Posted in LITERARY MISSIONARY, REVIEWS

RISE, LIVE TO YOUR WRITE!

Life is one big contradiction in every field but it is more so when you are a writer—or so I think. You think you are there, you think you have the right words. You are in the moment and you bask as Mother Muse slowly pours herself unto your pages through the medium of creativity.

Depending on the time, you push yourself to the end or just rush it to a stop. Finally, you smile at seeming perfection. Ah! For the conscious writer, something pricks you to note that the work might have flaws here and there. So, you might decide to get editors or throw the work away. If you get the right editors, your headache begins. Have you ever noticed how those folks always seem to find faults here or there? Some of the faults are so obvious you have to hit yourself in the head! Ouch! How could you have missed that? This is the beauty of patience and seeking counsel. (Yes, if you miss the editorial seat, you might miss a lot of good stuff that might have made your work better.)

Anyway, you do your rewrite and maybe feel the work is okay… Or you keep editing till you tire out. I have been known on occasion to keep editing right up to the door of the final proofer and printer doors! Anyway, finally, you push the work out, hoping that someone will like it somehow and it will be the ticket to giving you something good. Some of us, and I am a front man in this group, edit and refine our work tying as many screws as possible.

In most cases, you get your work or book published and the feeling, for most, is indescribable. It is like a baby given to a parent. The looks of wonder at the new you is something the adjectives of the universe will not dare present. You hold that book close… Yes, I know there are a few who would look at their own book with bad eyes especially if it didn’t come out the way they like. Talk of all those parents who discover that their children are disfigured or not of the sex they want! But no, we are not talking of those sorts of parents. We are talking of the proud ones and yes, I didn’t derail. We are still talking about books.

It is easy to find authors who pick their published books and see things they wish could have been done or written differently. Many times have authors been caught reading what they hoped they might have put. Some would take a pen and correct a few lines shortly before reading at a festival or something. Sometimes you begin to see things that might best have been removed or something that might have been added for effect. It gets to the case of seeing your grown child not being the perfect baby you had once viewed. The hope is that with the next book, you will take extra precaution and have your heart more expressed.

Usually, the ideal thing that most writers come to discover is that a work is best left to fallow for three months or maybe a year… just enough time for you to have become a stranger so that you will edit your work through fresh eyes since looking at the same thing over slowly makes it seem perfect. But time is not on the side of anyone and how long can one really take? The changes and all might never be enough and we usually have to just halt. Much like what poet and scholar, Hyginus Ekwuazi says echoing older writers of yore, no true work of art has ever been truly completed. You simply have to get the maturity to let it go, and pray that point was a time worth your imperfection.

So much to writing, so much to reading. Oh well. In the end, who knows what I might want to edit from this piece… I will be mature and let it fly. Wherever your writing and reading takes you this weekend, and in the coming week, make it worth the time. Cheers!

 

(Reblogged from forever ago… Still me 🙂 )

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Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, FUNNY, LITERARY MISSIONARY

HOW TO BE A NIGERIAN WRITER by Elnathan John

Writer's Stop
Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

 

 

You know the value of books. The process of making them intrigues you. You want your name on the front cover of a book and, like an earthworm inches through dirt into the ground, you want to make your way into people’s homes, heads and hearts. I am here to help you achieve that.

 

First, you must look the part. It is important to look like an African writer. Find multi-coloured kampala fabric and use it to sew shirts which you’ll wear to all writers’ events. Or an old t-shirt. You shouldn’t look like a model or banker. Your precious time is spent thinking of plot and theme and words, not on dress and grooming. Your hair needs to be unkempt. However, nothing says authentic-tortured-African-writer like dreadlocks. Please, note that in Nigeria there is a difference between dreadlocks and ‘dada’. Dada is less refined, naturally matted coils of hair due to superstitious neglect. Dada is uncool. Dreadlocks are deliberate. They are cool. They make you look wildly creative. If someone asks; no, you are not a Rastafarian. You are an African writer.

 

As a writer, you must flaunt your vices. You need to show that you are a flawed character. If you drink, drink too much. If you smoke, do it at inappropriate times. Show up at an event reeking of booze. People will understand. Vices are a tool of the trade.

 

Now, you have the basic tools: a multi-coloured kampala shirt, cool dreadlocks, and vices. You must set about the business of writing.

 

You do not need to read a lot to be a Nigerian writer. In fact, as a Nigerian writer you can make shameless statements like “I don’t really read much”, in public. All you need is a burning desire to write. It is sufficient to have read Shakespeare and Achebe, and maybe a little of Chimamanda Adichie for contemporary reading. The only thing you need to really study is a dictionary or thesaurus.

 

Please, note that all Nigerian characters are Africans who act the same: children are respectful of elders; parents are always responsible, wise individuals teaching children valuable lessons of life. Characters do not use cuss words or talk about sex, even when in the company of peers. Nobody’s mother smokes and we have no homosexuals in Nigeria.

 

Use big words instead of small words; ‘Discombobulate’ instead of ‘confuse’. How can you write like a layman when you are an African writer? It doesn’t matter how many people read or understand you. What matters is that you impress those who do.

 

Use many words. It is always better to err on the side of verbosity than to err on the side of brevity.

 

Protect your work fiercely and always insist that people give you constructive criticism. Anyone who points out, rightly or otherwise, that your writing isn’t quite there yet, is evil and an enemy of your hustle. You must believe that there is nothing like bad writing. After all, you were inspired by the spirits before you began writing – what do critics know?

 

Do not waste your time or money on editors. Editors are failed writers whose life ambition is to frustrate the hustle of real writers like you. Show your friends your work. But only the ones who are not jealous of your hustle, and who remind you that your writing is the best thing since point-and-kill. Find some popular person from your village who will write you a foreword without actually reading your book. Then, go to press.

 

Go to Ibadan or Lagos. Find a cheap printer who can print 1,000 copies without ink smearing on the pages coming out lopsided. Arrange for a transporter to bring your book home.

 

A book is not complete without a book launch. In Nigeria, a book launch is a fund-raising ceremony. It is not important to have writers at this event. Well, maybe the book reviewer. You need your state governor (who may not come but will send a representative with a cheque or a pledge); your Local Government chairman; your Pastor or Imam to bless the event; and any minister, senator or rich person that you know. It is important to find a Chief Launcher who will encourage others to donate to your hustle. Do not leave it to chance or the discretion of the Chief Launcher, unless you are sure of his capabilities. In Nigeria, nobody is allowed to embarrass the Chief Launcher by giving more money. So, if you can, gently hint that you know he will set the bar high for others to follow. That is the job of the Chief Launcher – setting the bar as high as possible.

 

You do not need a marketer, publicist or publisher. These people eat into your profit margin. If you have a car, carry a few hundred copies in the trunk at all times. Be your own marketer. Steer conversation toward your book and tell them you have written this really cool book. Someone will ask for it and you will tell them to hold on for a minute while you get it from your car. If you don’t have a car, have a big bag that can carry at least 10 copies. Do not be ashamed to carry your books to public gatherings. Book by book, God blessing your hustle, you may end up selling off the 1,000 copies your printer produced, and maybe even go for a reprint.

 

Get an award. It doesn’t matter what. It may be from your church bulletin which you have been writing for since you were in secondary school or your old boy’s association newsletter. You can even have friends get together to organise and award you the ‘Roforofo Prize for African Fiction’. Then, you can have on your book, ‘Award Winning Author’. No need to state what award it is. An award-winning writer is a good writer.

 

It is my hope that you make it as a writer and have many successful books in the market. And with well organised book launchings, you can be sure that God will bless your hustle.

 

 

ElNathan John blogs at http://elnathanjohn.blogspot.com/ … Follow his tweets at @elnathan

el jo

He is the creator of the Nigerian ‘How to series…’ Google it! You might also want to check:

How to worship the Nigerian God

Damn You – Letter to Nigerian Literature and all involved

How to show Nigerian love

http://dailytimes.com.ng/opinion/how-be-nigerian-mechanic

 

 

 

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, LITERARY MISSIONARY, REVIEWS

RAMBLINGS ON THE WRITER’S DEPTH

There is something about the depth of the artiste – it is only gotten by going into the heart of this one. Several years ago, I would marvel at the profoundness of the works of lots of literary maestros. The depth of their creative springs and reaches left me bedazzled. I started writing, churning out tales easily with poetry and the seeming ‘myth’ of the work put into writing lost its hold on me: these were simply creative works thrown out. Unnecessary attention was usually given them – I thought. I read some critiques to show the pretensions of people’s works. But then, I got to change yet again as I became more of a writer by reading and growing values that I would hold on to.

Writing that was overtly easy to me became harder. Each word became important – what message is this giving? Does it speak what I want? Does it tell what I represent? Many thoughts died with words stifled out till at some point, it became somewhat more possible (but not easier) to churn out words. Poems and other write-ups took longer time and more edits. My being went into the process. Where is this leading to?

IT brought me to realise that the deep depths I saw in works several years ago were for real. I do not doubt that certain writers simply write without thinking. I do not doubt that several writers don’t write what they preach. Yet I know some do. It is these ones that make the writing process all worth the while. The ones that make the name ‘writer’ worth wearing with pride.

There’s no art to finding the mind’s construction in the face rings true in this case too. You have to read the work and in some cases, know the writer deeply to know if both tally: You make your analysis of a work and if you know the author well you can tell if it is a reflection of his/her thoughts or simply a blessing of some muse on a(n) (un)deserving ass (pun intended).

I do not doubt the humanity of the writer. I believe it greatly and know they are more human than many with their foibles, mistakes and all. Now, does it matter that almost everyone on the road or in their room for that matter claims to be a writer? I don’t really think so. What separates (the) writer(s) is the depth of thought that (s)he has come to garner and yes, experience too. It comes from the study of several ones – in books read. The experience in a rich life lived, no matter how such. It’s the varying experience carried. A writer who hasn’t read is not really a writer worth much salt. A writer who hasn’t lived really, hasn’t lived.

I have studied several works and had the pleasure of meeting, interacting and enjoying the unique grace of the friendships of many writers. The true writer still exists and I have seen him and her severally. I get to discover that what I thought of some of their work was far less than what lay therein. They – most writers – are far deeper. It has been very humbling but worth it all. To know these people who are peculiar yet similar in many lights. These ones who would many times just want to be alone to access the recesses of their innermost beings or others who would just want to go out and get it. These ones who look at a bland wall and discover lines to leave others amazed.

All this has made sense why some artistes would risk it all for their craft. It makes sense why a lot of them see that there’s a lot they can offer in words and actions. It’s in the definition of that depth that has become them from all they have drunk of and become – of the words of others, of the life they have lived.

For every true writer, there’s a depth…

Phoneys, have fun. Children, enjoy. Writers, live on.

We started here [Credit: Su’eddie V. Agema]