Eyin t’emi, twelve thousand views! All for a lady who never in a million years thought she’d be a writer. Like never. I studied math for a reason; so I could avoid the faintest smell of words. I wanted no words…just gammas and lambdas, and derivatives and integrals.
Now, ten years after college, writing has become my happy “place”. Month after month, I’ve watched my numbers grow, and I have you all to thank for always coming back to read, and for sharing my content with your friends. It’s been a whole year of consistent blogging,
with blood and sweat, I mean burning the candle light to bring you a new post every other Wednesday, and here are 7 lessons I’ve learned so far.
1. Write from your heart. I have come to realize that people value authenticity, and can relate more when you stop writing to impress or for SEO, and you start writing about the things that make you happy or inspire you or matter of fact, the things that upset you. People want the real deal, you know, like efo elemi meje, a soup full of assorted orisirisi meats, because who wants efo riro without stock fish? Boring.
2. You need an honest reviewer. No, I don’t mean someone who will pat your back and tell you “good job” when you know very well that you’ve written nothing but crap. You don’t need that. You need someone who will hurt your feelings a little and tell you “hey honey, this is junk”, and then follow up with some constructive criticism.
Shortly after I started blogging, I wrote what I thought was a genius post about how the world does not revolve around you or me. With full confidence, shoulders high, and all, I told Oko mi to review the post the night before it was to go live. “He’s just going to fix a few typos here and there,” I thought. The next thing I heard from the room, “No, no! lailai! This post cannot go out tomorrow.”
I was shooketh. My ego was broken. I stared at Oko mi with daggers in my eyes as he went to sleep, snoring, while I stayed up late to incorporate his feedback. Now I’ve grown in my writing because of his honest reviews. And looking back, I can see why he reacted that way to the initial draft of that post. It had no stories and no jokes. None. It reminds me of a dry speech at a commencement I was forced to sit through in hunger. And who wants to read such a post after a long day at work?
3. Keep writing. Just punch away on the keyboard. The more you write, the better you become. I recently re-read my first blog post and I was just mentally crossing out things and restructuring sentences with an imaginary red pen. I also found areas to swap out the jokes for better ones. This only comes with more and more writing.
Recently, an old friend, Dapo sent me an email, asking if he could write guest posts on my blog. Fostoval, the interwebs is open to us all and you can set up a WordPress blog for free. Second, BellaNaija is always accepting applications from freebie writers.
So, I probed – “Bros, why my blog?”
“Oh, I just want to get more practice with my writing,” he said.
The way you get practice is by punching on the keyboard EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Just keep punching on that keyboard with all that’s in you.
Being the sweet person that I am, I suggested to Dapo – start a free blog, and I’ll review all your drafts before you publish them. I even added tips for writing and all of that jazz. That was six months ago, and I haven’t heard from him since then.
4. Always try new things. People get bored easily, so look for opportunities to innovate, even in something as simple as writing. I try to mix up my delivery method. Sometimes, I write fiction stories, and some times, text message chat conversations. My point is, try new things because people are always curious about the unexpected.
5. Name your characters. Think about it. Would you prefer to read about a nameless caterer, or about “Aunty Sidi” the caterer? Or would you rather read about a nameless mechanic or Oga Sunday the mechanic? Or better yet, in the example above – would you rather read about my nameless friend, or my hypothetical friend, Dapo?
6. Always have a sanity check. I do this because I don’t want people to get the wrong message from my posts. Remember my post on when to walk away from marriage? It took me almost four months to publish it. Why? It’s a super sensitive topic. My audience are mostly Nigerians who happen to swear by “for better for worse”, even when the “for worse” part is artificially created by lack of self-control – raising your hands on your spouse, and not knowing how to zip up. Sheesh!
So I vetted the draft through Oko mi and Kemi, my sister. Kemi’s comment was “you don’t want to give folks who are just tired of their marriage, a convenient reason to walk away”. She knew that’s not what the post implied, but I had to be careful.
7. Consistency is key. What if you went on BellaNaija for the latest aso-ebi fashion, and you found that the last post was from January last year. You wouldn’t return there, would you? It’s the same thing with whatever it is you’re doing. No one is going to remember you if you randomly blog whenever you feel like it. Who do you think you are? Oprah? Nah!
You need to pick a schedule and stick with it – rain or sunshine, sickness or health – you stick with it. That is what it means to be consistent. That doesn’t mean you can’t take creative breaks. Of course you can, but they have to be intentional, and your audience must be aware, and you must return when you say you will. Remember, consistency is key.
Those are a few of the things that I’ve learned in my first year of blogging. Oh, and in case you are wondering, your browser is not playing tricks with you. It’s still me, Simple Naija Girl. According to the gods of blogging, if you think you’ll change your name at some point in the future, then just do it right away. So I’m snatching the opportunity now before I go global. Let me re-introduce myself to you – Abisola Shof, formerly known as Simple Naija Girl.
As always, the best thing you can do for me is to share your favorite post with a friend you think will relate with it. I have shamelessly linked a few of them on this post to bring them to your memory. Thank you all so much for riding with me on this journey!
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