Articles

Finding my Way

Sitting at my computer is my favourite part of the day. Sometimes though, I end up not writing much and I make plans and have to be reminded by an alarm. That’s okay.

But sifting the contents of my PC dug up some interesting documents and I wonder why I have not been able to do much. I realize that discouragement is a big part of it. Some would say, “who blogging epp?!” Amidst all this, I noticed that my fan base is growing organically with over 800 followers so I must have written some really beautiful things in the past.

Lately, I have been trying to race against deadlines and submit stories for contests not just because of the award money, but for my morale. A morale I am struggling to rev up.

Which is why I decided to make a list of the writing on my computer to figure out the genre I am most comfortable with. Here’s what I dug up.

List of Books in Progress

What should I be doing differently, seeing as I wrote a book titled One Book Doesn’t Make You an Author? Drop a comment or two and let’s get the conversation flowing.

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Overcoming my Restlessness to Write For Literary Magazines

I rested like I promised myself I would if I took a break from the constant connectivity of online social networking. But barely three weeks after I started to get bored.
I had too much spare time on my hands that I could find better use for so I enrolled in some online courses. I started with film making courses because I became curious about that world since I ventured into scriptwriting.
I still wanted to know more so I took a screenwriting class that involved writing a script for TV. Then I found a creative writing course as a 5 course specialisation and I enrolled.
I had some additional reading to do in between while I sourced for sponsorship for a creative writing contest that I run every year. After months of knocking on closed doors, I gave up and decided to organise a workshop. In class than three weeks, it took form and it was a success. Even more than I expected.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way and up until now, I try hard not to procrastinate.
Despite keeping myself busy taking these courses, sometimes running two or three concurrently, I was still restless. The bird in me felt caged. I wanted to test wings that had not taken flight in a long while.
Meanwhile, my novelette did not do well mostly because I did not have a solid marketing plan in place so that whenever I came across the book, it put me in a mood. And in an eureka moment to shake off the figurative cobwebs that entangled my brain, I wrote an eBook. One book doesn’t make you an author.
The moment your book is in published and released, in print or online, you are considered an author. This book however was not written to stir up an argument about who was considered an author or not, but to remind myself of where my journey started. It was a stark reminder for me not to rest on my oars and to get up. I needed to reeve my creative engine and I had no one to prod me.
I realised I needed a tribe, a support system, a loyal following. Their job would be to cheer me on when I was on track and prod me when I needed tough love. But I didn’t have that so I surfed the internet subscribing to different blogs.
Currently, I work as a freelance writer while also serving as director of projects at a Tech start-up. The job is flexible and I can write. But I wanted to do more with my freelance writing so much that I made several lists of paying markets for literary fiction, a different one each time based on the genre I wrote.
But I needed street crew beyond the local dailies. My list had new and old markets so I started submitting stories, articles and poems everywhere I could. I got accepted with a literary non-fiction piece at The Writing Disorder and with a story at Kalahari Review.
Shortly thereafter I got a freelance script writing job with an animation company. I now have varied experience in addition to the street creds. I also have pending projects that merit my attention.
I have some ways to go still but I am confident that I am once again off to a good start. The second half of the year has started out well with pleasant surprises and I am hopeful that it would come with rich rewards.
Before long, I hope to purchase my old domain, damilolaniyi.com, and I am certain you will not abandon me on this journey. In my next post, I will tell you about the blogs I subscribed to, my blog feedback, my obsession with traffic and how I plan to make money off freelance writing.
So what are you waiting for, drop me a line in the comments and let me know what you think of my ramblings.

DRIVE

The cool breeze stings his face as he leans against the half-opened side glass. His head vibrates gently against it and the bus glides onto the Third Mainland Bridge at 180. The greenery, hasty humans and houses blurs and merges into each other, creating an endless stream of hazy backdrop against which the bus speeds past. Then the backdrop breaks into a misty light blue. A perfect blue, yet odd. A sensual blue that kissed the lighter blue waters beneath the bridge. Haphazardly clustered communities of wooden houses and strewed about seaweeds float on the waters. They try vainly to obstruct the romance of the blues. Blues that were not there before. Actually, they were. He’d concentrated on the hazy backdrop and had not seen the blue skies hovering above it. Just as soon as the greenery and houses broke off suddenly, it eases into the picture, sweeping the misty blue out of sight.

He sees the greenery, – fewer now, – the trees, undulating earthen streets and the figures in their differing preoccupations and yet he sees nothing. They are before his eyes a mirror into his thoughts, into his recent face-off with Chinwe.

She had called to meet him this afternoon at an eatery on the Island, he had been early as usual and she had been thirty minutes late as usual. The plastic bottled Fanta he ordered was untouched. He made to unscrew it when she sauntered in, her high heels clanking the light beige tiled floor. She slumped into the opposite seat, greeting him with a side tilt of the head. She pushed her curls to the right and smiled, – a stolid smile, – and tapped her long, red manicured nails on the table. She withdrew them hurriedly and dipped them in her handbag. Objects crumpled and rustled as she fished within without looking. She brought out a cigarette stick and placed it at her lips.

“I don’t know you smoke.” He broke the silence as she lit the end of the stick. He always had to break the ice and grope for words to draw her out of her defences. A near futile attempt most times. The high concrete walls did a good job keeping her in their parameters and he only succeeded in getting monosyllabic responses, disyllabic at the worst.

“I do.” She said, took long puffs from the stick and resumed tapping her free hand on the table. The smoke came out of her sultry, heavily painted red lips and aquiline nose freely. He never knew she used red lipstick. It used to be…

“Sorry ma’am.” He raised his gaze from her and saw a guard kneeling slightly over her. She stared seductively into the guard’s eyes and smiled nonchalantly. “We do not allow smoking in here. This is a public space, ma’am.”

“Really?” She chuckled, took a long drag and blew in the guard’s face, forcing a cough out of the guard. She stamped the stick on the table and turned to him.

“You called to say you wanted to see me.” He began. She said nothing, only peering, searchingly, into his eyes. She twitched her lips mischievously and tapped, rhythmically. He shifted his gaze uncomfortably and saw the guard at his post, – the door, – still stifling a cough. He almost laughed but checked himself and faced her. She was still staring at him. He scratched his head and fiddled with his cartoon themed tie. “I must say, erm, I was quite shocked to receive your call. It was, erm, out of the blues, you know.”

He chuckled at his supposed joke and hurriedly suppressed it. He hated this; – the way she always made him hang at her mercies like a little dog panting and trying to get its owner’s attention and only receiving condescending glances. The way she could effortlessly toggle and twine his innards and brain leaving him feeling spent, worthless.

“I wasn’t expecting you to, not that you don’t call. You do, when you are free and I understand that. I just wasn’t…”

“I want a break.” She interrupted him.

“What?!”

The bus skids into a ditch and bounces out roughly. Sanmi comes out of his reverie to see the whole bus staring at him, except the young guy by the driver who had his Beats earphones plugged in. He shrugs.

“What? I didn’t put the potholes on the road. Did I?” He asks.

The passengers shake their heads and carve sympathetic expressions on their faces.

“Jehovah! Save your children from the hands of momentary madness!” A woman cries from behind. “Chei, na person pikin don dey go mad so?

“Nigerians! Any little thing or behaviour that is out of usual is now termed madness, ehn? This country has a big problem, I tell you.” Another retorts. She sits on the same row as Sanmi and looks diplomatic with her plain ebony face, cornrows, casual spec and dark suit. Sort of like a barren tree devoid of sentimental or religious branches, or any branch at all.

“Before nko? After talking to himself, he would graduate into talking with invincible spirits and ghosts and roaming the streets of Lagos in torn clothes. When has he not gone mad?”

The passengers chorus “Eyah!” and lapse into their personal meditative contemplation, chitchats, group analysis and counter-analysis of the society, the continent and the world in general. He wonders why they had looked at him and talked about someone else. Was he supposed to know the person? He felt a little pained and jealous he could not relate with them. The passengers, in just a little time, brought together by the singular unplanned commonness of huddling together in the cramped interior of the same bus, had developed an affinity he could not manage, in an extended period, with one person in years. Two years with Chinwe and he still felt like he was just getting to know her and yet knew not how to begin knowing her.

“Madness is not good.” He blurts after a little while, hoping to strike up a bond with the passengers. They turn to him and shake their heads sympathetically. He turns to the window, confused. The backdrop was no longer there, funny he did not know how and when. High–rise buildings sandwiching smaller ones, illegal stalls and roadside markets, funny looking signage, estate buildings and dilapidated bungalows and tightly jammed houses fleet before his eyes. It hardly blurs as the bus sped intermittently and move slowly. Strange places he had not been or seen before, yet familiar devils, dance tauntingly before him, ushering him home.

Home! He made up his mind to call Chinwe when he gets home. Trudging out of the sliding glass door of the eatery and whizzing through the file of people at Obalende, he hoped the drive back to Ijaiye would clear his head and put him in a better frame to strategise on the right words and actions to win back his ex. Ex? No, technically not ex. They were just in transition and would be back together before anyone can say Jack. He’s closer to Ijaiye and his mind is still a mess, broken down and torn apart like a demon possessed home. Nothing makes sense to him and he could not think of anything sensible. Lines of thought forms and he follows them until they trail off into insensibilities and leave him stranded. Other lines of thought births, – tugs and pulls him and urges him to explore them, – only to follow the same course. Once or twice, the wandering souls come back and vie for centre stage, ending up in a knotty aggregation. Just as they had come, they untwine themselves and depart noiselessly and new thoughts crop up and end up in similar fashion.

“Last bus stop! All passengers come down!” The conductor broke his thought.

Last bus stop?

“Last bus stop? I am supposed to get down at Ijaiye.”

The passengers all come down, stealing momentary glances at him. The conductor stares at him, long and hard, and hiss coldly. “Ijaiye? Why you no talk na? You go enter another bus go back be that. Come down from my motor.”

He gets down from the bus and thinks everyone is staring at him and the noisy screeching and wheezing of the cars and buses mocks him. He shuffles uneasily on his feet and attempts to cross the three-lane road. He scuttles back hurriedly, fearful of the vehicles taking unrestrained advantage of the free Lagos-Abeokuta express road before rush hour force it into a messy mirage of metallic panels, burning rubbers, angry conductors and frustrated passengers alike. He waits patiently and the eyes remain on him, the mockery too. He turns slowly but no one is close by. No one is looking at him. The few nearby are preoccupied in their hustling but he feels the eyes on him. Mysterious eyes fixed on him, prying him open and mocking his unsettledness.

The road finally becomes free and he ventures onto it. He is barely midway when his phone rings. He brings it out of his pant pockets unconsciously. CHINWE displays on the caller ID. He beams anxiously as he places the phone at his ear.

“I knew you were going to call, erm, no, God! I didn’t know but I expected you to but you didn’t really have to, you know. I would have called you when I got home…”

A car horn blares. He turns just in time to see a Highlander Jeep screeching towards him at a distance. He stands rooted, staring at the oncoming vehicle blindly. It did not make sense to him; neither did the concerned admonitions from the pedestrians crowding the roadside. It all filters into his consciousness like a background romantic score accentuating the magical getaway he inhabits with Chinwe. She was telling him how she was sorry to have dropped the bomb on him thoughtlessly at the eatery. He was still the love of her life, did he know that? Moreover, she would never really dare to break his heart because he meant the world to her and so on, and so forth.

Sanmi opened his mouth and hot air escapes. Speechless, immovable, and the jeep approached on top speed. The driver tries to swerve away from his lane but oncoming cars on the other lanes and his failed brake cage him into an inevitable end. He curse and jams at his brake and thumps the horn savagely but Sanmi stands rooted to the spot, smiling sheepishly and smelling the exotic flowers in the garden of his renewed love. They are sweet and alluring and had a strange, yet, inviting smell lurking at the end. An obnoxious, indescribable smell he could not fathom, – the smell of death!

“Are you there?” Chinwe’s high-pitched voice filtered through the receiver. Sanmi starts.

“Yeah. I… What were you saying?”

The jeep close in, about five seconds… four, three, two, and one. He closes his eyes…

PRAY

Why do we pray? How do we pray? Where do we pray? When do we pray? Who do we pray to? For whom do we pray? Should we pray! Can I pray! Will you pray! When we seem lost in thoughts, we pray.  When we cry and no one feels our pain, we pray.  When misery comes calling with hoplessness, we pray.  When words are evasive and we stutter, we pray.  When feelings, emotions and heart are trampled on, we pray.  When we doubt the course of life, we pray.  When things Fade away,we pray.  When we see the grip of death, we pray.  Who prays for the poor? Who prays for the orphan! Who prays for the destitute? Who prays for the widow/widower! Who prays for the elderly? Who prays for the sick!

Death by Law

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It has been many years since Shakespeare’s Romeo&Juliet where the principal characters died from an excess of love. Over the years, a lot of passersby and pedestrians have died or being severely injured by convoys. It was usually the government motorcade that drove our roads carelessly but over time, some rich folks convinced themselves that they had to ‘up’ their status with a convoy.
So the customized number plates started to dwindle and convoys of rich people started to increase. And because the convoys were driven by uniformed men, they drove as they liked after all they were “the law”. Their rough driving has on many occasions being a source of concern and on one occasion, has put a governor at risk. A case in point when they had people screaming for justice was when negotiations were going on between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) who were on strike at the time. Prof Iyama was said to have been killed on impact by a governor’s convoy as he was enroute the point of meeting.
Sadly though, it takes an important person to help us see the existing flaws in our system.
Another case is the ban of motorcycles on our express roads. The police were authorised to seize any which they found breaking the law. Funny enough, the motorcycle that very nearly ran a pedestrian down a few minutes ago had two army guys on it. The symbol of law breaks it, with no consequence I might add. And that’s because it didn’t just start today hence the powers that be cannot claim ignorance of this sad truth.

A note to pedestrians: an all-seeing-eye is needed for us to arrive our destinations. Be careful, the law is not at its best!

Charity Begins at Home

 

Book stack

A very popular saying but then, knowledge is power. I agree with that. But you see, flashy things have a way of drawing us; the glitter, the shine… So, this leads me to ask-

Do you patronise ‘Made in your country’ products? Or you think that they are not good enough?

Let me explain why I asked. If you are reading this now, you must be a lover of words and by extension, books. But do you only read books based on the Name of the Author, the colour of skin or worse yet, the authors’ gender?

Sadly, some book lovers I know select books based on those criteria but is your next read as good as skin colour, a popular name or gender? I am personally offended when I meet a fellow book lover who says he cannot read a book written by a woman! I would not pitch Chinua Achebe against William Shakespeare nor will I pick Longfellow just because of the name! Each writer has his/her own unique style. Black skin, pink skin, yellow skin; it does not matter!

On the issue of gender, permit me to dwell a little. Sidney Sheldon was a wonderful writer, no dispute. Agatha Christie, on the other hand, is just as good a read. If I would read a John Grisham because his law thrillers keep me wanting more, then I would most certainly read a Danielle Steel whose tragic romance has me addicted! Sefi Atta, Patricia Cornwell, Luanne Rice, Kathy Reichs, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, J.K Rowlings; all these women will stand their ground against their male counterparts Tom Clancy, Wole Soyinka, Robert Ludlum, Helon Habila, any day!

So answer me this: do you read that Nigerian author only because it was prescribed as a Literature text? Do you spend your last kobo on a novel written by a foreign author but you cannot buy that book that has your countryman’s name on it? you have to review your preferences- without bias!

Thanks to Cheap Mobile Devices

 

While updating a post, I experienced this exhilarating feeling that comes from being able to make corrections and adjustments on the go! Many thought that the introduction of mobile phones in Nigeria was going to be unrealistic; after all the country has so many things on its to-do list and a lot of failed projects under its belt. Project infinity you might call it. Yes, that’s the sad truth.

Sometime in 2001 though (against all the skeptics), mobile phones were introduced and the monopoly of a single service provider evaporated! POOF!!! And now, with such a small amount it is available to everyone and it is no longer a luxury. The good news is that bloggers like me can rejoice in the fact that our readers can view posts anywhere in as much as we too can write them on the go!  Gone are the days of desktop computers…

Yaay for cheap mobile devices! Just how did we survive before their invention?