|Woman writing with her computer.
After posting my last article – When A Perfectionist Fails – on my blog, I got great reviews and some not so good ones. It was, quite frankly, another day in my life as a writer. Few days after the post, one of my very good friends called me to share his views on the article. I was elated that he took time out to share good tips for future auditions and to critique my writing. Before we ended the call, he advised me to cut down on some of the details in my writing and jump to the point. If that had happened two years ago, I probably would have gone into a fit but I didn’t even get angry. The sky spirits really are working overtime on my anger management issues. Plus, he is a good friend and I know that he was looking out for me. I explained to him that I am a long winded writer and that was my style. He ended the call by urging me to stay true to my style.
You see, I grew up reading big books. At 10, I used to ‘steal’ my mum’s Mills & Boons to read. I would finish them in a day so I could return them to the exact spot on her shelf where she left them so I wouldn’t get caught. I got caught one day and received some good ‘konks’ but that did not deter me. The world which flowed from books was something I wanted to explore. You can be sure that because I have an over-imaginative mind, books were the perfect get-away for me.
I bought my first book at age 12. It was ‘When the Splendor Falls’ by Laurie McBain. It was 678 pages long with pages and pages of descriptive writing that some people might have called ‘unnecessary information’. Not me. I kept reading the book like a child chasing after candy. You cannot imagine the utter joy I felt when I found a link between something that happened almost at the beginning of the novel and something that happened close to the end. It gave me great pleasure to scroll back to the page and just cry as I made the connection!
When I outgrew romance novels and moved to espionage and murder mysteries, I realized that those unnecessary details tended to be the biggest clues in solving crimes or the murder mystery. If you have read the James Hadley Chase, Agatha Christie, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Quintin Jardine or Mario Puzo books, you know that the devil is in the detail.
I wanted to write like these authors. I wanted to translate African stories in clear and concise terms as these renowned authors wrote their stories. I may have been a kid, but I felt that I could project my stories to the world with my pen…and I meant that literally. Thank GOD technology latched on and made things far easier! Hallelujah!
When I was in school, I never had problems when we were told to write essays; especially descriptive essays. My only problem was the limit placed on those essays. In my view, 250 words were just too small to convey any idea that I had! As we got older and the limits increased, I had no problems meeting (and going above) the stipulated limit; I cannot say the same about most of friends though. I am sure that you can imagine the subtopic I hated in English Language. Yes! It was SUMMARY! Still hate that thing jare!
I write for people who have an eye for detail; people who want to smell the freshly baked croissants off the pages of the book, to feel, from the writing, the scorching sun as they travel the sun-kissed desert road on the way to Niger and the constriction in their hearts with each flip of the page as the victim tries to evade her huge attacker.
Every writer has their style and that is great. My sister Enigbe writes poetry so great you have to read twice to understand what she is about; or at least, that is what I do when I read her poetry. I am so not a fan of written poetry! Too much to think about, just like chess. My other sister Sadiya writes poetry in a way that is completely different from how Enigbe writes but is no less deep and thought provoking. My poetry on the other hand just sucks! We are one blood, closer than peas in a pod, have nearly similar interests, but write completely differently. We used to have problems with our styles but we grew to the conclusion that we, after all, have different vantage points on any given issue and that translates to how we write our pieces. While I would like to describe all I can see in an empty room, Enigbe would most likely liken the room to a hollow tunnel that closes up slowly until claustrophobia sets in and Sadiya would probably talk about how the level of our emptiness determines how we react to the world and why it is necessary to never have a vacuum in our lives. One scenario, at least three ways it could be written! And talking vantage points, that movie is one of my all-time favorites because of the details that went into one murder. But hey, I digress. Back to writing.
When one of my old friend writes for radio and TV, the pieces are so quirky, fun, and engaging that you wonder where the creativity comes from. I am not ashamed to say that he had the highest number of fans and pulled the largest number of listeners to the shows we used to host together. He inspired me more than I let on. Similarly, one person that really inspires me is another friend of mine. He is a weird writer and trust me, he is weird! His pieces require a very healthy imagination. His stories are fun, interesting and quite frankly, sometimes out of this world! I believe he writes for intelligent minds. I like the weirdness. I appreciate the ability to get me to thinkwith his blog. You want a fantasy writer extraordinaire, he is the man to look for! I just wish he writes more often so I don’t have to wait so long to get a piece of his brilliance.
Some of the other people who inspire me but yet have different styles include Toolsman who writes on The Naked Convos. Dude is so fantastic that I could be in the office and just break into crazy laughter. This happens almost daily. My colleagues have gotten used to bouts of craziness from me; especially when I am bent over my phone. The Naked Convos is one my best blogs because they write awesome pieces that connect.
While Toolsman can be sarcastic, Elnathan – another writer – is as satirical as a pot of boiling oil poured on soft skin. Whenever I read his blog, I feel like I have to have burn lotion as close to me as possible; and I am not the object of his articles! Chimamanda Adichie is one of my biggest inspirations and you know she is one heck of a long winded writer! When I watched her on TedXTalks, I couldn’t have been more proud of a person or more piqued by people’s lack of understanding of who a feminist is.
What similarities do these writers have? The answer is simple. They write short pieces (or what could pass for short pieces when compared to mine) but they can also be long winded. I have read some stories on The Naked Convos that had to be broken into seven parts so people could follow.
Other blogs/websites that write really longpieces are The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Independent and one of my new favorite blogs, THOSE PEOPLE. I absolutely LOVE these sites. I read articles from them daily and try my best to imitate their writing style while maintaining the truth of mine.
Saying all this does not mean that I do not read short pieces; in fact, the opposite is the case. I read Linda Ikeji’s blog, and Seth’s Blog, which has nuggets so short and yet so great that I always wonder how he manages to put that much wisdom is so few words. I also read Bossip and laugh at the ratchet way the writers express a story. TMZ too! And trust me, they are the worst! They manage to factor in an artist’s song/book/movie/series in their headlines and stories. Really cool I tell you!
In essence, I am saying that each writer has something that drives him/her. Some people want to write with great depths of emotion and others with astounding levels of knowledge. Some want to make you laugh and other want you to reflect about life. I want to paint a clear picture that is so real you feel you are the one living the story. That requires lots of detail, lots of information and yes, lots of words!
I keep hearing that in this day, no one wants to spend five minutes reading just one blog post or article and Twitter made it worse by playing to the laziness of present day youth; 280 characters seem to be the Holy Grail for millions of people nowadays. I hear what people are saying but I look at me and how much time I can invest in reading and I know that statement is just bollocks! In spite of all the flak I have received, some of my articles were published by Y!Africa; in fact, about seven long ones. I even got a writer and publisher – Dr. Agoso H. Bamaiyi – tell me that he wants to publish a collection of my ‘short’ stories if I am willing to tow that line. So, in a world with a little over 7 billion people, there cannot possibly be less than 100 million people who would be willing spend 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 25 minutes reading articles, or an investigative journal, or a story or a report. Those are the people I write for!
Many writers unfortunately want to write like the next person. But we all have to find what pushes us, what makes us tremble with excitement, what we are passionate about. We have to define ourselves for ourselves and not by what a group of people say or think about us.
How do you want to write? Have you figured it out? Does it express you as only you know you are? If yes, then stay true to yourself! There will always be someone who would read your work. Choose your style, work at it, get the basic things right; spellings, grammar, punctuation and sentence construction. Keep in mind that you cannot possibly write for everyone. Lots of people hate Elnathan’s guts and THOSE PEOPLE is mostly patronized by black people but they stay true to the core values of their blogs/websites.
I want to thank everyone who reads my blog and I have a special message to those who want me to write shorter articles; I AM NOT GOING TO CHANGE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I love what I do, when I do it and howI do it! I am going to keep writing long pieces for those people who are willing to read. Like business, I have my target readers and I will write tailor-made to suit them! Can I get a whoot whoot?!
NB: I started out gunning for 750 words and I almost got to 2000 words. Crazy huh?! Ironically, this is one of my shortest pieces.