Monday, October 22, 2007

NaNoWriMo, Here I come

I respect my mother more than anyone else in the whole world (seriously, the whole world). So when she chastised me a month ago for not writing, I sat up and took notice. She has never been the type of mother who believes that all her children are immensely gifted at everything. She is a realist, down-to-earth, pragmatic and a voracious reader. She told me that I was wasting my God-given talent by not writing enough, and that made me sit up and take notice.

I have always been a writer. It has taken many shapes and forms, but has always been in there somewhere. Studying engineering at University was a big deviation from that path, and truth be told, were it not for this blog, I am not sure I would have found my way back anytime soon. I never stopped reading though, that has been one of the biggest constants in my life. I go through roughly 2-3 books a week, and in extraordinary circumstances e.g. Pottermania or extreme boredom that quota can be ratcheted up to 4.

When I read something that truly resonates with me, my first thought is always “I wish I had written that”. This leads me to conclude that the drive to create prose is still within me, buried deep somewhere. The difficulty I face however is I haven’t written fiction in about 10 years. Writing is like a muscle for me, the less I exercise it, the creakier it becomes. And so I find myself writing clunky unnatural sounding dialogue. Words that make me cringe as soon as I type them. My inner editor is at war with my creative muse.

I think I have found the perfect cure for that malady. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). NaNoWriMo is a creative writing project that was born in the San Francisco Bay area in 1999. The idea is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. You must begin on November 1st and finish on November 30th in order to ‘win’. There is no prize for winning (you get a printable certificate to say you won), so there is no point in cheating. The real prize is the personal gratification, and for me, the impetus to pour 50,000 words out onto paper as they appear in my mind without stopping to edit, structure or fret.

This is no mean feat, to achieve my goal, I must write ~2,000 words a day! I have trouble with keeping my blog up to date, so how on earth will I manage to complete this task? Plus I am still laptop-less, so I can’t really write on the go per say, unless I do it long hand. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained right? And so, I commit myself to writing 50,000 words in the month of November, and hopefully I will come out with some semblance of a story, something that is on its way to being a rough first draft.

I will keep you guys posted on my progress, as I will definitely need some cheerleading to help me cross the finish line. I would love to say that I will post excerpts of what I am writing as I go, but it might be too awful to share with the world. I will have to play that one by ear…in the time being wish me luck as I venture into the world of deadline-intensive creative writing. Let’s hope my mother is right about this…I trust her instincts, she is almost never wrong. Wish me luck!

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Friday, October 19, 2007

The Box of Blackness

It has been quite a while..I know...I'm trying to learn better discipline. Here you go...

Prior to my relocation to New York City, I never really took into account the fact that being black and being Nigerian are two very different things. By this I mean that although I was aware of the theoretical differences, I never really had any social or cultural experiences that served to ram the point home.

Over the past four years, having swallowed the red pill and ended up down the rabbit hole, I am looking at the world with fresh eyes and realising that in today’s society blackness is a double-edged sword. A weapon of devastating abilities that serves to provide one with instant inclusion and exclusion simultaneously…or if you are as apparently odd as I am, you can end up in no mans land.

At the risk of sounding judgmental, I have to say that the US is by and large a country built on labels. There are a lot of different boxes into which everyone supposedly fits. It is akin to a giant warehouse holding various goods; all packaged separately according to type to prevent any confusion. Mix anything up, and chaos ensues.

Based on my appearance, the label on my box reads: BLACK PERSON. In the BLACK PERSON BOX, we all listen to hip-hop and r’n’b exclusively, we love chicken, enjoy family reunions at which we have barbecue, skiing or camping is not an option for us, we all dress in Sean John or Baby Phat apparel, we are all for driving the biggest SUVs we can find with shiny rims and most importantly, we do not form serious relationships or friendships with anyone who is not in the BLACK PERSON box, unless they are in the LATINO PERSON box.

This arrangement always causes me to give pause and scratch my head, because as a product of Nigeria/England, I have never had my box described to me. I often run into problems because of this, causing the warehouse admin to attempt to shove me into another box they have created. This box is left on the side, as far away from the rest of the boxes as possible. It is ostracised because it is deemed to be some form of a contaminant. The label on this box simply bears one word: COCONUT. I cannot describe the contents of the COCONUT box accurately to you, as I have never deigned to take a peek inside. Whenever warehouse personnel attempt to shove me in there, I fight them off kicking and screaming.

For the most part, they seem to have learned their lesson, they now know to leave well enough alone. I am left to wander the halls of the warehouse, checking out box after box, as well as mingling with all the other renegades who choose not to wear any of the one-size fits all labels we are provided with. It takes some getting used to, and the initial sensation is one of loneliness and exclusion at the thought that you don’t belong anywhere in particular. Eventually though, this gives way to understanding. Clarity descends and you begin to realise that you do in fact, belong everywhere. This is something I would never have had the opportunity to learn, if I had allowed them to shove me in the box and close the lid. They would have locked me in there and thrown the key away forever.

The box is a dangerous place. Stay in there and the rest of the world will close it on you. You will be viewed, as the product of an assembly line, mass-produced and regurgitated for the world’s consumption, and stereotypes will prevail.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I know it has been ages since I posted, y'all give me a moment. Technical issues (i.e. lack of a laptop) have prevented me from doing my thing. It won't be long now, I promise:)