Home Writers Creative Essays Through the Valley | Ogbonna Humble

Through the Valley | Ogbonna Humble



“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will.”

The above expression has majorly influenced my zeal for writing. However, I didn’t just become a writer automatically, there was a process.

Here’s me taking you through my journey as we walk through the valley of writing.

From a tender age, I developed a love for books. My dad was an ardent reader. He read books, magazines, newspapers and various articles. I can vividly picture him sitting on a wooden chair with his back against the upright wood holding up his magazine while reading silently. I would usually sit beside him and place my head on his chest, trying to read too. Other times, I’ll just pick up the ones that he had already read and go through them as well. Thus, reading became a part of me. I remember reading Chinua Achebe’s “Anthills of the Savannah,” Elechi Amadi’s “The Concubine,” Chukwuemeka Ike’s “Sunset at Dawn,” and Cyprian Ekwensi’s “The Drummer Boy.”

The habit of reading got right into me to the extent that I’ll pause to read pages of papers that had been thrown about, and when my mother would ask me to buy fried fish for her, I’ll make sure to read the newspaper used to wrap it after it had been discarded. I loved the way the writers put their thoughts down and that fuelled my interest in writing.

My favourite subject in primary school was English and that was because I had the freedom to express my thought by writing extensively in compositions, letters writings and essay writing. All this while, I never had the thought of writing little stories for myself. I only focused on academic writing.

Later, we moved to another state before I began secondary education. Things were a bit difficult and so I had to be enrolled in a public secondary school. My effort in English didn’t go unnoticed as I was informed about a coming essay competition among schools. It was to be a competition among all schools in the local government, the top three will represent the local government at the state level, and the top three there will represent the state in the Nationals. Three of us were selected to represent our school. Interestingly enough, we were not given the topic to write on beforehand, we would be given the topic right there in the hall!

I got to school the next day in my blue shorts, blue and white checkered shirt, a clean pair of white socks and a pair of brown sandals. Mrs Ogundare, our English language teacher, accompanied us to the centre. It was the office of the Zonal Education Officer at Pakoto High School. A sea of students met our eyes as we arrived. School buses of different sizes zoomed in carrying their students. There were many students from both public and private schools.

The mere thought of competing with students from private schools made me feel knots in my stomach because I had the thought that when it comes to speaking and writing in the English language, the private school students were clear. I immediately developed sweaty palms. Yet, I was determined to give it my all. I knew that I could write well and that even if I didn’t win, I’d be glad that I gave it my all. We got to the hall and were given the topic. The allowed time made known to us and we started to write. After about 45 minutes we were done. While the marking was going on all the students found time to bond. We were all called together to listen to the names of the winners who had qualified for the State level.

Two people came third. The first was a girl, Shola, who had been my classmate in JSS 1. She had attended my school for just a session before going to a private school. I was happy for her. Maybe that had justified my initial thought that private schools were clear. Since there was a tie for third place, it means that only one person was left, the winner. I could hear my heart racing like someone running for his dear life. There was a deafening silence amongst the hundreds of students and teachers.

“The first position is ….,” the announcer had said.

It seemed like an eternity before the name came out.

“The first position is Humble Ogbonna.”

I couldn’t believe it. I had come first amongst the hundreds of students who wrote the same essay. What I had earlier feared didn’t happen. That experience made me realise that I am unique and that I shouldn’t be scared of anyone or any challenge when it comes to writing. Even though I was a science student in my secondary school days, I never stopped writing.

Mr. Sanyaolu, one of our English language teachers proved to be a motivating factor for me. His class was always practical and lively and his enthusiasm for helping us to understand the English language had a great impact on me. When I read his poem, “The Rainbow,” I was amazed at his skilful use of words and so I decided to write my poems too. True to that, I wrote my first poem, “Humility,” and tens of others followed.

Along the line, I got to realize that I was more of a creative writer than a poet and so I decided to stick to creative writing.

I couldn’t write after secondary school and the years that followed due to work and other activities. My pen was dropped and my ink was abandoned. It was like a skill that I wasn’t ever going to use again.

Alas! Covid-19 happened and the whole world came to a standstill. I couldn’t go to work and so I decided to try my hands at new things. I enrolled for graphics and video creation training, but the thought of writing didn’t cross my mind. That situation changed completely in 2020 in the heat of the covid pandemic. I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a suggested post about an online writing competition. It was the Cmonionline Writing Competition. I liked the page immediately, clicked on the link and read more about the competition on its official site. That was all I needed to rekindle my writing. I picked up my pen once again and refilled my ink. I have been writing consistently ever since.

I have received a few writing jobs and at present, my writing is mostly done on my social media platforms, especially Facebook.

Writing can be tasking, but with the right tools, I have been able to enjoy my career as a writer.

Here are a few tools that I have found to be helpful.

WPS/ Google Docs: These applications are very useful in helping me write down my thoughts. They are amazing writing apps that can be used on most mobile devices. One thing about WPS is that even without being on the premium version, one can easily convert one’s document from word to pdf format.

Grammarly: This is another tool that I find helpful. This application helps to correct one’s text including punctuation and grammar. Interestingly enough, it is available in different variants of the English language. One can set it to American English or British English. As with other tools, though, I do not depend on them entirely. This is because there might be some local terms that the application does not understand and might want to provide corrections for them. I make sure to go over the piece again to be certain that the draft I’ll be submitting is what I want to submit.

Dictionary: Every English writer should have a dictionary, either online or offline. I have both. With the dictionary, I can easily look out for the meaning of words, where and how they are being used, and their synonyms and antonyms.

Answer the public: This is a website that I use for checking out topics to write on. By just searching for a keyword in the search bar, I’m able to get creative writing ideas that I can write on.

Quora is another site where I get ideas to write on.

Turnitin is what I use to check for plagiarism in my content.

Canva: As a writer who is yet to publish his first physical book, I have authored several ebooks and one important tool in my box is canva. This is an app that helps in designing ebook interiors and ebook covers among others. I have been using it since the pandemic and might be using it for a very long time.

I was opportune to attend a workshop by cmonionline where we were spoken to by Prof. Okoye. He recommended an app for us which was “Inkpad.” I downloaded it immediately and have been using it.

One thing that I have come to understand is that tools are as valuable as the person using them, or rather, the effectiveness of a tool is determined by the user.

One of the challenges that I have faced as a writer is coming up with creative ideas for my content. As earlier mentioned, I use answer the public and Quora as sources for ideas. Other times, I think back on my life experience and try to create stories or written content from it. I also make use of my imaginative abilities to form scenarios and put them down in writing. Funnily enough, I form stories from the dreams that I had and remembered.

As a writer, I try to read as much as I can. Reading the works of other people helps me to see their way of expressing their thoughts which I can also imitate if possible. Reading both fictional and nonfictional materials has opened my eyes to a wide array of the use of words in writing. Still, I try not to plagiarise someone else’s content because I strongly view that as intellectual property theft (of course that’s what it is). On my phone, I have the ink pad and a notepad application where I write down points that come into my mind. Whenever I am going out, I always make sure to have a book and a pen in my bag to write down such ideas too. All the tools, both online and physical, complement one another.

Humility is one thing that I have learned in my journey as a writer. I have come to understand that I need to be realistic about my expectations. I have seen and read the works of other writers that are way better than mine. It is humbling to know that others are better in their writing craft which means that I can still make improvements.

Have there been times when I experienced writer’s block? Most definitely! When that happens, I try to abandon writing at that moment, go for a walk to enjoy nature or read something else. Other times, I’ll just rest. After some time, the ideas would seem to start coming back.

One other challenge that I have experienced as a writer is my content being stolen. I once posted a fictional story I had created on my wall and in some other groups where I belonged. Some days later, my attention was called to my post being seen in another group with the poster not citing me as the writer. That post had about 20,000 reactions and over 1,000 comments. Yet, she didn’t see the need to acknowledge me as the original writer. I was disappointed.

Another subtle challenge that I have faced is coping with distractions when writing. This js because my internet connection is always turned on in case I needed to make quick research. While writing, I might get notifications from Facebook and WhatsApp, and before I’ll know it, I’ll find myself heading over to those sites while abandoning my writing projects. To counter this, I have tried to inculcate discipline in myself to focus on the job at hand before checking on any message unless it is very important to do so.

I have benefited from joining writers’ communities, the foremost of which is cmonionline. I really appreciate the founder of cmonionline for the platform. I will never tell my writing journey without mention him and what the platform had done for me. Reading from, and meeting amazing writers on the platform has given me the push I needed. This platform helped me to see writing in its truest form. While the prizes won are nice incentives, the goal of becoming a better writer is still in sight.

Buckling down is an understatement for me whenever prompts for new essays are being released especially when I know that I’ll be going toe-to-toe with amazing writers like Peace Habila, Oladejo, Ogbonna, Emmanuel, Johnson and Arueze Chisom. These friends, in no small measure, have contributed to my growth as a writer, albeit unknowingly.

Participating in some other writing contests on Facebook and joining some writing communities there have broadened my reach.

Writing has helped me build relevance in that many have come to know and trust my writing skills. I have gotten some decent writing gigs. Still, I know that I can do better. I am looking other ways to better my craft and monetize my skills, maybe Upwork or Fiverr might just do. Asides from that, I am planning on having my blog where I’ll be at liberty to write whatever I want.

I have begun writing my first fiction novel which I plan on printing once it has been completed.

I am glad that many young Africans have embraced their writing gifts. Even though passing down information through oral means have been our tradition, I am glad that we have embraced the written form. After all, “until the lions start to tell their own stories, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunters.” Many young ones are changing the narrative and I am glad to be one of those who are.

As I continue on this journey through the valley of writing, I am confident that I will smile at the end.


About the Writer

Humble Ogbonna is a Writer, a Public Speaker, and a Diction and Phonetics Coach.

Liked it? Take a second to support Cmoni on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!