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Firecracker Toyeen: Surefire Tips to Help Kickstart your Writing Journey

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Recently, a friend of mine sent me an article about a conversation she had with God. She wrote to God and God wrote back to her. I thought it was a very beautiful and meaningful piece and said as much to her. She appreciated the compliment and said I could share but do so anonymously. She went on to say that she has a lot to write but doesn’t feel confident enough to write them. I am no writing guru but I never thought I could write until I started writing and kept getting positive feedback. I told her about how I started writing and gave her tips to help her begin. 

I was inspired to write by two female, anonymous, Instagram bloggers who shared just the most random thoughts about their lives, and those posts would get a lot of engagement in the form of likes and comments. Seeing those posts got me thinking to myself, “ahn ahn, I also have funny incidents happening throughout my day and life that I can share now, ehn”  and I started to write and post the most random things on my WhatsApp status.

This experience taught me that by walking in your purpose or doing the work you are called to do, others can also get inspired to walk in their purpose and do the work they are called to do.

My very first post on WhatsApp status was written on the first Saturday of 2019 after attending the strategic leadership meeting at Daystar. I was amazed that the entire church with a 5000 seating capacity was filled with workers, so I wrote, “The whole church is a worker! What a wawu!” A few of my friends and family responded with laughter and that was the beginning of my writing journey. My status was private and only the people I gave access to could view it. This made me comfortable enough to write personal things about my depression and rant about my co-worker without him seeing it. My lengthiest post at the time was my “Loving and Helping your loved ones who are depressed” which got a lot of reactions from people and built my confidence. Feedback from those who read my status encouraged me and made me believe I could write. An older cousin would always tell me that he reads every single thing I post even if he has to zoom in and squint to read them and he had no idea I was hilarious and could write. He would talk about some of the things I wrote and those conversations gave me life, mehn!

When you appreciate people’s work, tell them. You have no idea what your compliments can do to their self-esteem. Private WhatsApp status posts continued for 9 months until September 2019 when WhatsApp had a glitch and two people who were excluded from viewing my status given my privacy settings responded to a post on my status. I stopped writing for a few days and decided to start publishing on Instagram, so I made my Instagram page public.

I kept writing until My Journey to the Amrica series happened and the response from that series made me believe I could write for a living. The feedback I got from putting my writeups out there solidified my interest in pursuing a writing career.

If you believe that you have stories or ideas worth sharing and would love to write but are afraid to put yourself out there for fear of being judged or condemned, or you’re just not confident enough about your writing, here are my tips to get you started:

Start with a small audience

I am a firm believer in testing your work with a small audience before presenting it to a larger audience. Technology companies and startups also do this. They create their product, have it tested in-house by alpha testers, followed by external beta testers, and incorporate the feedback received into improving the product before launching to the general public. The reason for this is simple – it’s better to fail on a small scale than to fail on a large scale.

If you start sharing your writing with a small audience like your close friends and family who love you, you can receive both positive and negative feedback from them and improve. Internet people can be quite brutal and negative feedback before you are ready to receive it can deflate your confidence. The larger the audience reading your pieces, the higher the likelihood of receiving negative feedback. If you start small, you build your confidence gradually and become (almost) immune to the negative feedback that would inevitably come.

Write anonymously or under a pseudonym

This is especially useful if you want to share intimate details of your life that you don’t want to be attributed to you or you don’t want your loved ones to know about. You may want to write about things for which you don’t want to be judged by those who know you and do not typically ascribe such things to you. In that case, you can create an Instagram account and write anonymously like the two Instagram bloggers who inspired me to write. You can also sign up on medium.com and blog anonymously. You can then share your published articles with your loved ones if you don’t think they’ll suspect the writer is you. 

The downside to this though is that you may not get the feedback you need from your circle to improve and the mean internet people can come for you faster than you expect. But again, you can be lucky to have your posts read by kind people who would give the positive feedback that would build your confidence.

You get better and build your confidence with regular practice 

This was an easy enough lesson to learn for me because my dad taught me to practice math exercises a lot and that’s how I became good at mathematics. The only way to get better at anything is to do it repeatedly and consistently. Like the saying goes “practice makes perfect“. One of the ways to practice is by writing about any idea that crosses your mind – from the mundane to the intense. I have written about funny incidents that happened to me, my life experiences, my faith, my loved ones, lessons I have learned, and so on. You would probably only find your rhythm and niche area after covering a wide range of topics. I would never have thought my experience going to grad school was worth documenting had the holy spirit not dropped the idea in my heart and people not responded very positively to it.

I wrote my first blog post months before I published it because I was very nervous as to how it would be received. I spent a few weeks revising and reviewing it, sent it to a few friends and family to review and give me feedback, reviewed it some more before I was confident enough to publish it. One of my friends whom I asked to review the article pointed out some errors in it and recommended I use the Grammarly app to proofread my articles for errors. I had never heard of Grammarly until she recommended it and I now use Grammarly all the time.

These days, rarely do I send out articles to friends/family to review except I have reservations about them. For most of my articles, once I have an idea for a post, I write, edit, and publish it without sending it to someone else first. I only became this confident after writing almost daily for about a year and a half. 

You get better by reading and learning

I have always read a lot and I am aware that a lot of the sentences I use in my pieces came from books I had read but I had no idea there was a direct correlation between the quality of books you read and how well you wrote until I saw two bloggers mention that your writing improves the more you read well-written and well-edited books. You also improve by learning, and learning doesn’t have to be anything huge. It’s as simple as checking if a word or sentence is right using Google or finding synonyms for words you use frequently so you don’t keep repeating the same word in your article.

I only found out last year when I was writing The one who got away that “who” is used to refer to humans while “that” is used to refer to animals or inanimate objects. I still struggle with the correct usage of “that” and “which” and I often have to google the phrase I want to use either word with. Google is a very useful resource for improving your writing. If you do want to become more proficient, you can sign up for writing classes on masterclass or Coursera or get a degree in writing. This article provides a list of 9 free courses that would help you become a better writer.

Get used to lukewarm response

This is still hard for me to deal with if I am being honest because even after deleting the Instagram app once I publish a post on it, I still check the engagement on the post via an anonymous Instagram account I have on my web browser and I am constantly checking post views on my blog posts and medium posts. I am praying to God seriously for deliverance from this issue. What I have found out over time though is that I can’t predict how people would respond to my posts. One of the best articles I have ever written in my opinion got only one like and I still don’t understand why one of my pieces has the most engagement despite reading it numerous times.

I have decided to share anything I believe is worth sharing or would be beneficial to someone. I have learned to seek approval from God even though it’s still not enough and I still crave human approval. Still, the thing is you can never predict how people would react to your work. Kevin O’Leary, one of the judges on the Shark Tank show said he would never have invested in Tesla if Elon Musk had come on the show and pitched it to him. So you see humans are not always right. If Elon Musk hadn’t created Tesla because of seasoned venture capitalists like Kevin O’Leary, he most likely won’t be the wealthiest man alive today. Welcome negative feedback, even nonconstructive ones. Use it but don’t let it invalidate you. Also, don’t depend too much on human validation because even that is faulty. Seek validation from God and let him be the one to tell you well-done or not for the work you have done.

So if you think you ought to write and are unsure of how to start, use the points above to start! 

 

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Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels

Oluwatoyin Alawode is a believer - it’s the essence of who she is. She writes insightful, thought-provoking, educative, and entertaining pieces under the moniker Firecracker Toyeen. she runs a blog www.firecracker-toyeen.com and she is also a freelance writer at medium.com. She has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical/Electronics from UNILAG and a master’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has gone through a lot of career transitions from a Transmission Engineer to an Information security consultant, a Software Test Engineer, back to an Information security consultant and she now writes full-time. She is a technology lover and she's working on a project that merges her love for writing and technology. She's an advocate of mental health having recovered from a 2-year depression, and a health and fitness enthusiast on a journey to a 62 kg weight goal. She writes about everything she loves, values, and enjoys including; her faith, story-telling, mental health, health and fitness, her loved ones, technology, fashion, worship music, etc. She can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Olawale

    February 27, 2021 at 10:50 pm

    Nice one Toyin! Your write-up made a lot of sense.

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