Writing is perhaps the easiest thing to do after breathing.
Okay, that was a fake start. Let’s do this all over (and with honesty this time).
If you’re just starting out as a writer, or you’ve been in the business of writing for not too long, then I say congratulations, on finding this post.
(Un)Like most people, my interest in writing started from a very tender age. My father taught Literature and English Language at a tertiary institution, and I had access to his books, as well as assignments written by his students. I read all of them and read his reviews too. Then I started writing my poems. But nobody told me writing would be harder than they seemed in stories written by other writers. And here are five things I’ve learned since I started writing as a professional, in 2015.
1. Writing is as tedious as masonry.
Don’t let stereotypes confuse you. Writing just doesn’t happen whenever you want it to happen. You’ve to do a lot of foundational works. You’ve to pick up special designs that stand your work out. A wrong mix of cement could be a mason’s undoing, in the same way, wrong use of words could murder your writing. So, if you’re not ready to learn continuously and from multiple sources at a go, then you should probably just consider masonry, and leave writing out of your resume.
2. Not everybody likes Elon Musk, why would everybody like you?
J.K. Rowling, Wole Soyinka, Dan Brown, George R. R. Martin, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, are a few notable names in writing that command popular support. But you can’t always get everybody to like you. In fact, you may not get as many people to like you as Ngozi was able to. Writing is like confectionery, a lot of people are doing it with different styles and secret recipes; you’ll only be liked by people who think your style suits their taste bud. Your style may be too simple, or too hard. Your language may be too complex, or too ordinary. Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, remember it’s not you that’s not good enough, it’s them. Or maybe you just really need to stop writing and reassess your style. Maybe it’s you.
3. Publishing doesn’t make you a writer, writing does.
I published my first novella in January 2017. My first collection of stories came out in March of the same year. But after 2017, I lost touch with a part of me that wanted to write every day. I had become a (self) published author. I was living the dream. If this is your wild dream, please wake up right now. You’re in a nightmare.
Being a published writer at best puts you and your work out (and usually under more pressure to do better). After I published in 2017, I became very careful with the things I wrote. My ego was inflated and I wrote less. Why write when I could easily refer people to see my (published) work and shower me compliments? Don’t make this mistake. The only thing that makes you a writer is writing. You’ve to do it continuously.
While I’ve learned that writing every day doesn’t make you the best writer (you, in fact, get to waste a lot of brilliant ideas), writing a lot makes you a better writer. You don’t have to publish your works every time. You could simply write them and read them over time until you’ve edited them to suit your style, then you may publish. But publishing isn’t what makes you a writer, it is the writing. Don’t go to bed after your first lit-mag, after your collection of stories, or journal publication.
4. Don’t wait, write.
This one is pretty short and simple. If you’ve to wait before you can write, then you should consider working as a proper waiter in an eatery. There are no perfect conditions for writing (except a lot of dark thoughts, sad music, and lone I-hate-society time). And you don’t have to get it right always. That’s why we have geniuses known as Editors. Write away, and watch your flowers grow over time. They don’t teach this in school.
5. You can’t be totally different, but you can stand out.
In looks, in writing style, in rendition, I’ve been compared to other writers at different times. Yes, looks are important too (just kidding). There can be no totally original style. There’s always going to be a duplication of genius somewhere. Your lines are going to remind someone of Aristotle. Your verse will look like a Khalid Hosseini’s work. Whatever it is, just carve a style that helps you stand out so that someone’s work may look like yours someday.
Conclusion, plus a bonus point…
Writing is the most darn thing you can do to yourself. It takes a lot of effort to pull off. But the more you do, the better you get. As you may already know (I’d be shocked otherwise), soldiers don’t get better at fighting by just wearing armour and wielding grenades. They get better at being soldiers by training and fighting. The only training you get to do as a writer is reading. You’ve to do it a lot too. A lot more than you think about your crush. Unless you want to be the first casualty of war (which are oftentimes never remembered), read as though your life depends on it. Because it does.
This part usually comes in the opening lines (displaying credibility), but as I was too busy ensuring that my opener would get you hooked, I have pushed it to the rear. Asides the fact that I’ve won (6 or 8, I’m not sure) awards as a writer, I’ve taken courses and attended top workshops in writing, so you should listen to me because well… okay let’s cut it. Just read and develop yourself. You’re going to become as good as you work towards.