#WriterSpotlight – Treasured childhood experiences got Jide interested in words

Jide taiwo

It’s Thursday and we are so excited to feature Jide Taiwo on today’s #WriterSpotlight. We love the fact that his mum was able to spot his talent at an early age and she helped him to nurture it. Now he is not only a writer but also a successful magazine editor. We’ve said enough. Enjoy our interview with him. 

Hello, please introduce yourself

My name is Jide Taiwo. I live and work in Lagos. I studied Mass Communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University. I’m in the process of finishing my debut book, Reflections of a Millennial.

What do you do?

Until recently I was Editor of Bubbles Magazine, an entertainment journal but we’ve rested that for a newer title in the travel sphere, Inflyt, which I edit as well. In addition I co-own a travel company that sells airlines tickets and travel packages. I also serve as Corporate Affairs Manager for the print company that publishes my magazine.

Why did you choose to write or what led you to writing?

As much as it sounds like a cliché, I have always been writing; albeit only professionally for about seven years. I had a mother who spotted my affinity for books and reading at an early age and she made me write everything, every time! “Mum can I go and play outside?’ “Write a composition on why I should allow you.” ‘Mum can I have a Chicago Bulls t-shirt for Christmas?’ “Write a composition on why a t-shirt is appropriate for Christmas…” By the time I was eight or nine, she’d throw random dictations at me at the most unanticipated times. We’ll be going to bed and she’s just say, ‘Jide spell committee…”

My aunt was also a journalist. I remember her taking me to her office at Tribune Newspapers at age 5. She had me draw my favourite animal and got it published in the weekend edition. The pride I felt from seeing my name in a newspaper stays with me till today. Those experiences made me really interested in words. With time I discovered that writing came easily to me and I was always looking forward to school essays and letter writing competitions. By the time I got into secondary school, I knew for sure that whatever I did in future, writing was going to be a huge part of it.

What is your most challenging moment as a writer?

Every moment is challenging. I think that’s the thrill, at least for me. Picking up a blank sheet of paper and filling it with the ideas in your head has to be challenging for anybody. Ideas start to bubble in your head and putting those words together in a coherent way that would interest anybody, that is challenging. That’s the hard part of writing: converting your thoughts into written words.

Can you share any lesson you have learnt from writing?

Every day of your life as a writer holds a lesson. I think it really important though, to be you. Sometimes you read your contemporaries and you wish you could write like them. There’s no worse trap than attempting to sound like anything other than yourself. One of my favourite books of all time is The Palmwine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola. The man was barely literate- he only went to primary school but his idiosyncratic use of the English grammar helped him create a number of classics. Being unoriginal will kill the career of any writer. Be you. The audience can tell when you’re not.

Can you tell us your most rewarding moment as a writer?

Each article, each feature I write gives me a warm sense of pleasure. Seeing my name on a piece of writing is a gratifying feeling that never gets old. I know for sure that when I do finish my book it would be the most rewarding ever.

If you didn’t become a writer what else would you have done?

To be honest, I’d still be writing. I might have been a rapper and I’d still write. I could have been PR representative and I’d still write. I could have been in advertising and I’d still write. I could have been a Pastor (as my mother’s prayer is) and I’d have had to write sermons. Every career path that ever interested me has something to do with writing. These days writing does not have to be a stuffy old profession where you bang out words on a rusty typewriter while chewing on a cigar. I read a Toni Kan interview not long ago where he said he got paid over a thousand dollars for writing an introduction for a bank’s new line of VISA cards. I could have been an electrician and I’d probably have written weekly newsletters to my clients.

Have you ever been rejected as a writer and how did you handle it?

Ah, many times. Many, many times. The thing can pepper somebody o! There’s nothing as demoralizing as you pouring out your heart in a piece and have somebody casually discard your hard work. But then I’ve heard stories of certain 90’s magazine publishers who on receiving a piece from a younger writer would proceed to rubbish it and tell the writer, ‘I just want to help you ni. This thing is not good enough…’ Then they’ll take the article, gloss it over and insert their names as co-writers. Now I’m not saying that is exactly what happens each a writer is rejected. Perhaps what you wrote was really rubbish. Perhaps it’s not in sync with the direction the publisher is heading. However, you can only get better by writing more. Like Lateef Kayode said, ‘I’m getting berra, I’m getting berra. I can’t just get berra one time. I have to step up, to step up…’ (Please search for Kayode Lateef on YouTube to properly understand that.) Rejection is best handled by working on your craft and getting better at it.

Will you ever retire from writing?

Most likely not. There are always Facebook statuses to write, tweets to compose and Instagram posts to caption. The medium might evolve from time to time, but there will always be stories to tell.

What do you do in your leisure time?

I listen to music and I’ve been trying to catch up with some television series. I’m not able to consume TV for more than two hours at any one time so that’s a challenge. Living in Lagos leaves precious little time to leisure but I like to sit by the lagoon on the University of Lagos campus when I can. I enjoy sports although I haven’t played enough in a few years. But I’m most at peace with a good book and a whisky cocktail- shaken not stirred.

 What would you pick

  • Continental Food or African Delicacy? I’ve been told that I’m a disappointing eater: Ogbono and Fufu is not my forte. I prefer continental food. (I’m sorry!)
  • R&B or Hip/hop? It’s quite ironic that while I hear the lyrics of hiphop songs clearly as though the rappers were talking to me, R&B just flies over my head.
  • Football or music? Ah, this is not fair o! I enjoy both in equal measure.

Do you have a writing mentor? If yes why?

I don’t have a mentor in the exact sense of it. But I do have a lot of people whose writing has influenced me. Bobo Omotayo, Chude Jideonwo, Reuben Abati, Paul Cantor, Peirce Morgan, Olu Jacob (that used to write for NEXT Newspapers), Dele Olojede, Tolu Ogunlesi,  Terry Macmillan are just a handful of writers that have impacted me the most, along of course, with the African greats: Soyinka, Achebe, Ekwensi, Mabel Segun, Flora Nwapa,  Ola Rotimi.

Your best article or story so far?

I’ve heard that a writer is only as good as his last work. In that sense, I wouldn’t say that I have a “best article”. But I’ve written some pieces that people have commented on a fair bit. Last year I wrote on my Medium page on how youth engagement determined to a large extent the result of the 2015 elections. That story was re-blogged on a couple of South African news sites.

Any last words for upcoming writers?

Even though there are general rules that guide the art of writing, feel free to break the rules in expressing your creativity. Like they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. You own the story you’re trying to write so you should determine the narrative. Nevertheless be sure to say exactly what you intend to say. Don’t leave room for ambiguity. The examiner- in this case the reader- will not think for you. Most importantly, superfluousness is not brilliance: do not use big or plenty words to impress the reader.

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5 struggles that every writer understands

Being a writer can be rewarding. There is a feeling of satisfaction you get when you finally write that one post that goes viral or you get that feedback from someone telling you how much your words touched their lives. Those are awesome moments. But there moments that are not too awesome, when the struggle is quite real.

Here are 5 struggles every writer will understand:

  1. Getting people to understand that you are not just loafing around. Honestly, if we get a penny for how many times people thought we were ‘jobless’ and had all the time in the world to do nothing, we’d be rich by now.

Struggles of a writer

2. Spending precious minutes just staring at a blank word document. The deadline is looming. You know it but the words are not just coming out. You stare at the blank screen hoping, through some form of miracle, that the words will automatically appear in that word document. The struggle to write!

Struggles of a writer

3. Justifying why you should be paid a certain amount. Isn’t it just to write a few lines of copy? An ordinary blog post costs that much? “If it was that ordinary, why don’t you write it?” Sadly, we can’t say this to any client. You just smile and try to justify why it costs that much.

4. The moment you ask yourself “What exactly am I doing?” This moment comes in the life of every writer when you realize your peers are way ahead of you and it looks like you’re barely getting by. You begin to question this whole writing thing.

5. Waiting for that big moment when you break even. The joy of every writer; the moment when you actually smile to the bank. The moment when one check settles your bills for the next three months. We all look forward to such moments.

What other struggles have you had to deal with as a writer? Do share with us 🙂

The not so glamorous life of a writer

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The look of awe I get from people when I describe what I do surprises me. “You mean you don’t have to wake up by 4 am and rush out to some office every day? I envy you.” That’s the response I get when I tell people that I work mainly from home. Some even go ahead to say that they wish they had my kind of job. Really? I’m beyond shocked. And then there are those special people that always end conversations with, “Doyin you’re the one enjoying life oh. I want to be like you when I grow up.” I usually laugh at such statements. Sometimes I give the person a long lecture about what being a writer involves.

It is true that you have your time to yourself as a writer, especially if you are a full time one. Many choose to do it part time because the pay can make you weep sometimes. And if you have bills to pay, you definitely don’t want to be weeping every month. However, the fact that you have your time to yourself as a writer does not mean that everything is all green and rosy. No. No. No. In fact, I believe being a writer is one of the toughest jobs there is in the world.

Here’s a insight into the life of a writer:

You have a messed up sleep cycle

If you are a full time writer, you don’t follow the conventional time for sleeping. 10 pm is not your ‘now it’s time to end the day’ moment. That is probably when you are planning to start work. I work better at night because everywhere is usually quiet. I stay up writing, planning content and doing research. If I am able to go to bed before 3am then I’m truly lucky. Most times I don’t go to bed until 4 am.

There are no off days or closing time

People with the conventional 9-5 jobs have the luxury of having days off work. Writers unfortunately don’t share in that luxury. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we are going on holiday and while we are doing just that, an inspiration for a story comes. A typical writer will never ignore that inspiration. They will go ahead to put that inspiration down into words. So you see, they are back to work even on holiday. Every minute we spend awake is used to work.

Tons of books gets added to your reading list, few leave that list

I am yet to find a writer who is not an avid reader. We are fascinated by books and articles. A bookshop is sort of a haven for us. God help us if we have enough money to splurge on books that day. We will leave that bookstore with heaps of books. Buying books for us is like collecting antics. The problem however is that we never finish one book before we buy another book to add to our reading list.

Your writing pad is your one true friend

Most writers are introverts. Many live a solitary life. I applaud those who have managed to keep a long list of friends. I truly admire them. My writing pad has become my ever faithful friend. I write any and everything inside it. My writing pad does not judge me and it is eager for me to fill its empty pages with my words. Best of all, my writing pad serves as a source of inspiration when writer’s block comes knocking.

Being a writer is interesting. Despite the fact that it’s not as glamorous as people believe, I love it!

My frustrations with being a writer

 

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Don’t let the title deceive you. I love being a writer. I have found the greatest joy in it. It has given me a platform to express the deepest things in my heart; things that I could not say with my mouth. When I write, the words flow. It’s such a blessing to have the gift of writing.

The problem however is that making a living out of it in this part of the world can be really difficult if you are not truly passionate about. I’ll say this now, if your reason for being a writer is simply for the money please look for something else to do. The money may not come until months after you start.

There are 5 things I find frustrating about being a writer;

1) People try to undermine what you do. You get a request to write something and when you are explaining how long it will take for you to write it, the person says “All that time just to write this and this?” Has this ever happened to you? A lot of people think that there no thinking involved in writing. They believe that the words miraculously get written on paper. It’s so frustrating!

2) A lot of people don’t really think you have a job. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me to go and get a real job. “What is writing”, they say. Sigh…I’ll just move on.

3) Just to write content costs this much? So you get a client who wants you to edit a 100-page book or write content for an entire website and when you tell them what their bill is, they go; “Just to write content costs this much?” Some would even try to cheapen what you do by offering to pay a ridiculous amount for your work.

4) Inspiration just disappears. Sometimes, inspiration does not come when you really need it. It can be very frustrating when you have a looming deadline and you have no idea what you are going to write. Learning to capture ‘inspiration’ is something every writer must do.

5) Waiting for that big break. Honestly so many times I have asked myself, “When will my big break come?” Don’t get me wrong, I am doing well with what I earn as a writer but as compared to more established writers, there is room for more!

So you may be wondering; with all these frustrations why have I decided to continue on this path. It is because I find great joy in what I do. It is because I have been able to add value to people’s lives through the posts and articles I write. Every now and then, I get comments and emails from people telling me how something I wrote blessed them and it makes me sleep well at night. Most importantly, I have continued on this path because this is what God has called me to do. In writing, I have found my purpose. So despite the frustrations, my four years of being a professional writer have been truly rewarding.

You can feel the frustration but don’t give up. Don’t give up on writing simply because it isn’t yielding any fruit yet. Being a writer is a long term investment. Trust me, if you do it consistently and you keep improving, you will get great rewards from it. This includes financial rewards too. So keep sparkling! The world needs your talent.