Random Thoughts, Writing Tips

I’m learning to be lit at this writing distin

Sometime last August, I was contacted by a colleague writer to share my art process and the importance of the narrative with a group of students, as part of the Nkabom Literary Festival 2017. Knowing myself and how lowkey I am/try to be, the first word that came to mind was FLEE. The second word that came to mind was WHY. Then HOW. And then WHAT. The questions kept rushing into my head and I started to think up all excuses so the cup could pass me over. I thought, “how can I share something I haven’t mastered?” No, I haven’t mastered the art of writing, I’m not sure I ever will. I continue to learn and practice every day. But then I also thought, maybe I don’t have to master the art before I can share with others. We can learn together. We can all learn to be lit at this writing distin.

I woke up that Saturday thinking of what I was going to say and how I was going to say it. I said to a friend, “I want you to go with me, but I don’t want you to be there”. It sounded pretty stupid, I know.

When I was asked what materials I needed for my session, I simply said, “Well, it’s just going to be a discussion, nothing formal”.

That was exactly what it was – a very constructive 2 hours (?) of my Saturday morning with art lovers talking various forms of creative art and the industry in Ghana.

In the end, I was grateful I made it.

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Now, here’s why I feel it is imperative that we tell our stories.

  • Storytelling is identity. Just as what you say can reflect who you are inside, what you write reflects who you are on the page. It is self. One’s own distinctiveness.
  • Storytelling is continuity. Anything that has an identity needs to be etched into history. Without you, your story won’t be told. Your voice matters, and by telling your stories, you are giving them longevity.
  • Storytelling is activism. It is involvement. When we write poetry, or whatever, we are taking an action, a stand. We are telling people about something they didn’t know about, or reiterating something they didn’t quite understand or grasp before, or something that has been there all this while but they’ve been failing to notice, we may even be telling people about the little things happening all around them – the joy, the anger, the injustice, the love, the cultures and traditions.
  • Storytelling is your truth. Tell your truth how you want it to be told. How it actually is.
  • Storytelling is the memory and the mirror. It is history and the future, present in whatever art form you take on. Be it poetry, fiction, painting, photography or music.

Do you agree?

 

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Writing Tips

I Hate Clutter as a Writer and as a Human Being

The one thing I hate both as a writer and as a human being is clutter. I hate the sound of the word. That sound it makes when my tongue hits the roof of my mouth and pushes to the back of my teeth; clutter. It drives me nuts. And that is not the worst. It paralyzes me.

That is why I take the pain to clear my desk at the office at every given opportunity. I do this before I start work, and before I leave. It’s constant. I also do this in-between stuff. As soon as I begin to get that feeling of mess and confusion, something needs to go somewhere. Something needs to go back into its space. My mind and body cannot rest until my desk is free of junk.

When I come home it’s the same. Even though I take the pain to make sure my room is as tidy as it can be, I always find something to pick up.

The first thing I do when I wake up is to lay my bed. Note, not when I wake up in the morning, but when I wake up. So it doesn’t matter what time of the day it is. It’s been like this for years.  I do not go out of my room without straightening the sheets, and making sure the pillows, blankets, and other things are clean or neatly folded. I am always rearranging books; tearing them down and then rearranging them because I have to. They have to be orderly.

My shoes are not spared either. I want them sitting perfectly on the rack; left-right-left-right. In that order.

My wardrobe. The one place I don’t mess with. All of my girlfriends know this. I will do anything. I will give anything so they don’t do girl stuff in my wardrobe; like pick and drop. A couple even blackmailed me with that.

You’d be surprised I even hate it when the notes in my purse are jumbled. I want all of my money arranged in a particular order.

My friends think I am obsessed. I’m not. I just really hate clutter.

When I was in senior year (level 400) at the university, I had this friend. Matter of fact, I was sleeping over at her place one-time because we needed to work on our thesis. We agreed to take turns sleeping so that one of us would wake the other.

That night before she slept, I watched her arrange all of her stuff around her, on the bed, leaving just some small space for her body. She told me she could never sleep unless there was stuff on her bed. Stuff like clothes, books, whatever. I was shocked.

I was shocked because it was the exact opposite for me.

I cannot, under any circumstance, sleep with stuff on my bed. It takes my breath away. And it’s not the good kind of taking breath away. I will choke to death. My body will be restless. My mind too. And I will start to itch all over. That happens to me when I am very uncomfortable. That’s why I hate to be out in the rain, especially when it’s mud-spattered. I tend to itch.

Clutter is not my friend. Perhaps it’s even my worst enemy. It doesn’t only affect my life negatively, but my writing too.

Sometimes I tear sheets out of my journal or workbook just so I can start afresh. I’m not afraid of starting afresh because I produce better when I do. When I get ideas for a poem and I start writing something down and I try and try and it just doesn’t make any sense, I let it go. I cancel it. Tear it up. Throw the sheet away. I put it in my past and tape it there. Then forget about it. I don’t like the past haunting me. I don’t like the what ifs. I want it gone. I want a clear mind to move forward.

It doesn’t necessarily mean I forget the idea I had for the poem, no. The idea is still there. The foundation is still there. It is the construction and the structure that changes. And for the better. It’s almost 100% guaranteed for me. I produce better.

It’s maybe why I keep a lot of journals. Because I need new pages every now and then. I’m a diarist. I recently found my diaries of 10 and 15 years ago with all sorts of things in them.

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Maybe I’ll talk about that some other day.

But clutter, of any form, does not make me productive. It kills my creativity. I cannot write when my desk is a hot mess. I can’t concentrate. I feel like there’re lots of creepy little things standing on me.

It has the same effect on my life, as a person. Some years back, I deleted almost all of my contacts because I wanted to start afresh. That didn’t necessarily stop people from calling me, but it did stop me from calling people who were, more or less, not adding any kind of value to my life. It gave me a lot of space to breathe and allowed me to invest more of my time into profitable things and people.

I intend to do this often.

Another thing I do to declutter my life is that, once in a while, I turn my room around. I change the position of stuff. Like I shove the bed to the other end. I’ve been doing this for years. It leaves a feeling of newness, fresh start, and I like it. Sometimes my situations change for the better when I do this. It’s almost like my whole life turns around too, for the better.

I can’t imagine going through life without decluttering. I have learned, so far, in my life that things have to go. People have to go. To make room for others. To make room for all the better stuff.

It doesn’t mean I don’t care. It just means I care a lot about where my life is headed. People and things that make me a better person and a better writer get to come with me. Otherwise, they are left behind. They become part of a past. Part of all the things I appreciated, but had to let go to become a better person.

Opportunity cost.

 

 

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Writing Tips

‘The Flash’: Rewarding The Deserving Writer In Me

Last night (or should I say this morning) at around 12:30 am, I was doing a little writing. Earlier in the day, I had gone to my cousin for some movies. Now I’m not exactly a ‘latest movie’ buff so it didn’t bother me so much when I realized it was a 2014 Fantasy Sci-Fi. The fact that I hadn’t seen it before was enough reason for me to want to watch it.

I love such movies. Especially on days like this when I want to keep my emotions intact and watch something that has nothing to do with crying or fear. My most recent of these descriptions will be ‘Me Before You’ and ‘Conjuring 2’.

“I have this weird habit of rewarding myself for getting things done”

I remember starting with the first episode which lasted for about 40-45minutes. I continued with the second episode, after which I told myself, “I am going on a movie break to put this article together.” (No, I don’t mean this particular one). When I was done writing it, I remember telling myself again, “Let me just write this second one, then I will reward myself with another episode of ‘The Flash’.

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           Who doesn’t love colored socks btw 🙂

You know, I have this weird habit of rewarding myself for getting things done. I have always rewarded myself, somehow, for getting through work, surviving painful Mondays and irritating Sunday nights.

These little rewards, I have come to believe help to keep me focused on what I do and really do add the spark of joy that kills boredom and monotony. I mostly cannot get anything done if I feel any of these hanging emotions.

I reward myself with snacks too. Yes, I do earn my chocolate and candy bars. Sometimes I reward myself with poetry. It’s the one thing I absolutely enjoy writing. What better way to jolt my body into excitement and back on track to get some other form of work done.

Then there is music. I mostly live on Adele, Asa, Christina Perri, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Sia or go all the way back to James Brown, Michael Bolton, Tracy Chapman and Amy Winehouse. Not in that particular order.

There is also ‘social media’ rewards. That is when I allow myself a mouthful of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even get to call someone and speak to them for a minute or two.

I believe in giving back to myself someway somehow. It works. I am definitely more productive this way.

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Writing Tips

How To Create Content Your Audience Loves (learning from James Altucher)

Content creation has never been an easy task. You can ask content creators all around and they will tell you, one of the hardest parts of running a media platform; be it print or online, is developing relevant content the audience loves.

Content Creators don’t only have to look far and wide for ideas, interesting concepts are not as far-stretched as we think. What I have realized from following certain huge influencers on professional platforms like LinkedIn, is that most of these people who inspire us to be the better of ourselves in our personal and professional development plans are people who relate to us on an everyday level with everyday situations.

About a week ago, I got an email newsletter from top LinkedIn Influencer James Altucher in which he was recommending a new product, a razor blade.

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Writing Tips

3 Reasons why being a perfectionist, or your own critic is not such a bad idea

Every day I wake up, I ask myself, Can I really do this? Can I take one more day of this life I am so used to, and yet I never seem to get a hang of?

How is today going to be like? Will it be rewarding or will I go round in circles trying to link dots that never seem to connect? Will I experience something refreshing that will cause me to continue this path, or will I give in to gloom? Will I live? Will I live knowing that I have to, or will I live simply because I want to? Because I want to, live for me?

There are days when I am tired. Stressed. Exhausted from doing the damn same thing. Every. Single. Day. Days when I pull the plug on myself. No books. No poetry. No friends. No calls. Nothing, but a critical self.

I have come to realize that we, writers, have a 1000 lives. Every day, a little bit of us enters a vault. Without coffee; without cigarette, or a cat that truly understands.

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Writing Tips

How to choose the right headline for an article

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. “—David Ogilvy

A couple of weeks ago, I was working on an email newsletter for an organization I’m engaged with. Now I needed the right subject for the newsletter; something that would make people want to click to read. I mean of what use is great content if no one reads?

A colleague of mine suggested a subject I thought was too cliché. I said, ‘Everyone has heard this before. Won’t that make them roll their eyes and mark the email as ‘read’, or worse delete it, or even worse unsubscribe to the newsletter?

This was his response to me ‘Maybe it’s cliché because everyone uses it. Maybe everyone uses it because it actually works. Have you thought of that?’

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Writing Tips

Being Busy is Not An Excuse NOT to Write! by @naatakia

If you think you are too busy to write, well think again!

Afrobloggers

Being Busy is not an excuse NOT to write!

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Photo Credit: http://www.yahighway.com

The moment you launch your blog with a series of posts, and build an audience for yourself no matter how small, then comes the hard part; maintaining your cyber community.

Many blogs are on the verge of falling out for lack of posting, and blog owners tend to attribute this to not having time to write. Unfortunately, they fail to recognize the role a blog’s community plays in determining the when and what of posting.

This was my response to the question of how asked by a writer friend who had backslidden into the shadows of blogging with the inexcusable reason of being too busy.

“I’ve got a ton of things going on” he said “School work, exams, groups to manage, family to support, clients to attend to, blah blah blah

You see, I’d…

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Writing Tips

List: 5 things that are likely to put readers off your work

Some days back, I followed a link on social media to read what I thought was going to be an interesting article. I must admit, I closed the tab right after reading. Well, I didn’t exactly read the article, but parts of it. Actually, I don’t remember reading any part of it, although I did see the title. Urgh, never mind!

On a daily basis readers are bombarded with news, all sorts of links to websites and blogs, and have to struggle through the awful lot for that one link they think might be worth taking a look at only to haul their disappointed selves out of the disappointing website (and with a good chance of not returning).

A number of things are likely to put readers off an article. I recently asked a small number of people (both writers and non-writers) about what things put them off when reading a post. Not so surprising, but a few of the answers ran through.

1. Boring Articles: A ten (10) paged interesting article is likely to be read more times than a 1-2 page boring article. Readers want to read something exciting; something that will make them want to read to the last drop of ink. If the article lacks this grind, there’s a high chance that the middle and last lines will go unnoticed.

2. Hiking: Thoughts that are not clearly expressed are also likely to put readers off. Nobody wants to read a writer beat around the bush without a head and a tail, or either. It becomes a total waste of time, and a definite write-off.

3. Deception: Readers hate to be deceived. (Don’t we all?) The insatiable thirst for information does not warrant a string of attention seeking lies. Do this and you will lose your credibility as a writer for a long long time (forever is long enough right?)

4. Language defects: Common typos are not to be excused here. There’s nothing spikier than a one-paged article with a ton of language defects. It doesn’t only make readers lose interest, but the write-up loses its value too.

5. Non-Beneficial: Who wants to read something that they will not benefit from anyway? Nobody. It is clever to be smart in titling—of course, then people may follow the link to read, but when they realize the article does not in any way benefit them, don’t expect a faithful finish.

Knowing the audience for whom you write, will help you determine the language you should communicate to them in. Take a little more time to double-check your work before putting it out there. Readers don’t just want to read, they want to read good stuff.

Do have a lovely week. I’d be sharing some poetry with you soon.

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The words don’t make sense? Maybe you should trash it!

Hey everyone, this is going to be pretty much short. I’ve realized something—actually, I have tried it a couple of times and it works pretty well for me so I decided to share with you.

Just as we (writers) are probably aware of, sometimes it is writing time for our minds but not for our hearts. Those are the days we can’t seem to make enough sense of what we pen down because we get the feeling there’s something missing or it’s just off.

In our frustration, we are likely to close the book, toss it over our heads and climb out of the writing space; or worse, post it as it sucks. Let’s face it, we can’t expect our audience to ‘feel’ our works if we ourselves don’t ‘feel’ it.

Here’s the thing, there’s something else you can do that may help. Trash it.

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Yes, you heard me right. The trick I found in ‘trashing your work’ is not that you are giving up and throwing in the towel but rather, you are emptying yourself and then opening up blank new—which most often triggers better results.

In my experience, I discovered that when I trashed my work, I got more ideas. I was able to restructure my thoughts and write better.

So there! Why don’t you give it a try the next time you ‘wrongly’ string your words. Who knows, it might work for you too.

And oh, do you have any tips you’d like to share with me? I’d love to know how I can get better, and I’m sure others would want to know too 🙂

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Writing—all the reward.

Pardon me, but I definitely won’t talk about this without appreciating you!

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Today I read an article that made me think about writing, its reward and what keeps us going. I know for sure I am not the first to jump on this tunnel of thought as this is a question that chimes in the mind of many writers.

We write for various reasons—hobby, purpose, a higher calling, just for the fun of it or as an occupation. Each one of these reasons serves more or less as the brick that puts up our foundation for the art and in the long run, becomes the ‘thing’ that will get us off our life clutter to write.

Notwithstanding whatever reason pushes us to do what we do, the underlying core is that writing is something we must want to do ourselves, voluntarily, first and foremost before we can succeed at it.

Unfortunately, it seems many of us young people are not willing to go through the extremely slow budding process of this skill.

The internet—with all its advantages can afford our art, to some extent, the same platform and the same audience. However. again, this same internet with time can still sift through serious writers, fame seekers, and rush mongers.

Recently, I have heard a couple of people asking how to make money off their writing. Wanting something more than emotional and psychological fulfillment out of your art is nothing abnormal. In fact, it is only ideal. After all, making an income from what you love doing is the best.

But if writing is to be our occupation, we’ll need a lot of patience to go through small empty loops, a ton of perseverance to push through crushing dreams and more bottles of ink to practice, everyday.

No one said it would be easy. Not for us; not for those who will read our work.

If we want to take our art to the next level, how about taking our art to the next level?

Appreciating on every level, those who get stuck with our work is appreciating ourselves in the long run. When we decide to write, let us write with our readers in mind; producing relevant and useful content. That is principal.

Before I attempt a not so grand exit, I’d like to appreciate another kind of art. Thank you Sam Wise for this lovely painting of me!

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From Ghana, with love for the art, xx Naa

 

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