Almost a week after the publication of ‘Unbroken Wings’, a friend texted me. We were basically internet friends; a fellow blogger and writer and we hadn’t met before. So she congratulated me for my first published book and then went on and said how she wants to be like me someday. After a pause she went on, ‘Life has been so rough. Today I sat in our office toilet crying for like half an hour. It was the only place to run to lol. Part of why I didn’t text earlier…and then the other part is like gosh girl. Look at people publishing books…’ I just listened to her and in my heart I was like, ‘Aww honey…but that isn’t the whole story!’ And I think of how many times we look up to people we assume have succeeded in life, and adore them a lot it tends to make us feel less capable or worthless? I know the feeling…
My first serious attempt to write was in class seven when daily nation had a writing competition of a saga for children. Every week I would take up the challenge but I would just take it to my English teacher to go through it. I went on doing so whilst he directed me and corrected me until one day I said to myself, ‘Until when will I just write for my teacher. Why not submit to the Daily Nation and see how that turns out?’ I did. I never really had any expectations because I was not really one of the best writers in my class. I had the most amazing English teacher who really encouraged us to be storytellers. He would always read the best compositions in class but I wasn’t really one of them. I was somewhere close there but still NOT there. So he would casually mention how my composition was good or sometimes really good but I don’t remember him reading my work in front of the class ever. Yet I still did it continuously, adamantly and persistently.
So my dad delivered my submission at the daily nation offices and a week later, my name was on the newspaper. I wasn’t the winner but they had acknowledged me amongst the youngest writers with strongest submissions. That elated me in ways I can’t define. I was just 12 by then but I decided that this is it. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life (after chemistry and biology shattered my dreams of being a pediatrician 😀 ).
Going into secondary school, I would write every.single.day like a maniac who could only survive by letting those ink drops fill the paper with words. I started writing my first short story, then my second short story then my third poetry collection. I was always writing. Classmates coming by everyday to my desk so that they can read the next paragraph of my story. Soon my friends would have to book to read first before anyone else because the readers were becoming many and it soon spread out to other classes. And despite all that, every time I would take part in a writing competition, I would go to the notice board, scroll down through the names one by one. My name would never be there. My heart would shatter and sometimes I would just sit down and let it sink in, cry, wonder…but why…’If my work was liked by my friends and colleagues, what was I doing wrong?’ I never found out.
I spent those years up and down trying to find publishers for my short stories. I was young and naive. I wouldn’t know who to go to or who to trust. Yet I still tried. Approaching publishers before they disappeared with no word ever again. So I just opted to bring in my friends to help me critique and edit my work. I was always changing, correcting, perfecting; too busy in the editorial club. One time while I was the editor in chief of the editorial club, I met my English teacher who also happened to be my class teacher, on the corridor. She asked me what I was working on and I said some school articles and she said, ‘If you’d put that kind of energy in your studies, you’d be very far in your performance.’ Now, I wasn’t a poor performer. I was an average student who almost worshiped the staff room from the number of visits to make inquiries. But I also knew what I wanted. I wanted to make an impact and my pen was my biggest tool I wasn’t going to give up on, any time soon.
During my final year, our editorial club patron literally had to beg for me to get the ‘Best Writer Award’ because they had entirely left it out. And when that was granted, my assistant was so pissed off and confronted me because ‘her work was better than mine and she deserved it more than I did.’ I went to take that award with a lump in my throat and my heart so heavy. I wasn’t even sure I deserved it.
After high school, everyone wanted me to do something else. ‘Do teaching, do business, do accounts…’ no one really cared that this was the path I had chosen. Having been raised in a county that barely appreciated talent especially writing and who weren’t avid readers, I struggled to block all the negativity being thrown at me (I am glad this is quickly changing now; has been for a while actually.) Yet I still went on to do Journalism and mass communication and managed to come out with First class. During my university years, I was always either making calls, or sending emails or discussing with teachers on how to create a career out of my writing talent. My job application letters to newspapers never got a response for a long while, at one time three of my classmates found me at the library writing another application letter so one of them said, ‘You’re always writing application letters. We are going to finish uni, get jobs and you’d still be writing those letters.’ They all laughed. It was supposed to be a joke so I just smiled. And don’t get me wrong, these were very close friends who helped me a lot before and even after this conversation. But then many people thought it was pointless trying too hard. My university colleagues were enjoying their youth while all they ever saw me do is write and send applications.
Well I did finally land an internship at Coast This Week paper which later on became my job for a year or so…before the paper died. Well it’s a long story but many MANY times after that, I got contracts and I was told I wasn’t good enough. Not creative enough. My work being rejected. My applications being rejected. Not winning competitions etc
It was only after nine years of trying to get my work out there that Unbroken Wings got published. I have been so familiar to failure, to being jobless, to getting soo close to success yet still not succeeding, to being clueless on how to move ahead for too long.
I made sure to meet this lovely writer and we talked for long hours and days. She is very talented this is not even a courteous gesture. Her writings are deep soul food I honestly believe she is a better writer than I am. I wanted her to know that everyone has their own journey. I might have reached here because I started way earlier but everyone gets to their destination in a different way, in a different timeline. Some get lucky and are recognized immediately for their work. Some get lucky, have some connections and make their way easy up there. Some have to struggle and others have to struggle more than others. Don’t look at someone’s achievements. Look at their journey. Ask for their untold stories. Talk to them of their failures and achievements. Yet still, never compare yourself to how far someone seems to have reached.
The truth, this is just the tip of an iceberg. I am not yet where I want to be. I am still struggling to be who I want to be. I wouldn’t have made it here if it weren’t for Allah then the many people along the way who gave me abundant support and love, I can’t thank them enough. As Paulo Coelho says, ‘And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it’.
I really hope whoever wishes to be like me becomes better than me. I hope God grants you the will, the ease and the strength to soldier on in whatever your goals and dreams are. Not necessarily writers only. All the best in your way up there 🙂
That aside, as I continue to curve my niche and pursue my goals, I have decided to start doing writing skills training for the Coastal population. Should I promise you it’s going to be educative and fun? You bet! In shaa Allah and the fee is very reasonable too! Check the poster below to have an idea about it.
P.S Jack Ma’s said: I told my son: You don’t need to be in the top three in your class, being in the middle is fine, so long as your grades aren’t too bad. Only this kind of a person (a middle of the road student) has enough free time yo learn other skills…) Now students/workers don’t get me wrong. Work hard in whatever you need to but all i’m saying here, don’t let what keeps your heart alive, die…Go after your dreams!!
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