I left the game at half-time, angry that I had wasted 45 minutes of my dear life. The Nigerian team had played like pregnant cows lazily strutting across a green field, chewing the cud; not that I had expected something different though, but like every Nigerian football fan, I wanted them to do well – show them that we are the champions of Africa boys! However, it was not to be, and after my anger had subsided and some conscientious reflection on the game, I realized every writer could actually take away three lessons from the apparent dismal performance from both teams.
Perspective is Everything. Have a Good one.
Majority of Nigerians all across the world saw the game and concluded that the team had just lost three precious points. However, the Iranian coach, Carlos Queiroz noted that the result was a fair one. “I’m so tired,” he said, “just let me enjoy this point we collected from Nigeria.” Where Iran saw one point gained, we saw two points lost. Of course some people might say Iran are minnows compared to us in world football, the game’s one point should be enough to see us through if we beat Bosnia in the next game.
The game of writing a novel is ruled by the same law of perspective. Most writers tend to view their work from a negative angle of frustration and depression, especially when the writing is not going well. Stephen King dumped the first pages of his breakout novel Carrie, when he felt all he was doing was piling shit on shit. His wife however picked up the pages from the bin, read it, saw something differently, and encouraged him to finish it.
Instead of looking at the bad sentences and stupid plot, find out what’s working, hold on to it, and slave on. Who knows what could have been King’s fate if his wife hadn’t seen something else?
Shitty Days Happen.
I know it’s not something most Nigerians would want to hear, but the stark truth of life is you can’t win every time. The Spanish team can attest to this very well.
Writing a novel is not one smooth jolly-ride. Chimamanda Adichie stays in bed and gulps up chocolates when she’s having a bad day with her pen. You see, even Adichie, a widely celebrated novelist, has her bad days, so who the hell are you? Please give yourself a break. Celebrate the good days. When you hit a slump, instead of hitting your head against the wall (I know a guy who does that), go out, give yourself a treat, breath fresh air. Shitty days happen, even to the best of us.
Do What You Can
I snigger at those who complain that Nigeria should have flogged Iran mercilessly. I’m sure it is this same set of people who believe Nigeria should win the world cup. Nonsense. Maybe you didn’t notice, but the Iranians also came to play, and not watch. And yes, it could have been worse. Former United States Army General, George S. Patton once said, “If a man does his best, what else is there.”
You may not end up writing a novel that would win the Nobel Prize or sell millions of copies, but at least, make sure you do your job: tell a good story, the best way you can. That’s all anyone can ask of you.