What happened was that on one typical weekend I sat down in our living room with a pen and piece of paper, for kids around my age this may be routine, time to scribble jargon and get the parent’s acknowledgement, but for me, this is completely weird. I wasn’t the academic type around the house.
Normally I would be outside spending my time with the other kids, pushing, kicking, shoving and playing games, inventing the rules as we play along. But that day, just a few months after I learned how to read and write, I was there sitting with a pen and paper, and a story in my head. After a few minutes of deliberate thinking, I began my story.
It was about a greedy tortoise and the rest of the animal kingdom. Did I mention back then our exercise notebooks used to have these short stories printed at the back that tell tales about a bunch of animals aptly titled ‘Animal Kingdom’, the main character usually does something bad and you guys end up with a moral of the story. We enjoyed reading them and when you buy a notebook sometimes you get the same story sometimes you don’t, so we get excited fishing out the new stories every time someone buys a new notebook. So anyway, my story, it was a tortoise and he was greedy, told everyone there was food down the river and when they got away he ate all the food of the kingdom, they got back understandably angry for the lie he told them and found their food missing, lion was king so he ate the tortoise, end of story.
It took more than those lines and all afternoon to write out the whole story at the time, and I am sure there was a camel somewhere, I just can’t remember what he did or didn’t do. When I showed my dad he was elated, he corrected some grammar and showed it to my mom, they couldn’t believe I did that myself. And why would they, I was always acting like an ignorant monkey around the house.
They were so proud of me, and I was happy. I just wrote because I needed to, not because of fun, or because I wanted recognition, I didn’t even know there was recognition to be had, I just wrote what was in my head, an original, untainted story. My father typed it out and printed three copies afterwards. One for me, one for him, and one for my teacher at school.
My head buzzed, and I was astounded my teacher at school gets to read my story. Just how important does this writing make a person? I began to wonder.
When I got to school, I hesitated to show it to my teacher, I was in primary three, the first few periods passed and I couldn’t find the right moment and if you knew anything about me you would know this is one heck of a task for me to carry out, to walk up to my teacher’s desk to submit a paper, are you kidding me? I am the type of kid that no one really knows my name.
But after a few moments of deliberation pulling the paper in and out of my bag I decided to brave it, the kids sitting around me were wondering what I was doing with an A4 paper? That always belonged to the adults. I walked to the teacher’s desk at the front of the class and started to speak in incomprehensible grumbles, he managed to pick the words ‘this is for you’ and received the paper from me, I started to grumble (yet again) about how my father corrected some bits here and there but he didn’t hear me so I said ‘never mind’. The story was there and my name written on it.
He read for like a minute or so and smiled, broadly. His reaction afterwards was priceless. He asked if I wrote it myself and I answered him yes, his faced beamed and he started praising me in a rather loud voice, he patted me on the back and shook my hand. Made the class clap a round of applause for me and showed every teacher that walked into our classroom afterwards. I was seriously considering becoming a better student.
He gave me back the paper but I told him it was his to keep, he was eternally grateful, he kept it safe in his drawer. I have never stopped writing from that day.
I wrote down my thoughts, fiction, poems and what could only be regarded as nonsense, anything at all, I scribble it down. Today, I am a freelance writer, meaning I write for the monies. It’s an exciting job and I love it, the thought of being an expert for hire makes me giddy, because I am always fascinated with assassins in movies, they are sharp, skillful and paid a ton of money to delete a pers. . . .um. . . . to do their task. Ironically the word freelance was from the middle ages when some men became mercenaries for hire, usually wielding a lance. They don’t belong to any particular army and a king could hire any of these lance-wielding dudes to fight for him, known as free-lancers. So there, my fascination has become a reality, in a way.
I get tons of comments from friends and strangers, I get emails from all over Nigeria and abroad, some prospective clients and some just wanting to know me better, and more . . . . . it’s beautiful this life, the writing life, and this was how it all started for me.
But knowing you are a writer is one thing, and having the resolve to become one is an entirely different thing altogether. It takes nerve to want to write for a living, to become a writer, especially if your home planet is Nigeria, twice the effort and double the wahala. I made up my mind not a long time ago.