphere. Several factors can cause this area to stop working properly, including depression.

Now I don’t know which came first, the frontal lobe breakdown or the depression. But they both worked in tandem to keep my laptop closed for over a year.

And then, on August 15, 2013, I wrote this in my journal:

“I wrote today. Like, for real for real wrote! Fiction!! And it was good!! I wrote today! Thousands of words with a plot that excited me. I can’t believe it. I really wrote today. Feels so good to have my laptop…on  my lap.”

Ever since, my brain has been trying to catch up. I swear to you, I have written more words in the past 10 weeks than I did in all of 2011 and 2012 combined. That’s my word.

I’m over 50,000 words deep into the idea that popped into my head in August. I haven’t even finished a proper outline, I just sit down and type like a madwoman for hours on end. I get to the end of chapter or a scene and then look around and realize that the house is completely dark or that I’m 45 minutes late picking up my first-grader from school. Most times, when I come out of it, I’m sweating and out of breath.

Usually when I write, I sit down and think about what I’m writing and then slowly begin. Words come tentatively and then build up. I think of it like the beginning of an ice skating routine. First the skater slides onto the ice, serene and serious, a few slow figure eights and smooth spins. And then comes the triple sow cows and the backflips as the music crescendos.

Right now? When I start writing, I come in doing back flips and holding my leg behind my head and spinning like a top. No warm up. No cool down.

A few days after the writing returned, I wrote a post on Facebook, my first in nearly a year. I slipped into a trance in Starbucks and wrote this rambling rant on why and how I fell off the social media planet and how grateful I was to be back. That post was at least a thousand words, if not more. And that was just the beginning. I’ve written at least 10,000 words in Facebook posts since August. I started prefacing my updates with a warning about their blog-size length.

And then my girl Luvvie sent me a message on Facebook.

What would you say if I insisted you start your blog back off an no pressure on posting all the time?

your statuses cannot remain FB statuses. These need to be on a website. I need you to kick your blog back off and tell people not to ask you for an update. that they will come as you feel.



I groaned. I knew she was right. I just couldn’t do it. I went to my site and stared at my big old toothy grin headshot. I was sick of looking at that chick. Blech.

Oh close your mouth for God's sake.

Oh close your mouth for God’s sake.

I talked to several designers about a complete re-design. I saw themes and ideas that got me all tingly inside. But was I really ready for an LL Cool J-style don’t call it a comeback site? I wasn’t sure.

Luvvie had an answer to that too.

You need the simplest of simple wordpress sites. i’m talking about the default wordpress theme. No slideshow, none of that. just a simple site that won’t make you wanna fight the air.

Something clicked. I quickly went to wordpress and checked out the default site.

I wanted to cry. It was exactly what I needed.

White space. No bells and whistles.

Luvvie walked me through some basic design things and I even managed to cobble together a quick header and a background. This time, I put a static page on front. If I post daily weekly monthly or yearly, the first thing you will see (and more importantly, what I will see), will be the same.  No more stressing the date of my last post on the home page.

Update: changed my mind. Most recent posts belong on the main page. The end. 

If you’re still reading, then you are one of my dear readers. The folks who hold me down no matter how often I blog, no matter how long it takes me to finish a book, no matter how long my FB posts are. I love you for it.

But this blog is not for you this time. It’s for me.  But you’re welcome to visit whenever you’d like.

Now if you’ll excuse me… I need to change my homepage.


**1, 927 words. That’s gotta be a record. Good gravy.






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12 Responses to encore.

  1. Tracey N. Boyd says:

    I am one of your dear readers and I’m so glad that you are back! You will always have my support. I took your writing class last fall and was so inspired that I went out and purchased Platinum and Diamond Life and read them in 2 days! I am still inspired by you. I had a tragedy happen in my family and it really affected my writing. In 2002 my cousin was abducted and I haven’t written since. This post really resonated with me and gave me hope that I’ll write again soon. Welcome back Aliya!

  2. Hakikah says:

    You’ve been dearly missed. You are my writing inspiration. After following your tweets and taking your word challenges, I started writing and haven’t looked back. People even paid me to write! Thank you. Welcome back.

  3. Portia says:

    I will always tell you this. You make me proud. Wether you write 1 word or 20000 words. I love you for how you inspire people. And wether or not you know it, you inspire me everyday. I’m glad that you are back to blogging because it allows me to get a little piece of Aliya’s beautiful mind when I want BUT what’s most important? You. Your timeline. I’m glad you’re doing it on your terms. I hope this fits you… And if at some point it doesn’t? You know what to do. Your terms girl. Love you!

  4. negritalinda says:

    I missed yoooooouuuuu!!! Tear.

  5. Kenda says:

    So happy to see you back blogging, Aliya!!! I totally agree with Luvvie. Write when you feel the need to blog. That’s all any of us (your readers and fellow writers) want from you.

  6. Jennice says:

    I am new to ur blog but from this post alone, I like what I read. I know how you feel about feeling conflicted about givimg up blogging but then of regretting that decision.I’ve felt that way alot, but somethimg in me, won’t give up! I,just went back to blogging after a three mpnth hiatus. It feels good to be back and I hope you feel the same.

  7. Jennifer Chatmon says:

    Thank you. Sharing is caring, for yourself and others. I read, all the way to the end, and enjoyed/related to the sincerity and honesty of your experience. When we have a skill that emanates from our spirit like breath, sometimes we lose control or contact with it. And that’s okay. Because it’s who we are. It’s part of how we exist. So we will always return. As you have. Welcome back.

  8. Lisa says:

    I am so glad to see you back. I have re-read your blog countless times since your absence. I was hoping you’d return, but only on your terms because I know how blogging can be (said the girl who hasn’t posted on her blog for more than a year). Your writing has been greatly missed.

  9. max says:

    I was inordinately excited to see your feed pop up in my Feedly this morning (RIP Google Reader)! Like many of your faithful readers I’ve missed your blog and devoured your epic Facebook statuses and probably posted a few obnoxious responses pressuring you to bring your blog back.
    But reading this post, I totally feel you.
    Not that I am in any way on your league in terms of writing, but I too am on a loooong hiatus from my blog after writing 1,000 words every day for years. First it was a new relationship distracting me. Then it was the skull-crushing tiredness of early pregnancy. Then it was late-pregnancy hospitalization. Then it was NICU-mommyhood. Then it was “not until the babies are sleeping through the night”. And now I have no more excuses and I’m STILL not writing.
    I want to write, start every day thinking it’s the day I’m going to start writing, and endure beseeching tweets from former readers asking me to write again, I just haven’t been able to get my groove back. But I think Luvvie’s tips for you might just help me as well. So thank you once again, for being an inspiration to write.

  10. Antonio says:

    Welcome back Aliya! So many people love you & your work, whether you update once a day or once a decade. Be good to yourself and remember that, always! -Antonio

  11. aliyasking says:

    THANK YOU ANTONIO! Love you lots!

  12. aliya says:

    you guys are flipping awesome.

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