Success, Writing and My Loudness Problem

Writing is difficult. Succeeding as a writer is even more difficult. If one of your children wants to become a doctor and another wants to become a writer, pray for the writer twice as much as you will the doctor. Writing is liberating when it works and despairing when it doesn’t.

Writers come in different shapes and sizes. At the top of the pile you’ve got people who appear to have their minds unhinged; some in a good way. They have an alternate view of life fostered by a childhood experience, tragedy, family history or by just being geniuses. They are the folks you read and wonder, “How does anyone write like this?” Success is a given for writers like this because the world is fascinated by their minds.

Writing is liberating when it works and despairing when it doesn’t

There are writers who have a way with words and have taken time to hone their skill into perfection. Some of these guys have a degree or two in the arts and have trained their minds to perceive details that are hidden to the rest of us and constitute good writing.

There’s also a category of writers that consists of folks who have a basic skill with words but haven’t spent enough time polishing it. They have spots of brilliant writing and a number of followers on social media. Many of them are one-story wonders that never develop into good writers. This type of writer exists with ridiculous abundance in Nigeria.

I think my mind is not too different from that of other healthy human beings, I do not possess a very high attention to the details and nuances that make good writers, and I’ve not developed my skill with words well enough so, I fall in that third class of writers. Writers, like me, in this still-mediocre category however, have a way of finding success: they are LOUD.

I’m not talking about the kind of loudness a young man needs to succeed as a bus conductor in Bere, Up Iweka or Oshodi, but the kind shown by people who are ready to make a nuisance of themselves in social media as long as it gets their work noticed. I should be making noise too, but there’s a problem: I don’t know how to be loud enough. When I think remember this, I worry about how long I can keep up this desire to commit words to paper and screen.

***

Until recently, I did not allow people to call me a writer. When they do in public, I usually exhibit the kind of blush proper Yoruba girls display when their well plaited Suku is complimented. Now, after extensive ego massaging from my friends, I don’t shrink from the label anymore. While I still won’t call myself a writer until I have something published, it’s good for my fragile ego to hear it from other people. But some writers do not possess this kind of attitude, and I wonder how they do it.

Sometimes they post personal stuff on social media (like losing a dog or a cat) and I’m like “Dude, you didn’t have to show us that. I mean, just keep your private stuff private”. But days later I will see folks still talking about the dead dog. It happens every time. I also find it difficult to be a Stan. I’m not the kind of person that spends hours famzing a writer, agreeing with everything the person says just because he’s popular. This is not an attitude that endears one to most popular figures in the Nigerian internet world where approval from an overlord can make all the difference.

***

3 Idiots. Follow excellence and success will chase you pants down.
Follow excellence and success will chase you pants down. via flickr

Anyone who has watched the movie 3-Idiots is familiar with the statement, “follow excellence and success will chase you pants down”.  This is true of all categories of life. Writing like every other skill that has to be improved is a Marathon and not a sprint. I now tell myself that the most important thing is not just immediate success, but a desire to become the kind of person that can deliver excellent results on a consistent basis. So after agonising about my loudness handicap, I dig my head into books, read and write. Those are the most important activities for anyone who wants to become a writer. Every desirable skill has basic things that have to be done to achieve excellence and this is what we should be concerned with above everything else.

This does not mean I won’t like to see my writing gain more acceptance. I also won’t mind making money from writing now, but I love what I do enough to keep at it. A time is coming when I’ll be good enough to trouble the whole world with my stuff. When that time comes, I’ll make so much noise you’ll consider deleting me from your social networks. Till then, go find your own desirable skill too.

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12 thoughts on “Success, Writing and My Loudness Problem

  1. Ife you are good, you really are, if you publish a book tomorrow, I’ know i’ll buy it and so would many others. You left out another set of “writers” , those who lift other people’s work and post on thier blog. These too would answer the call of writers if one was made. They are partly the reason why some argue that until you have a book out in the public, you are not a writer and blogging dosen’t count. Interesting piece ife, one that makes you ask yourself, so are you a writer? Two , what kind of writer are you?

    1. How did I forget Nigeria’s most popular and perhaps, most successful class of ‘writers’. One day we’re going to be serious about intellectual property serious in Nigeria, but that day is not here yet. Some people even joke that your writing is not important until one of those ‘writers’ steal your work.

      Thanks for the kind words and promise.

  2. In his book Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell in making the point that excellence requires a critical minimum level of practice, says ten thousand hours is the magic number that researchers have agreed on for true expertise. I don’t have time for accolades (praise me, and I’ll say thanks), or to shout (that eats into my time). I’m still trying to reach ten thousand hours 🙂

    1. So I’m not the only one who is taking Mr Gladwell up on his words. I started writing fiction shortly after I read Outliers and I also read (can’t remember where) that a writer develops a voice after writing the equivalent of 200 short stories. I’m just moving towards the one-eight mark of that number.

      You don’t have to shout yet, but when that book comes out (yeah that book) you might have to hire a publicist to augment the shouting people like me will do.

  3. The category of writer’s am expecting is the born writers which you and Timi fall into and those that practice from the born writers like your apprentice as I have earlier stated in a piece I did for you guys. Seriously, I will forefront the campaign for the sales of your book should you decid to publish any piece…. @diademstots. Lifting and pasting other peoples work is only a crime when the author is not dully acknowledged. However, those who do it without an innovative product of their intellect are not to be accredited as writers. And I think its high time we have Nigeria Union of Creative writers/bloggers to be chair by Ife and Timi. Ife I look forward to doing a piece with you to be published and copies made available to Nigeria youths for free.

  4. It’s not bad to ‘loud it’ if you got the publicity ‘pitch’ and all. Likewise, I’m tempted to want to believe really good writing can (to an extent) also blow its own trumpet. Then, one’s publicity campaigns would not have to be so aggressive or self-deprecating.

    And you’ren’t wrong to mention reading and writing as the indispensable twosome for any (aspiring) good writer.

    I won’t repeat what others said about you being good at what you’re doing.

    No I won’t.

    1. I agree that good things have a way of announcing themselves. I know writers who were not even recognised while living but whose works have carried their names through the waves of time to territories they could have never imagined.

      Thanks for (not)repeating what others said.

  5. I guess people with unhinged minds don’t usually know. Just like the mad man thinks we are all mad. Don’t ask how I know what he thinks, ehm… But you don’t have a degree that trained you to perceive details yet you notice the semblance between Bere, Up Iweka and Osodi, caught a solid line from a movie everybody else watched but didn’t notice just like the three idiots. And now you have me holding a pen and circling several one pack ponches of brilliance that are scattered with wasteful extravagance above like there’s too much where that came from. Someone even feels your voice in a written piece. Hey excuse me, I’m not falling for the humilty you’re definitely not from the third group and you do not need 1million hours of practice. Not sure where to place you sha, the other two groups seem too shallow for you, like ‘seriously’

    1. Thank you for the kind words sir. I think I can explain one or two things about the mad man, but I don’t know how to do that without putting my sanity into question. So, I’ll just keep my mouth shut too.

      Thanks for the wonderful comment.

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