Edwin Okolo: Musings [NEW VOICES]

by Edwin Okolo

In 2014 I started writing a manuscript. It took me a year and three months from the day I first put up my dayglo plot cards on the back of the door in my room in Ekiti, my next door neighbour blasting Obesere on his speakers to the day I wrote the last, cathartic chapter of my book. It was the way I hoped my relationships ended, with waves of relief washing over me. Lucifer, the working name of my protagonist was getting something I’ve never had, the privilege of leaving a relationship changed for the better.

I stole a desk from the school where I was serving, a compact desk with a hinged slab that served as a book rest and wrote on it every other week for the first two months. Then I started to fall into difficult territory.

Last week, after two years of sitting on my manuscript, I finally picked and did last minute manic editing on three chapters, along with a hastily written summary of the book’s timeline and sent it out to a potential publisher. I had worried for months that the book was terrible, and would never see the light of day. Then I hated it because the story I’d chosen to tell, one that closely resembles the lives of me and my friends didn’t feel like the kind of story anyone would want to tell. Sure there was an LGBT character, but she wasn’t driven by the kind of certainty I’ve seen in other novels. Her sexuality is just something that happens to her, secondary to the real drama in her life. The characters were young and had great ideas, wild ideas, but they were also incredibly naive and prone to doing stupid things. But more than anything else, the characters were irreparably changed by the people they loved and the people they slept with. Just like we are.

I became a writer because I surrounded myself with writers.

But I write because I want to not forget, and not have to remember.

There is a chapter in the book, lifted directly off one of the handful of journals I’ve kept over the last few years. A friend of mine read that chapter and told me he felt he had violated something sacred when he read it. And in a way, he had. It was a suicide note I had written in my final year of university, a night I was sure I wouldn’t live past. I have written about that night in many ways, because it was such a pivotal point in my life, the first of many times where I have had to deliberately will myself to continue to live. Having that journal reminds me of that night, and putting that note in my manuscript, intertwining her life with mine, grounds her in reality, me in fiction. I cannot afford a therapist, been down that road and I never want to go there again, so I write.

This manuscript might not get published, but it has already served its purpose. It marks a point in my life, it answers the questions I had then. It is physical proof that I can tackle a grand topic and make it real, that my words can make people feel.
There are many people in my head waiting to come to life and they will have their time in the sun. For now, my writing is self care, for me.
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