BLOGGING IS DAMN HARD WORK

blogging is hard work

I’ve always had a dream of the perfect job.

–          Wake up to write by 7am in the morning,

–          Take a break by noon,

–          Have lunch on the balcony facing the ocean,

–          listen to Shania Twain in the evening while strolling on the beach with the missus.

In essence, doing all the things a 9 to 5 job will not permit you to do.

I know lots of people also have that dream, of one day quitting their 9-5 job. But let me ask a question I recently asked myself: do you have the right dream?

Are you in love with the idea of not working? Or do you really just want to spend all day doing things you actually care about?

If you have dreams of being an author, are you in love with the idea of being a writer? Or do you really want to write? To write is to change the world. To write is to expose yourself to cynics, critics, pirates and never enough fans.

To write is to give.

I like to write, to read, to learn, to understand why things are the way they are. To explore new worlds and experience adventures beyond real world possibility.

It’s good to ask these questions and provide brutally honest answers to them because, the truth will set you free.

I went on this brutal truth journey. Here is what I discovered about myself.

I hated school. Rather than being given the opportunity to follow your imagination, being creative and exploring new ways of doing things, you were forced to cram for tests and exams. If you tried to be too clever, you got marked down by your lecturers. After a while you get bogged down into a rut. And having to rein in my creative juices was, believe it or not, pretty depressing.

I thought blogging would be different. I thought it would be easier. I thought it would be fun. Afterall, it’s just writing stuff all day, everyday, right?

Wrong!

Blogging is definitely more fun than being a robot that just regurgitated info. But it is damn hard work. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done.

It’s Emotionally Demanding – I face self doubt everyday, wondering if I really should be writing. Wondering if I’m good enough. I have a voice behind my ear that whispers, “Stop wasting your time. Nobody wants to read this nonsense. Get another hobby.” Some of my competition spend 4-8 hours on a blog post! Some rival bloggers have 5-8 years of archived content! That’s enough to discourage anybody.

It is Mentally Draining – A weekly goal of at least 2 blog posts per day seemed like a good idea during the first few weeks I started this blog. But the reality dawned some 5 posts later when I realized I had to write 104 posts – well thought out, fresh ideas presented in logical and entertaining new ways. Let’s just say the coffee machine gets a good workout. All these coupled with the fear of failure and I wonder why I’m not yet seeing a therapist.

And Physically Dangerous – Sitting hunched over a computer keyboard is not the best posture for a young adult. I go to bed with cramps.

But the catch is this: despite the fact that it’s hard work, despite the insecurity, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Writing is a passion thing. I’m passionate about writing, about telling stories, about learning and sharing information with others.

Recently someone told me I influenced her decision to start her blog. Getting up in the morning thinking, “maybe I can get another person to feel like that” is a good enough reason to keep coming back to this keyboard.

And that makes it worth it. Everyday.

Advertisements

WHY NIGERIAN ADVERTS SUCK (& HOW TO FIX THEM)

TV ads suck

There is one thing that makes me cringe every day – Nigerian TV commercials.

Consider exhibit A

Now see a similar Television commercial, for the same product, from another country.

Simple. Creative. Classy.

Seems like it was done on another planet right? I actually find it impossible to believe it’s the same product that’s being advertised. And this isn’t a one-off event. It happens a lot.

So, let me ask the question on everyone’s mind. What the heck is going on? Why can’t Nigerian ad agencies churn out mentally challenging, emotionally charged 30-60 second commercials?

I’ll tell you why. Because the people who own the product are scared. So they play it safe.

They are afraid Nigerians are too intellectually limited that they won’t be able to grasp high concept, really creative commercials.

I know you’re thinking exactly what I thought when I first heard this – this racism stuff hasn’t stopped.

But then I began to rationalize. It’s difficult to really blame anybody for playing it safe. After all, if you have a product for sale, you’re not really looking for awards, you need sales. Well, same applies here. An advert costs millions of cash and people going “Aww, that’s so cool” will not affect the bottomline.

That’s a fair opinion.

But my argument is, the two are not mutually exclusive. It is possible – not only possible but doable – for commercials to evoke emotion and also deliver the brand message.

I have seen it done over –

and over –

and over again –

To be fair, some of the challenges the advert people face is that Nigeria is a high context culture.

This means that things have to be communicated more explicitly. There is no space for subtlety if you intend to ensure that everybody gets your message. Again, this is a valid point.

But to treat Nigerians like idiots, to the extent that ads like those above get approved and aired on Nigerian TV is just… insulting.

And when you consider the fact that Peak milk’s School Smart commercial is among the best on Nigerian TV right now, the argument above becomes redundant.

What can we do about it? Err… I really don’t know. Hey, I’m not the guy who pretends to have all the answers. I am the guy though, who’s really worried that this crap continues till today. I’d be really happy if anybody could leave suggestions. Trust me, the right people will get your suggestions.

HOW I DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY FICTION

PLEASE!!! Could everyone just SHUT UP!

Everywhere I go, it seems there is always a new definition of science fiction and fantasy and the difference between the two genres.

It’s really confusing. And exhausting.

Here’s one and here is another one. They both make valid points but it just doesn’t help me. The debate keeps going on without any resolution in sight. What is the distinction between science fiction and fantasy fiction? Can the lines truly be drawn?

Some really creative writers have stretched the genre, further complicating the lives of experts who’re trying to help people like me understand what the hell is going on. There was a time when it was easy to tell them apart. Elves never wandered into the future and time travelers didn’t faceoff against wizards.

Distinguishing between the two genres really bothers me because I eventually have to categorize my novel.

When the book publisher/book store asks, “What genre is your novel?” I want to know what exactly to say.

653529345_1379224368

So I invented my own way of identifying/categorizing fantasy fiction and science fiction. I call it – The Human Interface system (cue drum roll).

It’s simple. First, you count how many major characters are in the story, divide that by how many times the hero and the villain meet in person. Then depending on the presence/absence of an epilogue/prologue, you decide how often…. I’m kidding.

This is it – In the story, what is the interface between the real world (our world) and the story world? If it is magical/supernatural, then it is fantasy; if it is technological/scientific, then it is science fiction. Simple.

 TESTING THE THEORY

Let’s start with an easy one. In the Harry Potter series, the story takes place in a world of magic. Human beings ignorantly co-exist with witches and wizards and this is possible through magic. The human interface is magical therefore Harry Potter is a fantasy book.

harry-potter-books

On the other hand, the Old Man’s War series chronicles the story of an intergalactic war taking place between human beings and hostile alien colonies beyond the Milky Way galaxy. It doesn’t get more sci-fi than that. Intergalactic travel is made possible by devices called skip drives, the workings of which are explained (well sorta).  This means the human interface is technological – science fiction.

200px-OldMansWar(1stEd)

If the world in which the story is set in is not earth, but there are humans there, how did those people get there? Was it something supernatural that took them there or was it technological? For example, in Tobias S. Buckell’s Crystal Rain, humans are stranded for centuries on a foreign planet after their spaceship was shot out of the sky in a foreign planet. The only way those humans got there was through space travel therefore the human interface is technologgical – Sci Fi.

Crystal%20Rain

In Zoo City, Lauren Beukes creates a South Africa where murderers are animalled – get attached to an animal that gifts them magical abilities. She doesn’t explain how this happens or where the animals come from. It just is. Something supernatural is responsible for the “animal” people, which means the human interface is supernatural – fantasy.

zoocity-cover-na

If the story world is not set on earth, and there is no explanation how the story world came to be, nor is there any link between that world and our planet earth, then there is no human interface whatsoever. I guess you can call it whatever the hell you want to call it. I’ll call it fantasy e.g. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora.

Untitled-1

It really is simple.

I don’t think this method is perfect but I think it easily handles 98% of the books in both genres. If there is any exception to this rule, I’d definitely love to hear it. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.