I remember once in my secondary school days, I was asked to give an appreciation speech to the Parents Teachers Association, who gave us (the students) a much needed laboratory set. After several attempts I managed two words, “thank you!” and then I burst into shrieking tears. Ever since, I’ve known myself as a cupboard orator. A writer. Someone whose feeling is best expressed in seclusion. I do have confidence, but I’m wary of ‘the jury’.
Many years have gone by, and I’m still wary of the jury! Over the years, I writing have become a very good hideout foe me, but I’ve learnt that being vocal enlivens your writing also. It’s the other image; ‘the jury’ takes away. That includes expressing, sweet-talking one’s writing into relevance. It’s all about getting attention.
Art mindless of its source finds a purpose; even if it the creator argues that it isn’t created as a functional tool. Those who create the purpose are the jury – readers, audience, and policy makers - prize judges. Ha ha. It depends on what you’re looking for.
In the course of my mulling, I’ve narrowed my lessons into two-folds. I'm a copywriter meant to defend ‘ideas’, with such vehemence to my clients. A few word to defend your ideas could mean, you’ll be dumped for someone whose idea is ‘less’ or not even thought-through like yours. In this case, the jury is usually the management and the client. As a creative writer, it’s even more interesting. I'm a walking encyclopaedia. The one who has the world on her palm! (That’s one for another day).
Recently, being a part of an eye-opening tour – 9 writers, 4 cities, I was faced with another perspective; on how much what I know gets muddled, as I stare into the face of the jury –readers. How much I’ll like to answer a question in some other way, but each time I do open my mouth to speak I’m at a tangent, and finding the right words is Herculean with my passion, anger, delusion etc. On paper, the words act out their role. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the tour. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour (mindless of not having adequate funds. It was a success).
Writing is not the same as speaking, and I give a great applause to those who have achieved this two well. I don’t think it’s impossible though. I’m a work in progress – speech concerned. I’m never finished when it comes to writing.
Yes! I write. But, many times, the readers, the actual ‘jury’ need some other testimony that what you’ve written is truly yours. Not because of the by-line, but because your response to their accumulated questions work through. In the course of the tour, a number of times, after answering a question, I throw a short whisper to a colleague, “did I say something right?” No I'm not self-conscious. Ha ha...
Like when I needed to explain how I combined my creative writing career and my 9-5 work. I mumbled, said something about reading ‘difficult books’ (whatever that means), and some other mumble-jumble. But the thing I should have said is, writing sustains me, I just have to write!
Anyway, here’s what I think, in the process of writing, it’s never done! Not completely. But what’s said is said!
“Jumoke Verissimo’s poetic voice is imbued with a consciousness of African history and an awareness of the socio-economic realities of modern Nigeria with its legacy of colonial plunder, its pathetic attempts at self-governance and the brutality of its military dictatorships. she balances the despair she sees all around her with a degree of stubborn hope and an enchanting lyricism which echoes the style of oral African poetry.” - Funso Aiyejina (Critic, Poet and Professor of Comparative Literature)