Friday, October 1, 2021

Dedicated: How I Became A Writer Part 1

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I decided I would become a writer. At the time it didn’t matter what kind of writer I was, I simply knew that I wanted to write. Like most writers, I’m in a life long love affair with words. When I was just a kid, I remember writing poems. I could write a poem about just about anything—new sneakers, an allowance, even mean girls at school. Growing up in a household where music was universally loved and appreciated, I learned to play the piano and dancing was something of a bonus feature. No matter how much piano I played, or dances I learned, I always came back to my love of words. 

I’m in a life long love affair with words

My first foray from poetry to another form of writing came when I began to put words to hip hop music.  Me and my high school DJ, affectionately known as DJ Dazz put together a track where I dropped lyrics over a dope beat. I remember inviting my friends over to my house and allowing the track to play in the background. As they grooved to the music, they were shocked to learn I was rhyming. Shocked, but not totally. I’m the girl who knew every rap lyric to every song on the radio. I spent my allowance on rap records. Period. I didn’t care about lip gloss, nail polish, or fancy jeans. I wanted rap music. 

I’m the girl who knew every rap lyric to every song on the radio

When I went away to college, I didn’t even consider becoming a rapper or even furthering my songwriting skills. As a classically trained pianist I bought my first songwriter’s composition book and sometime after writing my first rap track, I wrote a song or two a la Alicia Keys. But when I became a college freshman at Hampton University, I wanted the full-on college experience and that meant sometimes dancing all night long in the student union when parties were thrown. A college freshman meant going to the football games, showing up to class and carrying the burden of being the first grandchild on your mother’s side of the family to graduate from college. Being a college freshman was not developing my songwriting skills or becoming a rapper.  And so the love of words, continued to dance in my head but didn’t really have a place to go.

Hampton University – Home by the Sea for all of us Hampton Pirates.

…and that meant sometimes dancing all night long in the student union when parties were thrown.

Somewhere near the end of my junior year in college, an old college flame mentioned that poetry didn’t pay money. And so, although he appreciated (not) that I wrote poetry, he suggested for me to write something that actually pays money like a television script. That conversation blew me away. It was simple and offensive. Simple because he gave my writing direction. Offensive because who was he to try to direct my writing? Always the person who believes you can get good advice from both geniuses and fools, I started to write spec episodes of television shows.   When I had four good spec scripts, I asked this old flame, “Well, what now?” Believe it or not, he had gone to school with Will Smith and the Overbrook crew and said he would link us up.  

Who was he to try to direct my writing?

This is the part of the story which gets murky. Did he link us up? Yes. Did it go anywhere? No. Hmmph. What was I gonna do now? That experience taught me that if you know someone who knows someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are gonna put you on. Really it means you know someone who knows someone. Anyway, from that point, I applied to USC Assistant Director’s program, Walt Disney’s Writer’s program and graduate school at Morehead State University. It almost seemed like the three envelopes came on the same day: The Walt Disney Writer’s program, USC’s Assistant Director program, and correspondence from Morehead State University’s Graduate Sociology Program. I sat across from my fiancé without the envelopes being opened. He asked, “Well, what are you going to do?” I said, “I’m going to whoever takes me.” I’m a proud recipient of a graduate degree in Sociology.  

It means you know someone who knows someone.

I still buy Blue Mountain Cards. Guess I’ll never learn… (LOL)

I don’t regret having a Master’s degree in Sociology with an emphasis in criminology. I’ve written two thesis and one of them is particularly good and mentions Lynda Carter aka Wonder Woman’s husband. I recall the chair of my graduate school Sociology department even accused me of trying to make my research papers sound like Hollywood movies. That was one criticism that didn’t bother me. But, you know what did bother me? I was hurt that I didn’t get into the Walt Disney Writer’s program. I was hurt that after standing in an hours long line at USC, I didn’t get into the Assistant Director’s program. And, if I’m being totally transparent, I’m hurt that that Blue Mountain Arts people didn’t hire me after all the poetry I wrote. Sorry, but their poetry was not better than mine.  

I was hurt after standing in an hours long line at USC…

At the time, I loved that I networked, wrote spec scripts, applied to get into writing programs and kept writing, but my ego kept getting punched in the head. I began to wonder, “Am I a good writer?” No seriously. “Am I a good writer?”

To find out what I did next, please check back next week or subscribe to get blog alerts so you’ll know when it hits the site. This is part one of the series, In My Lane. After working in the entertainment industry for over a decade and then some, I’m sharing the choices I’ve made and the twists and the turns. I haven’t always done what others may have recommended but I’ve definitely stayed in my lane.

Yasmin Shiraz
Yasmin Shiraz is a Screenwriter and TV producer who has worked for Lifetime, A&E, Bravo and PBS. She's a best selling author of more than 11 titles and the founder of Black TV Film Crew. She is the CEO of Still Eye Rise Media.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected


Latest Articles