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Balaraba Ramat Yakubu

The image of the writer hunched over a notebook or scribbling deliriously for long stretches of time at a lamp-lit desk is a fantasy in more ways than one. For many, the act of writing takes place in the most bizarre places, in part, because life is messy and time is scarce.

If you’re an aspiring writer and still dreaming of that perfect place, time, and condition for writing, the chances are that you’ll stay dreaming for a really long time. Let Balaraba Ramat Yakubu inspire you to take a more guerrilla and in-the-moment approach to your writing.

Balaraba Ramat Yakubu is the bestselling Nigerian novelist you’ve probably never heard about. She is popular among readers of Soyyaya novels—romance fiction written in Hausa.

Aljazeera recently profiled her and revealed a lot of fascinating details about her life. Yakubu was pulled out of primary school at 12 and married off to a 40 year old man, who divorced her soon after. An illiterate divorcee at 14 or so, Yakubu went back to school, but in secret. She told her father that she was attending sewing school.

We are talking about a woman who realized early on in life that she had to be improvisational in her approach to life. In spite of a really rough start, she went on to help invent the Soyyaya literary phenomenon. One of her nine novels, Sin Is a Puppy That Follows You Home, would become the first Soyayya novels to be translated in English and to gain global recognition.

balaraba-ramat-yakubu2

Just as Yakubu fought her way to getting an education and becoming a successful writer, she isn’t one to wait for ideal writing conditions.

As the Aljazeera article reveals:

When Yakubu starts writing, she writes everywhere: in the kitchen, in the car, and even on her phone when there is no pen nearby. Her grown-up son Muhammed remembers how he and his siblings would know their mother was in her writing mode. They would find her on a mat in the living room, resting on a pillow: a pen in her hand, lost in her story. [read full article here]

That right there is the adaptive spirit essential to becoming a successful writer. Writing is a very soldierly activity. It takes being ready to work anytime, everywhere, and in whatever condition. Your writing process should adapt to the irregularities that life throws at you.

Seek out ways to write on the go. Be creative about making time for yourself to write.

 

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Post image by Femke van Zeijl/Al Jazeera via aljazeera.com

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

4 Responses to “Balaraba R. Yakubu Writes in the Kitchen, in the Car, on Her Phone | A Lesson for Aspiring Writers” Subscribe

  1. Chestlyn Draghoender March 11, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    Truely an inspiring story for me. I’m humbled by this women’s determination and willingness to work hard and chase after her dream of becoming the writer that she is today.

    Great article!

  2. Kay March 12, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    If you’re an aspiring writer and still dreaming of that perfect place, time, and condition for writing, the chances are that you’ll stay dreaming for a really long time.

  3. CluelessWriter March 12, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    Wow, when you write till your hand bleeds#writing goals

  4. Rachel March 17, 2016 at 5:59 am #

    Now that’s determination!

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