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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Shifting Gears [7]

Making Good Art

eyelash
After I shared the picture above with a friend, she asked, “How much does your mascara cost?”

I replied, “17.50.”

Then she said, “In that case, you can cry as long as you want.”

We both laughed because I needed to laugh.

I cried this year, silent tears and loud tears, in the privacy of my bedroom.

And I nearly gave up, although I had begun the year high on momentum.

In his 2012 keynote address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, author, Neil Gaiman, dispensed advice on a career in the arts. His advice transcends art and spills into life.

 

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art . . . Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

 

I cried in January, February, and March. My tears fell from April through September, like the rainy season in Nigeria, a deluge that began without warning. I determined to have an early dry season beginning in October. To ease my weariness, I planned to write short stories, flights of fantasy about love and technology. It worked. October looked promising until the mid-way point.

One Thursday, after a wailing session, I stopped deriving childlike pleasure from tasting the saltiness of tears and runny snot and reminded myself, I had a story to write. I shot an earnest plea to Heaven and brought out the notes I made as a friend recounted her experience on the train. Then I zoned out everything and entered the place where stories come to me.

Before I published Bluetooth Lottery, I gave it to a friend to read. I watched him chuckle while he read and stopped holding my breath. This story, I thought, might resonate with readers. My blog posts that create the most emotional resonance, going by likes and comments, are posts I wrote from places of desperate despair or posts about the tattoos in my soul.

 

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

 

Are Gaiman’s words about making your art to be taken literally?

I heard someone say that when you speak from your head, you talk to people’s heads, but when you speak from your heart, you talk to people’s hearts. After a writer shared a heartbreaking ordeal with me, I asked her if she was going to write about it.

“No,” she shrugged, “but you know how these things work, right? Our experiences seep into our writing and wet the page.”

I nodded.

Tears became my friend this year and I did not resent her intrusion into small spaces. I realized firstly that the demons that troubled me were not new. They were conquered foes, old fears in shiny wrapping paper. Secondly, to borrow from the title of Binyavanga Wainaina’s memoir, one day I will write about this place, this field of tears. I will gather my tears and then I will sit and make good art.

 

As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with pools.
– Psalm 84:6

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015
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.

Shifting Gears [6]

Marilyn Monroe

A Leggy Affair

As a teenager, I imbibed ideas about acceptable body shapes from the people around me. So, I believed that a girl’s legs were beautiful only if they were straight like bamboo stems from the knees to the ankles, with no protruding muscles aka yams interrupting the flow.

Well, I inherited my father’s footballer legs, so during my years at university and for years afterwards, I hid my legs underneath trousers and maxis to escape mockery. My insecurity over what I deemed a flaw was like a thing around my neck, choking self-approval out of me.

Like a child force-fed by her determined grandmother, I spent my twenties swallowing popular beauty ideals of the society where I lived. They became the yardstick for measuring myself. I felt inadequate whenever I spotted a pair of bamboo legs. I considered the owner a lucky winner of the anatomy lottery because to me, having straight legs made one outstanding, special even.

In retrospect, that was laughable because straight legs do not shield their owners from life’s troubles. It is not as though those with straight legs can flash their exclusive Bamboo Club gold membership card and Life would say, “Aww, perfect pins, move along then, no troubles for you today. Next!”

Bamboo legs conferred no special advantages that I could see.

Still, at my old gym, when someone complimented my well-defined calves, I had to stop myself from peering at my legs, with lips turned downwards and eyebrows arched, as if to ask, “Me?”

I don’t know how I finally adjusted my beliefs regarding what is acceptable or not acceptable as far as my body is concerned. I suppose that as I approached my thirties, I began to ponder the whys of life even more stubbornly. Moreover, I realized that my legs would never change their shape; in fact, they would become even more muscled due to my new-found love for exercise.

My epiphany hit me like a clap of thunder. I woke up one day and suddenly every leg-concealing piece of clothing seemed revolting. Out went the trousers and maxis, and in came the short girly dresses and skirts that I’d always looked at longingly but felt I shouldn’t wear.

Recently, the instructor at my new gym praised my toned leg muscles; he wished he could devote more time to Leg Day as he assumed I did. I stifled a cheeky chuckle and in my head I sang, baby I was born this way.

Does clarity come with age? Or is this delicious comfort I have found in my own skin, this assuredness, my way of sticking my middle finger at my overdependence on external validation? Perhaps, I now understand that my quest for courage to set my personal ideals begins with embracing the things I am powerless to change.

These days, when I walk into the gym I spend a few minutes at the mirror-panelled walls, looking at my legs and smiling. I’ve come to love my legs especially the yams, which lend character to them. Not unlike the multiple perspectives that the angled mirrors provide, I can see either flaws or two healthy limbs to walk and dance with. Gratefully, I choose the latter.

I have one life to live and only this body with which to live it. The warmth of the sun and fresh air brushing my legs is wonderful; the prospect of a Marilyn Monroe dress-flying-in-the-wind moment is even more wonderful.

© ’Nedu Ahanonu, 2015
’Nedu blogs @ Nedoux.com

 

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.

Shifting Gears [5]

adrift

Adrift

For the most productive parts of my year, Marilynne Robinson’s words were my Mantra: “Frankly, you get to a certain point in your life where you can do unusual things with your mind. So then, I think, do them.”

What Marilynne doesn’t explain is that doing stems from being; that our being is tied, irrevocably, to our interactions, our relationships; that in reinvention, we shed our pasts and people in them to emerge into new forms of ourselves. There is something visceral, violent even, in leaving friends to gain new frontiers.

In August, I was added to a WhatsApp group of my secondary school classmates. My first comment was a rant. Someone asked why I was speaking as though I did not attend the same school like everyone else. Even I am a stranger to the boy they used to know.

It was easy to severe secondary-school ties. I used to be good at that. The secret is to avoid nostalgia, excise memories, and dull the mind with new experiences. I did this without guilt. I often say I am content in solitude and enjoy being an island, but when I entered university, I made new friends who showed me friendships are not just bridges that can be burnt at will and reconstructed. They are anchors that prevent me from drifting.

Trying to describe the loss of friendship, Murakami wrote of the titular character in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage:

“The pain he felt was, if anything, more intense, and weighed down on him even more greatly because of distance. Alienation and loneliness became a cable that stretched hundreds of miles long pulled to the breaking point by a gigantic winch. And through that taut line, day and night, he received indecipherable messages. Like a gale blowing between trees, those messages varied in strength as they reached him in fragments, stinging his ears.”

Towards the end of the year, my life began to imitate art; Tsukuru’s story came alive with vivid intensity. In striving to be the kind of person who can do the things I now think my mind is capable of, I was drifting away from my friends.

Last month, I spoke to one of my best friends. I asked her about work.

“You are so out of date,” she said with laughter in her voice.

We spent hours trying to fill the yawning void between us, trying to get back to the way things were (the way they should be?).

Time is the tie of friendship, affection its strut, and these I do not possess in infinite quantities.  Having severed, at will, friendships in secondary school and anchored myself to friends in university, I’m learning as a young adult that it is okay to drift away from some friends without angst or guilt.  To build new bridges some of the old ones have to be dismantled.

I walk through the phantom space where bridges used to be, hoping there is enough muscle memory to take me past the awkwardness of encountering old friends; you know, matching faces to places and names to dreams. Nonetheless, I am grateful for friends—past, present, future—who anchor me to reality and to whom I owe bountiful debts of love.

© IfeOluwa Nihinlola, 2015

Ife blogs @ ifenihinlola

 

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.

Shifting Gears [4]

unashamed

Unashamed

I was born under the twin towers of shame and pride.

My mother prided herself on rising up from the dilapidated shack on the Hudson River across from New York. Her rise from second-hand clothing and no running water was her badge of honor. My father hid with shame, the quiet emotional poverty of a childhood spent reacting to the mercurial moods of an alcoholic parent. He never thought he was quite good enough to take us to nice restaurants.

Before the age of three family members died one after the other and though I don’t remember any of them, the awareness of death and separation plagued my young mind. Inherited pride led me to believe I was captain of my ship, yet with shame, I noted how rudderless and shaky my travelling vessel was. All the while I asked myself was there any point. Death loomed.

Before I wrote my first novel, I drifted uninspired and crippled with doubt into many ports always with an eye on the storms that might lead to shipwreck. The novel grounded me. I thought I wanted to play the hipster author smug and ironic, but my characters had hearts and souls. How could they take grace, love, and redemption seriously? How could they believe in an un-hip God? They refused to be cool.

Fifteen years passed. The grounding was an illusion. I was still on a boat but no longer at the helm. Conversion stories abound on the internet. Mine happened searching scripture to put hypocritical words in my characters’ mouths.

Recently I realized I still live under the towers. My characters (and I suspect God), try leading me, but I tend to cry shipwreck and jump into the sea or hide deep in the hull of life.

A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger invited me to give answers to a Q&A series about reading habits. My shelves sag with history, literature, and how-to books (maybe I keep some to impress people), and for most of the questions I kept my head above water until I was asked which single book I would recommend to another.

I hesitated . . . for days. I considered lying. I had a hidden crutch, a new-found yet semi-secret belief in what some considered an offensive savior. When I hit the send button with my answered questions, I had a sinking feeling I’d lost all standing with this faraway internet acquaintance. I recommended the Bible. I suddenly realized how easy it was for Peter to deny Christ.

My hipster novelist thing shattered. I’d often sold my book as a story about a morphine addict because I wanted faraway people to think it was edgy—but I lied to get “likes.” The real story is about a family on a difficult journey, as we all are. In the end, they figure out who’s at the helm. There’s no shame in that any longer for me.

© Adrienne Morris, 2015

Adrienne blogs @ Middlemay Books

 

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.

Shifting Gears [3]

gear shift

Not The Comic Book Hero

As a young man, I had no understanding of stiffness after exercise. I had no idea of the pain that came with the arthritic joints of unsteady elderly folk.  This would never happen to me.

In the 1940s, I happily skinned my knees in South London streets devoid of motor cars. During the ‘50s, I was introduced to cricket and rugby, two sports I continued regularly to play until, aged forty-five, I moved to Newark on Trent and considered it a little late to join new clubs.

From thirty-five to forty-five, I undertook weight-training three times a week. Throughout my forties, I ran 25,000 miles on roads, including participating in eighteen marathons. Having covered nine miles to work with a knapsack on my back, I showered in my workplace, and then breakfasted in a nearby cafe. On the day I ran fifteen miles before completing a rugby training session, I felt smugly comfortable with the epithet ‘Superman’, bestowed somewhat facetiously, I’m sure, by a group of Social Work students.

I shrugged off sporting injuries, notably tying a broken finger to its neighbour with a bootlace before completing a match. That joint has never bent since, rendering picking up coins rather difficult.

As I entered my sixth decade, a recalcitrant calf muscle forced me to concede that my daily mileage would need to be walked, not run.

During a game of touch rugby at the end of Sam’s December 2007 stag day in the Margaret River wineries, a seventeen-stone friend of the prospective groom, forgetting the rules, tackled me to the ground. I leaped to my feet and tackled him back at the first opportunity. The father of the bride halted the game soon afterwards, saying that ‘someone’ would get hurt.

The best way to overcome the wall—the point in a marathon at which your body tells you that it cannot go on—is said to be to run through the pain until it subsides. When, towards the end of 2008, my left hip developed severe discomfort, I applied that belief. Sometimes I couldn’t sit down afterwards.

About three months after receiving a prosthetic joint in October 2009, I was back to an average of two hours a day of undulating perambulation.

When we began reclaiming our neglected garden in April last year, both Jackie and I spent about six hours a day throughout the summer engaged in heavy tree work, removing stumps, and shifting substantial rocks and concrete.

Abruptly, this March, I shuddered to a halt. My right knee was in such pain that when I visited the GP, I was offered a wheelchair, which I declined.  After some improvement, I can walk an occasional two miles and my gardening is somewhat restricted.  Were I to be tackled today, I would need helping to my feet.

Exercise is now required to reduce stiffness. It has happened to me.  I am not the comic book hero.

That is what I have learned in 2015.

© Derrick Knight, 2015.

Derrick blogs at derrickjknight.com

 

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.

 

Shifting Gears [2]

Don't complicate your mind.

 

Eileen’s writings, laced with humour, candour, and common sense, inspired me to examine how what is important to me has changed over the years.

In Gifts of Age, she notes, “On the outside I’m a short, plump, white-haired old lady on a walker. But inside me still live all my younger selves. Dwindling energies and a sense of time passing at warp speed, force me to re-evaluate my priorities. Where do I want to focus my limited resources? On image? On possessions? On my aches and limits? On pleasure as a temporary distraction? On a past that I cannot change? On a future that may never come?

It seems more important now, to focus on recognizing the footprints of God in my daily life, on celebrating God’s presence in the small and ordinary, even in the heartbreak, and to share that awareness however I can.

No matter what our age is; today is the only day we actually have.  We can seize it, rejoice in it, and dance in our hearts.”

She invites us to laugh with her as she shares how growing older has caused her to shift gears. Hear her:

At night, as soon as you get your pillow nest arranged to support aching backs and knees and burrow gratefully into it, doubt enters the room.  Did I lock the doors?  Did I turn off the stove?  Did I switch the wet wash to the dryer? Did I take my pills? Yes, I think I did all that tonight. No, that was last night. Oh hell, I better go check.

Then, because your bladder is your only body part that’s more active with age, there are at least three trips to the john every night. And since your early warning system is now deceased, these are made at warp speed, even on a walker. Panic is a great motivator. There should be an Olympic competition for this. You wake up tired and wonder why.

The disconcerting end to what seemed like a reasonably nice day is realizing that you have gone all over town smiling today without your upper dentures.

When you express worry about some of the disasters being experienced by others your age, your children encourage you to be thankful that’s not you.  And you mentally add the word, yet.

When everyone’s talking about diets, you’re thinking, Sure. Like I’m going to give up my last pleasure in life, so I can look good in my casket.

Read More …

If you enjoyed what you read, please tell Eileen so on her blog.

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

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.