How I Crushed My Biggest Writing Project to Date


So I began this ghostwriting project for a client early January this year. It was a real growing experience for me. For one, it was the first time I would handle a book of that magnitude, both in terms of subject matter as well as calibre of client.

The client was a part of the previous political regime and the book focused on policy, youth development and the African narrative. It was a big picture book, with a lot of new terms and concepts, a lot of history, a lot of case studies.

I began talks with his team in early January. A week or so after I had taken the job and contracts had been signed, the man dropped a big bomb on me:

He told me he’s been trying to write this book since 2012. And somehow the project always falls apart.

Yeah, that did wonders for my self confidence. 

Anyways, I prayed asking God to make me a solution to this man’s problem. Rather than become another statistic, another failed attempt to write this book, let me be the one to take the project across the finish line.

It wasn’t easy. Sometimes I’d glance at the interview logs I had done, the notes I had taken (enough to fill 2 notepads), and then the blank pages in front of me waiting to be filled.

It often felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew.

After several false starts and four sleepless months, several back and forths with the editors, FINALLY, the book launched on October 2, 2017!

It was a really emotional experience for me seeing the book in my client’s hand.

I felt like a surrogate mom and a midwife at the same time.

I guess ghostwriting is a bit of both.

I’m still reeling from the euphoria! And I’m eager for even bigger challenges .

The last thing I’ll say is, my writing tutors were right – there’s no project that can’t be crushed. It may take time, but Goliaths will fall if you keep lobbing stones at them.

I guess I’m writing this as a reminder to myself, and to all of us who face frequent episodes of self doubt – Keep going.

Advertisements

5 Things I’m Grateful for at 32

This will probably be one of those long ass articles I’m prone to write once in 5 months. So you know the drill

Introvert. I spend a lot of time thinking, reflecting, having conversations with myself and replaying conversations with others. During my trips down memory lane, I rarely venture beyond a few weeks out.

It’s my birthday in a few hours though. And so, the “reflect on the past 5-10 years of your life” elves have been visiting.

This year, I looked back and saw so many reasons to be grateful. I crossed the big 3-0 a while ago and since I’m not in the “Have I achieved all I set out to achieve by 30?” camp because let’s face it, all I thought about before age 30 were comic books, videogames, Jesus and girls. Come to think of it, not much has changed. Anyways…

So this week, I made a few trips back in time. I recalled a lot of conversations I had with myself that were inspired by articles I had read. These were the years before I became a writer.

Let me give that some context.

It was 2011, and yours truly was studying web design and AutoCAD at NIIT in Ikeja. I was pretty enamored with the writing life as at then and would stalk my favorite authors online – reading not just their books but their op-eds, their blogs, their interviews, everything. I guess I was looking for the secret to the successful writing life (there’s none, stop believing those bullshit articles cos many of us worked hard and got lucky).

Anyways, so I spend an inordinate amount of time, especially on my trips to and from NIIT, reading tons of materials online. Then I came across an article by Stephen King, a particular statement in it would touch my heart till today.

Talent is getting published and getting paid. Did you write something for someone? Did they send you a check? If you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.

I wrote that quote straight from memory (I think it’s 90% accurate). The statement meant the world to me back then. It still does. Here’s the most recent version of the article I could find, if you’re interested.

I’m grateful today that, despite being told repeatedly by a former boss to abandon my desire to be a writer cos I’d starve, despite several false starts, after years of doing pro bono work for NGOs, today, I’m a writer who pays the light bill.

Second thing I’m grateful for. I recently discovered a truth about myself. A sad one.

Somehow I’d come under the illusion that everyone else’s happiness supercedes mine.  I’m grateful for my good friend, Chi, who confronted me and helped me realise this.I don’t know how it got there but there it was, staring me in the face.

Some symptoms were: When people are horrible to me, I rarely confront them. I’d prefer to just withdraw and simmer in pain. Pain passes, wounds heal, better not to cause a fuss over hurt feelings or bruised egos. On the off-chance I do confront the perpetrator, I end up feeling guilty when they apologise. I feel bad I’ve made someone feel bad for something they did so I end up making an excuse right there for them and telling them it was all my fault. Toxic, I know.

I dont share my personal issues with the important people in my life. I can write an epistle about sweet nothings but when it comes to sharing the important stuffs – struggles, fears, hopes, desires, pains – nah, lock up! This has been a problem in many of my relationships and friendships. The reason is the same, guilt follows talking about that kind of stuff. In my head somehow, to rant is to be weak. And to be weak is to be a crappy partner or friend.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

So, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be finally self aware about these things and to begin the journey to recovery. Having been stuck in the horrible loop for three decades, it’s not going to be easy to fix but it will be done.

Which brings me to my next point. It’s 2-in-1.

I haven’t talked or written about my depression for a long time, either on the blog or in real life. For good reason, I’ve been doing really well, especially with avoiding triggers and embracing routines that curb the loop. But late last year, something happened that nearly dragged me back under.

Prior to this, my last bout of depression was in 2014. Since then, life’s been pretty awesome, (cos let’s face it, a day without depressive clouds is an awesome day, for those who know). But last year, a shitty boss and a broken heart nearly brought the clouds back in my life. I’m glad to say they never fully formed. I, Ibukun, looked the dragon in the face, flipped it the finger and walked away.

No more depression!

And so, I’m grateful for my support system. My amazing family – supportive, patient, my number one cheerleading squad, every win for me is celebrated with dancing and prayers and lots of food. They’re the best support system every writer should have (seriously fam, I’m considering packaging you and putting you up on Amazon :)).

Also grateful for my friends  – Gosh! I have the weirdest, nerdiest, craziest, funniest and loving collection of friends ever. They call, they visit, some actually write letters (imagine that!), they send memes, tweet random silly things at me, or even randomly plan mini vacations with me.

Honestly, God blessed me with friends and I know it.

Finally, I’m grateful to be punching in another year on the calendar tomorrow. There might be no party, but there will definitely be dancing and cake. Loads of it.

Here’s a random picture of me looking (and being) happy. That’s Olumo Rock in the background

Before you go, remember to send cake.

Thanks for reading!

Trusting the Process

Trust.

I’ve never understood how something so powerful, so pivotal, could be so fragile.

I don’t understand it but I’m thankful.

As a writer, you have to trust your writing process.

There are days I feel like a fraud. I wake up thinking, “Aha, this is the day everyone finds out just how much of a hack you are. The gig is up. You’ll try to write today and nothing but thrash will come out of your pen.”

Every day, I wake up with this thought. The thought isn’t an “in-your-face, yelling and screaming” thought. It’s more like a persistent irritating sound that you’ve relegated to the back of your mind when you’re deep in work.

This thought stays with me all morning till I sit at a desk to write. When it’s time to start punching out words, there’s this sudden moment I feel like running away from the computer, just run away and not come back.

“There’s nothing left to write. You’re done. You’ve finally met a blank page you couldn’t conquer.”

The only thing keeping me at that desk is Trust. I trust my process. (I also usually have Sade Adu playing in the background which helps but we’ll get to that eventually).

Every writer should have a process, especially if like me, you experience strong episodes of self doubt and impostor syndrome.

I remember that scene from Leap Year (pretty forgettable movie but this scene stuck). The guy said, when your house is on fire, what you love most is what you grab before running out.

Battling impostor syndrome is a bit like that. Every morning, as my internal world crumbles or goes up in flames, I stroll out of the house, with trust intact. Trust in my process.

As long as I can get to the table with my process, it will eventually turn out okay. I’ll show up, deliver and walk away.

The gig isn’t over yet, my con is still intact. Live to write another day. Till the next day. Then you get to do it all again.

Trust the process.

Photo Credit: Strategic Monk

Why winning doesn’t guarantee you happiness

Happy like a child

There’s a huge gulf between winning and contentment.

If you want to be happy, your best bet is to aim for the latter. It’s possible to be content all the time, but no one wins all the time.

Like the saying goes, Win some, Lose some.

Let’s take sports for instance. The popular mantra is, “Aim for the gold, nobody remembers second place”. But the reality is not everyone makes it to first place. Or second. Or third. Not everyone can. So, should that diminish your happiness? What of the athlete who broke her personal best record at the finals? If she defines herself by the fact that she didn’t take home any medals, she’s missing the bigger picture.

She just pushed herself harder than ever! She should be celebrating. The person on the podium, with the gold hanging down her neck may have already peaked. But here you are, still growing.

What more could a human being want?

If you scoffed as you read that, you may already be caught in the competition web. According to research, a competitive mindset generates constant tension and stress in life. It also never produces permanent satisfaction, because once the victory is attained, the next one is quickly sought after. It’s like an addiction. A focus on winning can also introduce a continuous state of dissatisfaction with one’s life.

This applies a lot to writers and their writing. A lot of times we want to judge ourselves based on accolades and praises we receive. It’s okay to win awards, especially as awards help you get more readers. But don’t fall into the trap of being validated by awards. Or even what people say.  “Oh you were robbed, you should have won that award.”

Don’t buy into it. And don’t tell it to yourself. It’s a trap. Trust me.

Never base your sense of self worth on your ability. Some people write better than others. I’ve come across writers, in person and on the internet, that make me shake my fist at the sky, at God, yelling, “why can’t I write this well?!”

Nevertheless, I get to the office everyday and I write my heart out. A lot of times, what I write sucks. But once in a while, I hit it out of the park. But win or lose, I’ve settled it in my mind: my writing doesn’t define me. What people say doesn’t define me either.

I’m just trying to be the best writer I can be. And that’s good enough for me.

Let it be good enough for you too.

quote-remember-success-is-a-journey-not-a-destination-have-faith-in-your-ability-you-will-bruce-lee-75-71-20

Photo Credit: AzQuotes keltikee via Compfight cc

Everyone has at least one story to tell

writing

I believe telling stories is one of the best gifts we’ve been granted as human beings. The ability to compress our entire life journey into just a few hours’ experience is unfathomable yet, storytelling accomplishes just that.

I’m also a subscriber to the belief that everyone, without exception, has at least one story inside them. Some have a dozen. I read about a lady the other day who had two PhD degrees, raised like three or four kids and still kicked major butt in her career. I can see three to four books in that woman’s story already.

But you don’t have to cure cancer to tell your story (although if you did, I’d write your story for free). You just need to be interested, passionate enough to want to have it told. Because it’s not an easy task. More of that in the next post.

And don’t think, “I’m not that important, why would anyone want to read my story? And I lived a fairly boring life.”

Well, you’re wrong in two aspects. First, no one knows what people want to read. Not the publishers, not the literary agents and not the reviewers. I dare say even the readers are not so sure about what their next read is, which is why we love book recommendations. My favourite read last year was Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and that would be the first time I read such a dark thriller. So, that’s one.

Secondly, let’s put this out there. EVERYONE thinks they’re fairly boring on some level. In fact, if you don’t, you’re probably a douche. That faint fear is what makes us want to try new things, to explore, to leave the comfort zone. In all the emails and queries I’ve gotten asking for my services, I’m yet to meet someone who is completely, irredeemably boring. Not one. Because, a boring person is a no-sell. You may not be able to see it but leave that to your ghostwriter.

After all, that’s what you pay us to do – to tell your story and tell it well.

I’m a Ghostwriter. Let’s talk.