I recently thought about my writing journey which officially began last September on Facebook, followed by my setting up my blog, www.classicallyivy.com last October. If thinking were an Olympic event, I would have won all the available gold medals at the last Olympic Games! Since I am a writer, thinking definitely comes with the territory; whether it is trying to come up with new story ideas or trying to conjure up a great ending for a poem. I have learned several lessons since writing my very first post and these lessons are definitely relevant to everyday life.
Here are ten life lessons which I have learned from writing:
1. Look Inwards For Answers.
In September 2015, I realized that I did not know what attributes I wanted to be known for. I wanted to do something positive and creative, so I spent a lot of time thinking about what my talents were.
I wanted to know: What was it that I had been consistently good at throughout my life?
After a lot of soul-searching, I realized that I had wrongly been looking on the outward for validation, when the fact was that I had been known as a good writer for a long time.
I just hadn’t been paying attention.
Sometimes we feel like we have no talent or vision, but the answers we are looking for are right there under our noses.
What are you good at? What do others struggle with that you can do with ease? Until you can answer these questions, your talents will remain untapped.
2. Planning Is Key.
I tend to have an obsessive personality, and this has come in very handy as a writer!
I use WordPress for my blog, where you can save your writing in drafts and post them anytime you are ready to do so. So, I always have at least three drafts of blog posts at any given time. I may not post them for weeks, but seeing the drafts there makes me feel less stressed out about putting up blog posts consistently.
I try to carry this principle out in other areas of my life. I plan my outfit for work the day before. I start packing for a journey a week to the travel date to make sure that I do not forget anything. Even though I am generally an organized person, I can also be quite forgetful, so this gives room for me to plan ahead and accomplish other goals without worrying over small details.
3. Set Your Own Pace.
Before I started my writing blog, I read a lot of tips online about how to go about it. A very popular tip was centred on being consistent, with a lot of experts suggesting that I would need to write blog posts every day to keep my blog traffic very high.
I tried to do this but I felt so stressed out about it, and it took out all the fun from the writing process. I had to make a decision that I would put up new posts 2-3 times a week. I would work at my own pace to make sure that the quality of the posts was great.
Sometimes, we look at others and wish that we were at the same level as they are. We end up putting ourselves under pressure in trying to meet up with this ‘imaginary competition’. I have learned to just focus on myself and my journey, and I believe that by doing this, everything will work out for the best.
4. You Are Good, But You Can Be Better.
Once I built my confidence about my writing abilities, I started to look for ways to improve my skills. I read a lot of books, took online writing courses and read the works of those writers I greatly admired.
I think it’s easy to become complacent when you record some success. If you allow this happen to you, you’ll end up becoming stagnant and not making the kind of progress you could be making. I am a firm believer in lifelong learning, so even if it turns out that you are very good in your creative pursuits, always know that you can be better.
5. Be Kind to Yourself.
This is a very tough one. As a writer, I have gone through many stages of self-doubt- worrying that no one would read my work or get the point I made in my Facebook or blog posts, getting rejected when I entered my work in writing competitions or being given no feedback at all when I send out article pitches. These things can be very demoralizing and could make you withdraw. You start to doubt your value and your purpose in life, and this is when the negative self-talk begins.
When these things happened to me, I had to take a step back. I asked myself why I was being so hard on myself. The talent and the drive to do the work were in me, so why was I getting distracted by a few setbacks? With a lot of prayers, meditation and positive self-talk, I have gone back to allowing my writing to be a tool which makes me happy. Any other milestone which comes out of it is a bonus, because writing-the ability to express myself in interesting ways-is really a reward in itself.
6. Celebrate The Success Of Others.
Writing is mainly driven by creativity and self-expression, but it is also an achievement-driven pursuit. Winning writing competitions, publishing books and writing for highly-rated publications are only a few of the possible achievements which one could achieve as a writer.
When you find yourself in a space where others are excelling at their pursuits, it is essential that you celebrate their successes. Share the story of their success with your followers on social media. Celebrating the success of others does not diminish your own ability to be just as successful. Success stories should inspire you to keep working hard to achieve your own goals.
7. Develop Thick Skin-and fast.
Being a writer is basically like cutting your hand, bleeding over a sheet of paper and hoping that your readers like the colour of your blood. There is a lot of vulnerability involved in writing but this is an important part of the process.
Getting feedback as a writer is essential as it builds your confidence and helps you to make improvements on your work.
However, just as not everyone you meet will like you, not everyone who reads your work will like it. It is just a simple fact which you have to accept. Accept constructive criticism but know when to draw the line between that and verbal abuse.
8. Passion Cannot Be Faked.
When I started my blog, I began by writing down a list of topics I which I was very interested in. One topic which stood out was celebrity gossip. Reading about the latest celebrity wedding or laughing at a celebrity meme was one of my favourite pasttimes.
I then asked myself: Am I interested enough in celebrity gossip to write about it? The answer was an emphatic NO.
I then decided to stick to what I really enjoyed: writing stories about relationships, articles about my life experiences and poetry about love, shoes and other random things. When I do mention celebrities, it is always in a specific context, for example, my favourite Kanye West songs.
I believe that we should always try to be true to ourselves in our pursuits. People can usually sense when you are not being real in your interactions with them.
9. Gratitude Increases Success.
When I started my writing journey, I had very small goals. All I wanted to do was to write on my blog. I got so excited whenever my blog statistics showed that one person had viewed a post of mine! I always said a silent ‘thank you’ to anyone who left a nice comment or who liked my posts (I still do this).
One year later, I sometimes get overwhelmed when I think about all the good things which have happened since then-multiple articles featured on reputable websites and blogs, two poetry readings and one self-published collection of poetry.
I strongly believe that my being thankful for small achievements has created room for greater achievements to come my way. Forgive the cliché, but having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is a wonderful thing.
10. Surround yourself with positive people.
As a writer, I walk a thin line between being confident in my abilities and relying on the feedback of others. Whatever your life pursuits are, it is very important to have a great support system of people who always encourage you and give you advice in a constructive way.
This is so important because you will encounter negativity at every turn while pursuing your goals. The negativity may be loud, or it may be silent, but it is mostly about people not believing in you, or not being able to accept that you do not wish to be stagnant.
I get the support I need from my mother, brothers, immediate family and friends. It is a nice feeling when you can share your success with people who are genuinely happy for you.
About Ivie Eke:
Ivie is an NGO Professional and a Writer of poems, stories and essays on her blog, www.classicallyivy.com. She has also written articles for genevieveng.com and sheleadsafrica.org. She is the author of the poetry collection, ‘Looking for myself and my phone charger’ which is available on Okada Books. She loves writing, reading novels and eating mangoes.