The Keys To Writing

This is one of the hardest posts to write. First, because I do not have a great title to it. Second, I am just one other person who chooses not to be one other person. I am not any bestseller anything (as we say in Nigerian English), just one other person who enjoys the creative process of writing. A famed philosopher, who changed her surname to mine, invented the word “therapeutic” and that is exactly what writing does to me.

A writer is an alchemist — mixing thoughts, dreams, illusions and bringing them to reality.

I have been asked on numerous occasions how and why I write. There is no direct answer but I will try to say a thing or two. I think what propelled me was an incident that happened many years ago. I picked up something to read and I was so impressed by it. I searched out for the author, only to know that I was the one. It made me to be more deliberate in putting down my thoughts. And so I started that process.

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” — Sidney Sheldon

I thought deeply about the fact that if things were not written, then we will not have the Bible, Constitution, Company procedures etc. That means everyman would have done things as they felt. No law = no crime. Imagine such a society. I know I am drifting. Let’s get back to the point.

Writing is the art of clothing your thoughts with the appropriate words. It is the art of saying more with less. A good writer makes you feel what he is feeling. The quote below succinctly puts it well.

A good writer is a wide reader. Their works are basically built on the shoulders of giants. You learn by continuous learning. You read in and out of your area of interest. You study concepts and follow timelines. This makes for a rich body of work. You keep at it.

If you are to write a novel about an event in the 60s, do some basic research — the hit songs, the major influences of that era, civil rights, independences of several African countries, The Cold War, Hippies revolution etc. You cannot set a theme of a story in the 60s and you tell us about how one of your characters checked her iPad. You have just lost credibility.

I have thought about that creative process of writing and I will tell you how mine happens. Let me apologize in advance, because I will be speaking more like your lecturer. hahahahahaha.

Point 1 — Everyone writes. I mean every literate person writes one way or the one these days. Facebook Post, Twitter Update, Emails, Memos and the other sorts. For that reason somehow, we all write.

I must admit that I do not subscribe to the school of thought that anybody can write. Some things are tough for some people. I hate to iron clothes even when I think I can. So when I could pay someone to iron my clothes, that was it. End of ironing. The moral of the story; ironing does not come easy to me. Writing may not come naturally to some people.

Point 2 — Gather your ideas on your area of interest. It could be anything. Ok you want to write on “The Humans of Lagos”. Easy. Take pictures. Record an observation. Jot a point to elaborate later. Before you know it, you will have a body of work. The hard part, I must admit, is weaving those thoughts together. But it must be done and it will be done by you. You are the voice that we have been waiting for.

Point 3 — Generate Your Style: Stay with it. Develop it. Find anchor points and fellas who write that way. I love humour and I like taking things lightly. And so I write with a light heart. I have heard many version of what people think about my writing but that is not the issue. The issue is that is my style. I enjoy doing it that way. If you don’t like it, I am sure you will like something else from another person. And I am fine with that.

Stick to what you know and see how you can improve on it. If you have never read Warren Buffet’s annual report on Berkshire Hathaway, then you have missed out on one of the most humorous write ups ever. It makes finance readable. My other humorous writer is Robert Fulghum. He has written many books but you can check on “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”

Point 4 — Use every arsenal in your tool kit. Your phone is not just of checking Facebook update. It is also for creating stuff. There are people who do not have computers but use their phones to code. There are apps there for recording, writing, dictating, etc. YouTube should be a resource for all the free online courses.

Let me list out some apps that might help Grammarly (Words & Sentence Construction), Google Keep (Note taking), Voice Note (Recording), Cameras (not just for selfie), EverNote (Productivity App, Alarm, Notes, Reminder etc), Google Doc (Storage, Retrieval, Collaboration etc), Dictionary Apps (for the obvious). The list is endless.

Leave out Mark Angel Comedy for a while. Leave out the various series. In this battle, you need all the arsenal and also the time.

Point 5 — Utilize your downtime. I hardly sleep well at night and so when I was in Lagos, I slept for most of my trips in the buses. Third Mainland Bridge was my bed. I usually get home refreshed. For you as a writer, time in traffic especially on your way home, should be time to read, write, gather your thoughts, listen to a podcast, sleep etc. In case you a driving, then you can slot in something to listen to.

Point 6 — Just like you make out time to watch your favourite TV show, make out time to write. It follows the same strategy. I am an avid football fan but I hardly watch a 90 minutes match except Barcelona is playing. There is this marvelous creation called “Highlights” that is what I watch. Why? I need time to get other things done. When you schedule time, you can get a lot done and also try to accommodate other things that spring up.

I am currently on a Twitter fast. I realised it took so much of my time. This has allowed me to make out time for other things. There is never time for just anything, we create time for the things that we love and are important to us. If you doubt me, just think about how two busy Lagos bankers date? They make out time.

Point 7 — Have the courage to publish your work. Put it out there. I will tell you my personal story. Currently I have an army of people who proofread my work. They do that after I have published. Before now, I use to give it to them to proofread before I publish but it usually took half of forever to get my work back. Now, I publish and move on. Afterwards they get across to me with the corrections. You know it is the relatives of the mad that are shamed. Not the mad. They are my relatives.

On another note, it is only when you put your work out there that people can criticize it. Feedback / criticism is a gift from the concerned. So take whatsoever input and take it up from there. BTW, not every input must be taken.

Let me recap:

1. Writers are wide readers.

2. Writers are researchers.

3. Writers are thinkers.

4. Discipline is a force in the life of the writer.

5. Push it out. A writer is not a perfectionist.

6. A great writer makes you feel what he / she is writing. Infact you experience it. You become a part of what the person is writing about.

7. Gather your ideas. Use the voice app to record your train of thought. Use the note book feature on your phone. Document. Record. Write. Revise. Publish.

There are some article links on writing. I hope it helps.

There are tons of free online courses out there to develop yourself. If you feel like paying for one, please go ahead but know that there are tons of free stuff out there. If you check on YouTube, same results. Free stuff everywhere. Do some research before you take on one.