To an aspiring writer…
These are three books that will set your feet on the path so that you will have a wonderful journey.
I’m going to ignore the voice in my head which is saying ‘you are not qualified to do this.’
In fact, I’m going to start with this son-of-a-devil voice.
I will tell you how unqualified I am. I haven’t been published by one big publishing company, haven’t written for the New York Times or Vanguard, and I’m an aspiring writer like you.
Maybe I should be clear with who I’m referring to as ‘you.’ I mean someone like me who wants to become a better writer, someone who wants to silence all the critics inside their life that are saying ‘stop that writing thing, go and play football instead.’
High five mate! We are here together! Nah we go make ourselves better.
These three books are important and I will like it if you read them like your Sunday school memory verses, so when I meet you and ask what does the chapter two of the book of Strunk says, you will reply ‘Though shall not use extra words.’
Oya, let’s start.
1. Element of Style
Many writers have recommended this book and I’m just doing the same thing, although I probably don’t fit your definition of a writer.
The book will open your eyes to nuggets of ‘gold’ if the content is taken to heart, and later you will be astounded at how better you’ve become.
Here is a quote from the book:
“Vigorous writing is concise.” — Element of Style
This book was written years ago before I was born – before my father was born – and it is still helpful today.
Some critics have things to say about the rules the book prescribed. But there is no rule that cannot be broken (you remember Jesus turned water to wine and you remember how a sweet was once sold for two Naira).
One down, two more to go.
2. Bird By Bird
This book is my best companion every time I want to quit.
You know when you were young and you would love to ride a bicycle. Then someone came to you with the story of how she used to be like you, without a bicycle, miserable and heartbroken, and they finally did one day because they grew up and could afford it.
That was how the book made me feel.
Things are going to make sense not until later when you start working and writing and growing.
There are tons of tips in this book that will make you glad you read it.
Here is a quote from the book:
“Think of those times when you’ve read prose or poetry that is presented in such a way that you have a fleeting sense of being startled by beauty or insight, by a glimpse into someone’s soul… This is our goal as writers, I think….” — Anne Lammot
I will like to tell you how many times I have read the book.
‘Ermm…three…’ I can’t recall, and I’m still going to reread it again and again.
3. The Alchemist
Before you read this book, get enough popcorn beside your bed and close the door to your room, a jotter and a pen by your bedside.
Do you believe in magic?
It doesn’t matter, the author said in an interview that the story is a metaphor of his life and that some things in this life cannot be explained by the ordinary.
Am I sounding like the book is about flying people and Harry-Potter-ish?
The book is the story of a young shepherd who has a dream that he went to the pyramid of Egypt to find ‘his treasure.’
His adventure, encounters, mistakes and lessons will make you fill out your jotter.
And you will call that neighbour who calls you a good-for-nothing scribbler that you too are after your treasure now.
I’m sounding like my excited thirteen-year-old self, but that is because of the phenomenal story the book tells. The writing style isn’t flowery; and forget what the critics say about some scenes where magic is invoked not being real, the book is interesting… beautiful…wonderful.
Here is my favourite quote:
“Even if he never got to the Pyramids, he had already traveled farther than any shepherd he knew.” — Paulo Coelho
This quote tells us how magnificent it can be to commit to something we love and want to do, things we believe will mean a lot if we try. And if we fail at it, we definitely have achieved something else and it is important to our life and the story we will ever tell or the story others will ever tell about us.
The journey in itself is our achievement and it is delightful.
Maybe you will not become the most decorated writer, and all you will have to settle for are outsourced gigs. Maybe you will not get published, but you will be called by someone you respect to help in writing a letter, and you will do it with so much confidence. Though it’s little to what you set out to achieve, it will mean a lot. At the moment of putting words on the paper that will go into an envelope, only you can describe how proud you are of yourself because this person will not have called you if you don’t try to become something you want. You won’t have done it well either.
Maybe all you set out to achieve will become reality and with extra tip.
Books are wonderful and that is why some of us are fascinated to create them.
These are the three books I will recommend to you. Not you. I’m referring to my younger self in SSS two who is wondering if he could ever become a writer. You can find out. It’s your treasure. We are on the same boat.