The writer and I are two souls sharing a single body, and I can safely say it is the most confusing relationship I have ever been in my entire life; the same thing that gives me life seems to have a way of taking a little from everything it has given me. As writers, we usually make memes and jokes about how we hate writing and how difficult it is to do it most of the time, but we also hate it when we can’t write.
As a writer, losing your ability even for a while seems a lot like dying a little. I could never forget the day I was watching a Korean drama, and I reached a part where the female lead lost her superpowers, and I found myself crying. After trying for months to write short stories which used to come easily to me and failing miserably, it felt like I had endured a painful loss and things like this may seem silly to people who don’t write or do not understand art.
To love writing is to love yourself in both the good and ugly parts. Yes, we all hate the ugly parts, and we hate it when things don’t go our way, but yet we know that in order to create, something has to give and sometimes we are not willing to make such sacrifices. Most times, I find myself writing better when I am sad or in pain or when I am frustrated about something, it’s almost like being in a lousy state makes me a better creative, and sometimes this is a hard truth to face, and I usually find myself getting defensive when someone mentions that. But apart from creating good content in a not so good state, the other advantage comes from the effect of that content; how people get to see themselves in your art which constantly reminds you, you are not alone in this, and this hits harder when someone tells you that this work, that you thought was useless and wrote out of necessity became a source of inspiration for them.
Writing had so much to teach me about life, and every day is a new lesson. I pick up a pen and I surprise even myself and sometimes even with a clear image in my head, I can’t seem to pen down what I wanted to. I have been meaning to write this article for a while, it was something I constantly think about and the first time I got a burst of inspiration, I wasn’t in a position to write, and so many things got in the way after that, life, school, laziness and the fear of it not coming out the way I want it to. I can assure you; this article sounded way better in my head.
So many of us will tell you that writing chose us and yes if you imagine it as the scene in Harry Potter where the young wizards walk into Ollivander’s shop unsure of where their journey is going to lead them, and I have this to say ‘the writing chooses the writer ‘but to accept that is also to admit there is little you can control.
I know that there are days when self-doubt cripples me on the bed and convinces me that writing isn’t meant for me. I know that there are moments when I literally feel myself chipping away as if I was cutting pieces of myself and giving it away ad there are days that after writing a piece I feel whole. I know that rejection hurts badly and there was a day I spend half a day in bed, crying over a rejection I had received after placing hope in at least making the shortlist. I know that sometimes I tell people that I don’t always like what I write and they think I am just being dramatic and there were days I wished I didn’t even have this ability, days that I hope I didn’t have to be in my worse state to create something beautiful.
When I started writing, I did it because I loved it. Everything about writing used to make me happy but now I feel part of this great love slowly chipping away as I started to focus a lot on getting discovered and getting published and being ‘a good writer’ and that is not a bad thing, trying to get seen I mean, after years and years of writing, the next logical step is to find people who will read your art and appreciate all the blood and sweat that went into it.
And I always find myself looking out for ‘my tribe’; people who do not need me to translate what I am. People that can understand the things that the people in my life (though well-meaning) could not and to learn not to blame them when they cant. I don’t even want to go to a place where there are no literary activities, no matter how small.
In other creatives, I also find bits of me and I realize that it’s okay for my heart to break for losing my writing abilities, and it’s okay for me to be a little weird, and it’s okay to pursue your passions even if no one else sees a future but you. Other creative don’t think ‘I am focusing too much on my writing ‘, I had had someone tell me that I am too focused on my writing because I attend a once in a month open mic here In Law school without fail even if it means skipping class to do that. Non-creatives do not understand the yearning for this safe place, and it’s not because they don’t want to, it is one of those things you have to experience before you truly understand.
In a society like ours, art is seen as unimportant, and it’s the work of artists to remind the world that art matters too, it is just as important as law or medicine. I wish I had the opportunity that some young ones have now: early access to art, most of us had to figure out our own way before we had people who helped us.
I always used to believe that I don’t get support, especially from my family because they hardly ever read what I write even if they read other people’s work, but eventually I started to realize that people show support in their own ways and sometimes that isn’t always visible and I know that my parents giving the space to create and attend literary programs without restrictions is their way of support, that my siblings asking if I am not going for my open mic today is an act of support, that my sister going out of her way to drive me to an open mic even though it was far, and she was tired was her own way of being supportive. That my sister telling me not to listen to the voices of the people trying to put me down and convince me that writing was ‘haram’ was a kind of support: that my brother taking time to attend a program I was invited to perform in is a form of support: that my friends sending me links to competitions was a form of support. Sometimes, people do their best in the little ways they know.
Kenneth Robinson, a leading thinker on creativity, said that “Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status. Furthermore, Creativity is basic to making our society viable because, without it, we would lose our competitive edge.”
Related article: Creative writing: How to write stories that inspire
I know being creative in Nigeria is frustrating; we seem to have fewer opportunities than people in other places. Our literary circles are cliquey and closed knit, and it’s so hard to get a publisher when you have no money or connections, but there are also the good parts, the fact that we have people coming together to create safe spaces for creatives like Purple silver community in Kaduna, Yasmin ELRufai Foundation literary evenings and the Creative Writers Club in Ahmadu Bello University, and bigger platforms like the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival (KABAFEST) and Ake festival who are continually creating spaces and encouraging art in both the young and elderly .
I don’t know where I would have been without these spaces, which didn’t just give me a platform but gave me a place to recognize my own voice and make myself to be heard and even on the days I don’t feel like writing, or I am crippled by self-doubt, I go to literary programs and realize that there is a chance for me, even if it’s not to create but to appreciate the art always being created by others and that itself is a blessing.
But in recognizing your voice as a creative comes a responsibility, and that is using your voice for the greater good. Yes, the greater good is constantly lost in translation and is conceived differently by different people. The greater good is subjective, but our duty as artists is to find meaning in it and use our voices towards creating a better world for ourselves and our future generation. The ability to create is an act of revolution in itself.
This is the reason why tyrants silence the voices of artists, this shows just how powerful we are and on days you feel like you have nothing to offer this world, you should always remember that your voice is needed and is powerful enough to make oppressors tremble in their shoes; nothing is ‘just’ anything. A story is not just a story, a song is not just a song, a painting is not just a painting, a sculptor is not just a sculptor, but something capable of making or breaking someone. That is why we listen to songs and cry; that is why we see a picture and laugh, that is why we see art and get inspired because this is something powerful enough to create change.
Yes, creating isn’t just about big things that are capable of changing the world; you don’t have to write about world hunger or domestic abuse in order for it to matter. You can write about flowers or an ode to the sun, you can write about your favourite food and weather, and it will still be just as important.
But on days that life gets overwhelming and we can’t seem to create, it is best we take a break and focus on other things because we all are human and we need a break even from things that make us happy. Sometimes what we need is a break away from creating or worrying about creating. And in allowing ourselves a chance to feel things in their entirety and take a break even when we don’t want to, we are collecting fabrics for a possible future masterpiece. You can never create until you are stable enough to.
We are not creatives because we are rare and special; we are creatives because we still hold on to our imagination, which allows us to build castles out of thin air. To think you are not talented enough is a myth you have to debunk, no one is talented enough, and everyone just practices using their imagination and the more you practice, the better you become. It may seem like what you are doing today does not matter, but one day someone is going to look at your creation and find something special; someone is going to look at your work and burst into tears after a long time of holding everything in; someone is going to look at your work and smile or laugh or be inspired or change their perception about something.
I know I will still have days where I am not sure if what I am doing is worth it. The writer and I will always have our fights and battles but right now, looking at how far I have come despite the fear and self-doubt, this relationship might be the best one I have ever been in. No one had ever taught me to hold myself together than the writer, and she makes it clear that she is here to stay.
You may want to check out this article that provides some tips on how to be a successful writer.