…I don’t find my muse, it comes to me. It comes at random times and through random sources. I’ve been inspired to write a story from snatches of conversations from people, or real events in people’s lives or even personal experiences. Anyone who writes fiction needs to consciously cultivate keen observation skills.Chizoma Joshua
Today’s blogsode is a recap of the just concluded Reggiesspot Writers Fest. Here’s an interview with Chizoma Joshua one of the panelists, where he shares his writing journey: how he started, laurels, harnessing process, challenges and prospects with budding writers. Joshua is Interviewed by the convener and host Kalu Rejoice.
Kalu Rejoice: Thank you for availing yourself sir, so let’s get to it.
When did you start writing and how have you harnessed your skill to the level it is now?
Joshua Chizoma: I have always written, for fun mostly. This is because I’ve always been drawn to stories. I do believe that the response, at least for me, to good writing is a quickening to write. Writing became somewhat of a vocation in late 2015. I sent in an entry for an anthology being published by the Nwokike Literary Club of the University of Nigeria. It was accepted, and this gave me the idea that there was something to it. From then, I have consistently written up until this moment.
Kalu Rejoice: Interesting
When did you hit your first milestone as a writer and how long after you started was that?
Joshua Chizoma: (Laughs).
This made me chuckle. What do you mean by milestone? I’m wary of a view of writing that prioritizes “milestones” or achievements, as it were. This is because I believe that the satisfaction from writing should be its own reward.
But in attempting to answer your question, I guess my first milestone was when one of my short stories got accepted to be published on African writer.com. It was a modest acceptance, but it was a big deal for me at that time and I look back at it with fond nostalgia. It validated me in a way little else has. Anyone who has got an acceptance understands this.
The acceptance came a year after I began writing.
Kalu Rejoice: wow
In 2019, you got accepted into Purple Hibiscus Writing Workshop phew! I guess that was a major step to improve your skill, but tell us how you got in, what (to you) made your application stand out?
Joshua Chizoma: It was actually a turning point for my writing and I still feel the ripple effects a year after.
How I got in: I’d been planning to send in a submission for consideration that year. Even before the submissions were made open, I already started working on the piece I wanted to send in. Eventually, when the call was open, it was easy to finish up and send in my piece because I had dwelled on the piece for a long time. When the acceptance came in, I was beyond elated. I can still remember where I was, what I was doing etc. at the exact moment.
What made it stand out: I’m not sure I can say for certain. But I guess I could point out the level of time I put into preparing my submission. I had thought about that 900-word piece for months. Then after writing, I edited and re-edited. I had also read the submissions of past co-horts. You can tell what CNA would love by looking at what she’d accepted before. So, for anyone who wants to get in, start on time
Kalu Rejoice: Wow wow. Sequel to the last question, how did it feel meeting Chimamanda?! (laughs)
Joshua Chizoma: (Laughs)
It was phenomenal to say the least.
CNA is quite gracious and graceful and infinitely kind. I believe the high point of that period, for me at least, was getting to meet her in all her humanness. And I do believe it is a lesson in humility and craft. When you get close to her, you’ll notice how she is human, with quirks and peculiarities and that reminds you that if she could do it, so can you.
Kalu Rejoice: Interesting.
Your bio reveals that you ghost write, you have ghost written a number of articles and ebooks; does that in any way aid your projection as a writer or do just do it for the love?
Joshua Chizoma: Certainly for the money more than for the love. Haha!
When you ghostwrite, essentially, you do so for the money. This is because you cannot claim copyright of the material, your name is not associated with it and you cannot claim any visibility from the work’s success. So, when I ghostwrite, it is for money.
For visibility and or love of writing, that is reserved for personal pieces
And might I add, there is nothing wrong with it. You must chop first before the accolades. Especially as awards etc. are arbitrary and take a long time to show up.
Kalu Rejoice: Interesting! This addressed the next question a bit, but I’ll ask nonetheless in case there’s more.
Have you been able to monetize your skill? If yes, how?
Joshua Chizoma: Certainly.
So, since 2018, I have been ghostwriting. I do every type of work, autobiographies, biographies, eBooks, etc.
I have clients that I create content for their blogs and websites.
I also am am editor. I have edited several magazines in school for pay. Finally, I have an account on Upwork where I pitch for works, deliver and get paid.
Overall, it is a slow process. The proceeds trickle in. I’m looking towards the time when the rewards come in droves.
Also, personally, I only send out my personal works to paying magazines. There’s the income from there too.
Kalu Rejoice: Splendid.
As a fiction-writer, you must possess a very creative mind, I’m sure it’s not easy to create a fictional work, so how do you find your muse?
Joshua Chizoma: Basically, I don’t find my muse, it comes to me. It comes at random times and through random sources. I’ve been inspired to write a story from snatches of conversations from people, or real events in people’s lives or even personal experiences. Anyone who writes fiction needs to consciously cultivate keen observation skills.
Sometimes I experience blocks, just like every other writer. Those periods, I don’t force the flow, else my writing come out stilted. I just try to read as much as I can instead and rest. Eventually, it clears up.
You must never be afraid of running out of stories/exhausting your source. No such thing can happen. Just give yourself room to rejuvenate and flow
Kalu Rejoice: Insightful thus far!
Besides your writing skill, what other skill(s) have you employed to take you up the ladder in writing?
Joshua Chizoma: Networking.
I have come to recognize the power of having your tribe. Writing is a lonely enterprise. Having people who understand the process and are able to help you through is critical. Subsumed in networking is the principle of finding mentorship.
The amazing thing with writing is that you may not necessarily need someone to hold your hands and all that. Reading is its own sort of mentorship and yields almost the same results, especially regarding your writing skills. Read as much as you can. Read the people you admire. Note the things they did excellently. Read outside your field. Just read.
Writing. I always force myself to write all the time because that is the only way to get better. Thus, even with the busy schedule of school and ghostwriting, I find time to do my personal writing, too.
Purposefully seeking out opportunities. There is such a thing as purposefully positioning oneself to recognize and maximize opportunities. It is reflected in both the attitude and the steps taken to actualize these opportunities.
Be proactive, do not start writing for a prize a few days to the deadline. Be purposeful, understand the spaces you want your work to get to and be deliberate about installing actionable plans to get there.
Hard work. Writing is hard work. Writing well is even harder. I’m deliberate about putting effort into the whole gamut of writing, editing, revising, rewriting, etc. I’ve had situations where I overhauled stories of 5000 words and started afresh. Generally, when it comes to success, there’s no substitute for hard work.
Kalu Rejoice: Wow. It’s bittersweet, but last question;
What challenges have you faced in your journey as a writer and how did you overcome them?
Joshua Chizoma: Procrastination.
Mehn, I deliberately work on being disciplined. I work out deadlines and make sure I stick to them.
School-writing balance: School sometimes steals a huge chunk of my writing time. But I deliberately set out time to write from time to time.
Rejection. Sometimes, even after my best efforts magazines reject my pieces or I don’t win prizes. It can be such a downer. In such momenta, I remind myself why I started writing in the first place. That it is actually for the love of it and not for the accolades. Then I also recognize that rejection is part of the terrain. I just double up and work harder.
Kalu Rejoice: Hmmm. Budding writers always remind yourself why you’re writing in down moments📍
Thanks you so much Sir. I have learnt so much and I trust others have too. It’s an honor, thank you!
Interviews with the other panelists will be posted subsequently, stay tuned!