Discovering a certain knack for putting words together in a manner that is occasionally engaging or worth reading has influenced the trajectory of my life immensely. Discovering that, as with most things, mere talent counts for very little has made that journey, at times, painful. Talent is merely the starting point. Learning how to use the tools of the trade – grammar, language, form, genre, craft, etc – is where the real work lies.

Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up. – Jane Yolen

Going from writing proposals, reports and poetry to television scripts and magazine articles has involved constant learning. Perhaps this is why attempting to write something has often felt like trying to squeeze water from a stone. I often wish I could step away from it indefinitely but, alas, I have, unconsciously, conspired to create a life that has words as integral to every aspect of it, whether mine or the consumption of the words of others.

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer– Ray Bradbury

 Reading about and interacting with writers, I am always struck by not only how much work goes into being better at it but also the work that goes into the career/business side of it. It is not simply about loving writing or wanting to be a writer but also approaching it as a career, if that is what you want to do with your life. I am regularly approached by young people who want to be writers and am alarmed by how little thought has been given to this beyond the desire. Perhaps I am overly pragmatic in my view but I do think that one should have a plan outside of “I love writing and I want you to give me a platform to do it for a living.”

There are no shortcuts. One has to put in the work. One has to pay dues. One has to constantly learn and improve. And one has to be engaged.

A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer. – Joseph Conrad

And, one should learn how to spell. Writing a request for assistance to get into writing should not be written badly.

A random thought.

3 Comments

  1. YZe

    Writing is something I’ve always wanted to do. But then I look at people like you, people who have mastered the art of writing and I feel like maybe I shouldn’t even bother trying. Now I know it won’t just come, I have to keep at it ’till I eventually get to the level I want to see myself at.

    Thanks for this post!

  2. Ike Obidike

    I had been dabbling into writing long enough to know the effort it would demand in order to raise my standard to a respectable level. And I know that it is a few – those who want to make a career of it in one form or another, that would make that exertion. I have injected some of that energy and have attained a reasonable expertise but “perfection” is still far away. I am undaunted despite the distractions of my formal academic demands but I cannot pause until I have attained the unattainable – perfection, even if it is imaginary.

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About Kojo Baffoe

Of Ghanaian/German heritage, raised in Lesotho and currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Kojo is the proverbial slashie, the professional ‘jack of all trades.’ He is an entrepreneur, writer, facilitator, content architect, former men’s magazine editor and speaker. He has a Bachelor of Commerce (1994) with majors in Economics, Marketing and Business Administration from the former the University of Natal (Durban), now University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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