The Magic of Readers

There are no awards for readers, at least, none that I know of, but there are awards for writers. Readers buy the book that wins the writer a prize, and yet without readers, there would be no writers.

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know. ― Alberto Manguel

I am indebted in no small measure to you because if you did not read, I would not write. Yes, I would scribble in my journal, but without the focus, discipline, excellence, and tenacity of the past four years. I would neither research nor stretch myself beyond the world I know. You inspire me to look for the gem in the mundane and tell it as creatively as I know how.

What Lee Hall wrote about the play, I find to be true about writing. “Whether you are a writer or an actor or a stage manager, you are trying to express the complications of life through a shared enterprise . . .  And live performance shares that with an audience in a specific compact: the play is unfinished unless it has an audience, and they are as important as everyone else.”

I view with suspicion, every writer—by writer, I refer to anyone who crafts words intentionally on a platform that another can access—who claims, “I don’t care if anyone reads what I wrote.” The search for significance is a universal pandemic and writing is one way we ask, “Is anyone out there? Can you hear me?”

Sometimes, I have wondered about this business of writing and questioned my destination, but you were there to assuage my vulnerabilities and validate my journey through your comments or private messages. I learnt to count on your consistency as much as you did mine, and I am a better writer because of you.

When I conceive an idea, the meaning is clear to me, but the challenge is to get you to see it. You complement me by filtering my words through your experiences and adding depth to them that I did not recognize. Like the time I wrote a silly story, about two lovers and you showed me that it was about immigration and integration. And you were kind to me. If you thought stories like, Six Is Just A Number, echoed my life, you did not judge me but kept your perspective to yourself.

When members of the London Poetry Society asked Browning to interpret a particularly difficult passage of Sordello, he read it twice, frowned, then admitted, “When I wrote that, God and I knew what I meant, but now God alone knows. ― Ralph Keyes

Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Readers are not sheep, and not every pen tempts them.” That my words have drawn a few is humbling and empowering, a weight of responsibility I have been proud to own.

The best part of writing at Livelytwist these past few years, was knowing that you were going to read what I wrote and not being disappointed, Sunday after Sunday. I cannot thank you enough for your uncanny generosity.

Thank you.

 

 

 

P.s. I stop blogging on this platform today.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/cup-book-breakfast-read-plan-2123710/

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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An Anatomy of a Farewell

 

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

There was no perfect time to begin Livelytwist. Four years ago, I did not have all the answers I needed to start a weekly blog. Chief among them being whether I could sustain the tempo—whether I could produce writing that would entertain, inform, inspire, or provoke thought, week after week. In Six Degrees of Separation and Other Stories, I bare my soul.

I started this blog with grit, a little knowledge, some research, plenty goodwill, confidence, trepidation, and a two-month content calendar.

The question that I am frequently asked after I introduce myself as a blogger, after, what do you blog about, is: do you monetize your blog? The question is not always direct. Sometimes, it is cloaked as queries about ad revenue or sponsored content.

In his book Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell says that hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Monetizing Livelytwist was never my primary focus. I just did what I love with dedication and excellence, which are hallmarks of everything I set to do.

The result is a resume I can present anywhere.

  • Produced over 200 articles with quality content.
  • Displayed my range with a rich landscape of varied writing: creative non-fiction, short fiction, op-eds, reportage, memoirs, and personal essays.
  • Highlighted my range by tackling topics from the mundane and comical to the serious, made relevant because of the underlying message(s).
  • Synthesized and delivered local content to international audiences. 
  • Facilitated and sustained online engagement with heterogeneous crowds via the comment section.
  • Identified, managed, and promoted (new) writing talent.
  • Discovered and negotiated new business through engagement on other platforms.
  • Harnessed marketing opportunities by collaborating with others and leveraging their social networks to reach new audiences.
  • Developed and managed diverse teams by initiating several writing collaborations.
  • Received 100,000* blog hits on livelytwist.com through organic growth. 

However, the emails and conversations that attest to the fact that I lit other candles remain my greatest treasures. All because I dared to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and move in the direction that my heart was tugging me to go.

. . . 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

Someone said that it is not that life is too short but that we take too long to begin. I concur. People now ask me, “So you’re gonna stop blogging, what next?”

Four years ago, I could at least define what I was beginning, a blog. Now, it isn’t easy to articulate my next steps. This is what I know for sure. Whatever follows will involve me writing in some form. I now know that when you identify your gift, develop it, and use it to serve others, you will inspire others to do the same.

I once read that sometimes when it seems as though things are falling apart, they are actually coming together. In hindsight, it was true four years ago when my life took a difficult turn. I believe it to be true now.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

P.s. April marked four years of blogging at Livelytwist, a success story that has you, dear reader, by my side. It is now time for new adventures and to stop blogging. I first wrote about it here. I’ll write some more in the coming weeks and then I’ll stop.

  1. Gladwell, Malcom, Outliers, The Story of Success, (London: Penguin Books, 2009), 175
  2. Not quite 100,000 hits . . . yet.

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Licking Dry River Beds and Flying Trapeze

“What are you afraid of?” He asked.

“Nothing,” I replied, shaking my head as if that would make it true.

I did not think I was afraid. I tried to explain the sense I had, which had nagged me for months, that I was on the threshold of something new. I bolstered my explanation by rambling about the diminishing passion I had for my blog; yes, yes, yes, disciplined focus had kept me going, bla, bla, bla, but . . .  Was it the move or the upheavals or the new responsibilities? What had sucked zest from me, as when the bath plug is lifted, soapsuds disappear suddenly, vooom, down the drain?

If you are like me, you ramble about events—a pause here, a recollection there, an unrelated trivia woven in the mix—walking through the maze that is your life, to make sense of your journey and to ensure you are not speeding away from the, as yet, unspecified destination.

My friends are patient listeners, facilitating my journey with subtle signals from the control tower, never attempting to pilot my plane. My conclusions can only be authentically mine, if I arrive at them by myself.

“Hmmm, so are you licking dry river beds then?”

We laughed at his allusion to the story of a prophet called Elijah. I had heard him tell it more than once.

Elijah was a prophet who once called down fire down from heaven. During a famine, ravens brought him food, and he drank water from a brook. Then one day, the brook dried up because it hadn’t rained in ages. The way my friend tells it, Elijah had a few choices. He could remain at the brook, licking up every last molecule of water from the riverbed because he had been divinely sent there. He could even attempt to command water to gush, geyser-style from the riverbed; after all, he wielded power. Or, he could open his heart to embrace something new.

My friend was asking me if I had become stuck in my comfort and safety zone.

“You know that when Elijah left the brook, he went on to provide food for not only himself but also a widow and her son. That’s greater relevance and impact,” he continued.

I nodded. “Yeah, yeah . . .”

“So what are you afraid of?”

“Em . . . Elijah knew exactly where to go next. I’m not so sure. I stop my blog, then what? Twiddle my thumbs?”

“You can never be idle, Timi.”

“True, but you see what I’m saying . . . right?”

“Have you ever watched trapeze artists?”

“Acrobats? At a circus? Sure. They’re graceful, beautiful to watch.”

“They have to leave one bar then swing in the air to catch another. So imagine this . . . a trapeze artist . . . he’s holding this bar,” my friend clenched his fist. “As long as he’s holding it, he can’t swing and catch the new one—”

“I see it!”

Now, it was his turn to nod.

I was like a trapeze artist holding one bar with one hand while reaching for another with the other hand. I looked ungainly. My balance was suspect. I was likely to fall. Trapeze artists have more faith that they will catch the new bar than faith that they will fall.

“Wait wait wait. But don’t they have a mattress or spring board underneath? Aren’t they legally required to have some security? Hmmm, let me google it . . .”

He smiled; perhaps at the way my mind works.

“But you have security Timi. You’ve always had security.”

If you fall, I’ll be there. – Floor  🙂

P.s. 1. This is what I googled instead:

P.s. 2. April marked four years of blogging at Livelytwist, a success story that has you, dear reader, by my side. Now it’s time for new adventures and to stop  blogging. I’ll be writing about this in the weeks to come.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Photo Credit: https://web.facebook.com/bizzarreart/photos/a.262015740857231.1073741828.262003347525137/439234606468676/?type=3&theater

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.

Two Hundred and Counting

200

 

I received a WordPress notification about my 200th blog post about six weeks ago. What does this mean to me?

1.
Because Nigerian musicians frequently fuse their local dialects and English to produce hits that resonate beyond their shores, I thought the word colabo, and I spelt it like that, in the song collabo by PSquare featuring Don Jazzy is a Pidgin derivative. However, collabo is a word in the dictionary, which means something produced by two or more people working together, especially a piece of music.  I did not get to two hundred on my own. Many collaborations with different writers brought me here.

2.
Every year I check boxes and add scores on tests designed to show me an aspect of myself. I am always trying to answer the questions, who is Timi and what does she want? Perhaps I am more curator of stories and editor than I am writer. The collaborations I inspire and drive bring me double joy. Flipping through one of my old journals, I smiled as I read my handwriting, cursive, strong, sure. I had written: I want to tell other peoples’ stories. Self: A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.

3.
For years, my answer to the question, “So what do you do?” was fluid because I was like a natural hair enthusiast growing out a perm, one leg here and one leg there. To define my ‘do’ by my day job seemed limiting. Then I stumbled on Adam Leipzig’s Tedx Talk and discovered a way to answer the question with ease. Recently, I answered the question like this: I write a blog, dismissing Leipzig’s recommendation. The man to whom I was speaking probed further, “What do you write about and are you any good?” I answered his second question before the top of his lips settled on his bottom lip, “I am very good.” Gone was his disinterest. Confidence: A feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

4.
Sometimes people leave me comments and messages that they wish they could write like me. I take it as a huge compliment and nothing more. I have stopped wishing I could play the piano like the musician who is a wiz at the keyboard. I have no desire to put in the work and disciplined focus required to reach that level of proficiency. I do not have another 10,000 hours. In making the point that excellence requires a critical minimum level of practice, Malcom Gladwell says ten thousand hours is the magic number that researchers have agreed on for true expertise. Two hundred blog posts is not yet 10,000 hours. Practice: Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.

5.
The line between just asking and a free consultation is smeared with politeness. Doctors and other professionals know this. I know this now; 200 blog posts means I have a feel for what makes a piece of writing work. A party is not the place to read me a sentence then ask if it is grammatically correct or whip out your phone to show me something you wrote. That is what emails are for. I do not carry a red pen in my clutch bag; I carry red lipstick and blue mascara. People ask me to be brutally honest in my feedback, but the only place to be brutal—savagely violent or unpleasant and harsh, is the gladiator’s ring. The only adjective that should go with honesty when it comes to feedback on a piece of writing is kind. I have made and kept more friends this way.

6.
Space is not a continuous area or expanse, which is free, available, or unoccupied. It is a place stamped with evidence of my presence, neatly littered with comforting memorabilia—a weathered collection of poems, old photos of my children, journals, books about writing, ideas on yellow post-its, and greeting cards that affirm who I can be. Space is freedom to live, think, and develop my writing in a way that suits me. It is saying no to play and living like a hermit Friday night and all day Saturday. Space is showing up for lunch or dinner with my laptop, typing away while conversation wafts around my head. Two hundred blog posts later, space is the greatest gift my family and friends have given me. Extroverted Introvert: Also called social introvert. Sociable and friendly but needs to recharge in solitude often.

7.
When I decided to start a blog, I had three options: WordPress, Blogger, or Tumblr. I am yet to regret my choice. Often I struggle to leave a comment on other platforms but I have scarcely heard that anyone struggled to leave a comment on my blog. It is true that I do not want be bothered with technical things like code, wanting only to upload and publish, but more than that I have found a community of generous people who are curious about the world beyond them. Two hundred blog posts ago, I published my first post to a warm welcome from several bloggers who I did not court. Welcome on WordPress is like a revolving door. A good number of bloggers with whom I engaged in those early days have exited the blog stage and in their place, other bloggers have taken my hand. Welcome: Greet (someone arriving) in a polite or friendly way; React with pleasure or approval to (an event or development).

 

To all my readers: I owe you a debt of gratitude. You have pushed me to become better than I was.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

  1. All dictionary definitions from English Oxford Living Dictionaries
  2. Gladwell, Malcom, Outliers, The Story of Success, (London: Penguin Books, 2009), 43 -44

 

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To Close A Series [2]

love-is

A friend called me after reading one of the episodes of the Fly series to say that the dialogue reminded him of the way we were, making me want to sing only this line from Adele’s Hello, hello from the other side! Instead tongue-in-cheek, I quoted William Faulkner in no particular order.

A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.

Are you writing about yourself, is the question I was often asked while the series continued. I have mostly reconciled myself to the downside of writing a personal blog, which is that readers assume consciously or subconsciously that the stories on your blog are about you. No longer so uptight about being vulnerable, I took this question and its variants cloaked in concern, to mean that the dialogues were relatable and believable. Their questions were in fact a roundabout compliment.

I have never previously dragged out a story on my blog as I did this series. What began as a one-off fun post, a bull’s eye response to a dear friend’s endless matchmaking, grew to ten articles spread over two-and-half months because you asked for more.

I told Ife Nihinlola, my partner in the Fly series and a talented writer whose essays I enjoy reading, that the best stories are woven around love and relationships; throw in a moral dilemma to achieve transcendence. After the badass protagonist has destroyed the villains and saved the planet, we will him to kiss the beautiful woman he fought for as they walk into the sunset. Nothing touches our core like what we are wired for, love.

As the series continued, we had to be deliberate about the twists we would introduce and the manner in which they would be resolved. Ife and I resorted to using readers’ feedback as a guide because we realized we had sparked something in our readers, we had connected. I was humbled and tickled when I read something to this effect: Timi, please don’t spoil it now that they are happy.

We tossed ideas about what felt natural and what felt as though we were trying too hard and all the while, the plot was challenging my own ideas about love and relationships too. The decision to conclude the series was bittersweet.

“What if in the next episode, I make the happy couple, twenty-nine-year-old Junior and thirty-five-year-old Old Woman, bump into one of Junior’s flirtatious younger female friends at the mall?”

I agreed with Ife when he said that he wasn’t so sure. I had thoroughly enjoyed my stint as a Shonda Rhimes scriptwriter wannabe.

In the end, this is what I aimed to do all along; make you rethink your ideas about love, sex, romance, relationships, and friendships while entertaining you. You tell us if we succeeded.

On Facebook, I noticed that a friend shared one of my posts on her Timeline. Underneath the article was a comment from one of her friends asking her to share my post on their WhatsApp group for further discussion. My brain thought about copyright issues, my heart saw so clearly, why I write.

On this blog, I don’t write for myself although I write for people like me. Big difference. Small difference. If you stopped reading, I would stop writing—what would be the point? I cannot thank you enough for believing in Livelytwist.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

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.

 

Stats, Guest Posts, and Audiences

stats, guest post & audiences

 

The quickest way to go where you have never been is to find someone who has gone where you want to go.

 

If what they say is true, that your potential audience reach spans people ten years younger and older than you are, most people who read Livelytwist are in their thirties, forties, and fifties. I do not know for sure. The implication for reaching broader audiences including people in their teens, twenties, sixties, seventies and beyond, may be a change in style.

An acquaintance signs off her emails with these words, star differs from star in splendor. I have thought often about what they mean. If our lives are our message to the world, then our vocation is our platform. I believe that our experiences, location, age, race, gender, talents, and so on, position us to reach certain audiences. That only some are able to cross the barriers that separate us, innately or through learning, and have, more mass appeal than others do.

This past blogging year, Livelytwist’s total number of blog views was lower than the previous year, but I witnessed a shift in the type of blog articles that received the highest number of views. In the past, articles, which I wrote received the most views. Last year, the top five articles viewed, apart from the ubiquitous Open Letter to Akpos—search engine terms must bring Akpos seekers to my blog—were articles that others wrote for my blog. In order of most views:

Hardwired For Sorry [3]
Think Like a Man, End up Without One [1]
Hardwired For Sorry [5]
Think Like a Man, End up Without One [2]
Shifting Gears [6]

Storytelling is an effective means of communicating with a diverse audience. As much as I enjoy writing, I do not possess the authority or authenticity to tell all the stories I want to and therefore reach as many people as I would like. As William Faulkner noted, “A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”

By sharing my blog stage with others, Livelytwist gained more universal appeal. At least one teenager and one writer in his seventies contributed an article to a blog series last year, as well as writers in every other age category in between. At least one person in every continent, in 125 countries, viewed Livelytwist in 2015, up from 115 countries in 2014. Guest writers shared the stories they wrote for Livelytwist on their social networks, engaging audiences I may never have reached.

world stats 2015

 

country stats 2015

After I ran a series on my blog that featured other writers, a reader scolded me for not writing my own stories. I understood her loyalty, the queasiness, which occurs when vision expands and threatens the status quo; as if I would abandon my blog. I explained that I conceptualized the series, handpicked the writers, and in some cases edited their stories. Then I sent her the links to a couple of stories I had written as part of the series.

What do my stats tell me? Numbers sometimes mean little. Perhaps they confirm something I wrote in my notebook years ago—I want to tell other people’s stories. I am getting closer to that dream, am I not? And it is because you said yes to sharing your story on my blog.

Thank you!

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

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Three Years On

three

The first time I met Lanre, I told him about my blog. He says it must be my passion, the subject of my blog snakes into every conversation. He wonders, as others do, why I do not monetize my blog. I sigh. As if money is everything; as if money isn’t everything.

I asked a friend to write an article for my blog. His article although well-written lacked that something I look for before I publish a post, but he did not think so, he being an accomplished writer. We reasoned back and forth, threatening our friendship, as when friends mistakenly become lovers, solid lines become indistinct; the ease of communication replaced by silent awkwardness.

It should have been easy to reject a submission that did not meet my criteria except that doing so felt like losing a friend. In the end, I chose my blog and after weeks of reaching out won a version of my friend back. The subject of writing for my blog is taboo. We do not speak of it. Maybe one day we will.

If I did not monetize my blog, I at least learnt what it means to be human. This is what it means to write a blog every Sunday for three years—you become aware of your strengths and limitations; how far you will go for what you believe in.

Three years ago, Maurice, Mayura, and I waited at Holendrecht Station for the metro, cold air whipping through our hair and slapping our coats while trains sped by. I recited a list of possible blog names. When Mayura said Livelytwist reminded her of lemons, my sign-off was born: Take lemons, make life! I can recount incidents like this for every stage of the life of my blog; the people whose input helped me along the way.

Friends sometimes ask about the number of stories I’ve written ostensibly to check if I have a collection large enough for a book. Some days I want to write a book. Some days I do not. Three years on, the relationships, I have forged because of my writing matter more. Each article I’ve published has a behind-the-scenes story—where I was, my state of mind at the time, and who helped make it happen.

I have evolved since my tentative beginning in April 2013. The stories I did not write the way I had wanted to tell me so. You see, when you keep friends up until 1 a.m., seeking their opinions, it seems unfair to discard their recommendations at 2 a.m., when you realize your story no longer resembles you.

I’ve been tempted to revisit the stories, you know, to remove this, and to add that, to make them fully my own. But I leave them as they are, wincing every time I read through, as reminders of a time when although I knew what I wanted I did not have sufficient courage to articulate and execute. I leave the stories on my blog to remind me how people-pleasing distorts what I sound like.

Writing consistently for three years has made me a better writer; I am more skillful with my pen. But skills do not keep you warm, people do. At the heart of every story on this blog is a person or group of people who believed in me. None more so than you who read this blog Sunday after Sunday; you who I fight for with my pen, jeopardizing friendships. If I make it to a fourth year, it will be because of you.

Thank you!

© Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

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.