One evening, during my final year in school, I sat on a stool facing the flapping, torn netting of my window, and pondered on the best way to stop losing my poems. I had written something I thought was really great in my little jotter for ideas, and wanted to return to it to see if it was as great as I imagined. But my jotter was missing. I searched everywhere in the half-room that I shared with three other men. The place often had people going in and out, but I knew none of them could have gone with my work. I thought it must have slipped off the window, down from the third floor where we stayed to the drainage behind the block, so I searched downstairs for it. But the jotter decided to stay lost.
That night, sitting on the same stool, hunched on my PC as my roommates snored in different pitches, I opened a WordPress blog. I gave it a pretentious french sounding name, punched out my first post, and set the blog’s visibility to private. That was three years ago. Today, WordPress reminded me of that night.
After that first blogpost, and perhaps another—I cannot tell for sure now—I stopped posting on the blog. Life caught up with me in the form of a final year project that required travelling every week. That, plus my responsibilities in school, meant I had no time for serious contemplation outside of the essentials, not to talk of writing. I really didn’t open the blog because I wanted to be a writer; I just wanted to prevent the kind of scenario that would have me hunting for jotters in the drain.
Almost a year after that, I found myself in Anambra state, with an urge to share my thoughts with friends, so I opened another blog. By that time, I’d found a way to keep my jotters from getting lost, so my reason for opening the blog had changed. It was more about a need to share my thoughts with friends, to show the world what I was seeing and thinking, and to make my few readers smile—or at least feel something—as much as possible.
A year after that, I was ready to leave Ramblings of a Coffa. The blog had become my identity, a few friends had started to call me by it in public, and I had made a lot of great friends on it. But I really wanted to leave that blog, wanted to do something else. For the first time, I was ready to take a decision about writing: whether to continue putting words to paper on a consistent basis, or focus my energies on getting a good job. They both did not have to be mutually exclusive—I know that now—but then, it appeared so to me.
A quick search on the internet for the behaviour of kids at three revealed that it is the age of independence, curiosity and the start of self-awareness. It’s not easy to draw parallels between this and my development as someone who writes in public spaces. This is what writers do: they draw comparisons between disparate things in ways that open them up to fresh interpretations. How often they excel at this is often what people refer to as originality and uniqueness of writing. And when they fail at this, they often resort to cliches and their writing come out dour. But this is not a post about writers. I am digressing.
Three years on, I still do not write as well as I want to, as often as I want to. Of course I am painfully self-aware, so I have a fair idea how I’m failing at sounding like I would want to. This desire to find the right expression often makes me take on different voices and speak with them while trying my best to mask the mechanics of speech from my audience. Like a ventriloquist. Not that I’m really good at ventriloquism either, for that would imply that I’m a master of speaking with different voices but… see what I mean about the pain in self-awareness.
I’ve come a long way from writing to prevent hunting for jotters in the drain. Now there’s a bit of intentionality to my words. This also means that it now takes longer for me to form words, like I do not want to waste them. However, like a three year old kid, I’ve grown. I do not think I only write for myself anymore. Although that impulse that made me keep that first blog private is still there—I would rather have my words kept, hidden, than read by all—I now know the value of sharing my thoughts with other people. I have become more careful of the words I speak, not in a cowardly sense of not being able to express my mind, but in the care to reexamine my thoughts and ensure that they are worth the time of the reader—you. Perhaps this is what they mean by the self-awareness of kids at three. Or maybe not. But, YAYY, I’m three.
Featured image by Jayjay Robertson via Flickr