by Khali Raymond
I read this quote on Instagram. It said: “Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you.” I have been through many situations that forced me to tap into the latent greatness I would’ve never known that I possess if it weren’t for the tough times that I’ve endured.
I would like to introduce myself. My name is Khali Raymond, and I am nineteen years old from Newark, New Jersey. Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, I give them one simple answer: I write. Seriously, I write.
But, here’s another thing that you may not have known about me. I have published a hundred books. Yes. You read that right. I have published a hundred books single handedly, all on my own.
I have been writing professionally since 2014, and ever since then, my life has been changing for the better. You are probably curious how. You’re wondering…
“How does a nineteen-year-old even do that? Is that possible?”
It is possible. I made it possible. It wasn’t easy, no. Most people would have quit after the first book. Some would think I’m nuts for doing something like this. “It’s one thing for you to publish one book, but you published a hundred? That’s just insane.”
The experiences I had in my life shaped me as a creative. I was born on December 22, 1998 in the City of Newark, New Jersey. My parents weren’t the richest, but they made do with what they had.
Unfortunately, I lost my dad when I was more than a year old. He sold drugs. He had to hustle so he could provide for our family. My father died of an accidental overdose in an effort to escape jail time.
This left my mother to raise three kids on her own. She struggled to raise us as she worked long, dreadful hours in the hair salon so the bills could be paid, and food would stay hot and ready on the table.
I also grew up in a rough neighborhood, which was no stranger to drugs, robberies, shootings, murders, and assaults. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at an early age, which is a form of autism. It’s a development disorder that alters the way someone communicates and behaves.
In grade school, I was a very timid child. Due to my bashful nature, I was easily the target of torment. I was bullied in school for years. I was verbally and physically harassed. It got so bad to a point where I attempted to commit suicide at the age of ten. Because of these traumatic experiences in school, it made me very self-conscious, reclusive, and unconfident. I struggled with depression as well.
My family would undermine my emotional struggles. They couldn’t understand what I was going through. Most of my days felt like hell on wheels. I wanted to give up. As I became older, my struggles with being socially awkward and depression worsened.
I was admitted into a mental facility when I was just thirteen. I also had terrible luck with romantic relationships in my later years. I dealt with rejection frequently and was in a lot of toxic relationships.
All hope was never lost though. I always had a thing for writing. I learned how to read at the age of two. By the time I was four, I knew how to work a computer on my own, without assistance. I taught myself how to write, too.
I would experiment with storytelling as the years went by. Whenever we had to write stories in class, I was eager to share what I created with the entire class. My teachers were impressed with my remarkable storytelling abilities; commending me for having that much talent at such a young age.
When I was eleven years old, I wrote my first comic book that clocked in at about a hundred thirty pages or so. I took notebook paper and folded it in half, using it to draw pictures with dialogue.
I remember taking this comic book to the guidance counselor that I had in middle school. He read it and told me, “Son, this is good stuff. You should publish this one day, turn it into a novel.” To this day, those words have never left my mind. His words and my comic book set the foundation for my career.
I entered eighth grade about the same time I was in a mental institution. It was then I started working on the one project that would change my life.
Late in 2012, I recognized I had a deep fear of going to high school. People told me a lot of rumors about Freshman Friday. Also, it was going to be an unfamiliar environment for me. I didn’t know what was in store.
There was this book that I read in my English class called Tangerine by Edward Bloor. Coincidentally, I read this book when I was in the fifth grade, when I was still writing comic books. It inspired me so much the second time around that I began to write The Ballad of Sidney Hill, which was the first book that I published.
I went through a lot of hardships as I was writing this book: personal and emotional problems. My uncle was shot in late 2013, just weeks after I began my first year of high school. I was periodically discouraged and had writers block. I was on the verge of scrapping the project, but something in my mind told me to keep on writing it. I’m glad that I followed my instincts.
Two years later, I singlehandedly finished writing 288 pages of the story by hand. This was during the spring of 2014. It took me a couple more months for me to scribe everything I wrote into a word doc.
On October 26, 2014, my life changed. I self-published my first novel, The Ballad of Sidney Hill, at the age of fifteen. I just became a sophomore in high school then.
The work never ended there, though. I revised my first novel more than fifty times. When I first published my novel, there were a lot of things about the publishing world that I had to learn. I was a novice entering the game.
I also got a lot of praise. Of course, I got criticism too. One kid in my class told me that my book was a fail and it would never sell. But, there was just something about writing that I could not shake off.
As the years went on, I just kept writing and writing. It didn’t matter how unseasoned and amateurish I was when I first started, but the will to get better and to become better was there.
A few months after publishing my first piece, I published my second book, The Undocumented Struggle on March 1, 2015, which marked fifteen years since my dad passed away.
After that book, my third one came. Then, the fourth. Then, I just kept getting lost in the words. I found myself writing my tenth book, my twentieth book, my thirtieth book, and so on.
My books have very gritty subject matter, with extremely harsh language and themes that may not be appealing to a lot of people, and that’s understandable. I write about the things that I’ve experienced, in part to other things that happen in an urban setting/society itself. There is also a lot of talk about depression, suicide, and other hefty emotions in my works. This is what I know. I see how these people live in my environment and know how they think.
I use certain language and motifs to bring out the depth of my stories, as stated above. I try not to use it as a crutch, but I believe that it is necessary for the stories I tell to have these elements to it.
Far as writing a hundred books, I had the will and the discipline to keep pushing myself to greater heights. The harder I worked, the more opportunities that kept coming up. In this process of pursuing my goals, I also became a poet, public speaker, rapper, and activist.
I was invited to speak at schools and colleges. I even joined a poetry institute that the public library in my city was hosting. This earned me a free trip to Houston, Texas this past July to compete in the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam. It was such a wonderful experience. I met poets, writers, and performers from here and abroad.
Poetry helped me develop my voice as a musical artist. I was practicing activism through my writing. It was only a matter of time before I really began to stand up for what I believed in, which was something beyond writing.
As I’m going into the fourth year of my professional career, the journey has been rewarding but polarizing at the same time.
Becoming a writer taught me so much about myself. I learned things about life that I never knew. The key to becoming great at anything is to constantly push the bar and set higher standards.
Everything in this article may be easier said than done, but it’s true. I remained consistent in my endeavors and used all the negativity that I was experiencing as motivation.
I am now studying Business Administration at Berkeley-College Newark. I will have my first degree in the spring of 2019. Remember this: you can do anything that you set your mind to! There is no limit to your greatness!!!
The work will not end here. I have many more projects coming down the line for 2019 and beyond. I am working on a lot of powerful stuff that I believe everyone will enjoy. Alternatively, you can visit my website http://khaliraymond.com to learn more about me. My work is available on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/khaliofficial
If you wish to reach out to me, I am on Facebook as Khali Raymond and on Twitter under @simply_khali. Thank you for reading.