A Writer at Last?

writer

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.

Thank you.

timi

 

 

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

 

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59 thoughts on “A Writer at Last?

  1. I simplify things by saying I’m a published writer. I’ve just never been paid for it.

    I understand your hesitation, but I personally would enthusiastically endorse you as a very good writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy that you’ve come to terms with the ‘struggle’.

      Thank you Eileen. You and my other readers have helped me embrace the title more. You push me to write consistently and at a high standard. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely piece. Your story gives an archetypal scenario that illuminates the point of conflict on what it means to be a writer. These days, I am more accepting of the thought that I am not a writer. Why? Because I think to be called a writer, one must tie some traits of professionalism into ones craft. Discipline. Routine. Remuneration. Skill.

    I think you are a writer, Timi–traditionally published or not. The skill set, discipline and routine you bring to your blog are enough to make you wear that toga of ‘Writer’ with pride. Just as some really good wielders of camera are called ‘amateur photographer’ (not because they are not skilled but because they are not paid for their work), one who shall be called a writer must not not go commercial to enter the league of writers.

    But then, Timi, maybe its time you write for the big cats like The New Yorker and NYT. Nothing to lose, yeah?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Because I think to be called a writer, one must tie some traits of professionalism into ones craft. Discipline. Routine. Remuneration. Skill.”

      I nodded as I read the above. My readers have played a big part in my journey. Their expectation of a Sunday read fuels routine and discipline. They have been my cheerleaders as I have experimented with form and developed skill.

      As for remuneration, I thought about this scenario: what about someone who trains as a lawyer, but hasn’t yet found a job or is laid off? Is he a lawyer or not? Amateur lawyer XD
      I totally get where you’re coming from.

      Yeah, maybe it is time to set my sights higher 😉

      Thanks Samuel. Will you be writing consistently soon?

      Like

      1. Hehehehe…it’s crazy what these definitions can boil down to. Someone who studied law cannot be legally called a lawyer until he attends law school. At least in Nigeria, someone who obtains a Masters in architecture can not be called an architect until he passes his professional exams.

        So, we can somewhat understand the viewpoints of those who try to ‘professionalise’ writing.

        Timi, I am afraid I won’t be writing consistently any time soon. My interests are too diverse! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome to my world @livelytwist
    I didn’t want people to know I love to write at a point. I guess I dreaded being called a writer when I have not published anything.
    But I discovered I am blessed with a curse of loving words. I have tried to run away but can one run from his shadow?

    I have since come to terms with it. That I love to write. I tell people often, even strangers sometimes that I love words. Last year I discovered a love for “visual story telling” i.e taking pictures that are not conventional and goes against how we define pictures.
    It’s been a wonderful journey thus far and I hope to get better at it. But writing will always remain my first love. I am not a writer I tell myself sometimes, I just love words and love to write . I don’t know if there is a difference between both though. But I guess choosing a profession that is miles away from the artistic contributes to that feeling and constantly listening to “professional/would be writers” blab about who is fit to be called a writer or not doesn’t help either.

    Okay, I should go. Rant over. My comment is getting too long for a comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can one run from his shadow, indeed?
      When you are full of something, it oozes out of you!

      Wonderful that you’ve arrived at some kind of resolution about whether you’re a writer or not. It can be a tough one- do we define ourselves by what we do 9 – 5, or by the passion we pursue? I think those for whom the two merge are fortunate.

      I enjoyed the rant and I’m keen to check out your visual stories.

      Like

      1. Thanks @livelytwist

        I hope to do more this year on that front. Snippets of my pictures are on instagram , @bekexjj my IG handle. And lots remain on folders on my computer. Incubating into something better.
        One thing I have decided this year is to live deliberate. And that includes writing and visual story telling.

        Once again, thanks for this post. I touched several nerves.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I wouldn’t call myself a writer even though I have written for 1-2 other blogs as a guest blog poster. I have published in 2 magazines.

    I have written in professional journals but then when one belongs to a profession (I have been a librarian and have written short articles for librarian audience) but that activity is considered to fill one’s resume on giving back to their own profession internationally.

    Maybe if I published in several magazines, I will call myself an occasional writer. I haven’t yet been paid for any of this type of writing.

    I want to be careful not to claim same equity as writers who truly work hard to ..earn money, to sell their written words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. By the way, it’s great your own family recognizes your passion and natural skill. My family certainly is aware of my writing history and my blog. (Um, I end drafting huge chunks of family member euologies..because I want to and know I can write.. even under grief.)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @ I want to be careful not to claim same equity as writers who truly work hard to ..earn money, to sell their written words, I see where you’re coming from. Perhaps you are concerned about the term being trivialized?

      What makes a writer- professional training and certification, payment or income from writing, recognition from peers, public, etc?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good question. I’m only defining the meaning of “writer” from my own comfort level.

        I have a niece who is a romance writer.. http://laurajardine.com/ She is half-Chinese. And does have an interest in protagonists who are non-white or interracial love. She has written 1-2 novels that features a non-white protagonist.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you embraced the term, Timi. It’s hard, isn’t it? Being a writer comes with so much baggage. Many people have an idea in their heads about what constitutes a “real” writer. (Usually a certain amount of success ala Stephen King or prestige ala whoever your favorite literary writer happens to be.) I had a hard time calling myself a writer when I had a hard time selling a manuscript. But truth is truth. I am one.

    You’re definitely a writer!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a hard title to accept. I think even “writers who have made it or have published their first books” often feel modest and the need to apologize. It’s a good sign, I think. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It comes naturally like breathing, and so does the words. You writting paint pictures that are indelible on my mind, I can tell about your stories just by reading the first sentence just bcos of how much it has painted pictures on my mind. You are a dream come through for me. A writer to me is one who does all I said above and more and you are that

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, we all have our insecurities. I think that it is nice to come to some kind of terms with this writing thingy even before we get external validation… but then again, any way we get the validation is better than no validation…
      Please keep writing 🙂

      Like

  8. Very sweet story Timi. It is nice to see something personal behind the facade. I feel that I am getting to know you a little. Yes, you are a writer! I am so very fortunate to have stumbled upon your blog. It is one the best on the net and I look forward to reading it each week. Full of well written and fascinating entries.

    “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol@ something personal behind the facade 😉
      And in writing, sometimes I discover myself … I’m getting to know you too.
      Benn, thanks for your encouragement and support. I mean it when I say you’ve helped me come a long way!

      Hemmingway’s quote is one I’ll be mulling over. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

  9. Really? Of course you’re a writer Timi. But I know how you feel, and what you mean. I’ve been that way for a very long time when it comes to singing. I’ve sung forever, but I’m not that ‘into’ my voice. Others praise it, but I just can’t see it. I think it’s very strong and all, but I don’t think it’s ‘nice’.
    Anyhow, I hope you had a very lovely Christmas Timi, and that you have a wonderful New Year’s celebration.
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe some ‘insecurity’ is what makes us human and perhaps drives us to anchor our boats on something more solid.

      On the other hand, practice hones our skills and should deliver some measure of confidence. I think it’s wonderful that you have external validation for your singing … I can appreciate your ‘struggle’ though 🙂

      Happy new year, Staci!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wish I could write like you & be read as easily and personally as I read you. I am indeed afraid of even failing at something I secretly wish, never mind claimed to be. And pain of consistency, the risk of vulnerability, the discipline of accuracy, the balance of brevity vs thoroughnessetc, etc etc……. na you proper!
    Well done & thank you. Please keep it up……..I promise to buy at least 3 copies of ‘the book’ 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “If I did not succeed at writing, no one could accuse me of failing at being something I never claimed I was.”
    How that statement resonates. True, the ‘writer’ label can seem a burden to carry, amid its other challenges.

    However, I think he cleared the air when I read
    William Faulkner’s: “Don’t be a writer; be writing.”
    One of the most freeing six words for me.

    To a great writing year, Timi.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Lol @burden of writer label 🙂 I laugh but there’s truth in what you say.

      A practical quote from Faulkner, which I interpret loosely to mean, don’t bother with titles, just get on with it.

      Happy writing to you too Bunmi. Thanks!

      Like

  12. “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?”
    you simply answer by giving such a fellow your address where you have weekly published countless good read source of diversion from mundane struggle for your audience and followers. well, thank God you finally come to terms with the conceptual definition/meaning of writer. the ability to author a book is in you and that you have not made one in print is because you are not ready……………………merry christmass

    Liked by 2 people

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