Tolulope Popoola: Taking the plunge (30 Days, 30 Voices)
I’m a Christian and I believe God directs my footsteps, so I started praying to God to help me find my true purpose and the right path I should take. A few months and lots of praying, research and soul-searching later, I knew I should become a writer.
My writing journey began towards the end of 2006 when I started getting frustrated with my career as an accountant. I wasn’t fulfilled in my job, even though it paid well and the company was a great place to work. I was not using my creative talents, and when I thought about it, I was filled with horror at the idea of working in Accounting for the next forty years of my life.
Writing was always a hobby that I enjoyed doing, since I was about six years old. I devoured books, and sometimes I wrote my versions of the stories I’d read. When I was a teenager, I wrote pages and pages in my diaries. I found writing therapeutic; it helped me to get things off my chest and sort through my private thoughts. However, it was never something I considered as a career. I’d always thought a job was one where you had to wear a suit, work in a 9 – 5 office job, and get paid monthly.
In 2006, I came across a blog when I was searching for some information online. I was immediately attracted to the idea of writing an online journal, so I started my own blog. I enjoyed writing, commenting, meeting other people, and joining a community of bloggers. I started looking forward to coming home after a long day at work and unwinding by writing on my blog. One day, I wrote a short story and published it on my blog and that post attracted positive comments from the readers. I was surprised and pleased that people thought I could write fiction and they enjoyed my stories. So I started writing some more. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to continue doing it.
Shortly afterwards, I met a lady who was an accountant, working on a project for her company. Even though it was a Saturday morning, she was glued to her laptop working on some financial data. When I asked her about it, she told me about her job and the project she was working on. She sounded so passionate and enthusiastic. She said “I love accounting, I love finance”. I was thinking, “Wow! She’s in the same industry as I am, yet she actually loves her job!”
It was eye-opening because I hadn’t imagined that there were people who loved what they did for a living. After that meeting, it became clear to me that I did not love accounting with so much passion. It was just a profession I trained for and a job to keep some money coming in, nothing more. If I was to leave the job, I won’t miss it one bit. So the question for me was: what job could I do, that would make me passionate and excited to get up in the morning?
I’m a Christian and I believe God directs my footsteps, so I started praying to God to help me find my true purpose and the right path I should take. A few months and lots of praying, research and soul-searching later, I knew I should become a writer. I was always meant to be.
Taking the plunge
Leaving my job was scary, and to be honest, I still get scared sometimes. I was leaving the known for the unknown. Everything about my education had been geared towards a career in Economics and Finance, so I had no training in how to be a writer. However, one thing kept me going: I had to try it because the cost of doing nothing was more than the cost of taking the risk. I started by reading “how to” books on writing that I could get my hands on. I signed up for writing classes so that I could get feedback from a tutor and other writers. I stayed up many nights researching the writing and publishing industry. I was nervous, but excited about the possibilities.
When I started telling people about my decision, I got mixed reactions. Some of my friends teased me that whilst they were at the start of their careers, I was already “retired”. Some asked me why I didn’t hold on to my job and try writing on the side. My dad was particularly difficult to convince. He complained that after all he did to educate me; I was now jobless. It took him a long time, but he finally changed his mind after reading some stories I’d written. He later explained that he too, had the gift of writing, but he had been too scared of criticism to take develop it and share his work with the world.
By God’s grace, I finished working on my first novel, a romantic-suspense story titled Nothing Comes Close. It’s been an interesting journey and I’ve gone through a big learning curve. I still see myself as a beginner, with so much more to learn.
For anyone looking to take the plunge and pursue their dreams, I would say this:
Believe in yourself and don’t let fear hold you back. And always remember, life is a precious gift, don’t waste it. It’s better to take risks, than to live with regrets.
Tolulope Popoola was born in Lagos, Nigeria. She moved to England for her university education where she studied BA Accounting and Business Economics and a Masters in Finance and Investment. A few writing classes and an online fiction series soon followed and Tolulope quit her Accounting career to write full-time. She now writes short stories, flash fiction, and articles for many print and online magazines. Her first novel, Nothing Comes Close has just been published, and was featured in the “Best Books of 2012” by Africa Book Club. You can interact with Tolulope online via her blog, on Facebook and Twitter, @TolulopePopoola
30 Days 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians to share their stories and experiences with other young Nigerians, within our borders and beyond, to inspire and motivate them.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.