There’s More To Us Than We Believe
Over the pass few weeks I’ve been competing at Pyramedia’s Flash Lockdown. It’s an online Flash Fiction contest for Nigerian writers. I initially didn’t make the 30-writer shortlist, but I later got drafted in when one of the shortlisted writers, Adams Adeosun, withdrew due to issues at school he needed to resolve.
In truth I had doubts competing at Lockdown; doubts not neccesarily about if I was a good enough writer, but rather if I was able to write good enough Flash Fiction. Writing under 300 words or lower isn’t something I was particularly good at, or thought I could be good at, and I knew most of the prompts at Lockdown would require me writing good stories with no room for excess narration — an element which happens to be a big part of my writing.
I also doubted I could write under prompt. I always describe myself as a man who writes driven solely by inspiration from within. My stories come to me, I don’t seek them out. I don’t brainstorm or scratch my head in the name of thinking up a story just for the sake of it. I sit on my wheelchair, and in the process of watching or listening to someone or something, an idea comes to me, and I set about developing it into a coherent read.
My belief that this is the kind of writer I am, almost made me not to send my 300-word entry story for Lockdown. I had gotten my ticket to compete after winning a poetry duel against Frank Eze, but then delayed submitting my entry story because I was trying to convince myself that I could make a good impression at Lockdown if I should make the 30-writer shortlist.
In the weeks before the announcement of the shortlist, I wrote series of Flash Fiction stories in a bid to acquaint myself with its style and structure. So I was rightly disappointed when the shortlist came out and my name wasn’t there. But when I got a message from Hymar David a week after the announcement that I was in as a replacement for Adams, I was very much ecstatic and elated because I had given up hope and was looking forward to enjoy the competition as an observer.
I had 6 duels at Lockdown. I won 4 and lost 2. Both defeats ironically would turn out to represent my highlight and lowlight of the competition. Losing to Soogun Omoniyi at the Hellimination Round was the highlight for me, as he’s one of the best writers on Facebook that I know. Losing to Chinaza Attamah was a lowlight, not only because I was thrashed, but more because I wrote a disappointing story. It didn’t make me feel any better that it was the second time I was losing to Chinaza, as he had beaten me to an essay prize last year.
More than anything though, what I’ll take away from Lockdown is that I was able to write stories I never knew I had in me. It wasn’t easy, as days before the Hellimination Round, I battled with cold. I was coughing, I was sneezing, and my eyes were always teary because I hadn’t been sleeping well. I did manage to top my cell, and I would like to think that I gave a good account of my abilities as a writer.
What matters in the end isn’t if I won or if I could have; what matters really is if I was able to do what I never thought I had the capacity to do. I was able to prove to myself that as a writer, there’s more to me than I’m often willing to believe there is.