We had the good fortune of connecting with C.L. Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi C.L., what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
The single most important lesson that I’ve learned is that success cannot be realized until you’ve learned to believe in yourself, in your work, in your journey. At the onset of my career, as an author, I had absolutely no faith in myself. And why? Because, I simply could not fathom the thought, or the idea of someone exchange their hard-earned money for a book that I had written. And so, to be quite honest, the first book I published was the end result of everyone else, except myself, believing that I had something worth saying; something worth hearing. Something that was worth paying for. Even after I published that book and held it in my own two hands, I still did not believe, and that reflected in my sales. I would visit local venues, reading to different audiences, and receiving amazing feedback, and yet I did not believe. I lacked drive. I lacked that hustle mentality. I saw it in other artists, but I couldn’t recognize it in myself. I recall one night standing outside a venue in Wynwood. It was open-mic night. The show had ended, and the poem I read was received extremely well, and yet I felt like I didn’t belong. I remember watching some of the other artists standing out there in the street. They seemed so passionate about their work, but I couldn’t feel that passion in myself for my work. So, I said to myself that night, “I have a good job. I don’t need to sell books to survive.” The truth is, I was envious of those people. I wanted what they had, but I didn’t think I deserved it, and it reflected in my sales. So, what happened? What changed? Well, I decided to believe in the fact that others believed in me. Whenever I began to doubt, I would remember the people on Social Media that pleaded with me to write a book. I would remember the people in the audiences that I read to. I would remember how complete strangers would approach me to tell me how amazing my work was. How their souls felt better after listening to me reciting my poems. And then the most amazing thing happened. I woke up one day, and for the first time, I could look myself in the mirror and refer to myself as a poet and believe it. I could tell someone that I was an author and believe it. I could tell myself that my work was valued and believe it. In time, the passion that I was lacking at the beginning of my journey could be heard and felt in my voice. I could feel it in my bones. I was confident. I knew my work was valued, in fact, I dare say, needed. I had finally decided to answer my calling, and this newfound faith in myself began reflecting in my writing, business, my sales. And so, for me, the most important lesson that I’ve learned is that you have to believe in yourself if you wish to realize success. In fact, if I could be a source of encouragement to someone who may be in the place that I was at the beginning; I would say to that person, if you don’t yet believe in yourself, start believing in the fact that someone else believes in you. Grasp that tightly. Hold on to it. Make it your mantra. Repeat it. Meditate on it. Believe in it, until it makes a believer out of you.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art is poetry. Essentially, I paint pictures with words. My poems predominantly orbit around what I like to call “matters of the heart.” Raw, passionate, romantic, soulful, sensual, spiritual, breathtaking, profound, reflective, beautiful. These are some of words that would come to mind should anyone attempt to describe my body work. I think what sets me apart from others is the fact that my poems are articulated in a very timeless fashion. Modern, yet embodying an older soul. In fact, “no one speaks like that anymore,” is something I hear quite frequently. My core readership is principally women and that’s because the gift I was given is the art of speaking for and to the heart and soul of women. One night, after reciting a poem entitled ‘Conversation,’ at a local open mic, a young woman approached me after the show. Upon introducing herself, she proceeded to say, “after listening to your poem, I understand now what it is my husband has been trying to say all this time.” And that is what I am most proud of, the fact that my work touches the soul in a strikingly beautiful and profound way. I recall another instance when a young lady picked up one of my books in the cafeteria at my place of work. She said she was about to take it to lost and found, but then decided to open it instead. Less than 15 minutes later, she located me in the building and literally wept on my shoulder. Whatever it was that she read led her to reconcile a broken relationship with her mother just days before her mother passed, she later told. There is something priceless about that; about being able to connect with someone on that level in the moment they need it most. My words are healing but one shouldn’t be surprised to find them opening wounds they though were healed. My words are hope. They are reassurances. They are truthful. They are hurtful. They are ugly and they are beautiful. They will remind you that the act of loving and being loved can be deeply painful, but they will also remind you that love is worth every ounce of fight that we have left inside us. It is truly a privilege to be given permission to have a sit down with a woman’s soul; to have meaningful conversations with it. It isn’t something I take lightly, because if you think of the soul, like I do, as the holiest space inside someone, then you understand that you cannot wear your shoes when you enter such space. You cannot drag mud into such a space. You have to enter, only when permitted, and you have to respect and honor that space, because you were given the privilege to enter, not the right to. The road to where I am today is paved with dedication, and commitment. It is paved with long nights, prayers, diligence. It wasn’t easy, but at the same time, I wouldn’t say it was hard either, because I love what I do. That makes a world of difference. Your passion, or lack thereof, for what you do makes a world of difference. When you have it, it will compel you to go that extra mile; to challenge yourself to be better. To be true, firstly to yourself, and to those that consume your product. I think my greatest challenge was the fear of speaking in front of an audience. Initially, I never imagined I would be standing in front of people reciting poems. My plan was simply to write a book in hopes that a few people would purchase it. When someone mentioned to me that I needed to go out to local open mics and read, I felt terrified, but deep down I knew that it was necessary. And so, I started visiting local open mics to get a feel on that type of environment. I wasn’t the type to visit those places before publishing my first book, so that scene was basically foreign to me. I still remember the first time I read publicly. I hadn’t memorized any of the 100+ poems I had written in that book, and so I had to read from it. I remember how it shook in my hands as my bones quivered under the weight of my nerves. But one-by-one I visited open mics and read regardless of the nerves and the doubts. Along the way, I leaned that you don’t get to the other side of fear by losing fear, you lose fear by going to the other side of fear, no matter what it takes. As I’ve said before, I learned that you cannot reach the destination if the journey is lacking faith in yourself. So, you must believe in yourself, or at the very least make a conscious decision to believe in those that believe in you, until you learn to believe in yourself. What I wish the world to know about me is that I am one of you. I am flawed just like you. I am beautiful just like you. I desire to be loved and to love, just like you. I have caused hurt, and I have been hurt, just like you. But I know that what I have is a gift, and I know that gifts of this sort are meant to be given. Therefore, so long as I am alive and able, I will pour out myself for the world as best as I possibly can. Lastly, I love this world. I love the people, the cultures, the animals, the plants, the oceans, the rivers, the open fields, the waterfalls. I love life, and I value life. I think all life is sacred, and I try my very best to treat it as such. I have made it my ambition to leave this world a little better than I found it, and I am doing so one word, one poem, one book, at a time.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
My absolute favorite place in the city is Wynwood. I love the artsy vibe of the area. If I had a friend visiting from out of town, the first place I’d take them to is Lagniappe of 34th and NE 2nd Ave. Listen to a live band, drink amazing wine, and pigout on some amazing cheese platters. Some of my favorite food spots in the area are Dukunoo Jamaican Kitchen, Butcher Shop, and Love Life Cafe. Of course, being a poet we’d have to check out a few of the open mic spots in the area. Places like Speak Fridays, Las Rosas, and Sola Sessions at the Concrete Beach Brewery.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are a ton of people that I owe my gratitude to, but whenever this question comes up, the first name that usually comes to mind is my dear friend, Joy Sewell. Back in 2013, when I finally decided that I would publish a book, it was a long process. I was taking my sweet time, going weeks, sometimes months, between writing and editing the manuscript, but I would post frequently on Facebook. Well, Joy was the person whom, without fail, would comment on my Facebook posts, “I’m waiting on my book.” To which I would reply, “it’s coming,” knowing fully well that I hadn’t been working on it. But her comments always brought me back to focus and get me back to writing. So, Joy, I thank you to the moon and back, a million times.
Other: Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/clbrownbooks