The dream of becoming a writer is a beautiful dream. But the journey to achieving that dream can be long, lonely and exhausting. African writers often face the added difficulties of harsh economic conditions, not to mention the scarcity of publishing opportunities. For the vast majority of African writers living on the continent, producing work takes a considerable amount of effort and sacrifices.
A couple of weeks before the year’s end, Socrates Mbamalu penned a heartfelt Facebook note drawing attention to these difficulties. He opens up about his struggles as a writer but how, in spite of all the difficulties he’s faced, he finds joy and fulfillment.
Mbamalu is a hard working writer. He is active in the literary community. He is supportive of fellow writers. What he says in this post comes from a place of honesty and strength.
If you’re an aspiring writer, read this. If you’ve ever thought of quitting because of how hard it is, we hope you find something in Mbamalu’s post to hold on to. We hope it inspires you to stay the course.
This year has been crazy in its own way. At the 2015 Ake Arts and Book Festival, I met Frankie Edozien. He’s been one of the few people that I keep up with. If there’s anyone I have learnt so much from, it’s this man that opened up himself to me. Giving me free advice that I should be paying for. Guiding me and prodding me in his own way. I’ve never been more grateful to meet someone else.
After NYSC this year, I wondered how life would be. It’s strange telling anyone that you want to just write fully, especially in a country like this. It’s even strange to fellow writers whose one question is, how would you survive. And I guess this is when one realises that where there is a will there is a way. But asides that, when hunger strikes, you turn to Providence. Some days are dark. Tangibly dark that the only escape is eternal exit. Many don’t know what one goes through. Not many even understand that the only thing you can do is bleed words and nothing else. They consider it pure folly to depend on words to fill the belly. At the 2015 Writivism workshop, Mazi Nwonwu said he made his living out of writing. I couldn’t believe it. But it was the only encouragement I needed to take that bold step to just focus on my writing and accept whatever that came with it as the dues paid to my art and craft.
So during my NYSC stay in Anambra, when Chimezie introduced me to a place I could buy books, I decided on the final path I’d take and bought as many books as I could. In this period of recession, I just go to the store of books I have. But again, man must chop. It’s sometimes difficult getting writing gigs. Older writers seem a little distant from younger writers. Younger writers feel disillusioned and wonder how they’ll survive. And writers generally seem to keep whatever gigs they have within their particular circle.
I really don’t know how Dami Ajayi and I grew close. Of course I’d heard stories of his genius from Emeka Oyiana Emeka. But I didn’t know the man personally. But all I can say is strangers become friends, friends become brothers. When you have an older writer that pushes you. Encourages you to do this and that. To apply for this and that. And also gets you gigs. And also feels very proud of you when you get into some very contested prizes, then you have a great friend and should learn as much as possible from such person.
This year has been good and challenging. This year has shown me that it is only human to break bounds and never allow restrictions. It’s also shown me that friends aren’t to be taken for granted. Thanks Romeo for being there when my darkness overshadowed the joy of life and when my demons pushed me to dangerous limits.
To a limitless 2017 where we break more boundaries.
Socrates Mbamalu, December 18, 2016
If these words spoke to you, please share it with someone you know who needs inspiration to pursue their dreams.