Writing For A Living Can Be Thoroughly Depressing (And E Get As E Be)
I usually burst out into laughter whenever people say they want to be like me. Many people read my write ups and tweets and say they wish they could write or make jokes as well as I do. There’s the constant hounding by people who are curious about what goes on in my head. I want to tell them, earnestly, that they don’t want to know. It’s an entire circus up there.
I don’t really see myself as talented. Even though I’ve had many people call me that. At best, I’m a wordsmith, who suavely knits words together. Although this comes at a great price. Writing is difficult. Writing everyday is exhausting. Committing to writing? That’s a guaranteed way to hell. For someone like me, it’s much worse.
Before now, I battled a lot of issues with self. Don’t get me wrong, I still battle with some (mental health) issues. But I’ve gotten stronger by understanding why I am the way I am and the battles I fight have been in my favor more times than I can count. Yet I have days when I shut down and am unable to leave bed not to imagine writing. So, why would anyone in his or her sane mind want all the emotional baggage that comes with the ability to write?
Being a writer means that you have to question your writing ability for days and still struggle to come up with pieces. Writing is not the hard part, for me at least. It’s getting myself to post; the vulnerability that marries itself to posting your work as a writer can be crippling. You read and read and read until you convince yourself that your work is worthy to be read and then muster the courage to finally post. Chale e be no easy.
But it doesn’t always end there. Because my ego is enormous and I believe myself to be special (see how conflicted I am?), it hurts on a deep level when I post an article that I’ve been working cumbersomely on for days only for a few people to read. No comments, no likes, no shares. And trust me, that happens more than often. And it’s common knowledge that writers detest promoting their works.
You begin to think that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t the profession for you. It started out as a hobby and then after few complimentary comments on your blog like “Guy. You dey mad o. This is insanely hilarious” you thought that you were the next Dean Koontz or Bryce Courtenay. You had people tipping you to take writing seriously — you did — and made a career out of it. Now you’re here, staying up several nights just to get a piece ready, and only 15 people have read it. Ah. Aiye le.
Omo. So I no too sabi like that? — you, lamenting.
Being a creative in this part of the world also makes it very difficult. I always knew that I couldn’t sustain a 9–5 job. Sometime last year (and the beginning of the year), I was working at a startup that required me to turn up to the office everyday. As much as it was a flexible job, I was always drained. Too much gbas gbos on the road. The disabling anxiety that you carry all around with you, hoping that you don’t get confronted by policemen. It’s not that you have anything to hide. You just can’t stand the harassment. What if you got mugged in Somolu? Writing requires a lot of clarity and clarity is a scarce resource in Nigeria. How do you write a mind-blowing article when you’re actively trying to stay sane?
I think the most attractive part about my current job is that I work from home. So, I have a lot of time to myself — which means a lot to me. My creative process is eccentric. I read blogposts, articles, watch YouTube videos, watch movies, then think deeply and consciously about an idea before fleshing it out. But all of the time I don’t use for research, coming up with ideas, and writing, I spend loathing myself. I look for every possible fault and begin to criticize myself. Why have I yet to write the life-changing book I always imagined I’d have written before turning 25? Am I a failure because my schoolmate from secondary school is expecting a third child?
I don’t know if I’m ever going to give up writing (for a living). I have tried to shy away from it but I always find myself yearning for a blank screen. Maybe the pain is addictive and I’m not willing to let go yet. Also, I cannot deny that there are a few moments of joy, when someone commends my work. My aim is to care less for external validation as well as not give in to internal pressure. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Who likes easy anyways?