3 Ways to overcome writing challenges

Being a writer is a wonderful experience, but there are some challenges which I face on a daily basis. Here are three writing challenges which I often experience, and how I overcome them:

CHALLENGE 1: Poor internet connectivity.

SOLUTION: Schedule/plan posts in advance.

Being a writer in Nigeria who uses social media to share my work means that I am always at the mercy of the internet service providers that I use, whose quality of services are at best, average. If you want to make me happy, just whisper the words ‘free Wi-Fi’ to me! I suspect that my wedding vows would include ‘for better, for worse, for free Wi-Fi connectivity…’

I deal with this issue by planning my posts at least a few weeks in advance, and I have learned that for a lot of providers, the internet quality is better in the early hours of the morning. So please, don’t judge me too harshly if there are bags under my eyes; blame the internet quality by my service providers.

Dealing with this issue gives me more time to focus on writing, and reduces the time I spend frowning at my phone when the internet service is too slow for my liking.

 

CHALLENGE 2: Writer’s block.

SOLUTION: Don’t stop writing.

I know what you’re thinking: you’re complaining that you have writer’s block, and I’m saying that the solution to this problem is to keep writing? Please don’t close this page out of annoyance; just keep reading to get my point.

If there is something which I have learned from writing for almost two and a half years, it is that no piece of writing is useless. I have turned half-written stories into poems, and I have turned a poem into one of the first essays which I wrote for another website.

If you’re stuck in one part of a story that you are writing, move on to another part of the story. What happens after that scene? Describe what the main character had for breakfast. What subjects did the character write in his or her WAEC exams? Eventually, the story will get unstuck and you can get on with writing your prize-winning novel, or at least a story that gets a lot of likes on your blog.

 

CHALLENGE 3: Negative feedback.

SOLUTION: Analyse the feedback, and remember the purpose for your writing.

On my blog, someone once commented that the way I wrote a poem was not how a poem should be written. The poem however got a lot of likes, which meant that for me, the poem had resonated with people, so it had achieved its intended purpose.

Corrections about grammatical errors aren’t bad; however, rude comments which personally attack you and your writing are the worst.

So what can you do about this?

First of all, if people are giving you feedback, it means that they are reading your work, which is awesome! Next, if you are getting constructive criticism about your writing (for instance, being told to use more paragraphs so that your work is easier to read), you can take it on board since it helps your work to be easier to read and therefore attract more readers.

When submitting a story for a contest, for publication on a platform with a wide audience or before publishing a book, I always get one or two people to read my work first so I can get feedback which I can choose to accept or dismiss, depending on if I believe such feedback improves my work.

I have grown as a writer since I first started this journey, so I know that as I navigate through the above challenges, my writing will keep improving and more people will enjoy reading my work.

I hope this has been helpful to writers out there!

About the writer:

Ivie Eke is a writer who daydreams about constant electricity in Nigeria and mangoes. She writes poetry, stories and essays on her blog, http://www.classicallyivy.com and is the author of two books, ‘Looking for myself and my phone charger’ and ‘Walking On Eggshells’, both available on Okada Books and Amazon.

 

 

 

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#FeatureFriday – 5 Lessons I Learned From My Secondary School Days

I attended secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria in the 1990s. I have chosen to have very selective memories about my time there, so I dwell more on the memories of shared laughter and on the friends I made who I am still in touch with presently.

I will not dwell on the cutting of grass, the times I spent kneeling down for hours as punishment, nor on that senior girl who kept making me fetch water for her in her gigantic metal bucket which had no handle (I still remember her name).

No, I will not dwell on the negative memories.

Here are some lessons which I learned in secondary school which I have found to be relevant in my life as an adult:

Provision scarcity creates strange bedfellows.

I usually showed up to school with 1 ½-2 sets of provisions at the beginning of every term. You would have thought that by SS3, I would have learned my lesson and grown more economical with my consumption of milk and sugar, the holy grail of provisions.

This never happened.

By the middle of the term, I was often left with an awkward combination of Garri, Cornflakes and Bournvita; provisions which made more sense separately than as a combination.

During this period of provision scarcity, a few people were often labelled as being ‘friends-for-food’, meaning that they attached themselves to their fellow students who were fortunate enough to have surplus provisions throughout the term. The way I see it, they were merely forming strategic alliances to protect themselves from hunger.

Lessons learned: Save for a rainy day, and be strategic when forging alliances.

Keep your feelings to yourself.

So, you are a teenager who is experiencing puberty and a sudden awareness of the opposite sex. This is a very wonderful and normal experience, but one in which wisdom needs to be applied.

For me, I learned the hard way that just because you have a crush on a guy does not mean that you should tell anyone about it – that person you told might laugh at you behind your back, and make jokes with others at your expense.

Lesson learned: Secondary school kids are a cruel and judgmental bunch-but then, so are adults. Be wary about who you call your confidants.

Laughter can surface at inappropriate moments.

For some reason, everything in secondary school seemed so funny: the long queues to get food at the dining hall, the advances of a potential ‘toaster’, or the grammatical errors made by long-suffering teachers.

I cannot count the number of times when, as a junior student, I felt like bursting into laughter whilst being scolded by a senior student.

I really don’t know why this happened; I would feel the sensation of laughter building up inside me as the senior scolded me.

Luckily, I did not succumb to this instinct-my punishment for whatever crime I was guilty of would surely have doubled if I had laughed out loud.

Lesson learned: Try not to laugh when your boss is scolding you.

Nobody looks cool with a metal bucket.

The joy I felt when I graduated from my gigantic metal bucket to my first plastic bucket in SS1 was inexplicable. You would not realize the kind of “suffer-head” life that you are living until there is a period of water scarcity in your dormitory, and you have to walk quite a distance to the water reservoir to fetch your much needed water in your already heavy metal bucket.

If you were also toying with a ‘cool-person’ image, I can guarantee you that such an image would have evaporated as you gingerly carried your metal bucket full of water back to your dormitory (unless of course, a generous ‘toaster’ appeared from nowhere to help you carry your bucket).

Lesson learned: Do not buy a metal bucket. I repeat, do not buy a metal bucket.

Cutlasses were invented by the devil.

I cut my fair share of grass in secondary school, all in the name of ‘manual labour’. I am not sure if all that grass-cutting was supposed to teach me discipline and attention to detail.

All I learned was that my school was too cheap to pay for labourers to cut the never-ending growth of grass in the school’s premises and used us (the students) as free labour.

And the blisters I got…so many blisters.

The blisters were the end result of wielding dodgy cutlasses, which left my previously smooth hands blemished with painful welts.

Lesson learned: Unless you seriously enjoy the sensation of a cutlass digging into your hands, please pay someone else to cut your grass for you. Or buy a lawn mower.

What lessons did you learn in secondary school?

 

About Ivie:

Ivie Eke is a writer and NGO Professional who daydreams about constant electricity in Nigeria and mangoes. She writes poetry, stories and essays on her blog, www.classicallyivy.com and is the author of two books, ‘Looking for myself and my phone charger’ and ‘Walking On Eggshells’, both available on Okada Books and Amazon.

A day in the life of a Nigerian with trust issues

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It’s Monday morning.

You wake up with a smug smile on your face. There is artificial darkness all around you as NEPA has kept the electricity to itself. This fact does not dampen your mood as you had already ironed clothes for the week two days ago.

You go to the bathroom and open the tap-a few drops of water trickle out and eventually stops after five seconds. You shrug this offbecause you remembered to store water in buckets, bowls and tea spoons the night before; all you have to do now is have your bath at lightning speed to combat the early morning cold.

You put on your makeup with the glow of your fully charged rechargeable lamp since you are still engulfed in darkness.

When you get to work,your colleagues complain that there is no water in the dispenser as you sip water from your flask which you brought from your house.

Later on, you go to the ATM to withdraw some cash. You use your knuckles to key in your PIN because you’re not sure that the key pad has ever been cleaned.

When you withdraw your cash, you count it while standing in front of the machine, to the annoyance of the people waiting in line behind you.

You stop at the canteen to buy one wrap of Moi-Moi. You sit at a table in the corner and bring out a bowl with fried fish from your bag, because you already know that the Moi-Moi won’t have anything inside it.

The Office Security Guards greet you profusely as you walk past them which makes you suspicious as they barely acknowledge you on any other day. But then you remember that it’s the end of the month; they assume that your salary has been paid and expect that there was ‘security allowance’ included.

You read a text message from your Boyfriend saying that his flight to Lagos that morning was good, which you find interesting because his post a minute ago on Facebook showed ‘Abuja’ as his location.

You decide to go to your bank to make a payment. There is only one Teller attending to twenty customers. You smile and sing all of Phyno’s songs in your head as a form of meditation, and you are in a serene state of mind when it finally gets to your turn on the queue.

You drive with confidence past fuel queues because you filled your tank top the brim two days ago. You drive at the lower spectrum of the speed limit to conserve fuel, ignoring the loud blares of horns of the cars behind you.

You get home and look lovingly at the kegs of diesel in your backyard, like they are your children. ‘Thanks for being there for me’, you whisper to them.

As you get into bed at the end of the day, you wonder if your trust will ever be restored.

About Ivie Eke

Ivie Eke is a writer and NGO Professional who daydreams about constant electricity in Nigeria and mangoes. She writes poetry, stories and essays on her blog, www.classicallyivy.com and is the author of two books, ‘Looking for myself and my phone charger’ and ‘Walking On Eggshells’, both available on Okada Books and Amazon.

 

#SWChristmasCampaign – “Christmas is remembering the birth of Christ, a reminder of a love like no other.” Ivie Eke

Ivie Eke

For Ivie Eke, Christmas means many things. It is waiting, it is wishing, amongst many other things. Read on to find out all the other things that make Christmas special for Ivie. 

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Christmas is waiting.

It is waiting to get that email from Human Resources telling me that the Christmas break will be from this date and end on that date. It is an expectant feeling, where I try to draw the line between being a hardworking staff and an easily distracted person who asks myself, ‘has the email been sent yet?’

Christmas is hoping.

It is the hope that this year’s Christmas would be better than last year’s Christmas. It is hoping that the weather would be tolerable, a mild form of harmattan at best. It is hoping that there would be no power cuts. Well, I mean the hope for minimal power cuts. It is Nigeria after all; let’s not get our hopes too high.

Christmas is wishing.

It is wishing that I can keep my heart rate in check when I enter different stores to buy Christmas gifts for loved ones and liked ones. It is wishing that I could multiply the balance of my bank statement by merely closing my eyes tightly. It is wishing that there would be no terror attacks in Nigeria during the festive period. It is wishing that I had large reserves of funds stashed away somewhere which I had completely forgotten about. It is wishing that a Good Samaritan would accost me and ask me what I want for Christmas (I would smile coyly at first, before handing him a typed list of my demands).

Christmas is eating.

It is making sure that I wear a dress which both flatters my figure and also has some space at the waist so I will not do it any damage. It is telling myself, ‘I will eat only a teaspoon of rice and a pinch of salad’, before I find myself knee deep in unlikely food combinations – MoiMoi and Egusi Soup, Dodo and Ice Cream, Samosa and Bitter Leaf Soup. It is that time of the year where I am asked to eat more, as opposed to being asked to eat less during the rest of the year.

Christmas is laughing.

It is laughing at jokes told by Uncles and Aunties, even though I have heard them before. It is laughing at inside jokes with my brothers that only we can understand. It is laughing with my younger cousins and wondering when they grew taller than me.

Christmas is loving.

It is remembering the birth of Christ, a reminder of a love like no other.

About Ivie 

Ivie Eke

Ivie Eke is a Writer; you can find her poems, stories, and essays on her blog. She has also written articles for Genevieve and She Leads Africa. She is the author of the poetry collection, Looking for myself and my phone charger which is available on Okada Books and Amazon Kindle UK. She loves writing, reading novels and eating mangoes.

If you would like to be featured in The Sparkle Writer’s Christmas Campaign, please send an entry of between 300-400 words telling us what Christmas means to you. Your entry must be sent with two pictures of yourself and your bio to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. We have limited slots left so send in your entry as soon as possible. 

New book alert – Looking for myself and my phone charger

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Hey Sparkle Writers! We just love to showcase the works of awesome writers. Today, we have a new book to introduce to you. It’s an eBook called ‘Looking for myself and my phone charger‘ and it is a collection of poetry which is a journey in self-exploration.

Written by Ivie Eke, the eBook explores deep themes such as love, remorse, the breakdown of relationships, the impact of words, frustrations of the Nigerian citizen towards the nation and self-acceptance. It also takes a look at the material things people surround themselves with that add colour to their lives – shoes, books, makeup and technology.

There are 34 four poems in the collection and it is broken into four parts to make it easy for the reader to digest. You can purchase a copy of the eBook from Okada Books and do leave a review when you read it.

About the author

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Ivie Eke is a Nigerian who writes poetry, short stories and essays on her blog. She also writes articles for Genevieve Magazine, and SheLeadsAfrica. She has a day job as an NGO professional, and enjoys reading, spending time with friends and makeup-related activities.

 

 

#WriterSpotlight – So far as there is a paper and pen nearby Ivie Eke will always write

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Another Thursday is here again and you know what that means! We have another amazing writer for you to meet on our Writer Spotlight feature. Our guest today is Ivie. She is simple, passionate and ready to take over the world with her words. Find out more about this super talented writer as you read her interview with us.

Hello, please introduce yourself

My name is Ivie Eke – Ivy for short. I am from Benin City, Edo State in Nigeria. I am a constant introvert and an often reluctant extrovert.

What do you do?

I write poems, essays and short stories on my blog. For my day job, I work in the Business Development Unit of a Healthcare Non-Government Organization in Abuja, Nigeria.

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

I can’t really describe what led me to writing; it has just simply been something which I’ve always done. English Language was one of my favorite subjects of study right from Primary School. From an early age, I would always write down my thoughts on pieces of paper, or in a journal. I’ve found that it is a way of easing tension and challenging my level of creativity. It is just last year that I decided to be very organized about my writing, which is why I started my blog.

Your twitter handle says you are a TV person, can you tell us what that entails?

Television is a great escape for me; laughing out loud or thinking deeply while watching TV shows is a great way for me to relax.  I love comedies such as Friends and How I Met Your Mother, and dramas like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.

What is your most challenging moment as a writer?

The moments I have found most challenging are those times when I experience writer’s block while writing a story-my mind would go totally blank and I would feel very frustrated. What I’ve learned however is not to overthink such situations; I would just simply start to write another part of the story, and eventually, an idea on how to continue from where I had been stuck before would come to me. The key is just to keep on writing.

Ivie 2

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

I actually have two most rewarding moments; the first was when Stylist Magazine UK included a short poem which I had written on a list of their favorite poems (they had asked their social media followers to send in entries), and when I read poems I had written about my love for books and reading at an event held in Abuja recently.

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

I’m pretty sure that I will always be a writer. Even if I’m writing for just myself, it’s still writing. It never goes away.

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

Yes I have; I’ve pitched a few articles which were turned down. The good thing was that I was given clear feedback; for instance, to expand on an initial idea. It’s very important for me that I learn from such experiences so that the quality of my writing improves.

Will you ever retire from writing?

No, I won’t. So far as there is a paper and pen nearby, or a place to write notes on my phone, I will continue to write.

What do you do in your leisure time?

I read, watch television, listen to music, organize my makeup collection (for some reason, I really enjoy doing this!) and spend time with friends and family.

What would you pick;

Continental Food or African Delicacy? African delicacies for when I want to eat and be very satisfied. Continental food for when I’m feeling fanciful and not too hungry.

R&B or Hip/hop? Wow-this is a tough one. It depends on my mood. If I’m in a relaxed mood, I’ll listen to music by Anita Baker, Usher Raymond and a lot of 90s RnB music. If I’m in a hyper mood, I’ll listen to Hip Hop music by Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z and Kanye West.

Fiction or poetry? I would rather read fiction than read poetry, but I enjoy writing poetry more than writing fiction.

Football or music? Music! Much to the disappointment of my two brothers who are football fans, I haven’t watched a match from beginning to the end in years.

Do you have a writing mentor? If yes why?

I will say that Chimamanda Adichie is my writing mentor-from-far. I love her writing style because she can make mundane situations appear very intriguing, and her novels show that it is not always necessary to make all the main characters in a book likeable, as long as you make them interesting.

 Your best article or story so far?

My favourite article which I’ve written so far is a poem called ‘I am not afraid’, because it describes situations which should make me scared, but I then make a deliberate choice not to be scared of them.

Any last words for upcoming writers?

Yes – just start writing. Don’t overthink it. I started writing on pieces of paper and on my phone, and from there I started writing on my Facebook page, after which I started my blog. There are so many resources on the internet which can serve as guides in the writing process. Most importantly, enjoy your writing; it is something that should bring pleasure to both you and your readers.