We arrive at my parent’s house to meet a party in full swing. I am surprised. We hug uncles and aunts we have not seen in ages, while the girls who assist my parents with running the house cart the food and drinks my sister, with foresight, had insisted we bring along.
“I’ve been waiting for you people,” my mother beams, “some people haven’t eaten.”
How did she know we would show up with food and drinks on her birthday? Had she not said, “No, I don’t want a party; I just want my family around me and my pastors to pray for me”?
I should have known. Family for my mum means at least 100 people.
“Are you the daughter from America? UK?”
“Yes,” I reply, discounting the value of correcting them, these people who comment on how I have grown and how when I was small like this—they gesture with their hands close to the ground—they had changed my nappy or carried me or brought me presents.
And so I let myself be passed from bosom to bosom and chest to chest, squeezing back lightly sometimes, pulling back determinedly sometimes. I lose myself in the maze of people whose stories intersect with mine on account of my mother.
When people cannot eat and drink anymore and chatter dithers like a misplaced comma, my aunt says to my sister, “You need to give the vote of thanks.” A Nigerian party without a speech is an anomaly. My sister replies, “Please meet Timi, she’s the writer in the family; she knows how to speak grammar.”
My aunt approaches me and I protest, “I am not a writer,” so, my sister gives the vote of thanks instead.
I have pondered this exchange for some years now. Why did I refuse to be called a writer?
I think I felt as though I had not earned the title. Because writing comes relatively easy to me and I had a real job, writing felt like a serious hobby. However, the more I wrote, the more I saw how much like my mother I was, insisting I did not want something when in fact, I did.
I had confused being an author with being a writer. Since I had not yet authored a book, how could I introduce myself as a writer and answer the question that inevitably follows; so what books have you written? Or maybe I was afraid; if I did not succeed at writing, no one could accuse me of failing at being something I never claimed I was.
A while back, I found a definition for writer that arrests my reluctance to accept the title: a writer is someone who writes. This description frees me to allow those like my sister who want to call out and celebrate my gift, to do so.
If I have come closer to embracing the title writer, it is in no small measure because of you; you, who read, comment, like, and share my words. Our Sunday-Sunday interdependence has grounded me.
The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true. – John Steinbeck
Pretending to be a writer is easy… but genuinely being a writer is difficult, because you have to write something that will convince both yourself and readers. – Kim Young-ha