You’re getting popular these days, almost everyone knows now-your friends on face book, few followers on twitter ,family members, close friends…it’s a happy feeling. But sometimes it just seems like added pressure. You feel more of a critic, which is funny cause even critics have to place some work on the table, before judging others.
Writer, to you, it’s the best title. It’s your room’s nick on 2go and Nimbuzz…your password for those countless online writing groups and social networks. And you put it , because you believe in faith, in maintaining a positive focus on anything you want, And it does bring you closer to the writer’s life…I mean, you got a publishing offer recently, right?
YOU ARE NOT HAPPY TO HEAR THAT.THERE ARE TONS OF EXCUSES WHY YOUR LATEST MANUSCRIPT STILL LIES IDLY ON YOUR BED, BENEATH YOUR PILLOW!
An opportunity presents itself. The James Ehimen essay competition on ‘The Nigeria of My Dream’. Ages between 13-16.Maximum of 300 words .Immediately you wish it were a poetry competition, short story, anything else .A sneering voice tells you your articles are just not ready for the outside world. It reminds you of your poor sentences, weak imagery, unpolished paragraphs…you’re jolted from your thoughts by the annoying ringtone of your green screened nokia Phone ID reads BIG BROTHER.
“Just heard about the Ehimen competition…hope you’ve heard about it?”he says rather excitedly. The confidence in his voice chastises you over the doubts you’d allowed to flourish, moments ago. You surprise yourself by telling him you’re on it. He refers you to the internet before he hangs up .And they call you to the sitting room, where everyone’s attention is focused on a small dark skinned man, casually dressed, on the TV screen. He introduces himself rather authoritatively as James Ehimen, and commences a speech on the potentials of young Nigerian writers.
Suddenly ,it’s not about you anymore .You envision smartly dressed boys and girls your age, from better private schools, most of them bi-spectacled.and eager to submit their manuscript…so well written, the judged possibly toss yours out the window in displeasure, Wondering why people won’t just focus on doing things they are good at, and leave the writing for those who actually p0ssess a writer’s voice. You recall the words online that had enraged you earlier on-TEEN WRITING SUCKS. It had read.
“you remember how your cousin won the last competition…”your mother is saying, as she hands your little sis a 200 naira note ,to get a loaf of bread, after stating that there just wasn’t enough food items to make the plantain porridge your father wanted, or the potato chips your elder sis said wouldn’t hurt if you guys ate once in a while, or the spaghetti/sandwiches you claimed you were tired of reading about in your foreign novels…
You excuse yourself, and run to your room. Your mother’s voice is still very audible. She’s telling a neighbor that you are the best literature student in class, that you don’t even have to study too hard before getting an ‘A’, sometimes. BIG LIE! You think. You liked to think you were the only one who cared to check up other literary terms on Google, like epithalamion, lei motif, hagiology…instead of sticking with common terms like metaphor, simile, irony…terms you were sure even science students could effortlessly define. You knew you were the only one who checked daily for new writers on Google, absorbing every sentence and phrase in their interviews ,their book-signings and book readings you couldn’t attend. You couldn’t think of anyone whose facebook page had endless views on writers like Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Adichie, Chinua Achebe, Myne Whitman, Wendy Cope, Enid Blyton, and the list goes on .NO. No one else had recently been told that if calling people’s names made them sneeze, these writers would constantly have running noses. You want to tell your mother that it was more like the reversed quote-GENIUS IS 1 % INSPIRATION, 99 % PERSPIRATION.
At school, posters /flyers of the competition are pasted everywhere .The proprietress even left her office, to give speech on the competition. And by the time she was through, you were sweating profusely, and our legs ached like crazy as you all marched to your various classrooms.
You avoided the groups chatting about it at lunch break. You smile indulgently, as they attempt to seek your opinion, never saying a word, till they give up, and decide to whisper behind your back. You couldn’t care less, as you start writing your essay. Happy to be inside the class room, instead of the playfield, with all the harmattan dust, and shrieks from junior students.
…A NIGERIA WILLING TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ACHIEVEMENT OF POSITIVE CHANGE, AND THE ACCEPTANCE OF IT…A CHANGE THAT EASILY BUILDS AND NOT DESTROY…you’re pleased .then, you’re not .you crumple it, as tears sting your eyes, at the realization that you have to begin anew.
At home they assume you’ve already submitted yours. At school they think you already have. You don’t correct the imprssion either. The long neatly folded sheet is in your bag. In the 28th page of Adiche’s “Purple hibiscus”.
The next day, The principal is taking entries, you reach into your bag, bring it out and then you open it. Its a poem you wrote last year, about Africa!In your state of mind, you can’t decipher the scribbling that are obviously yours. YOU’RE sweating though the fan is at its maximum, and the aluminum window beside you, is wide open. The scene comes clearly now. Like a reflection in a mirror, You recall two similar sheets beneath your pillow, you hurriedly reach for one of them. You dash out…it seems your chest can no longer contain your heart…you chant” I am a writer, I am a writer” all in bid to reduce the intensity of it.
Guest Blogger: Obehi Aigiomawu, sixteen year old unpublished author, and best part, my kid sister.