Talk Session No. 10 – Writing with patience, persistence and truth – the importance of developing one’s creativity with Victoria Naa Takia Nunoo.
I write poetry and fiction; some of my works have appeared in the Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper, Afreada, Afridiaspora, Praxis Mag Online, and in the anthology ‘The Different Shades of a Feminine Mind’ an African Women Writers Literary Project.
I was a finalist in the 2017 RL Poetry Award, a contributor to the PRAXIS response chapbook, Around The Fire 5, and has recently been adjudged winner of the 2018 RL Poetry Award.
To give a little insight about my background as a Writer & Poet:
Truth be told, I didn’t set out to be a writer. I set out to be a newscaster. I was fascinated by people on screens. Ever smiling, well dressed men and women with beautiful voices.
I wanted to be like them. And I realized that to be like them, I had to learn how to read too. So I started reading everything I got hold of.
When I was in the car with my parents going somewhere, I’d read every billboard, every signboard, I’d read it aloud, to the hearing of everyone in the car. They all knew what I practising for. I would borrow books from friends in school– we had this long “after you” system.
Then High School happened. I went on to study Economics and Math but I never stopped reading. In fact, I was like an addict when it came to reading novels. I would hide them under the desk while the teacher was teaching and continue to read.
It was in high school I first wrote. And it wasn’t poetry. It was a short story. I tried many short stories which I kept gingerly hidden. It was for my eyes only.
I wrote my first poem in 2011 or so, during my national service after reading a poem a fellow service personnel wrote.
When I ‘found’ poetry, I ‘abandoned’ fiction writing. I was intrigued by the fact that one could communicate a lot in just few words.
Back then I never considered the technicalities– style, rhyme, rhythm, nothing. I just wrote ‘nonsense’ and what! To some extent, as of now, I still do not consider the technicalities much, however important.
Writing with patience, persistence and truth– the importance of developing one’s creativity.
I’ll start with Writing with patience.
Patience – The one virtue every writer needs, and yet, somehow the very same we struggle with.
Patience is allowing yourself
- To bud
- To blossom
- To flourish
This fortunately or unfortunately will only come with time.
Patience is you knowing how to gather yourself when everything is disintegrating around you.
It is you choosing your lane and staying in it. This also comes with truth and self (will talk more about these soon).
A couple of years back, I had a lot of people telling me I was wasting my time and talent as a poet because I was not doing Spoken Word.
I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times I had to explain to people that no, I wasn’t a Spoken Word Artist.
These people would look at me and ask, “So what kind of a poet are you?”
In fact, it got so bad I frustratingly went online and wrote a long rant about it.
You can read it here, I Should Stop Writing.
Being patient is keeping the focus while trusting the process.
It is you being ready for the long haul, because that is what this journey is.
The journey of a writer is lonely and long. You will be tired. You will be angry. You will be frustrated.
It is even harder to deal with Social Media; when you go online and see your friends and peers celebrating their successes, it’s easy to feel like a letdown.
But gather yourself and your energy and put it back into your writing.
It may seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel for you right now, but with every forward step you take – no matter how small – a little of the darkness falls behind you.
So, why don’t you keep going?
On writing, persistence and perseverance:
I’ll tell you a story, my story–
The first time I submitted to a literary magazine and got rejected, I bawled my eyes out. I’m not even kidding.
It was like someone had taken a piece of me, shredded it into bits and tossed it into the fire.
I didn’t even know if I still qualified to be called a writer. But guess what I did, I took that same story and submitted it elsewhere.
When I got the acceptance email, I also learnt my first lesson in submissions/publishing; there is a place for everyone, every work.
Being rejected does not (always) mean your writing is a piece of shit (Pardon my language).
Every publishing house or literary magazine has what it’s looking for, and perhaps, your piece is just not it, at that particular moment.
As distressing as it feels, it is not personal. The editor has nothing against you. Nonetheless, sometimes it helps to take a second look at your work or get feedback from others. The bottom line is that you never stop writing or submitting.
After my first rejection and then acceptance, many more followed.
“We are sorry…”, ‘’Congratulations’’ etc…
In spite of how many rejections you get, you never really are completely immune to it. But what I can tell you for a fact is that, it does hurt a little less.
When I submitted my debut collection for RL Poetry Award 2017, I didn’t even think I’d make the shortlist.
In fact, I hardly even thought about the submission I had made, until I was tagged as one of the shortlisted on Twitter. I didn’t win it.
In 2018, the prize opened again. Of course, I couldn’t submit the previous collection and I didn’t have any solid poetry manuscript lying around.
I remember telling a writer friend of mine that we each had one month to write and submit.
It was stressful, I’m pretty sure my hairs fell out at some point because I was juggling so much; corporate work, school, teaching, writing.
It was a few hours to the deadline, and I would have given up, if not for a friend.
I remember saying, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” And he said I could. Well, I did. I finished the manuscript and hit the submit button.
Months after, mine was the winning manuscript.
Imagine if I had given up that night. Imagine if I had never hit that submit button.
Imagine if I had never put my first story out here, which by the way, you can read here.
To my 3rd and last submission: – Writing with truth!
Writers are storytellers, and storytelling is identity.
It is self; one’s own distinctiveness.
It is continuity; anything that has an identity needs to be etched into history.
Your voice matters, and by telling your stories, you are giving them longevity.
Storytelling is activism.
It is involvement.
When we write poetry, or whatever, we are taking an action, a stand.
We are telling people about something they didn’t know about, or reiterating something they didn’t quite understand or grasp before, or something that has been there all this while but they’ve been failing to notice.
We may even be telling people about the (little) things happening all around them – the joy, the anger, the injustice, the love, the cultures and traditions.
Storytelling is your truth.
Tell your truth how you want it to be told. How it actually is.
Storytelling is the memories and the mirrors. It is history and the future.
For me, the ability to create and to be able to breathe life into that creation, so that it stirs a reader in many different ways – maybe takes them into a past, enables them to make meaning or interpret some present, or even to throw them into a future in such a way that their minds are opened to the many possibilities, is truly a kind of magic I never want to lose. This is my truth. This is why I write.
What is your truth?
Why do you write?
I leave you with my latest publication: Men Who Are Highly Flammable. Women Who Set Themselves on Fire
And it’s a wrap from my side!!
Q&As with V. Naa Takia
Q. Miss. Takia, which country is the RL poetry award held in?
A. It’s a poetry award hosted by RædLeaf Foundation for Poetry & Allied Arts in India.
The award is open to natives (Indians) as well as International poets (anywhere in the world).
So the prize is in two parts; there’s the Indian category and there’s the International category.
Q. Please how does poetry come to you? What sparks it up for you?
A. When somebody breaks my heart. I’m kidding, but I’m not kidding though.
Q. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
A. More like it frees me.
I’ve been tagged by friends as a ‘dark poet’ because of the themes I sometimes write about.
I’d say negative energy/emotions fuel my writing a lot. I daresay I write better with them.
Q. Do people complain about your poems being too short?
A. Brevity poems are some of my favourite. I have experimented with them a long time. They are not easy to write, to be sincere.
Just because they are only a couple of lines long, does not mean they’re a piece of cake.
People read some of my brevity poems or even very short stories and tell me they want more.
I tell them I’m done. Nothing’s coming from anywhere. I don’t bother about number of words or sentences when I’m writing. Once I feel my poem or story is done, it is done. Even if it is a single word.
Q. What do you think of poets that constantly only center their poems around love and broken-heartedness and stuff like that.
A. I don’t think anything about them. That’s their direction. Their truth. I don’t think anyone should be restricted on the themes they write on.
Writers don’t need to be put in pigeonholes.
For example, I have heard people say African writers need to write on this or that. I don’t believe in that thought. African writers and writers in general can write about anything and everything.
Some years ago, someone said, “You can’t call yourself an African writer if you don’t write about your Africa things” or something like that.
What the hell is Africa things? Africans don’t experience love, joy, hate, injustice?
Q. What are you currently reading?
A. What am I currently reading… Hmmm.
I recently finished reading ‘Paris for One and Other Stories‘ by Jojo Moyes. I haven’t decided what to read next. But it could be this –
I picked it up at a secondhand book stall because, well, interesting title.
Q. Thoughts on being a Ghanaian creative?
A. It is hard. So freaking hard. I remember sometime back, I saw a tweet (too bad I can’t find it again) that said, it’s hard for Africans to make it as writers unless they were born outside (abrokyire), lived outside or schooled outside.
I thought, wow. I am fucked. What about those of us who do not fall into any of those three categories? So we won’t make it.
It’s true to some extent. It’s really hard being a creative here in Ghana or Africa for that matter. The opportunities are so limiting.
But hey, we can still make it, right in the discomfort of home.
Q. The response of our people to your art. And the process of growing into yourself and your craft. Is the environment nurturing?
A. Our environment isn’t really nurturing. But it’s better. There are quite a few initiatives springing up. What I think we need is a bootcamp lol.
Every year, every award, I feel like Ghanaians are under-represented. I’d like to see more Ghanaians win international awards. I’d like to see new names. Brunel, Sillerman, etc.
Thank you all for making time. I guess I’ll see you around the community. Keep writing. 💛
Talk Session Ten – 2019
Victoria Naa Takia Nunoo is a Ghanaian Writer and Poet.
“Where I come from, art doesn’t sweat. It doesn’t put food on the table. It doesn’t retire a good life. But this is the path I have chosen. It is like staring at a huge brick wall hoping it would sing to me. It actually does.”
Coming from a place where “writing doesn’t exactly put food on the table or retire a good life”, I waived my passion and went ahead to study Economics at the university. But my desire for the art was far from forgotten.
Thank you for having me again. I truly hope my submission made a bit of sense to you and your art!
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