#FreshTakeFriday: Gabrielle Hickmon




Photo Credit: Damola Akitunde

Photo Credit: Damola Akitunde

'The Reign XY' is your creative baby that you not only manage on a regular basis, but contribute to as well. What inspired you to launch this site, and what lessons have you learned over the last few years since its inception? How has being creative-in-chief helped you become a better writer, storyteller and manager of your time?

GH: The Reign XY was launched because there was a gap in online content related to millennial women of color that was funny, well rounded, personal, and informative all while remaining culturally relevant in 2013/2014. I wanted to play a role in filling that gap in a way that was very “for us, by us.” The Reign XY has taught me so many lessons over years as its truly been a space where I can show up as myself in all the various ways that manifests. I think it’s taught me grace, how to claim my space, the importance to telling my story, how to pass the mic to other stories or conversations that matter, and to always, all ways be writing. The Reign XY has taught me to write my way through it, even if I’m not publishing anything. I’ve learned how to be and stay authentic in a crowding blogsophere (which I hope readers would agree with) and I’ve learned how to craft narratives that hopefully make people think and feel.

Being Creative-in-Chief and taking on contributors has helped me become a better writer, storyteller, and manager of my time because it made me a steward of the site and space in a way different from what I was before bringing other amazing women on. My team inspires me, challenges me, I mean, they’re amazing writers. Their willingness to dive into what was already there while also spurring it forward keeps me motivated. It keeps me thinking of fresh takes on my personal narrative, media events, and what being a writer with a blog and engaging online means in 2017. And in other ways, it has made me more disciplined. I’m responsible not only to The Reign XY’s readers, but to my team. It’s a big responsibility that I don’t take lightly. And I hope I’m stewarding the space, content, and energy of the site, brand, and team well.

As an Ivy scholar twice over (GO GINA) and a creative, I'm sure balancing both can be difficult when school is in session. How have you learned to give and take while working on both simultaneously, and what advice do you have for those who are on the road to higher ed when it comes to fueling their creativity?

GH: HA! Difficult isn’t even the word, some days it feels damn near impossible. I was a Type A individual in a past life (like a few years ago) and so I’m big on routines, schedules, and organization.I do my best to set aside time to create and curate for The Reign XY and do my schoolwork but sometimes things bleed into each other or life leans more to one side than the other. Mostly, I just give myself some grace and do what I said I would. Systems help and grace is key. I love both academia and my creativity so I try to look at “balancing them” as this great privilege even though I’m not even sure if I believe in “balance.” I just know that I get to do what I love the most pretty much all day everyday and that’s everything to me.

Practical advice:

  • Get a planner + use your phone. Be disciplined with your time (which I am not always - Netflix is real) and schedule things out.
  • Carry a notebook everywhere. I am partial to pen and paper so even though my notes app is full of drafts, I live and die by my Moleskine and Vagabroad Journal for my ideas + diary. Pay attention to what inspires you. Write down your ideas. Write yourself into being.
  • Take a break. I’m not one of those people who thinks you have to be working 24/7, 365. I believe in breaks and I don’t force either school or content for The Reign XY (especially not content for The Reign XY). If I’m blocked, I’m just blocked. I give myself the space to be blocked and trust that the words will come back. With school, assignments have to get turned in so I do them and just do my best. That’s all I can ever do.
  • Batch your life away. Write multiple posts in one setting. Read for multiple classes in one library session. I try to set aside days and times to do specific things. Friday nights, I face mask and write. Sunday evening I go to the library. Setting aside specific times for things helps keep me on track.

Lastly, know that you don’t have to choose between your professional and creative interests. You don’t have to be a full-time entrepreneur and please ignore anyone who tells you otherwise - IF that isn’t what you want for yourself. Besides, the “disciplines” shouldn’t be so siloed in my opinion anyway. I’m doing it for academics who also love creativity because the academy is not enough and creatives who need intellectual stimulation that their creative endeavors don’t provide. BOTH. I’m doing it to be and model doing both.

Photo Credit: Antionette  Lee. 

Photo Credit: Antionette  Lee. 

In a 'perfect' world, what does a day of productivity look like to you? What tools are you using to get sh*t done, and what are major distractions you do you best to avoid?

GH: In a perfect world, a day of productivity involves feeding my body, mind, and soul. Meaning, going to the gym, meditating, reading and writing in the morning. Going to class or work and stimulating the part of my brain that feeds on more “academic” knowledge. Coming home and working on my passion projects that aren’t work related - creating or curating for The Reign XY, spending hours on Pinterest planning my life, watching my favorite show on TV. Taking time to talk to or be with my friends, family, significant other (if I have one at the time).

It’s rare that I get all of this in one day, but it’s always the high level goal. However, I’m often happy with 2/4. While you can have everything, I’m not going to stress myself out about not hitting everything in one day. If I get them all in one week then all is well in the world. Tools? My planner. My Moleskine. My iCal. Asana. Google Docs. My Macbook Pro. My iPad. I’m not even going to lie and say I’m good at avoiding distractions. I need to spend less time scrolling Twitter + IG and in GroupMe and texting. I’ve downloaded Moment on my iPhone and iPad to help me track how much I’m on my phone and what I’m using it for. We’ll see if it helps.

When you find yourself in a rut, (emotionally or creatively) what are some things that you do change your mood? Who (or what) do you turn to for encouragement, and how do you persevere, even when you may want to remain stuck in your feelings?

GH: I don’t know that I try to change my mood. I think it just changes on its own. I talk to my best friends, I call my mom, and I try to take some time away. I’m big on just being where I’m at. A lot for me revolves around grace. I might spend a weekend in bed, in the dark, eating a ton of food that’s bad for me and barely talking to anyone because that’s what I need to do to come out of a funk or mood. Or I might get away from it all and hop on a bus or plane to clear my head. Or maybe I let myself cry for all the reasons I don’t understand.

I’m less interested in changing where I’m at and more interested in being there, learning from myself, and coming out of it in time. Rushing things never works for me. I just feel how I feel until I don’t anymore. I’ve been sad, depressed, heartbroken, betrayed, etc. enough times to know that it passes. This too shall, does, and always will pass. I just let it be what it is and do my best to not let my life spiral out of control in the process - meaning, I still go to classes and meetings, I may still be writing, etc. I’m working on noticing my emotions, feeling them, but still going about the motions of living, because they pass. It passes.  

How would you describe your 'fresh take' on creativity? What keeps you inspired to develop new ideas and collaborate with other creatives?

GH: A friend called me a ‘builder’ the other day and another friend called me an ‘archivist.’ I think both of those coupled with maybe ‘explorer’ or ‘wanderer’ describe my fresh take on creativity. I use my gifts and talents in service of my vision which involves exploring both myself and others (literally, physically through travel, and metaphorically through storytelling) towards the excavation of a story, narrative, or experience. And then I try to build on whatever I discovered by writing about it, passing the mic and creating space if I can, or developing something for others to engage in.

I stay inspired to collaborate with other creatives because of the spark that happens when you get two or three gathered together around a mutually exciting idea of project. There’s both an electricity and an intimacy there and it’s life giving. I can’t do it all, nor do I want to. But, if we can do something together, or I can help someone achieve whatever it is they want to, why not? That’s a part of using my gifts in service of my vision too. There’s enough space for all of us. Collaborations - those that are mutually beneficial, soul/spirit/vision connected, and purposeful - over competition always.