On a scale of one to ten, I was born with a six in writing, just as you were born with a six, or seven, or eight in something. This means that even if I don’t develop myself as a writer, anything I write would be better than what most people write. But talent is not enough. It can be a beginning.
I believe in six degrees of separation, the version I have heard, that you are only five people away from any one you want to meet. I could meet Barrack Obama if I want to. My family knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody that knows Goodluck Jonathan. Goodluck Jonathan can lead me to Obama. In theory.
I put this man know man to good use when I tried to publish my manuscript traditionally in Nigeria. It helped. In theory. I got an audience with every publisher I wanted to meet. In those days, I wrote creative non-fiction and dreamt about a coffee-table-style book with rich photos, that readers could leisurely leaf through. Two things stood in my way: money and a photographer to team up with.
After I butted my head against the wall several times, I used six degrees of separation, again, to get the attention of glossies and weekend papers. I received some offers. Two conditions made me decline. The publications demanded exclusivity and wanted me to write free of charge.
“Are you crazy?” asked my cousin who was number four in this particular six degrees of separation.
“What exactly do I get from this arrangement?”
“This is Naija, shine ya eye well well! You’ll get a platform to build your reputation as a writer, and before long, they’ll be calling you for speaking engagements. Then you can charge like 100k per engagement,” her eyes shone as she giggled and clapped.
Should I have taken the offer? In 2008, Michael Birch sold Bebo to AOL for $850M. In 2010, AOL sold Bebo for less than $10M, as the story goes. Birch said, “Obviously, the timing was good for us and bad for AOL.”
Was the timing good for me? I only know two things. One, that although I had about two months’ worth of articles on my laptop, deep down, I feared that I could not write engaging articles week after week. Two, that if you don’t know who you are or what you’ve got, people will remould you until you cannot recognise your reflection.
Once, a mentor asked me to pay a token for advice. He said, “What is given too cheaply is often despised.” I have found that humility is not being the doormat others step on because you don’t know your value. It is knowing your value, but choosing to be a doormat anyway.
Some of my missed opportunities are like Halley’s Comet while others have prepared me better for this time. Some people ‘wait’ for opportunity as though opportunity is passive, like something that happens to you, as in the sentence, I was hit by a truck. At night, I look at the sky and believe there are spaces in the universe for us to fill. We cannot rule out what some call luck and others providence, but in a sense, we call opportunity by our preparedness.
As I tried to get a writing gig going, people would say, “Your articles read like a blog post. Why not start a blog?”
I chewed the idea and spat it out, for the same reason that I never wanted to start a business. I have no entrepreneurial bone in my body. I’m a nine to five girl jare. Share your vision and I will actualise it; but don’t ask me to come up with my own.
Four years later, many unpublished articles and short stories later, miffed that I found one grey eyelash while looking in the mirror, I wrote an article about getting older and posted it on my Facebook Timeline. The responses surprised me. Not just the likes or comments, but the call to start a blog.
I had come full circle. I wrestled with the thought that I was moving away from my dream of being traditionally published. In truth, I had buried that dream under a big box labelled life. My sister told me, “When you’re down, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
I started this blog with grit, a little knowledge, some research, plenty goodwill, confidence, trepidation, and a two-month content calendar.
One year later, this gift that chose me, feels like a solemn trust, like a platform to do my life’s work. When you read something and say it inspires you to do life better, I let my tears fall where they will.
©Timi Yeseibo 2014
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Photo credit: Pensiero / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
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