I really didn’t know how to start this piece. There were so many ideas, so many themes to explore, and so little time to spend planning things out. In many ways, it’s like most of my writing — spontaneous, with the cursory punctuation and grammar check afterwards.
My reading and writing have always been tied together. Reading one of those children’s stories featuring the cunning tortoise (or hare) would prompt me to write a very similar — if skewed — version with the same animal characters, and a few words changed here and there.
I like to tell people I started reading when I was five and writing when I was eight. Technically, I did start writing in my own words at eight, but before then I was an accomplished master of plagiarism.
“Let’s publish this book when I’m done copying it,” I remember saying to my mother when I was about 5.
I was in the middle of transferring Kola Onadipe’s Magic Land of Shadows to one of my schoolbooks. I copied everything, word for word, letter for letter except for the very creative part where I swapped the author’s name with mine. I believed I could walk into a publisher’s office with my draft, get published and enjoy royalties for the rest of my life. Life really should be that simple.
To cut a long story short, my mother had a long talk with me about copyright and after that I became one of the few 5-year-olds whose vocabulary included the word ‘plagiarism.’
For a while I stuck to what I’ll call pseudo-plagiarism — taking an idea from many books in the same genre and applying some what-ifs to change the story — but even when I wrote something original, it always paid some tribute to the writings of others, themes I didn’t really believe in, ideas I didn’t really understand or could not identify with. I believe that’s a big betrayal of oneself as a writer, or someone with writer pretentions.
Morbid fascinations, I agree, but I always return to these two themes because I like them. They’re unknowns, open to different interpretations and connect us all as humans, surfacing with our emotions.
I used to be able to pick a topic and write within its confines. Recently, however, I find things going off at extremely wild tangents. As an example, I have a blog post in my drafts called ‘Formal Language.’ I won’t spoil the contents because I intend to put it up sometime in the future, but at some point things took an odd turn and suddenly, I was writing about breasts. No, you cannot ask me why, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything connecting formal language and mammary glands, and that brings me to my decision.
I won’t fight the drifting off any more and I took the liberty of starting with this piece. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned in expressing myself when I fly off at a tangent. Superstitions and rambling are fair play.
While I get some writing done, here’s what I’ve been listening to.