Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Yellow Oranges

The title of this post is a tribute to my dear best friend who was worried by some of my recent entries, particularly "The Blues." She felt that my posts have become increasingly negative about life in general, and more specifically about life in Nigeria. We had a good discussion and I (think I) convinced her that all was well and that my posts merely reflected my feelings at the time.

However, it made me start thinking about the nature of writing: what makes 'good' writing; is writing more authentic if it’s drawn from real-life experiences (and conversely, is it false if it’s not)? I think I read somewhere that good writing comes from looking deep into your heart and pulling out emotions that you might not really want to deal with. Growing up, I had always equated good writing with the ability to create worlds that were miles away from yours. Now, I think that good writing could lie anywhere between the two ends of this spectrum.

When I was younger, my burning ambition was to be a writer. Somewhere along the way that dream died-out as I adopted more 'realistic' goals. I also became extremely self-conscious about my writing, refusing to show them to anyone (whereas before I had been only too eager to show my stuff to anyone who would sit with me long enough to read even a page). I became convinced that this new trait meant that I could never be a writer – I mean how are you going to share your writing with potentially the whole world, if you can’t even bear to have a few friends read your work?

My stance now with this blog is to write whatever feels comfortable. If it feels too personal, then I will not share it. However, the longer I write in this blog, the more I find that my boundaries of what’s fine to share are being pushed and stretched to limits that I could not have imagined. I have always wondered how so many writers and journalists are able to lay open their feelings with seemingly such ease. I’m beginning to understand how. When even a little speck of an idea tugs at you and begs to be written, you HAVE to write it. And the more you write, the more insistent these urges become.

14 comments:

adefunke said...

I find increasingly that my limits of whats personal and whats not have been challenged writing my blog. For me I think the challenges arise as a result of my increasing comfort in my 'surroundings'. I have also found that ideas now are like dobermans - the bite and then their jaws lock!

Ore said...

I agree with you about becoming more comfortable in your surroundings i.e. the blogosphere, cyberspace, or whatever else you want to call it.

As I become more comfortable, the trick is for me to remember that I'm not just sharing with one or two friends, but really with millions of people who I don't know.

Pilgrimage to Self said...

I was thinking about the exact same thing yesterday! How weird.

I find I write best when I am being honest and writing what I feel. For instance I don't do well writing essay's because the topic has been chosen for me. I cannot get into it and so write badly. However, when writing with emotion (or feelings) the danger is to get too personal, so I keep things I don't want to share away from my blog and firmly in my Journal. There is always that secret fear that your loved ones may stumble on your blog (thats why I blog anonymously). Hmm, I feel a blog entry coming on...
But I so enjoy keeping this blog. My writing matures with each entry (I think) and I am free to explore and test my limits without fear of criticism (it's not really the writing that is criticised on a blog but the opinion of the blogger, n'est pas?).
Like you I used to write as well when I was younger but I wrote poems. I have written about 120 poems but never published any and showed them to very, very few people. They are very personal and raw and written during a period of my life when I was dealing with all these turbulant inner emotions. Translate that into having my heart broken into a million pieces, over and over again:-). Sigh.When I read them now they still have the ability to transport me back to 10, 15 years ago. Haaa, sorry for rambling on!

Anonymous said...

We need more writing African/black women. We need us to share our interior life, our vision of the world we see and want to see. We need to move beyond fear and start making public our words/world. There is so much to be told about what it means to be who we are at this historical moment, we must use all the different media/medium at our disposal. Thankfully, the blogsphere has provided one such avenue. Our words, however, raw might open up something for somebody else, they may ease and provide solace to another. have you come across the African American poet/writer Sapphire? Her poems are so raw, like an open blistering wound. Yet so many people connect with her. 120 poems thats a lot to remain in the closet - you must have no room for clothes!

If we don't share them, we'll never know how good or bad they are. The difference between you and those who gets published is one of sheer confidence, total self-belief and lack of choice. In my case, I write and get published (not because of self-belief or sheer confidence, but because I feel I owe it to the generation to come). Ore, I hope that you will slowly return to that childhood yearning to express and share your vision with others. Lagos is full of stories dying to be told.

women keep writing.

B

sokari said...

I think you are all very brave - I have written some personal stuff on BL including a few poems but generally I hide behind "more serious stuff!" - even saying that is embarassing!. I do write a journal entry most days but keep it all in a private blog called Strange Fruit and I have loads of poems. I can rarely write poems unless I going through some pain or am in a far away peaceful place. I think if I started over again I would be able too. But after 18 months of people being used to seeing one side of me - showing the real me is very scary. Also I have experienced abuse via my blog and that makes me feel quite vulnerable.

I just spent about an hour this afternoon writing but to publish it, its so personal - I mean about me - so not sure I can or not. ahhhhh so give me a few minutes to think about this and I will see if I can put it up or not. Meanwhile thanks and praises to you all!

BTW - adefunke, I note you are also a gooner girl - brilliant eh?

sokari said...

Apologies to everyone - "serious" is completely the WRONG word here and is quite insulting to even think that. Everything you and everyone else writes is "serious". I mean to say "non-personal". That just about sums up writing online for me - you cannot alter what has already been said -wow!

Anonymous said...

Owukori I do understand you feeling vulnerable by some of the crit on your blog, you must not despair. You get more praise than crit. Crit is also a way for us to learn new things, unlearn old stuff (if need be). I think when you need to share your work publically you will know. you're doing a great thing with your blog. keep blogging you all. writing is important , criticism is just as important. lets us always remember that.


b

Pilgrimage to Self said...

@ Anonymous:'The difference between you and those who get published is one of sheer confidence, total self-belief and lack of choice.'
How true! I think my biggest fear is being laughed at because my poems are so deeply personal to me and each one relates directly to an event that happened in my life. But perhaps I should take the plunge... afterall, one never knows what can happen until you try. Any handy tips on how to go about getting published?

Anonymous said...

you can begin by either setting up a seperate blog to publish your creative stuff and let people comment on it and then see what happens. Or you can incorporate it as part of your existing blog as a starter. Let me tell you now Poetry doesn't sell, however, it shouldn't stop you from writing there are many outlets for publishing poems. Will have to get you the info later. But first, get your stuff out there. There will be people who love it and others who hate it. It is part of the joy and pain of publishing. So go on, start today by putting your stuff on your blog and let it out into the blogsphere.

Ore said...

I agree! Confidence and pure guts is definitely important in becoming the writers that we know we can be. Humility, as I heard a writer say, is also an important quality for writers, as you need to be able to accept constructive critism and grow from it. It is surely as important to be able to examine the critiques and decide what feedback is important and what is not. It's probably not so easy to do that at the early stages of the writing journey though.

There is definitely a lot of feedback that is given with the intent to hurt and not to help improve. But, since we don't live in a perfect world and these are things that we will have to face as writers, I suppose the sooner we start to develop the skills to accept criticsm, the better.

Sokari: For all it's worth, I think your blog is a VERY important resource for Africans (and especially for women).

B: Thanks for all your great advice and encouragement.

sokari said...

There are lots of places you can go to publish your poetry that costs nothing. Cafe Press - not so great but worth a try; g21.net; lulu.net; authors den; there are some sites where you can publish and people only pay when they order a copy. A friend of mine many years back published a short story himself and then took a few copies round to all the book shops in London - he did pretty well and ended up getting quite a following. Unforutnately I lost touch with him a few years ago but he just stuck with it.

sokari said...

Just one more comment here. Myself and two other women are thinking of starting a blog for specifically publishing African women's writing. Maybe you could all join in if and when you please and it could be a way of getting your work published either annoymously or under your own name. Will let you know when it materialises sometime between now and April - at least it may be a way of testing the waters to see what kind of response you get - if thats what you want.
I cannot tell you how refreshing this is for me. For so long I have felt out there on my own but I feel I have found a safe group of women here. A safe place means so much.

BTW I did manage to go ahead and publish what I wrote and have decided to continue for a few days before I get the bug to write someting outside of myself.

Nkem said...

I'm a journalist, and a (relatively) starving one at that. I feel sorry for my family because I see intriguing family secrets as potential material. I'll expose anything, including personal ones, that seem to be a good story for the sake of my "art". It's what we do, bare our souls, and the souls of others.

Everchange said...

Nkem I feel sorry for your family and for mine as well! I can definitely relate to feeling the urge to characterize family members and friends. They are all so interesting and quirky.