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.
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.