One of the concerns expressed by family, friends and even acquaintances since I began to write actively is that I would write about them, especially if they did something wrong or out of character. I have had it said to me as a joke and sometimes in a more serious tone. And many times, I would laugh it off and simply tell them to relax and not be afraid to be themselves around me. A couple of times, I have written stuff about my general observations of happenings around me only to be subtly accused of referring to a particular person who coincidentally bears some form of resemblance to a character or issue I addressed.
It’s tough being a writer. It’s tough because real life issues and experiences are what we have to draw on in our work except we are writing fantasy of course. It’s tough because sometimes the voice in your head appears to be silent and you really don’t know what to write. At other times, you feel that you have a topic locked down, but the words wouldn’t just come.
Truth be told, I would love to be able to allay the fears of those who relate with me in any way that I would not write about them, but I have since found that that’s practically impossible. It’s like a non-governmental organisation founded to tackle violence against women trying to deny that cases of domestic violence are on the rise at the moment.
It is tantamount to the Nigerian government denying that the deadly Islamist sect, Boko Haram doesn’t exist, or a blog trying to play down the obvious fact that sensational headlines bring more traffic than regular news stories. It is like a speaker opting to talk about abstract stuff instead of practical real life issues that his audience can relate to.
It is not possible for a writer to ignore everything that happens to them. The very nature of the vocation suggests an expression of thoughts regarding issues, and no matter the genre of writing, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, politics, romance or thriller, the writer will at one point or the other draw from their personal experiences in conveying their thoughts. And this can either be a positive or negative thing.
It’s inevitable that the writer shares “snapshots” of their day-to-day life in their work, and I have to admit that I am no exception. You see, one of the beauties of this craft is the freedom it gives to let out one’s joys and frustrations, the good, the bad and the ugly happenings that are a part and parcel of human existence. Writing is a fantastic outlet. It is therapeutic to be able to pen the thoughts that threaten to take on a life of their own, and ultimately manifest via depression or ecstatic hysteria depending on the nature of those thoughts.
I remember when I wrote about the often exasperating affair that driving in Lagos can prove to be in Frustrations Of A Lagos Driver, an article that was inspired by a less than pleasant experience with a drunk driver who had veered off his lane to hit my car. I was upset and angry, but as I began to write about the events of the night, I could feel the tension leave my body slowly and soon enough I started to see the funny side of the whole episode and ended up enjoying writing a piece that was supposed to have been penned in anger. It’s one of the magical powers of the pen.
In writing about someone who upset or betrayed me, I’d most likely not mention names. That would be childish. Even then, any piece which strikes close to home in the heart of an offender makes them feel as though you are calling them out through your work, even when it genuinely has nothing to do with them. When this scenario occurs, it is virtually impossible to convince the cocksure party that your post was not about them. It’s pointless. As a writer, it’s the burden you have to bear.
I have since resolved not to attempt to convince anyone that my piece isn’t about them, because truth be told, I cannot promise that I’ll never write about a particular person and the role that they have played in my life, whether good or bad. If you annoy or hurt me in a profound way, then you just might be the subject of my next post. If I am enamoured of you as a person or find any area of your life inspiring then I may write about you, only that this time, I may be mentioning your name and even address (okay, just kidding) as opposed to a villain whom I would keep anonymous.
It’s the risk that the family and friends of a writer have to live it. It’s akin to a situation where the police arrest a suspect and after reading their rights to them, subsequently inform them that whatever they say or do may be used against them in the law court. Am I trying to scare anyone or make them nervous? Certainly not. I am only attempting to make you understand that for the writer, every single thing that happens is material for a future piece.
Now, how a writer chooses to piece their words together in terms of how much to give away or whether to be upfront or subtle in their language is entirely up to them. But, one thing is sure – every writer infuses a bit of their personal life and encounters into their work. It is what it is.
Dear family/friend, I will write about you. I am sorry. I am not sorry.