On Writing in Nigeria
A friend of mine put up a Twitter post about the travails of the Nigerian writer; by Nigerian, I believe that this person means a citizen who was born and bred in Nigeria with no diasporan privilege. When I read the post, I had to reflect deeply as I do with all things that I think about newly and once I did that, I realised how truly disadvantaged we are in this part of the world.
I decided to take my writing seriously in May of 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, when I was in deep despair because I had been stuck at home for close to 3 months at the time — I would have been in my final lap of medical school, but I am grateful that I am a doctor now; more on this in another post. During that trying time writing was a breath of fresh air. I had been writing on and off for about 3 years at the time and I kept feeling like an imposter because I could not confidently call myself a writer when I had not written anything of significance, therefore, like anyone seeking knowledge, I got books on writing, and two of the most influential to me were “On writing” by Stephen King and “Elements of Style” by William Strunk — If you are an aspiring writer, I recommend you read this to give you some perspective before you begin. I learnt more from these books than from practising writing itself without context.
As a Nigerian, or rather as myself, you are not exposed to the proper texts on writing and editing rules. You kind of figure it out on your own and in recent times, writers like Ope Adedeji and Tolu Daniel have compiled “The Creative Writing Handbook” which also provides more clarity about this thing called writing in Nigeria. I, personally, decided that I would like my writing to be of a certain standard of which I have neither attained nor think I will ever attain - blame perfectionism.
Then there is the battle of understanding the publishing industry. The African literary space is a peculiar place and as with all things Nigerian, takes some getting used to. There are no clear cut routes and no one can tell you which way is right or wrong. I’ve even been advised to focus on an international audience instead to improve my chances, but on closer observation, very few Africans are thriving in the international writing space, yet, it is assumed that Africans are everywhere and Africanness has been accepted as a thing, but I digress.
My main focus at this time is to focus on writing as many well-meaning people have advised. I’ll be writing about life, writing, healthcare, books, films and many things which interest me on this blog and I hope they interest you as well. I will do this weekly, on Sundays, because I should have edited my posts enough for readability. I am no expert at any of the things I wish to write about but I’ll start somewhere.
This past week, I’ve been reading the yNBA by Olaoluwa Oni and I have so many questions to ask the writer. I’ve never read John Grisham — sue me — but I think he is her inspiration. I have not gotten to finishing it though because I am such a lazy reader of late, but so far, it seems like the fiction depicts some harsh realities experienced by young lawyers in Nigeria. The silver lining is that amidst all that has occurred there remains solidarity that is both shocking and inspiring. The yNBA has a “Suits” vibe with a lot of Nigerianness infused into it — a friend once said that Nigerian should be a word in the dictionary because of the multifaceted connotations that the word represents, I agree. I really would love to read more genre fiction by Africans. It’s such a delight the ideas we can come up with and the worlds we can create when we have our own stories because I think fun things happen in Nigeria, too.
This is where my ramblings end today, I hope you enjoyed spending time with me. Come again next week.