A story on why I almost quit writing and the people who pulled me out of my mental block
I don’t know where you get your best ideas from but I get mine when I am in the kitchen washing dishes; I have written about this before in a post back in my old domain (SUZAN WRITES). You will not be able to find it anymore because I deleted the old free site.
Yes! I took the plunge and opened a new chapter in my blogging ‘’career’’. It was supposed to be a big break especially since I had always wanted this to happen. I did not pay a dime to set the whole thing up – that was how blessed I was by dope people. I work with a team of brilliant creatives in Lagos and I got a domain as a ”benefit package” from my boss who owns a travel-tourism agency called AFROTRIPS.
It was a miracle getting the domain and website set up and I realized how incredibly lucky I was to be surrounded by people who cared about my progress. I was going to crush this blogging thingy, I said to myself. I could now hold up a tag that says ‘’Hi, I am Sue and I own a blog called Blackprowriter’’. I could go on conferences and be proud to say I was not using a free site host. I could connect with a larger audience and gain a new following. I could do all this and many more. Yes, I could!
And then BAM! I lost my Juice.
Hold on… pee break.
Think of a writer’s block and then multiply it a million times – that was what I had. I literally went blank! Shit! I could not even write a two hundred word post. It was like I was hit by a mind paralysis or something and it projected towards my writing.
All this was happening while I was doing my internship program at the University of Ibadan teaching and research farm. I had imagined for years that I was going to have a wonderful experience during my IT year. Alas! It was shit. It did not even last more than a month. I was supposed to explore the city of Ibadan, make friends and then create content within the city. It did not happen. What happened was this – I was working everyday of the week from morning to night which meant I did not have time to even do any bit of exploring. I was fucking broke and so all I had on me was transport fare money, I was lucky to stay with family so housing and feeding was free. But I was not doing what I wanted to do. It was really boring and the worst part was I was not writing.
I thought I was having a writer’s block; I get one of those a couple of times and I get over it. I figured I would get over this too. Omo, I was jonzing. This one was going to be my worst nightmare… I just did not know it yet.
Then, something good happened. I got a writing job.
Hold on… pee break. I pee a lot. Sue me.
I think it was June… yes it was June. And I got contacted by one of the people who sourced out freelancing jobs to me. He told me he got me a job. I was like okurrrrr! He said he needed me to ghost-write a novel from scratch. This was not unusual because I had done something similar last year. If you are familiar with freelancing you’d know there is always a time frame; you cannot take a job and run off to sunset with it. You gotta beat the deadline and mine was 6 weeks. So I had six weeks to write a novel of sixty-five thousand words.
I figured it would be cool and I could make some money during my internship year. I thought it would be a quick fix. It was a huge deal but my broke ass just focused on the money I was going to be paid after; I did not even think of the process. I figured ‘’hey, I have been doing this for years, I even wrote a 40000 words novel last year. This should not hard’’
And that was when the nightmare began!
It was not so hard in the beginning; I just had to figure out a way to fit it into my already crazy schedule. I started to build a story for this novel. It was going to be a romantic contemporary story. I got the first plot ready, I began to type. I would type at nights after I got back from work at the farm. I was feeling giddy plus I was encouraging myself with the pay. And then I could not write shit. The plot was stupid and I had to start all over again. Best believe I cancelled three plot lines. THREE!!! I was messed up. I did not know what was happening to me. I wanted it to be the best and so I did not want to go for a story that would not stretch over 65000 words. My perfectionist syndrome got the best of me. I was two weeks in and I had not even written two thousand words.
I tried to calm my nerves. I told myself I could do this. And then I got a story line that worked. I began to type. I would wake up in the midnight just so I could type when NEPA restored the light
And please can we talk about why NEPA brings back the light when people are already sleeping?
I would jot down chapters in my book and then transfer it when I charged my laptop. I was finally writing this story and I had seen the finish line before I even got there.
Dude who gave me a job was checking up on me, I told him I was handling it. He was scared I could not do this, said something about him doubting if I had the juice. I was pissed because he was pouring on me a shitload of pressure that I did not need. I needed him to let me handle it. I did not need him to doubt me, it was not helping. The pressure got to me, I thought why would he believe in me if I did not believe in myself?
It sucked but it was not shocking. It was just a hurdle I needed to jump. I told him I could do this job, but at the same time I was convincing myself I could do the job. So I continued with the story. I sent the a draft of four thousand words to the client for review; this was for the client to decide whether they would like me to go on with the story or not. I was waiting for a reply.
And then my school sent a mail – we were asked to resume back to school to sit for our internship exams.
I thought I had more time but I had none. I was freaking out. How was I going to complete this novel with my exams coming up in just two weeks? I had fourteen courses to study for and a novel to write. I was so fucked that I had to ask for an extension from the client; I got three weeks extra because the client approved the first draft I sent. This was good news but it was just to buy me some time.
I had to battle BAD electricity, study sessions, and life generally. I still don’t know how I did not lose weight to be honest. I was mentally stressed and at a point I was going to quit. I want to give up and admit failure. I thought about sending a mail up and passing up the job but it did not make sense. I had already started, why not finish it?
So I continued…
On July 30, I cut my hair for the second time after going natural for two years.
I had 14 courses to prepare for that I would have to complete within a 3-day exam period. It was messed up, it was like I was going to breakdown. I did breakdown at one point, but it was not because of my exams it was because I was exhausted from all the writing I was doing. I did not have much time and I had to meet deadline. I was writing 3000 words per day. Y’all know how plenty 3000 words is? This book had to be perfect and it had to be submitted on time, so I did not have much choice. i battled NEPA palava by staying at BIZZ’s crib to type on my laptop with generator; his crib was like a safe box where inspiration lived. It was my kinda vibe – music, red cups and in most part seclusion. He would check up and ask how close I was to the finish line and then leave me to keep going. I would return back home in the evening, Deji would buy me takeouts because my broke ass could not even afford decent meals. He is a real one! This became my routine for a while; wake, type, edit, (cry) sleep, repeat…
I was failing at delivering my job. It was one of the most heartbreaking part of this whole ordeal. There was no way I could explain to the people who employed me to write that I could not write. Who says that? It did not make any sense. Why can’t I do the one thing I was meant to do? I think at point I thought about quitting my job as a content creator in Lagos. I could not keep up; I was studying for exams in Ogbomosho, I was ghostwriting for someone FAR FAR AWAY, I was not blogging anymore. I just wanted to pick up the call and tell them to fire me or something but I knew it was the frustration talking. This job would end one day and what would become of me if I throw away the other things in my life that I had worked hard for?
I wrote my exams, wrote my Internship report, did A LOT of home works. It was not fulfilling to be honest but I was just happy to cross it of my ”TO-DO” list.
On August 10, I hit 65000 words and I remembered thinking of the first day I got this job. How I promised myself that I was not going to get attached to this book but in the end I did – the characters were not mine. I did not own them after all but they felt like mine. It was like being a surrogate mum; promised yourself you were not going to get attached but you did and it sucked a bit to let go of the connection you’ve had with the baby and in my case a book.
I let go eventually because apart from the nostalgic feeling, I was honestly done with the book mentally. I could not focus on any other writing during those weeks – which explains why I have been offline for a while. I could not write any other thing. I was stuck. After I sent in the book, I remembered falling into a deep sleep that afternoon. I was fucking exhausted. When I woke up, I exited my Microsoft Word; I was tired of seeing that bitch! I needed a vacation from the endless typing I could finally go back to blogging, I said to myself. But I could not. I was drained mentally and physically, I was falling behind in my social media presence. I felt like I was losing the online presence I had built. I had really hit rock bottom… it felt like that. I lost my chi.
It was not like I did not try to write, I did but I was enveloped with fear of ”what if”. I had been gone for so long, how was I going to hop into the train of blogging again? I am barely known in the community of bloggers. I was having less audience by the year; I was not growing. I was not where I wanted to be. Jesus! I was spiraling down the rabbit hole of self-doubt. There was nothing I could do to pull myself up. So I talked to someone about it; my girl Bisola. I told her my plans of plunging into documentary photojournalism and she told me to JUST DO IT and not overthink things.
You can put it out there. Putting out there challenges you because then it means you have outed yourself and you can’t let your audience down. Pour out what you want for your online presence and the next step. You don’t need to doubt your awesomeness because you are that cool. The motivation you need is right inside you.”
One of my oldest friends Oluwatise and I were talking like we used to; with hilarious conversations we had both invented and made our own over the years of intimacy and friendship. He had just graduated from Uni and he was talking of his struggle of growing his footwear business in Nigeria. I told him I could not write since I ended my ghostwriting gig and he said,
Give it time, you are rushing. You used a lot of inspiration and perspective for the book. Even Jesus felt power leave him when the woman touched his cloth. You’ll take time to refill. You are good. You are the BLACKPROWRITER.”
Yeah… Tise is excellent with 1. biblical analogies and 2. reminding me of my strength. He is cool like that.
So I listened to what he said and I let myself rest. In the meantime, I began to prepare drafts in my journal for the themes and directions I want to explore once I began to blog. I did a video with Yemi in Ogbomoso with a vintage vibe, I did a photo shoot with Loba (the greatest photographer of our time) and I worked with Loba and Bizz on a video exploring hair and its (mis)interpretations in Nigeria. These were my people, my creative pals who were always ready to create magic with me. I was working and I was not working at the same time, but I did not mind because I was finally creating again. The creative fatigue and fog clouding my mind was fading, one journal entry at a time.
And here we are…
Our 20s can be the best time of our lives, and it can be the worst. It is our years of setting expectations higher than we can handle and feeling upset when we do not meet them. Our generation found a complicated route in our 20s and we took it. We are chasing dreams, we are having sleepless nights. You do not realize how far you have fallen off the grid until someone pulls you up and remind you of why you started your journey in the first place. I do not even need to nudge my friends to support me before they do. It is a warm heartfelt gesture that leaves me in tears… like actual tears. So this is for you, you who have been there to remind me of all these. You are my hero.
Guys, it pays to surround yourself with people who support your dreams. People who are not going to let you give up on yourself. I treasure the ones in my life more than anything else. And these are just highlights. My friends are irreplaceable and I am grateful. I got paid last week for the book I wrote and I bought a camera. i can finally create the visual content with ease. I am still learning how to handle a DLSR but I am not quitting this. I am not leaving this earth with ideas in me. I am a writer and it makes me so extraordinary. It is the only way I can get people to listen to me and if I am going to make a change, I cannot quit. But importantly whatever happens, I have people who care enough about me to tell me to keep pushing.
Do I have all my shit together? Err… fuck no! But one day at a time, I will figure it all out if I 1. focus on my goals 2. Do not walk away from my problems and 3. figure out how to make use of a calender/planner.
I titled this visual “Nomad” because for a while I was wandering. But I guess sometimes we have to get lost before we find ourselves.
Olamide encouraged me to write about this; he said I could pour it out and let it begin my new journey. I hope he reads this…
I hope they all read this…
LOCATION – UNDER G, OGBOMOSO
PHOTOGRAPHED BY – LOBA THE PHOTOGRAPHER
FOLLOW HIM ON INSTAGRAM – LOBA THE PHOTOGRAPHER
READ HIS FEATURE STORY – LOBA – A FEATURE STORY