Stepping out of the light
by Ikhide R. Ikheloa
This should be interesting. I have been dreading this day. And when I dread something I avoid it. Procrastination has been a cute cuddly soft blanket away from that which my heart tells me I must do. I must step out of the light of nothingness into the darkness of my muse, channeling whatever demons reside in me. They are not finished with me yet, they assure me. There is a lot in me that must come out.
I write. I have written for as long as I remember, from childhood. I write obsessively about the things that I think about obsessively. I am the first to agree that many times I do not make sense. Every now and then I make sense. Google me and you will find my thoughts scattered all over the place; there is no rhyme or reason as to why they are where they are. I simply write and folks pick them up and put them in places where other folks might find them. My words have found solace in many places, some of them quite sketchy, in the words of my teenagers.
About three years ago, the Nigerian writer Molara Wood invited me to grace the Arts and Culture section of a brand new newspaper NEXT. Every week I would write something, anything, as long as it was not more than 850 words. I was scared of the possibilities – of failing. But Molara is not someone you say no to. I agreed and offered a silent prayer to the gods of my ancestors. They came through for me and ensured that in three years, I never missed a deadline. I wrote a new column every week until that day this past September when I hung up my writing gloves. I am incredibly proud of that feat because I am not a trained journalist; just someone who loves to run his mouth about any and everything that catches his fancy.
I no longer write for NEXT. Late in September, I bade that brilliant but troubled newspaper a fond teary farewell. I meant every word that I said in that piece. Molara Wood and NEXT were very good to me and I will be forever awed by the vision and excitement that her founders offered Nigeria and the world. In the years I was there, I wrote about a lot of things; my parents, my lover, my children, my children, my children, exile, longing, books, lots of books, and of course literature. I wrote about pretty much each book that I read. My audience called these pieces book reviews and before you knew it I was being called a book critic. There were not a whole lot of perks associated with this new title. For one thing, I was conflicted about it. I see myself as a writer, first and foremost. The idea that I was sitting in judgment over the works of my colleagues did not sit well with me. And it did not sit well with the targets of my reviews. I was called all sorts of names after each “bad” review. Sometimes writers would hold a pity party at which my dignity would be grilled medium rare. Truth be told, I enjoyed the insults and the abuse; I am weird like that.
So what next? Well, I am still here. I have been busy since leaving NEXT – writing and writing and writing. I have a lot to say about the same things I have always talked about – the literature of our people, exile, my lover. our children, longing, America, Nigeria, Africa, etc, etc. I promised I would not go away. If anything, I like to keep my promises.
Watch this space 😉 I shall be right back. Yes.