I was a shy 15-year-old boy in senior class when I discovered that I loved English more than I did my science subjects even though I wanted to become a doctor in future. I looked forward to English classes, but felt my eyes grow heavy during Physics periods. I couldn’t wait for our Chemistry instructor to get out of class. I barely got interested in the species discussed during Biology classes, and then, there was blood! At the sight of blood, I felt queasy. Yet, I wanted to practice medicine sometime in future.
My understanding of the English Language was near-perfect in so much that I was often taking my friends on English classes after school. During exams, while most students preferred taking the option of writing a/an formal or informal letter to a decided recipient, I took on the more painstakingly horrendous task of writing an essay on the most unlikely of topics in theoretical English. The indicators were there, but I never considered the possibility of being a renowned writer. All I wanted to be was a doctor.
My aspirations to spend the rest of my life dressed in a crisp white gown, listening to sick people tell me what their health situations were grew thinner after I sat my first WASSCE and came up with a definite ‘E’ in Chemistry. Nothing, I was told, could be done about it, except sitting another exam. Well, the dream of being a doctor had grown slim, but it hadn’t been entirely flushed out of my system. Hence, with a deflated ego, I took another senior school exam in the hope that my Chemistry would be redeemed.
It was in the suspense between taking another senior school exam and assuring myself that I wouldn’t fail any more science subjects that I found company in pen and paper. I started off with scribbling short stories in 20-leaved books, almost nearly writing on all the pages, and nodding to myself in satisfaction when I read what I have written. And then, I took a liking to poetry and began to study Shakespearean sonnets. I began to give myself tasks that I thought would bring me to limelight. I had made a resolve that I would beat William Shakespeare’s number of written sonnets. Shakespeare had some identified 200+ sonnets. And I assured myself that I would write 250+ sonnets. And yes, today I have only 43 sonnets which are all talking about my kid sister, and I have completely forgotten them amongst other of my deserted documents. Poetry became another world I live in.
Inarguably, even with my vapid short stories scribbled in 20-leaved books which only I was an audience to, and my 43 poems of fourteen lines which I had not only written in Shakespearean style, but in old English too, and hence, had made it even more insipid than the short stories, I had become, essentially and fundamentally, a writer. I would like to state, for the benefit of young, aspiring writers, that you needn’t more than a paper and a pen to be a writer. You become a writer by writing. However, to be a good writer with a solid reader-base devoted to your writing career, you need more than just pen and paper.
I came to know that the basics of English language which I had learnt in secondary school had little to do with becoming a good writer. It took a whole more than that. To become a good writer, I found out soon enough, that I had to read some good literature. The trouble with writers of today is that we all want to be read by somebody, but we never read anything from anybody. After having discovered this, I began to read every piece of good literature I could find.
Every month, I have a reading target. I would finish five books in a month. Prior to that, I had intended to read a book a day. As funny as it sounds, I had a saying for my the attempt: a book a day keeps writer’s block away. However, I couldn’t keep up with it, so five books per month became the target. Of course, I would be cheeky if I don’t state that I rarely hit bull’s eye each month even at five-books/month. Nonetheless, I keep on reading. Of course, sometimes, for us young people, reading is nearly the most difficult thing to do. However, I motivate myself by taking every book read as a step forward in the journey to becoming a best-seller. I write as much as I read.
Albeit, reading alone doesn’t make one a good writer. A lot of deletions, lost drafts, writer blocks, criticism, failure, more failure, and resilience against the odds all add up to the bulk of the great writers we know today. I have never had the stomach for failure and criticism, but those two have always come after me more times than I can remember since I chose to be a writer. And in fact, to become a good writer is to fail. Hence, this knowledge from here and there is what I define as my journey so far as a budding writer.
Every morning, I search for writing opportunities on my social media handles, and I have kept consistently at that so much that Facebook now recommends new writing ads and opportunities for me. My friends tag me on posts that call on young, emerging writers to make a submission for a writing contest, and I tell them that I have seen the ad before. They think I am being cheeky, but in all honesty, there is hardly a writing opportunity (at local, national, and/or international level) that I don’t get recommendation for. Hence, it was only natural that in September, 2020, I got notified about Cmonionline.com, a literary place that seeks to improve young Nigerian writers by engaging them in weekly essay competitions.
Since I discovered Cmonionline.com, I have tried my best to be consistent with the weekly competitions. I always look forward to writing on the topic under creative writing more than I do the topics on politics and social phenomena. And indeed, three out of four times that I have won the weekly contest on Cmonionline.com, I wrote on topics under creative writing. Creative writing gives me room to be as fluid as I want with my pen.
Hence, my normal first approach to the topic I have chosen for the weekly essay competition is to look for an idea, a muse. Since I write better when it is a topic under creative writing, I tend to write fictitiously, and hence, the need for a unique muse. I don’t force a muse to come or stay with me, but when it does show up, I don’t flirt with it. I make love to my muse. I stretch to its very limits, to the very possible number of stories that I can write out of it, and then, I choose my best and make my submission.
The few times I have chosen a topic that is not under creative writing, I know it demands less of my imagination and more of facts. Hence, I dedicate my time browsing the internet, watching the news, reading papers, in search of things that relate to the topic I have chosen. During my time with Livingston Research Group, I had picked up much on research methodology and sufficient referencing that would ensure that plagiarism does not occur in a research work. Hence, every week I decide to make a submission to Cmonionline.com, it would be a week of strict dedication to researching and studying as many works on the topic I have chosen as I can find, and I quote the authors as adequately as I ought to.
If there is a word I would leave for my fellow young, budding writers it would be: ‘believe in yourself.’ You should be your biggest fan. Nothing could be more painful than putting in effort to write a piece, only to come to know that the world out there does not give the work as much appreciation as it deserves. I see a lot of young authors and poets getting eaten from their insides by depression just because they are not getting the recognition they deserve.
It is very important to know that resilience is key. A writer is someone who has had the most failures. Each failure is a story to bWe told for many generations. Hence, as we continue to look forward to winning prizes for masterly written pieces, we must choose to be resilient, come what may. Choose to love your work when everyone else thinks you had better look for something better to do with your life than become a writer. Dear young writer, you are not born yet. You have a whole lot ahead of your writing career. Don’t give up on writing just yet. You are good enough.
Johnson Onyedikachi is a teenage Nigerian creative writer who has unpublished manuscripts of poetry and plays. He recently picked interest in crime fiction and in August 2019, enrolled in an online course where he gained proficiency in article/journal writing including the use of referencing formats (MLA and APA style). He wrote in via email@example.com