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Reflections on Being a Writer | Chisom Arueze

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Dear diary,

These are my reflections on being a writer.

Now, I know, I am a walking Camera

Capturing life through my eyes.

I see things, but

I look beyond what I see

And my hand captures, what my mind and heart sees.

 

Dear Diary,

Now I know why I write.

I write, you let them see

All they’ve been looking at,

But do not see. 

— Chisom Precious Arueze

 

 The beginning

Just so, you know, this is my most cherished story in the world, although I have never told it before now.

Okay, sorry to break it to you, I was not born a writer. Heck I hated the idea of putting a pen or pencil to use. I felt it was just stress.

I did not love writing but I loved reading. I fell in love with words as I saw it as art. I could see the beauty of putting two and two together and you could create the most beautiful thing on earth. When I read it feels like a part of me has just been lit up, like a Christmas tree.

Now if you could ask me the moment I fell in love with books, I would definitely smile like an idiot while having an invisible question mark on my head, but… I could relive a moment that matter the most.

It was on December 29, 2009.

That night was a cold and quiet one except for the incessant talking of the television, which I could hear stop at intervals. I did not know why but my best guess was probably a break in transmission. This continued as it availed the TV the opportunity to listen to the conversation of my family members.

So I knew it was 9pm when, I heard the traditional NTA intro song come on and the deep confident voice of the presenter say “hello good evening, my name is Cyril Stober”. Being a typical Nigerian home, the volume of the television was a bit higher, so I listened to the news, even when it was against my own will.

I was not present in the sitting room with my family for one reason and one reason only; books. I was, curled up like a newborn kitten in my mother’s room, as I was nose deep in between the pages of a novel.

The novel which I read belonged to my sister. I had stumbled upon it while perusing through books I would read when I was began to count the ceiling. The title of that novel was dizzy angel by Gracy Nma Osifo. I had began reading it, the day before yesterday and as I read , it felt like the words were bouncing off the page and immediately turning into images. I couldn’t believe that such wonder can be hidden in between words. Just like a police man,, this novel held me cuffed me to a spot.

Now it was like an open secret at home, that once dinner we had our dinner, my mother would start to catch some Zs, right on the cushion. So that only meant it was time for bed. Then when I could not hear the TV noise, I knew it could be it.

The Moment my mother emerged at the door; I knew it was bedtime. My heart sank.

I was no stranger to this woman, so as long as I have known my mum, she never slept with the light on. I had been hoping that today would be the exception.

She glanced at me on the bed and did not say a word as she quietly lay beside me. Then I relaxed.

So While she tried to sleep, I noticed her tossing and turning. With her constant movement on the bed, she made me feel like, the made was made of wood.

It didn’t bother me. I was a bit selfish and not caring about her discomfort. I hoped she would gradually fall asleep but I was wrong.

As I think of it now, I think she was enduring and hoping I would do the needful but empathy was not a trait, I had in that moment. Finally my mother spoke.

“Chisom ga gbanwo oku ahu.”

While I wasn’t the regular disobedient child but I felt my character was being put to test in that moment. I couldn’t argue so I went and flipped it off. I wasn’t ready to sleep yet because leaving that book at that moment, felt like I was jumping out of a moving train. In that my moment my brain, did a quick sweep of my options.

1. Leave the room in the guise of going to the bathroom.

2. Continue reading the book in any possible means.

Just like having an imaginary light bulb on my head in the cartoons, I remembered the rechargeable torch, close by. I grabbed it and continued reading. In between emotions that flickered through my face, as I read, I finally was able to feed the little monster of curiosity in my head. I finally closed the book and went to bed, hoping that the day would break as soon as possible.

Now I think about it, I chuckle. It was then that I knew books were my first love.

From then, I began reading. I didn’t read for the fun of it though, I read because reading to me felt like this, invisible wings. I got to places I knew I would never get to go. I remember as a child, I looked forward to having my English language textbook, which we called. ‘reader’. This was because I had found out that, lying in every chapter was a story, culled from a novel or a newspaper. I would read them all and also read that of my siblings. During the long vacation of my JSS3, while waiting to start, Extra mural classes, I began reading the novels in the house. I read all of my siblings English novels and when I had exhausted all, I switched to Novels written in Igbo language. I was so surprised you find out that it had beautiful stories too. So before I moved into senior secondary, I had read everything at home and began looking elsewhere.

Due to the fact that I was a science student, I couldn’t get access to novels but that didn’t stop me. I made friends with people in the Art classes and read their literature novels.. This I did because of the immense love I have for words. Unknown to me, I was nurturing a passion that would not be extinguished easily.

Then

I began writing but not professionally after secondary school. I didn’t write for the fun of it, rather I wrote as a way to heal of certain situations. Due to my introverted nature, I didn’t have much friends so I began writing. While I wrote, it felt like I was conversing with someone, who knew me more than anything. With Time I kept writing but one day, when someone saw a piece I had written, he encouraged me to put them online. That was how, I came into the social media. You know, at first I didn’t feel like a writer. I felt the name was way bigger than what I was doing. I felt I was just putting words on paper but I wasn’t a writer because of the self doubt I had in me.

Then when COVID struck, I was going through social media, Facebook to be precise, I saw a post. It was a writing competition.

It was the first edition of the cmonionline essay competition. I thought that since it was the first, it might not be so hard to win after all.

I went through the necessary information, and found out that I was eligible to write. With the love and support from my family and friends, after a few doubts, I decided to enter.

I wrote like my life depended on it and after that I was pretty confident of myself.

Now I think of it, I find it weird that for someone like me who suffered self doubt, I was pretty confident in what ever I wrote. Did I win?

Well no. I didn’t make it to even the honorable mentions. Of course it hurt, that I began to doubt myself.

I decided not to participate again but when I saw the ad for the second week, I decided to try again. Well I failed again and again and again. At that point my writing could be best described as raw crude oil, which needed refining. It was good but it needed to get better.

You know, in life one of the hardest decision is deciding whether to let go or try harder. At that point in my writing, I felt so much doubt. I didn’t feel like best selling author material. I even started to question my dream.

After many failures I decided to take the wheel of my writing life. The first ever writing class I got was from reedsy.com.

Being a writer with no money, made me sieve through the internet to find free classes. Then later on I began taking free classes on future learn. Truth be told, I struggled with consistency but finally I won.

Then I moved on to YouTube, the social media teacher.

I watched videos that made me look at writing in a new light. I saw people who knew the nitty-gritty of writing. For one, Diane Callahan is my favourite.

So after going through so much videos and courses, I decided to write the cmonionline essay competition again. It was a week before Valentine’s day, so I decided to do my best and gift myself some money. In my head. I said I would bring forth my A game.

Well, as I sat in that tricycle on Monday, waiting for the page to load to know my fate. I wasn’t ignorant of the way my body reacted. My heart engaged in constant back flips. Then when it opened, the first thing I saw was my picture, and I broke into the biggest, widest smile I have ever seen in my life. I smiled so much the next person that got into the tricycle, began raising an eyebrow. He probably thought that I had gone mad. It was then I truly agreed that certain kind of happiness could be equaled to momentary madness. In that moment, the last thing I cared about was being branded a lunatic, because we get so happy at some point in our lives, that we almost behave like mad men.

After my win, I went ahead to win again and again. It was after then that I truly thought I had earned the bragging rights to be called a writer. Indeed success breeds confidence.

Now

As Thomas Mann said, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Now writing is way different than when I started. Now I feel a lot more confident to call myself a writer, though writing had not been any easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for any writer either. Now we tend to see writing from a different perspective. There are times, you doubt yourself. Then you are stuck with conflicting emotions on what to write and how to write It. At some point, it truly feels like a walk in the park and other times it feels like a hard nut to chew. I could also define the relationship I have with my writing as a love hate one.

Like now, I no longer treat my writing like a fun art but with a more professional approach. And when I am not writing professionally, I am writing as a means to heal and offset a lot on my mind or make people think.

In as much as I am older in the game I know that I am no where near my dreams but I know I’m on my way, but no matter how old I can be, there will be always one thing that will get to me; rejection. To me rejections would always sting.

You know as a writer, I had to try get comfortable being rejected. I couldn’t do anything about it but to wait out the pain and hop onto the next. Though I got to see rejection from a different point of view. I began seeing it as redirection and correction. If when I wrote, and I began to get bucket full of rejections, I’d sit back and strategize. And after every session, I found the plot hole and would move to right all my wrongs.

Well just like a snake, that sheds it’s skin from time to time, I make out time to read and also take courses to get myself better. Now I have also learnt that I don’t have to win in the competitions because I believe a writer writes to express and not to impress.

As I wrote, a thought crept into my mind. If at all I did not win during the contest, would I have stopped writing? Honestly, I do not think I would because saying I wouldn’t write, is like saying I would never read. And owing to the fact that I love reading, I don’t think I’ll stop writing.

So as I write this little autobiography on my writing life, I congratulate myself for coming this far. So here’s to putting words on paper and making people think for a while.

 

 

 

About the Writer

Chisom Precious Arueze is a passionate writer.

 

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