Keeping my Ego as a Black Writer is the Best Advice I’ve Ever Received

Photo by Steven Van on Unsplash

Wherever it was said it was unprofesssional to position your confidence before the interest of people who do not care if you can get out of bed in the morning should be shredded, along with the book, the pen and the author’s hand who was goofy enough to write it.

I’ve spoken to many writers in my career as a twitter savant and an artist in a digital, clout-based industry like culture writing. One tip, by the genre-defying Clarkisha Kent, was to cling to my Ego as not only a defense, but as a justification for the expectations I hold for any contractor who even breathes in my direction for my art. As a Black writer — it’s all I can maintain whether I am paid for my work or not. This Ego is what I will hold on to even when the well of career success runs completely dry.

Ego is what is being explored in all artforms. Some English majors pretending to like Shakespeare right now will reflect upon this as “the Human Condition” — that analysis of what it means to be a person, to have personhood and, most importantly, be aware of your rapidly approaching demise. Yet, we’ve so many professionals standing above us and demanding we tailor this natural, human understanding o what and who we are.

Freelancing is particularly emotional because of this. As a writer, we are expected to face rejection countless times with a strong smile and a stiff upper lip. It’s a feeling completely alien from the criticism and critique of workshop, where ego is expected to be subject to worldview of those surrounding you. A rejection letter feels as if the talents you’ve accumulated are not good enough — that your world will never appreciate the effort you put into a thing of substance. When your financial security depends on this, it also accumulates such a painful stress that gathers and builds upon itself. Multiply this by twenty different publications and platforms and over the span of six agonizing months of peanut butter sandwiches and water, you’re still expected to take it with a smile.

To do this without the expectation of ego is cruel and inhumane.

Ego is the protective shell surrounding all of your endeavors as a creative, especially when it is earned. In today’s digital era, we are surrounded by those whose work have been supported and reiterated as captivating and important to them. The work executing the thought that went into it is commendable, because — as a writing tutor — I’ve seen how few people can get their clear and established ideas onto paper, let alone published into the cold, judgmental gaze of the internet.

Personally, my ego is the only reason I continue to write. I’ve written at large about different topics that have faced constant rejection from every larger and smaller publication, but have garnered life-changing reactions from the fan-base enabled by public platforms like those found here, on MEDIUM and on my personal Blog, Blaqueword. My work has merit and talent behind it whether another has interests within it and my ego is not in that I expect to be published or admired for it by those with money, but that it deserves a level of respect from myself and a level of respect from people who expect to consume it.

In a different era, this Ego would be unprofessional. In that era, writers served the interests of platforms and publications who controlled the audience. However, the internet is as beautiful as it is atrocious and is the grand equalizer. Content creation is a vigorous industry and requires a constant feed of work by, you guessed it, writers. To treat ego as an “unprofessional marker” in a world where you do, in fact, need us is strange. Today’s industry is as much about clout as it is about skill set. Clout does not decide talent or the dedication put in to prove that talent.

Or maybe that’s the Capricorn in me talking. Actually, no. Art of any kind is incredibly difficult to do right. Everything within our field is circumstantial and experimental; however, so many of us have accumulated an understanding of what works for us — the tools to utilize for specific behaviors and interpretations and the techniques that breed majesty from these mechanations.

What are actually the risks of retaining your Ego in this industry? Some Editors feels it is unearned in so many people; some may not guarantee you roles or work according to that parameter. These places fucking suck and will largely try to take advantage of you — they can suck your gigantic dick (and if you don’t have a dick, they can envision one — the sentiment is the same).

As a Black Artist, there is seldom that we can do without our ego. The bravado is essential to avoid the world that will tell you to expect and want less for what you can provide — and only you can provide.

Have your Ego: it has almost zero risk to anything other than making the insecure unsafe in the roles they’re taking up.

Luka Sabbat, We Need to Talk…

Dear Luka Sabbat,

I am speaking directly to you.

No word limit.

No hashtags.

Luka Sabbat, you have had quite a career despite your age. You are the child of greatness and you walk circles of fashion and prestige that I have never dreamed of being able to even touch growing up in hovels where trauma and poverty was the only thing guaranteed to me. Yet, I still rooted for you, because you’re black, and because I know no matter the walk of life, we all have troubles.

Until, you opened the ashtray you call a mouth to talk down to the hatefully proclaimed “SJWs” and activists. Because, you’re so beyond all of these things that you can criticize them – that you can poke holes in their logic because you float on a plane of ascended philosophy where scrutiny is hobby of the low and uncultured.

You, my brother, with blood not too many generations free of the shackles of the same victimization these people you criticize face everyday they stand up for something, have the audacity to sit there with your pencil thin mustache and SCRUTINIZE the people you mock for scrutiny?

I’m not going to call you stupid.

Stupid people don’t get as far as you do – not without wealthy connections and family’s legacy to stand on top of; Stupid people don’t contribute immensely to philanthropic pursuits – unless they’re going to brag about it later for clout. Stupid people leap to defend abusers and present problematic antics as a hallmark of true vision; Stupid people speak without knowing what they want to say; stupid people are meek; stupid people are hypocrites; stupid people, foolish people, who seem to make it the furthest and get the highest platforms in their pointy leather boots (likely sewn by people who can’t even afford to feel how uncomfortable they are) don’t listen when people let them know WHY they do something: they just brag about how they’re going to make a video, eventually, explaining how THEY think, and how THEY feel, and how IMPORTANT they think they are.

Of course, because NOT EVERYONE IS A VICTIM.


Luka Sabbat, you are not stupid. You are an idiot. A dilettante. An amateur in thought, theory and execution who got ahold of his parent’s soapbox and thought himself a Cicero! But, honey, Cicero was executed and he changed nothing, because he lacked Understanding. Luka, like him, you will fix nothing the way you are, and the way you think, and the way you carry yourself with utter repugnance. (By the time Cicero was discovered as “influential” his civilization was already dead).

Not Everyone is a Victim, Luka? And that’s why SJWs are wrong? And that’s what’s so heinous about our generation?

Erase your self-righteousness like you erase the allegations against your bros.

No, Luka. Not everyone is a victim, but most people have been victimized, and that’s why insensitive assholes who hype the foolish things you say, and Kanye said, and Trump perpetuates painted SJWs in such a brand.

No activist whom I have ever met has ever stopped at the internet. That’s because the internet is a tool to SHARE information, to experience new thoughts and then to test them in real life – dummy. But hey, you did only one semester of College before you realized anything you could get there your family already had, ain’t that right Mr. Fallback? Your co-star, Yara Shahidi, knows how formidable the internet is in inspiring people to make lasting decisions and choose to dedicate themselves to these issues and — so many rail against, abuse her, trash her as a SJW. I’m sure she feels your sympathies. A great woman, that Yara, and she will inspire many, through the internet, most likely.

Being an activist isn’t counter-culture anymore because you say so? Because you’re SOOOO counter culture? You peel my tuition off flings and hook-ups. What’s really good, my nigga?


I see right through what you were doing here. Implying our struggles are done with because it’s not like how it “used to be”. And the “old days were better”. Bro, allusions are the tools of real artists, not the playthings of socialites. Keep it real, or keep it in your Balenciagas.

By the way, you’re out here criticizing the “fake” activists, as if they’re the ones who criticized you and your idols. It’s the real activists who be pounding the pavements who are on your ass, and the ass of your friends who do these terrible shit.

Yet, you persist on making it about how people are mean to you for speaking your mind. That it’s this PC culture and other Alt-Right buzzwords. That everyone is just so sensitive: WAH, WHY CANT I BE FRIENDS WITH A RAPIST?



(Bitch, you’re a little baby).

You complain about people being politically correct, and that it’s toxic and harmful to your humanity, when in reality, you’re just angry that no one wants to play in your playpen because you’re mean, and a bully, and no one wants to listen about how you saved those poor unfortunate black(er) people because you’re okay with sexual abuse and racial misconduct — NIGGA!

Grow up, Luka.

Be about more than your image you want people to care about.

Be about more than the echo chamber you squat and shit in and actually realize people are saying these things for other reasons than clout — unlike you.

Be about actually realizing where you stand in this culture and how your actions contradict your intentions.

Then, maybe the criticism you will mean nothing to you, because you know where you stand in the moral swing of things.


Steven Underwood

Bachelor’s of Arts in English



More of Luka’s poignant observations: