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.