Tons of questions, daily, pour into my inbox from people outside the writing circle, declaring their interest in entering. Some questions are quite dignified, while others are funny and crazy. A young woman once asked me to teach her “article writing” via WhatsApp. Another once asked me “can I become a writer in a week?” Someone told me “kai kam rubutu bayi maka wahala”. What an erroneous presumption!
Allow me, in order not to give a bad impression of myself, to humbly submit that I am only a beginner writer aspiring to be a magician of the pen one day. My decision to write about “writing” this time was motivated by the fact that those who excelled are too busy to pride themselves on becoming a workhorse for aspiring writers. Either way, a point in the circle (like me?) may have something to offer. And as the saying goes “there’s love in sharing”, so I’ll share the following tips for budding writers:
1. BE PASSIONATE AND AMBITIOUS. This is, in my opinion, the first step to becoming a writer. Writing is daunting, takes time, demands attention, and is a lifelong learning process. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misleading you. But the passion and ambition within you is the driving force that will continue to propel you to defy the odds and break through the blocks on your way to the promised land. I believe that one (1) inspiration can overcome ninety-nine (99) perspirations.
Have you ever wondered why some people who read English or Mass Communication write badly or don’t write at all? But others, who are trained scientists, write professionally. Medical doctors, zoologists, agronomists, among others, write well. This is to tell you that writing is a product of passion and ambition. Regardless of what you read, you can be a quintessential writer.
2. MASTER YOUR LANGUAGE. A reasonable command of the language is a prerequisite for any writer who wants to be taken seriously by his readers. Not necessarily the English language, but any language you write in. Master the language to the level that the native speaker will appreciate you. No one can afford to spend their time reading garbage in the name of writing. No one will take you seriously when your writing is full of grammatical errors, sentence fragments, dangling modifiers, inconsistent and disjointed sentences and paragraphs.
3. READ. I know of no better way for a writer to improve than to take a keen interest in reading. Reading good writing is what makes good writers. And the volume of the text you read must outweigh the volume of what you write. For example, when you have to write a single article, you must read and analyze at least fifty articles. Before writing a single book, read and review a thousand books. Do you know that when a writer stops reading, it is reflected in their writing?
4. HAVE MODEL(S) AND MENTOR(S). Any profession in which one wants to excel, they must have people they admire. Different writers have different writing styles. As a budding young writer, identify your heroes, admire them, and read them more. If having role models will help you raise the bar of your success by dreaming bigger, having mentors will help you be on the right track towards the promised land. Mentors are a blessing; they show you the way and when you feel like giving up, they boost your confidence.
5. WRITE FREQUENTLY. It is impossible to learn writing by theory; it is learned through the practical application of theoretical ideas. Just as muscles get stronger through exertion, writing improves through frequent practice. If you write frequently, you will find that your writing today is better than your writing yesterday. Your writings this week are better than those of the previous weeks. It’s magic about it and so, never get tired of writing, if you want to become a good writer.
6. HAVE AN AREA OF INTEREST. A writer should specialize in a given area, preferably the area that interests him the most. For example, some people love sports, some people follow all the trends in politics, some people love entertainment, some people love terrorism, and so on. The wisdom behind identifying the area of interest is that whatever interests you, you won’t find it too intimidating, but rather fun and it will push you to break the glass ceiling. But that doesn’t mean limiting yourself to just one area; a good writer should have the ability to write on every topic under the sun.
7. DON’T BE FOOLED BY ENCOMIUMS: Writers who get carried away with flattery are likely to feel complacent. Most of the praise coming from people is not genuine and this has led to the downfall of many writers. Some people will overestimate you, others will send you a positive response even without reading you. However, positive responses are motivating, but be relaxed, know your level and keep improving.
8. ACCEPT CORRECTIONS AND KEEP LEARNING. No one has a monopoly on this profession. There is no level of professionalism a writer can achieve where he is above error. Even internationally acclaimed writers make mistakes. Always keep your doors open for corrections, learn from them and keep learning every day.
Maijama’a is a student at the Faculty of Communication, Bayero University, Kano