WordPress 107: How I Write My Blog Posts

creative process

I can scribble on the bus, at a party, or in the kitchen, but when it is time to pull my thoughts together, a chair and table lend seriousness to what I do. Although writing brings me satisfaction and can be fun, I do not write for fun. Familiar sound is unwelcome. I cannot let anything or anyone I know compete with the voices in my head. But the strangers at the café? Their conversation is a tunnel guiding me to the place where thoughts reside.

I don’t understand creativity, the neuroscience of it. To write my blog posts, I need an idea or two, or three. Don’t believe me? Just ask Neil Gaiman.

 

Happy now? So, here’s how ideas and words cross-pollinate and become blog posts on Livelytwist.

 

Inspiration

creativity dream

Words are the last thing I want to see for I have just spent four hours editing a manuscript. I drag myself to bed at 2 a.m. Ants crawl in the space above my eyes and Paracetamol has had little effect. I hear the words, “Six is just a number,” and understand the meaning, but I close my eyes and snuggle deeper under the covers. I hear the first line, the second, and then the third. I grab my laptop. The words are coming faster than I can type, a deluge. Like one possessed, I write until 2:30 a.m., 900 words of dialogue, and then I reread. I laugh, yawn, and sleep. Later, I email a friend.

“Naughty, naughty, naughty. This will get you in all kinds of trouble,” he replies.

I wish everything I wrote came to me by inspiration. I also wish I played the lottery yesterday and won a million Dollars. Instead, I get dressed, go to work, and collect my pay cheque at the end of the month.

 

Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous. – Bill Moyers1

 

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

creativity mechanically

Saturday, one day before publication. Nothing, nothing at all. Experience tempers panic so its waves do not break on my shore and retreat, making everything wet. I pound away at my keyboard like a blacksmith hammering metal sheets into shape—delete, cut, copy, paste. I surf the internet. I read other blogs. I watch TV. I pray. I flip through my T.B.D.L. notebook. I leaf through my experiences and run through my imagination. I write, one sentence at a time, like a child learning to walk. I visit the thesaurus. I employ literary devices. I pull words from the well in me. I push until I reach 500 words. Eureka!

Sunday, I upload and publish. I hold my breath until I see the first like or comment. Then slowly, I exhale. The best writing advice I’ve ever received? Just start and inspiration will find you.

 

The trick to creativity, if there is a single useful thing to say about it, is to identify your own peculiar talent and then to settle down to work with it for a good long time. – Denise Shekerjian, Uncommon Genius: How Great Ideas Are Born2

 

The Force of Belief

creativity belief

Something I hear, see, read, or experience captures my attention and moves me deeply. It stews in my mind for days, weeks, months even, and I read what others have to say. I examine my life for inconsistencies as conviction takes root. I determine to do better because what I write will change me. When the thoughts crystallise, a title is not far off.

I write with what I hope is restraint, in a measured tone. I know it will stir readers for it is the force of conviction on paper. It alienates or binds. Only in my response to comments, do I try toe the middle ground, to be gracious. I wrote, I am not What I wear and Other Lies we Tell Ourselves, this way. In a world of muddled grey, black or white can bring pain or gain.

 

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. – Steve Jobs, I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words3

 

All this is theory as all three elements are at play when I write, sometimes, one is more dominant than the other two and vice-versa. Some days it is hard. Some days it comes easy. Always, it is rewarding, like chocolate cake after lean meat and vegetables.

So, how do you write, or draw, or make music, or do what you do?

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Image credit: cartoon figures from Microsoft

The Creative Process, adapted from Julia Quinn’s photo: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151963920732054&set=a.59952827053.71263.42811462053&type=1&theater

  1. http://explore.noodle.org/post/53323730990/bill-moyers-pair-with-this-vintage-guide-to
  2. http://www.amazon.com/Uncommon-Genius-Great-Ideas-Born/dp/0140109862/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403991437&sr=1-1
  3. http://www.amazon.com/Steve-Jobs-His-Words-Their/dp/1932841660/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403993785&sr=1-1&keywords=I%2C+Steve%3A+Steve+Jobs+In+His+Own+Words+%28

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

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Finding and Becoming You

You

You start to write this post and your fingers hesitate over the keyboard. One part of your brain wonders when you bought a franchise for Oprah’s Life Class. You wonder about sounding like a preacher, roll your eyes like a teacher, and resume typing with a sigh. Authenticity on a personal blog is sometimes writing what matters to you with your style and in your voice.

The first time you realised you had a distinct writing voice was when you rewrote the foreword of a friend’s manuscript because she asked you to. You’d found it stuffy like a chemistry class about atoms without pictures. You thought that an inspirational book should make readers feel as though they were drinking coffee with the author and talking about life. You transcribed this photo, infecting your words with warmth that spreads from intimate conversation.

Your approach couldn’t have been more wrong for your friend read it, shook her head, and demanded, “Why didn’t you write like you write at work? That’s why I came to you in the first place!”

You stammered, “But that is my job. This is my heart.”

 

who am i

 

To write from your heart, you must first know your heart. What made your heart go va-va-voom at eighteen is not the same thing that makes your heart race at forty. The heart is always circulating blood throughout the body. You are a constant work in progress. Neutrality is for the dead, the ideas you encounter daily, shift you one way or the other. Oxygen-depleted blood enters the right side of the heart and exits through the left full of oxygen. Yet, the heart sits fixed in the chest cavity between your two lungs. Who you are at your core and the ideas which circulate in your mind will seep from your pen, whether black, blue, red, or green.

 

 

loving you

 

To become you, you must find you. Remember when you isolated your baby’s cry in a room full of crying infants or picked out a friend’s laughter in a noisy coffee bar? This is the magic of bonding, of spending hours with someone you love, you! You hear your cry and understand your pain. Healthy self-preoccupation may mean that you are the last to hear office gossip because your internal dialogue is louder and juicier. You are an active participant in the internal narrative of your life, listening, taking notes, sharing feedback, and steering the conversation.

Experimenting within boundaries may cushion failure on the way to discovery. I wrote poetry and gave drama a stint, before I settled on prose. Second chances are about reinventing yourself. You can gift yourself one anytime. If self-acceptance comes before change perhaps change has a better chance of stamping itself on you because your need is raw like desire.

 

fall and rise

 

It takes courage to be yourself for when you finally meet yourself, you may not like who you are. When children unwrap gifts at Christmas, they look past their gift to ask others, “What did you get?” The value of the gift received grows or diminishes in comparison to what others received or how others perceive what they received. You also play this game. It is hard not to compare, after all, there is no tall without short. But you can learn to “uncompare,” that is, measure your good against your better, and aim for the best.

The high price of being you is the risk of being misunderstood or rejected. But even in that, there is value to be harnessed. The world isn’t tolerant of plastic bottles that don’t fit in the general assembly plant. Did you know it costs time and effort to create special assembly plants? You put in the time. You put in the effort. Give yourself the gift of you before you offer the world the gift of you. Then, whatever happens, the ground upon which you place your feet will hold you up.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Image credit: stick figures from Microsoft

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

A Few Good Men

a few good men

Movie previews vie for prominence in IMAX theatres as summer calls. The themes are the same though special effects vary. Whether resetting the day to secure a better future in Edge of Tomorrow or fighting for the survival of the species in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the protagonists are ‘ordinary’ men and women juxtaposed in extraordinary circumstances. They earn their place on the wall of fame in our hearts by navigating tough choices and taking the ‘high road’.

They may fall on the way eliciting groans from us or run with injured limbs drawing encouragement from us, but in the end, we discard popcorn cartons and nod to the beat of the song that accompanies the credits. We are looking for heroes and don’t even realise it. Year after year, Hollywood sells us this basic story of redemption, and we say, “Oh yes!” with our Dollars.

The big screen that typifies courage, honour, and integrity is a macrocosm of what a woman’s heart longs for. Sometimes political correctness, feminism, gender equality, etc., educate me to the point that when I place my hands on my chest, I no longer feel my heartbeat. Nevertheless, when darkness causes me to trip, I see clearly.

At nineteen, I chose love that devalued me. Dark alleys and groping hands crumble truth and leave broken hearts. I love you, should be said in daylight so the heat of the sun can scrutinize the lips from which the words pour. Then I met a man who did not kiss the girl and make her cry, although I was ripe for the picking. He said, “You mustn’t fall in love with me, you must reach for your dreams.” A man’s heart can be a safe place for your dreams, because if he believes in you, he will walk beside you and invest in your future.

If women declare unequivocally, “I want a man who will fight for my honour, yes, a knight in shining armour and baby, I’m no pushover, I can certainly hold my own,” then perhaps men will rush to borrow Superman’s cape! Heroism isn’t always glamorous. Countless choices refine what it means to be a hero. Every choice is a ripple in the river of time. Enough ripples, and you can change the tide for the future is never truly set.

Some men look at the dizzy neon lights of the casinos of life and remember that although they once hit jackpot at the slot machines, the house advantage in a game of roulette sets them up for long-term disappointment. They walk past so they can arrive home at six to ruffle Peter’s hair and read Anna a bedtime story; to watch reruns snuggled next to Mary.

They shove their hands into deep pockets when voices rise and tempers boil and even wave a white flag when it is their right to hoist a red one. They let the door click in place because a slam reverberates through the house instilling fear that clings to the occupants in its wake.

Others nurse battle wounds and walk with a limp, a gait at once laudable and laughable, but pay child support like clockwork. They embrace the dawn to polish their dull swords knowing that sheen comes from consistent practice and that just because someone loses his way, it doesn’t mean he’s lost forever.

Fathers, grandfathers, husbands, brothers, friends, sons, nephews, uncles, and cousins, although we do not see you featured in 3D saving the world, we need you to hope again. The curtain is lifted and the spotlight is on you. Don’t be a dying breed.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

p.s. Ayonfe okon mi, olowo o rimi, this one is especially for you.

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Battle of Testosterone

Battle

At the Reunion, I see Emeka for the first time in twenty-five years. We jam shoulders and pat each other’s backs.

“Man, you’re not doing badly,” Emeka playfully jabs the flab on my belly.

“Emeka na you biko! Nna men, you wear forty-six well!”

His clean shave reminds me that my beard is speckled grey.

“I do my best. Lola and the girls nko?”

“They are well.”

You still don’t have a boy right?” His chair scrapes the floor as he moves it to sit.

I take a long sip of my Gulder.

“No boy?” He leans forward in his chair.

I take another long sip of my Gulder. “Not yet.”

Emeka whistles. “Are you guys still trying?”

We exchanged emails about twelve years ago. I’d expressed frustration about not having a male child to carry on my name. Twelve years ago! What gives him the right to poknose now?

Emeka fiddles with his BlackBerry. I stare at nothing as I tap my feet to the beat of Fresh by Kool and the Gang. We have both done well in our careers, why is a male child an additional index of success? Emeka shows me photos of his wife, two sons, and daughter.

“My last son is ten.” He says it as if he won gold at the Olympics.

I shrink in my seat and hum, conversation is going round people talking ‘bout the girl

“So, how do you keep in shape? You look really good.”

I look at his muscles rippling beneath his fitted t-shirt. I signal to the waiter for another bottle of Gulder.

Emeka pats my arm, “Lola is really taking care of you. She’s goo—”

“I run seven kilometres every weekend.” I brush lint off my shirt as if that’s the reason I’m annoyed. What’s the difference between three and half and seven?

“Really? Why don’t we run together this weekend?”

Four bottles of Gulder makes me say yes and give him the route in Victoria Island where I run.

I arrive early on Saturday and start my warm-up exercises. Emeka parks his Range Rover Sport under an ebelebo tree and promises the boys washing cars some money to look after his car.

Nna, ke kwanu? Good day for running,” he says looking at the sky.

I mumble and nod.

He looks like Usain Bolt and starts like him. I think this showmanship unnecessary but keep my thoughts to myself.

After about 700 metres, Emeka picks up speed. “Come on!”

I match his pace.

“I know someone.”

“What?”

“Someone who can help with your problem.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“No need for all this oyibo, na me Mekus, your man.”

Gini?”

“There’s this guy in Oworo. He has a powder—”

“Emeka, what in god’s name are you talking about?”

“To increase the Y chromosome na.”

When I was younger, my mother told me to be careful when I got angry because my yellow skin became red around my ears. “Remaining small and they will catch fire,” she would warn.

The fire spreads from my ears to my chest, and then down to my legs. I pick up speed.

“Man, slow down! Na so?”

The fire burning my legs gets hotter, but Emeka sails past me like a gazelle while his laughter stays behind to mock me. I feel more heat on my feet. Grunting, I overtake Emeka and try to maintain my pace. We pass the three-kilometre mark.

Emeka draws level. “I’m only trying to help because I care.”

He gives me a slap on the back that makes me lose balance. I steady myself and look ahead. Emeka resembles Leonardo Dicaprio in Catch Me if You Can.

“Sh*t!” I spit and the wind blows my saliva back on my face. The fire in my chest is hotter than the one in my legs. My mouth feels dry. I tuck in my head and draw from my reserves. Emeka’s yellow singlet is the prize.

Each time I near my goal, Emeka antelopes away.

Oga small small o!”

I ignore the meiguard carrying jerry cans in his wheelbarrow. My honour is at stake. My legs begin to give first. I stretch my hand to catch Emeka. I touch something soft.

“L . . . Lola?”

“Sssh . . .”

“How?”

“Ssssh . . .”

“I was only trying to help. There is no shame in this matter.” Emeka’s voice seems distant.

“He has always been stubborn,” Lola says shaking her head.

I struggle to sit up.

She laughs and places her hand on my head, “Lie down.”

She motions to someone. The meiguard looks down at me and smiles. Kola nut has stained his teeth like blood. I remember Dracula. He lifts his gourd. Someone tugs at the waistband of my tracksuit bottoms.

“Where am I?” my voice is weak.

“Oworo,” Lola whispers, “Stop fighting, let him apply the powder.”

“No o o o!”

 

“Wake up, wake up! Lower your voice. You’ll wake the children. You’re dreaming.”

The glow from Lola’s bedside lamp shows how rumpled our sheets are. I wipe my clammy forehead as I make out our beige curtains and mahogany chest of drawers in the corner. My heart pounds as I reach down to feel it. Her hand is there. I slap it away.

I sense her confusion as she reaches again and says, “What?”

“Traitor,” I mutter, grab my phone, and jump out of bed.

I check on the girls. The even rhythm of their breathing greets my ears. I go to my study and search for the reunion email. I type a few words and hit reply. I lean back on my chair; lift up my waistband, peek, and then pack. I close my eyes and vow never to attend a reunion until I die.

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

As a girl, I spent time in front of the mirror, preoccupied with what I saw; my hair, my face, my body.  As a woman, I spend less time in front of the mirror. I’m mostly satisfied with what I see.  Writing this paragraph for Holistic Wayfarer made me realise there are many mirrors in my life and the important ones are in my soul. I’d like to know, when you look at the mirror, what do you see?

A Holistic Journey

Race. The colour of my skin, the flare of my nostrils, the texture of my hair, the S of my backside. I am none of these; I am all of these. Race. My mother is caramel, my father pure chocolate, and I am hazelnut. They taught me that education and excellence would open any door. I believed it; still believe it. Race. Raised in Nigeria, I live in The Netherlands. I temper the directness of the Dutch with the verbosity I think Nigerians inherited from the British. Race. When I look in the mirror, I see a girl, a woman, a lover, a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, a mentor, a coach, a writer, a warrior — all I have been, all I now am, all I will one day be. When I look in the mirror, I see me. What if my father were Australian and my…

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Race, Ethnicity, Prejudice, and Attitudes

Race

When the first strains of light filter through my curtains, my mind leaves my dreams to form coherent thought. I do not think of race, I rarely do.

I am aware of the colour of my skin. How could I not be? My foundation is a blend of mocha and caramel, my blush dark rose, my lipstick red, because I can pull it off. I am aware of the colour of my skin. How could I not be? I hug “white” people loosely and blow three kisses on either cheek, so I don’t stain them with my brown powder.

But when we get down to work and play and life, beyond enunciating my words with care and observing cultural nuances to accommodate the diversity in my world, I am Timi, a person with much to offer from the height of my intellect to the depth of my experience, and the width of my achievements.

Nigeria has at least 100 ethnic groups. In the state where I grew up, the evening news was broadcasted in four local languages, but I listened to the official English version because I didn’t understand any Nigerian language. My parents hail from two different minority ethnic groups and my friends from the unity school I attended reflect the federal character the federal government emphasized—Amina from the north, Ronke from the west, Chidinma from the east, Asabe from the middle belt, Onome from the mid-west, Ibinabo from the Niger Delta.

So, I did not wonder about race or racism when I moved to The Netherlands. Neither tribalism nor sexism in Nigeria, had clipped the wingspan of my dreams or that of my mother before me. We had defied the boundaries of other “isms” with who we are and what we believe, that excellence would eventually inspire people and remove barriers.

Since language, ethnicity, and race bonds people, and language in particular is like Super Glue, I sometimes find myself on the outside looking in. The English, Moroccans, Surinamese, Dutch, Africans, Turks, Americans, etc, live and socialise within their enclaves. Among the Africans, subdivisions exist for people from south, north, east, or west Africa. More subdivisions based on country, and even more subdivisions based on ethnicity within a country exist. People tend to gravitate to what is familiar and comfortable and inadvertently perhaps, exclude others.

On the other hand, many have moved beyond these confines and discovered that diversity makes for a rich tapestry and the threads of that tapestry are equal in value no matter their colour or ethnicity.

I suppose expat life abroad insulates one from common racism both in the way it is meted out and received. Once I was with a friend who drove a car with diplomatic licence plates when the police stopped us. I watched as she answered the police, with the slight arrogance of one who has options.

I am aware that underneath the bridge that connects me to my better life lie the souls of men and women who died constructing the bridge. I am grateful that although Twelve Years a Slave makes me uncomfortable, after the credits, I can shiver, shrug, and enter my normal life. Racism is real, but it is not my default setting. I choose not to see it in every slight.

Prejudice has lived in human hearts for so long it has become a gene. I remember when I drove my son and his playdate home after school. They stumbled into this conversation after falling in and out of several others.

“My mum says I can play with black people, but I can’t marry them.”

I spied her cute blonde bangs from my rear view mirror. The longer locks framed her oval face and cascaded down her shoulders. I gripped the steering wheel tighter.

“But I don’t want to get married now,” my son replied.

“Oh good,” her giggles light like feathers, carried no malice.

I relaxed my grip as I realised it had never crossed my mind to date a white man. It was the unspoken taboo. Everyone in the town where I grew up knew that only certain types of girls did.

Often when people speak of racial prejudice, they talk as if it is unidirectional, forgetting the prejudice, which also lies in the hearts of its victims so that if power changed hands, new victims would emerge. Is this the real fear that makes one race dominate another—get ‘em before they get us?

Knowledge and courage may be antidotes to prejudice. A desire to investigate the world beyond our nose and the guts to live in peace in it.

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

p.s. My blog sister Holistic Wayfarer, who has written several eye-opening posts on Race, inspired this post.