WRITERS TO KNOW: CHLOE MITCHELL
SHEER: Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from?
CHLOE MITCHELL: I’m from Harlem, NY. Born and raised here but I did spend a few years living in New Jersey during some of my teenage years. My mother is Haitian/Cherokee Indian/Puerto Rican and my father is from Côte D’Ivoire. I’ve been writing since I was about seven years old and I’ve been using it as a form of therapy ever since.
SHEER: Was there a definite moment that inspired you to become a writer or did your interest grow over time?
CM: I’ve always been a writer so it was more about choosing to do this as a career or just something I did in my leisure.
I was in school for pre-med at the time and my mother actually convinced me to publish my first book Therapy Sessions, Vol. I. I was definitely hesitant to share my poetry being that I’ve only ever shared some pieces with my mom and twin sister here and there but I took the leap and so far I have no regrets.
SHEER: Where did you primarily draw inspiration from for Let This Be The Year?
CM: I’m always jotting down quotes and small poems and posting them around my house so I can see them daily. One day I tweeted something and started it with “Let This Be The Year” and it just manifested into a series of quotes I was writing to myself, mainly as small reminders for everyday living. After about a year, I had a collection of 100 of these quotes and I decided that I would write an additional 265 to create Let This Be The Year. It just seemed so fitting and so on time, especially for myself and the the people around me.
SHEER: How would you describe the evolution in your writing from your first book Therapy Sessions: Volume I and your latest, Let this Be The Year?
CM: Well, Therapy Sessions, Vol. I is a collection of love poems. Let This Be The Year is a collection of quotes that touch on everything life related. There is so much maturity in both of these books. I wrote them in completely different times and feelings, and yet they still relevant and new.
SHEER: In what ways do you challenge the stigma around mental illness, especially among communities of color?
CM: I am constantly having discussions with friends on how to have healthy mental and emotional relationships with ourselves. I was literally having a discussion with my sister and friend last night about the stigmas around mental illness, sexual health, and racism. If we don’t talk about these topics, we can never be as informed and open. The key is to gain information and work on ways to create solutions and spaces where people feel safe. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone thinks they’re the only ones going through hardships but when we realize we all experience these things, we become relatable and closer as a people. No one should be afraid to ask for help. There is someone who is willing to listen, someone who cares, and someone who can help.
SHEER: Let This Be The Year highlights an important but often overlooked aspect of healing and growth which is the need for time and patience. How do you encourage women who are struggling with how long their healing process is taking?
CM: I always say there is no rush to “be ok”. There’s a quote in Let This Be The Year that says “Time heals nothing but prayer heals everything in time.” I pray constantly and always create spaces where I feel comfortable and vulnerable, whether it’s at my home or with my twin sister or close friend. It’s important to know that healing is not a race, it’s a moment where you take the best care of yourself, do things that make you feel at ease and at peace. I find that equal amounts of spending time with yourself and with those you love and trust helps with your recovery. It’s ok to lean on someone for support but it’s also ok to seclude yourself for a bit. As long as you are creating healthy and safe habits during this healing, you’ll be ok.
SHEER: How do you overcome writer's block? Or have you ever struggled with starting or finishing a piece?
CM: One thing I never do is force myself to write. If I feel compelled, I write and it flows so beautifully. I take my time when creating. When I do feel like my mind is drawing blanks, I step away and find something else to do. Nothing forced creates anything as good as if you were in a calm state of mind. You just have to be patient with yourself and allow yourself that same courtesy you would give to someone who wasn’t you.
SHEER: How do you stay spiritually grounded? What are some practices or teachings you like to hone in on when you need spiritual guidance or support?
CM: As I stated earlier, I pray, a lot. I create spaces where I feel calm and where I can let my guard down. I burn candles, play music, drink some tea, all cliche poet things. I might even stretch or go for a run but prayer is my number one go to when I need spiritual guidance and second is talking to my twin sister or close friends. They always put things into perspectives I might not have acknowledged or wanted to acknowledge.
SHEER: What do you think about the growing trend of "toxic positivity"? How can we connect with our most vulnerable selves and actually acknowledge when we're not feeling okay?
CM: You have to be honest with yourself. Talk to yourself the way you would give advice to a friend or relative. When you’re honest with yourself, you are then able to tackle the issues you’re dealing with more acutely. If you can’t be honest with yourself, you will always hold yourself back emotionally and mentally. We want to progress, not become stagnant. Admit that you have some things you need to work on and the ball will keep rolling. The key is to start.
SHEER: Your poems have been cited by superstars like Kanye West and Rihanna in their projects which is amazing. Are there any other creatives you would like to collaborate with and why?
CM: There are a few women photographers I’d love to collaborate with. I’m in love with photography and colors and seeing beautiful brown skin. It would be nice to collaborate with these women in some sort of way. As far as musical artists, right now I’m really into Amber Mark. I love her EP and her album. Her voice is so magical to me. Normani is another artist I’d love to work with. I think she’s phenomenal and she’s been killing it lately.
SHEER: What do you hope is the number one thing women take away from Let This Be The Year?
CM: I want people to be their best selves. Take the best care of themselves, in every aspect of their life, especially in their personal lives. Be gentle, be patient, be loving and kind to ourselves first, and worry about others second. You can’t be your best self if you are constantly putting other peoples needs before yours. You are the most important person to tend to and you deserve to be the best version of yourself.