An elderly man once asked his protege who wanted to be a world-renowned speaker “Do you want to be a great speaker? Or do you want great people to listen to you Or do you want to be known by great people? Finally, do you want to say great things?”
“All of these options are within the scope of my desires,” he replied with a flick of his cuffs.
“Hmmm. Here, take this bottle and fill it with as many pebbles as you can in a minute.”
On the ground were pebbles of different shapes and sizes. As expected the young man bent over with cupped palms and scooped as many pebbles as he could carry. He made to pour them all through the narrow neck of the bottle. His time ticked out quite fast and he had only managed to block the top of the bottle with an oversized pebble.”
What would you have done differently? Keep this in mind through this lesson.
Why you Find Self-Expression Difficult
There are a lot of outlets for ideas and expressions these days. You can set up a website in less than a day or publish your book in a week. In fact, freedom of expression has motivated so many ideas! Too many opportunities to explore, so much diversity in content and channels; Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, WordPress, Facebook. You have Amazon, Smashwords, Okadabooks, Cfwriterz and other internet publishing platforms. These have made self-publishing a walk in the park.
A few days ago I ordered a copy of a book I compiled and co-authored. It costs me just about 280 rands to have this gem delivered from Amazon to me at my residence in Pretoria. In a matter of days and a few months of compiling these stories, we got it in electronic and print form. We had all given expression to stories bottled up in our hearts and publishing it was as simple as pooping Lol! There is even a Kindle book.
We gave our readers options so that they would find it easy to get “Quills from Africa 30” online or offline without stress, so simple!
Imagine if the process of birthing babies were this simple! Self-Expression is like pregnancy, sometimes you feel the pangs and movements inside you and you are overwhelmed with the anxiety about what would come out. Most importantly, you want to produce the kind of child that fits all society’s expectations. If possible you would have a print and electronic version.
These days we are so busy trying to express ourselves in so many ways. We want to use so many outlets or consider too many audiences that we lose sight of what we wanted to say. We don’t even consider if what we are saying is actually worth saying. Simplicity is no longer attractive to us so we struggle.
You first feel like pouring your ideas all out and then you suddenly have questions popping up here and there in your mind. No one is happier than the mother when she sees her baby and he is just perfect. We have unconsciously designed too many parameters for what perfect self-expression should be.
What if your baby may not come out fine? Do you:
– Abort the baby?
– Pretend like you never conceived?
– Birth the child and never care for it?
What would you do?
Writing is sometimes like this. Content has become an opportunity to influence; a way of preserving ideas and also sharing value to a wide audience.
It’s not just sharing this idea that’s a problem, your problems expand the moment you decide to share. Like I said earlier, questions pop up. Questions like:
1. Is this my best story yet? Do I sound like a genius?
2. Are there better ways to share this idea with my audience?
3. What platform should I use?
4. Do I post it on my social feeds?
5. Who is going to read this? Family, acquaintances, lovers, ex-lovers?
6. Why should they listen?
7. Why does this even matter?
Addressing all these questions at once will not get you far. You need to be aware of the source of your fear. I am not going to attempt to give you an answer to your questions. We are all going to solve the questions together.
I asked my Facebook contacts what challenges they have in writing. I got responses from Cintia Igwe, Champagna Charles Parrish, Olayemi Olumurewa Dunmade, Blezzed Abraham, Ogechi Precious, Jessie Sarang, Elizabeth Amen Frank, Gabrielle C. Chukwuma, Charles Fate and Favour Idowu. I have grouped the responses so that we address all without leaving anyone out.
The responses fall into three categories:
- Those who find it difficult to express their thoughts with ease without confusing their readers or recipients.
- Those who struggle with details while writing especially lengthy pieces.
- Consistency. Making the magic happen over and over again.
There is a temptation to want to sound professional by using a lot of backstories and semicolons or em dashes. You may also struggle with wanting to sound like your favourite authors. I have realized that while we write, it’s easy to lose the creative flow while focusing on the elements of the story, the complex ideas we find along the way, the punctuations and so on. The chances are that we get so overwhelmed with the questions I listed earlier that we discard one idea and jump to another so fast that we lose track and even get discouraged. If writing continues to feel so labourious chances are that consistency would never be achieved.
These issues are legitimately troublesome.
They render writing fruitless and vain.
Now back to the question I asked in the story. What would you have done? Given a short space of time to fill a bottle with pebbles, what would come to mind and how would you resolve this issue? Your answer is what you need to deal with to resolve your challenges with effective expression in writing.
Highly Recommended Readings:
- Learning to live, Yu Hua’s stories are precise, elegant–and rarely comforting.
- Executive Speech Writing: The Failure of Nigeria’s 2018 Presidential New Year Address and Lessons for Leaders.
- Clarity of Expression by Eric Fisher