Writing! Who said I could do it? What are the chances that I could write? Are writers not like gods on earth with how they softly craft words out, the arrangement, and how it sinks into a reader’s mind?
Those were the words floating through my mind as I thought of the word writing and what I thought it entailed. I then decided to disregard anything that had to do with writing and just focus on other things in my life that I was working on. (P.S: I had a knack for doing only things I am successful at or I knew I had a great chance to be successful at). I had always wanted to be a doctor.h
Going down memory lane, one of my greatest influences in writing is my primary school teacher, he was our class teacher at the end of my primary school education. Fridays then are usually like the beginning of a refreshing weekend so it is more like a half day. My class teacher then in primary five would tell us stories after we are done with our exercises. He was a very good storyteller and we would hold those stories as truths. He told us stories with lessons ranging from things about family, and societal pressure. Those stories keep ringing in my head even today. I can very much recall a story he told us about a young girl that decided to abandon her education to abscond with a youth service corp in her school. She later discovered that he was a snake and before she could escape the man swallowed her. This caused her parents pain as she was a very bright child. It taught us not to stop our education even as females. After every story session, he will ask us for lessons learned and then we close for the day. We found this very refreshing and relaxing.
However, getting to secondary, it was a whole different ball game from primary school and I had to adjust. In my first year of secondary school, I met new people and I made new friends. The stories from my primary school made me make more friends as I would gather my classmates together to tell them stories. I would paint the picture of the stories like I was there. With time I started exhausting those stories. I did not want to lose my friends because what brought us together was stories. I decided to start writing my storybook. So using the prototype of that small storybook we bought, I wrote different kinds of stories in the book and we started passing them around the class. I was also very good with literature and I always won an award for it in my junior secondary school.
About getting to senior secondary and remembering I want to be a doctor, I decided to abandon the storybook and focus on my life. I just felt it was too childish. I joined the science department. There was no storybook to read at all that year because my mentor said that the science department does not give you the chance to read stories or watch movies. There is great chemistry, physics, and biology to concentrate on. I can remember just following it religiously for just one term. I bounced back to novels, no more small storybooks. I started learning how to balance it.
By my second year in senior school, we had a teacher who was intentional about us developing other skills apart from going to school to just read, pass and graduate with great grades. She then told each of us some things that she feels are unique to us, when it got to my turn she told me I am a critical thinker and that it would help me in becoming a good writer. In my mind, I laughed at it that I am already envisioning myself with a Doctor attached to it. I don’t know if it is just a mere coincidence but whenever she returns from her writing seminar she tells us of Doctors attending such seminars too. I felt they were not dedicated to the lives they are meant to save and I discarded it. She made us learn two new words per week and she runs a book club where we have access to a wide range of books. She says books open our minds and enrich our vocabulary.
Another important influence is my English teacher. She is a very strict person and effective in teaching us essay writing. We would always write an essay a week which she thoroughly marked and graded. Based on the waec marking guide she grades her work and she always gives us corrections to it.
I also had a lesson teacher when I was preparing for my external exams who was thorough as well.
Then university came, and unconsciously I started to journal, nothing really serious. I started to see people coming forward as writers on social media and I started to follow them. I saw the likes of Edirin Edewor, John Obidi and so many people writing professionally. I started to read their articles and l started to learn what good writing meant.
There was also a family friend that was so good at writing and I felt he was like a god. I would ask him about people I saw in their articles having a lot of engagement and he would reply about how good they are and what he learns from them. In all these, I never imagined myself being a writer and I just felt I was gathering information about stuff as I am quite inquisitive.
The turning point for me was when I met a friend that would always ask for my thoughts on things and I would be as careful as I could. These went on and on, things like politics, the educational system, nationality, medicine, finance, and so many other things. I started to think more and anytime I write things and post on my status on WhatsApp few people would ask if I am a writer and I would answer negatively. One day a friend I talked to asked if I would love to try my hands on writing, and I agreed. I decided there was nothing bad in doing it, the worst that can happen is I fail. He started to send me fliers to participate in some competitions and would hype me up to try them out. It was at this time I knew I had to read a lot on different topics to be able to give out a well-researched and easy-to-read article. I was more intentional about my writing skill. It was at this point he introduced me to cmonionline.com. At first, when I read through some of the articles already on the website I felt intimidated and I wanted to back out. At this time my close friends and family were already calling me a writer. I would help them compose some replies to things but it was not anything serious. Nothing as serious as a 1500 or 2500-word article. I knew it was a serious business and I encouraged myself again.
I then started to write weekly for every competition. I researched a lot and I kept on practicing my craft. I was not winning and my vigor was getting depleted until the day I submitted the article on the Lessons on the Tinder Swindler. That was the first time the admin talked about my article even though I did not win. He said and I quote, “It is obvious she is talented and wants to write. However, she can’t seem to find consistency. It is slow but steady and finding that steadiness is what we are all here about. There is no shortcut, my dear, you just have to face that blank page and keep writing. You will see the result”. He then recommended craft essays on brevity. That was all I needed to keep me pushing. I made up my mind to put my best foot forward. Since then I have not stopped writing.
I have attended a lot of classes on writing and practiced so much. I can not say I am so good at writing because I feel there are so many things I need to know but I can say I am not where I used to be.
Tips on being a better writer:
- Be consistent.
- Try your hands on many niches of writing.
- Attend classes on writing.
- Get a mentor.
- Join a community of writers.
- Read a lot
- Be consistent
Hard work will always beat talent anytime talent does not work hard. As much as it is necessary, always write as many times as possible. One thing about doing something consistently is that it starts to become easier.” Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out”, Robert Collier. It is not as foreign to you as when you write haphazardly. You are more able to track your train of thoughts that it goes more steadily.
With your consistency add patience, a little time of obscurity and failure will make you get better.
Try your hands on many niches of writing.
It is not bad to start with writing in different areas when you are not particularly sure about where you want to be. The more consistent you are, the more you know the one you are passionate about.
Attend classes on writing.
No man is an island. We grow by learning new things every day. Pay for some classes and attend free ones. There are some errors and mistakes, back and forth over many months that just a class can solve. It does not have to be physical, there are loads of resources online.
Get a mentor
A mentor makes the journey easier. In writing consistently, you would need someone other than yourself that would give an unbiased report on your work. A mentor would also encourage you and you can draw inspiration from their works.
Join a community of writers.
It is usually said that a person gives birth to a child but the community raises it. A community is very important for everything in your life. There is a popular quote by the motivational speaker Jim Rohn that you are an average of the five people you spend most of your time with. Joining a community with writers with a robust understanding of what it entails puts you on par with the best writers in your field. One mustn’t join a community of mediocrity. A good community would keep you on your toes. They would share resources to make you write more effectively. They can also serve as your accountability partners. All in all, community makes you go far.
Read a lot.
There is a saying that a man is composed of what he eats. Great writers are great leaders. A writer crafts out words according to his level of exposure to books. Reading gives us more knowledge about our niches, it also improves our vocabulary. We also learn different techniques and styles of writing. Books also serve as a source of inspiration to draw ideas. There is this wonderful charge from novelist W.P. Kinsella that I love so much, it states, “Read! Read! Read! And then read some more. When you find something that thrills you, take it apart paragraph by paragraph, line by line, word by word, to see what made it so wonderful. Then use those tricks the next time you write.”
Resources to help you write better
Ms words/Google Docs
These are apps that allow you to create, modify and save your documents on your phone or your system. The importance of this is that it makes it easier to just copy and paste it on the website or social media page you want to paste it on. The google docs app has a feature that helps you use your voice to type the text. This makes typing much easier.
In this digital age of so much content as a writer, the app helps to organize graphics, texts, tables, and other things involved in making the article very readable. It simplifies the burden a writer might feel bringing things together so that it does not look haphazardly.
From the name Grammarly, you know it has to deal with the word grammar. It is a grammar and spelling checker. It is used to edit articles. There is the free one and a premium where you have to pay a token
It has an app that allows you access to so many quality pictures. Pictures make an article look relatable and not just boring. It is free and all you just need to do is download the app from the play store.
Canva makes you create graphics designs from so many templates. They have templates for logos, Facebook covers, websites, Instagram posts, fliers, YouTube thumbnails, and so on. It is not free but it gives us access to one week of a free trial.
It functions like the Grammarly app but it is more holistic than it. It aims to edit more in-depth.
It prompts you like an alarm clock but why this has an edge in that it prompts you creatively. It suggests topics for you to write on. This can help curb inconsistency.
This is a very important app for writers. It helps to check out for any form of plagiarism that would have been made during the article. It prevents you from having to be punished or flagged for it.
In conclusion, writing is a process and an action word. The process does not start until you do it first. It is therefore important to do the work and see the reward later. You don’t have to be a god to be a writer, you just have to follow the process.
About the Writer
I am Ojetunde Esther. I am a writer and also a student at the University of Lagos. I am passionate about finance and personal improvement in general. To read more on this you can follow me on Facebook @Ojetunde Esther. I am sure it would be worth your while.