I am an accidental fiction writer; does that even sound right? I doubt. Well, it was the pandemic that rocked 2020 that pushed me on the road to becoming a fiction writer this is not without few kicks and prodding from angels in human form.
During the lockdown, I had a long random catch- up phone conversation with a friend that I had not spoken to in over nine years. He reminded me of my love for novels and how I was always thrilled by words. True to it, I am a sucker for words. I am always thrilled by how humans manipulate language, how we string up words, toss their meanings around, and still end up with mind blowing interpretations. The conversation which lasted for an hour ended with “Peace, I think you need to start writing again”. That made a lot of sense at the time because the boredom that characterized the lockdown was getting the better part of me. I decided that night to join the gig. It was also clear to me that the level of boredom looming over the country demanded me to move out of my comfort zone and familiar craft (poetry).
The next morning, I wrote my first allegory story. I uploaded it on my timeline on Facebook for two reasons: to get a sense of productivity and to show my friend that I appreciated the pep talk. This was followed by other allegory stories on varying topics. The reception was impressively massive to my amazement because to me, I was only trying to dust and pick up my creative skill from where I left it over twelve years ago.
In no time, bids and pieces of encouragement from folks on ways to improve my craft started rolling in. With each advice or offer came the need to do better and seek improvement. On one of those encounters, a family friend, who is an amazing writer, drew my attention to Cmonionline essay competition. For a moment, I did not feel ready; I did not even feel equal to the task; you can call it the handy work of imposter syndrome. So, from afar I monitored the activities of Cmonionline on Facebook for weeks. The passion and consistency with which information was dispensed on the page got me awe struck. To soothe and mollify my curiosity, I used to run to the page on Sundays between 7:30 and 8 p.m. to read the wining essays. That was how I became addicted to the page.
My skill lacked a lot of things at that time chief of which was consistency. But I was determined to fix that. I graciously allowed myself to be consumed by the overwhelming passion in creative writing. Then came the beautiful day I decided to join this moving bandwagon with the hopes of developing consistency in style of writing and pace of writing. My first submission titled ‘Regret’ missed the deadline due to network issues. The feedback I got the next morning further convinced me that I have found the right place. At first, I struggled to keep up with the weekly demands of writing. I fought a huge battle with procrastination. Interestingly, the prize was not the goal; the goal was to grow in a community of creative minds, but wining felt supercool.
So far, I have turned in about ten stories and won three times. To celebrate the wins, I dragged my longtime friend (Roselyn Sho-Olajide) to Rayfield Resort in Jos. The large expanse of water afforded us the glorious atmosphere to discuss the weird relationship between Zaq and Rufus, the fictional characters, in Helon Habila’s Oil on Water as we devoured our Suya and drank our Coke in between laughs.
Wining wasn’t magic; it was a reflection of the journey of growth. To overcome procrastination, I came up with a plan. I knew my interest was in creative writing so I maintained that lane. I resisted the temptation of jumping to another genre. For moments where the topics for creative writing weren’t appealing or appeared cranky, I squeezed every juice of creativity left in me until storylines were birthed. I also found a way to improve my pace. I call it the one-hour gig. After coming up with a storyline in my head, I would neatly work out all the details about my characters, their feelings, the plot , setting, etc. in my head before moving to the study. I willingly subject myself to an hour weekly writing drill. At the beginning it was tough and appeared almost impossible. With determination and diligence, it is now an easy cruise. I now enjoy my weekly one-hour cruise in the study.
Above all, this journey has taught me how to stick to the goal and how to appreciate the passion embedded in creativity. Consequently, I have grown from reading just the wining essays to reading all entries. Roselyn and I now devout our Sunday evenings to discuss amazing entries.
It has also given me new friends, some of which are my friends in the figment of my imagination and the prowess of their pens on paper. Few of them are now my Facebook friends.
The icing on the cake was when I got my feedback on Tuesday morning; I was super excited. It felt like I was reading from the editor of my first novel. I didn’t hesitate to reply. For the first time, it gave me the opportunity to discuss my choice of words and style.
Somewhere in my heart, I wish we could go back to our Sunday evening announcement of winning essays. I feel there is no better way to wrap up the weekend than reading a wining essay knowing fully well that the writer gave it his/her best shot.
In three months’ time, it will be a year since I embarked on this journey into the creative world. I think I should host a party to celebrate the passion behind Cmonionline, the sponsors, the amazing writers, and readers; you are simply amazing!
Peace Habila, a resident of Jos, Plateau state is passionate about creative writing. She wrote in via email@example.com