I met LaKay Cornell on the Ladies Get Paid Slack in 2019, and though she has been for much longer, she declared herself a writer. Thanks to meeting Lakay early on in my solopreneurship, I found my voice and made the same declaration. She validated that I was worth listening too — THANK YOU! — and something everyone needs.
She did so again in this piece last year, which — she does not know — I have read several times. She probably thinks few have seen it, and maybe that brings her down. Reading the piece, you’ll see this thought is meta.
It’s not just the Medium stats or the challenges with other social media sites that make it hard. She grew up as a woman in America, and that alone makes it easy to be worn the hell out from trying to be heard.
Hot Tip: Leave comments for writers, share, quote, and always give credit!
Lakay’s piece might be long, even by my standards, but you will blow right through it. Why? Lakay is speaking to you, and me, and Audre Lorde as she navigates the hard side of being a creator and empath in a difficult world built for neurotypical white men.
She writes poetically, as she often does, and I was immediately sucked in. Her deeply personal storytelling, interesting and intentional grammar rule-breaking, and her way of weaving in culture and connecting ideas past and present can have that effect.
Another reason you will be hooked: Lakay knows her voice and it rarely wavers — something all creators, leaders, and brands should be jealous of, and many probably are. I have come a long way in finding my voice, but still have so much to learn about owning it and using it unapologetically.
Talking about culture, feelings, and ideas that have value, is important work. Doing so unpaid, for a long time, can be quite depressing — something Lakay’s piece articulates well. Publishing all our heartfelt, well-researched, interesting thoughts for not much more than a teeny dopamine hit sucks. It’s a wonder that working in patriarchal capitalism is not always fulfilling, no?
Sarcasm aside, “posting” is not always an easy or quick process, and it’s usually unpaid work for “The Man.” (If you’re lucky a whopping $9.16 Stripe payment is headed your way this month from Medium). Even thinking about that is more emotional labor, labor with a high cost that remains invisible and unrewarded too. We wish we could care less.
As creators and social justice dreamers, we spend our “free time” caring for others. With little to show for it we get the feeling we are invisible. We who live under the weight of living in a man’s world spend our time strategizing, plotting, and planning what will make the world better for everyone. We do this on top of doing ALL THE THINGS, especially more care and domestic work, for less pay. We wish we had more help, too.
Reading Lakay’s piece about finding work with purpose in a world designed for us to fail, I was struck by how this wears on the soul…the very one dying to create against all odds. It also somehow (sadly) makes the work better, but I refuse to glamorize the struggles of the starving artist; people deserve compensation for their creative labor too.
Having something to say and having it seemingly fall on deaf ears can be soul crushing…Publishing ideas on the internet is like telling a kid to pick up their coat for the 200th time. You think they can’t hear you, that they’re not listening because you keep shouting into a void.
But you know they can hear. The truth is, the internet has got dog ears, especially the big dogs.
I’ve had times when I feel like no one is listening.
Does this sound familiar: 3+ hours to write a post. Find the best pic. Schedule it at the optimal time. Tag just the right person, pick the perfect hashtag. Hit Publish…
2 likes from your mom and partner, (if they even read it this time)?
We lament if we should give up already, and there’s no shame in quitting. With no “engagement” to speak of, except from your karass (from Vonnegut; it essentially means “your people”) or occasional hater, self-doubt creeps in.
All the negativity makes you wonder: “Maybe my ideas aren’t that good after all?” Somehow deep down you still KNOW your work is more than good. You know it and they know it…“The people will come Ray,” and they sure do.
The reality is while we feel invisible… they are listening, a lot. “The Powers That Be” are taking what we have to say to the bank. They debate your points before figuring out how to spin it as their own. For their concept or product they got $1.3 million in a seed round, investment-worthy ideas they got from you. Sure, they didn’t hear that from us.
For plausible deniability, they must feign ignorance, but people are listening. They’re reading. Pressing play. Taking note. Synthesizing. Lifting our ideas and throwing them into academic journals, pitch decks, highly SEO-ed blog posts, Twitter threads, and McKinsey’s Insights.
One of our (outspoken women and non-binary writers) regular readers is the “bro troll.” These guys find ways to disagree with statements like “Women are paid less” or “Our voices are not valued and respected.” Oh the irony! They show up to bicker for attention and simultaneously start to absorb your content. (At least they boost your signal, right?)
Bigger organizations with tons of cash pay consultants to surf the web for new ideas — they might be called trend researchers or cool hunters. They spend all damn day listening to us.
Culture and Business “experts” are reading your work, too…they aren’t amplifying, sharing, or boosting. Your idea is about to be expertly repackaged.
They hold back any support or kudos but they’re ready with tons of virtual high fives for another CEO bro who posted “Fuck Hustle Culture. People should rest,” deemed a genius for a sentence. (The real credit for that, by the way, goes to the creator of The Nap Ministry and Black women activists, not the guy in Seattle claiming he invented fair pay after sexually assaulting several women. The irony of him saying Fuck hustle culture as he hustles his way out of prison or accountability.)
“Thought Leaders” and Brand experts show up to a Clubhouse or Spaces with an entourage, saying a few things that sound awfully familiar about building inclusive brands.
(True story.) After their talking points, a highly paid person(ality) who drew a crowd, evaded answering an audience question: “Who is one woman of color in the brand or startup space you follow or we should know about?” He’s stumped. Asked to back up his soundbites with substance, and coming up empty, his handler pops in to remind him they “really do have to go. One more question.”
This is THE guy? He is innovative? He is the expert on branding, and teamwork, and brains in the workplace, and creating cultures of inclusion, and following your Why!?? Why?! WHY AM I SHOUTING?
Meanwhile, we gifted the world (and these guys) the roadmap to saving the planet and humanity, as we try and claw our way out of another hole, the result of their “innovations.”
We get rejection after rejection, yet keep building “bootstrapped” businesses by leaning on partners or borrowing from family, if we even have that luxury. Others put our vision on hold as we care for others (especially moms).
A lot of us try to make it work, but ultimately we’re forced to go work for The Man again. We don’t have much of a choice. We need insurance (in a pandemic). We need income to cover rent and our small business loan. We also need to get some goddamn sleep.
We apply to hundreds of jobs with demoralizing interviews. We get a job and instead of growing our own brand, we give discounts to give our thoughts away at scale, sometimes under someone else’s name. Some of us end up living in a car with a dog, putting a kid through college, applying for jobs from coffee shops.
Ironically, while we fit our brilliance around everyone else, they have significantly more time to think. They can problem solve for hours. They have the privilege of sitting at a desk instead of hiding in the bathroom for uninterrupted time. We work in fits and starts losing weeks (years) of sleep.
Yet, they get to live and sleep and rest and run and f&%k and parent and dream without the added dread of fitting in paid work…because they’re writing with income through book advances. We’re lucky if we get advanced notice we did not qualify, once again.
Men don’t get DMs to be a guest on yet another podcast, “paid in exposure.” Men get to think and speak and write as their only job. They’re employed by large donors and Think Tanks, musing all day on what would make the world even better…for them. Men get the credit.
The kicker: we have the answers to problems they created, and they grab them and say yoink and we’re too tired and too insignificant (in the eyes of the algorithm Gods) to have any recourse.
We write as if we’re Hamilton daily, because we actually are running out of time, again. It’s almost pick up, dinner, time to call your mom, time to post, to send that email and birthday invite and time to pack for a household to take a “vacation” when you know it’s really a trip.
We do this for free because we really are that passionate about our mission (dismantling the very $%it we write about. It’s so damn meta. Oh they lifted that word too to use as a name brand. Meta was stolen from a small business to cover up huge corrupt failures. What’s that saying about when people show you who they are?)
As I said before, the Takers gonna take. Let them. We know in our hearts our words are worthy; our ideas are innovative; our art is beautiful. As much as we wish we didn’t give a crap, the fact that we care is a feature not a bug. One day all this “work” and caring will pay off. Until then, if you find our work, credit us and pay up. Better yet, hire us first.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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