I graduated from the University of Lagos, at the end of September and I can’t stop thanking my stars for how intentionality had saved my career path and also made the ending of my undergraduate year a memorable one.
I knew I had made the worst career choice. This was immediately after I finished secondary school and discovered I was not interested in being in science or studying science major. I had wanted to major in commerce/business, but things happened and I found myself in Science. At the end of the day, I discovered that I had been sleeping on my first love, literature. I liked to pen on paper for fun. I read anything that I laid my hand on. It was fun to read literature, discuss and analyse it but growing up, I never knew any popular author that modelled Literature to be lucrative.
I knew Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinụa Achebe, Charles Dicken etc. I read them but they never had a face to themselves. I thought they were random people who wrote literature for fun. Like they wrote for school students. Those authors that wrote for fun to read. Not until later in life.
Immediately after my secondary school and I was seeking admission, I began writing online for fun and when I entered into the University, I became very intentional about my career path. I got into a course that I never liked. There was no career path in science that tickled my fancy. I knew I had to do something as I would come out of the University one day and be saddled with the responsibility. I was lost in yonder. I knew this career path would be about picking my certificate and CV to search for a job. There are a few limited options and also I wasn’t interested.
I became intentional. I knew it would affect my grade but I didn’t let it do too much damage. I needed the grade as a backup, but I also needed to establish this niche I am so very interested in; writing. I began writing. I began editing. I consumed a lot of writing materials. How to be a better writer. How the writing world worked. And I consumed writing itself because there is no way to be a better writer if not by consuming the contents as a writer. I read a lot. I read every day.
Sometimes, it felt like I was wasting my time. Here, I was derailing my grade while taking something I didn’t even know will work for me in the long run. But I continued writing for fun and putting it out there. I didn’t know I was building my visibility. People were seeing what you were seeing. And everyone felt they could write but it’s not so. For a lot of writers, it’s after some years into their career they are able to identify what they have been doing wrong. Especially writing out of your comfort zone, fiction. I discovered this during the pandemic and since then it had been a ride.
Writing came as fun before I began thinking of monetising it and after trying countless times, it failed, I was sort of disappointed. I got my first “real earning” in 2018 when I was 300L. It was when I came out as a runner up in a writing competition. It was a little money, ₦30,000 but I felt a lot about it that year. After the competition, I got a few writing jobs that paid me #1 per word. So, every month, I got paid ₦10,000.
But after some months, I sat down and began thinking about my life. If I graduate, am I going to be getting paid ₦10,000 per month? It didn’t make sense. I have not had a measure breakthrough from this writing. I was worried about my life. I knew my major in school wasn’t going to sponsor my life. I need to identify how to make my first major breakthrough. And I did it.
For a lot of students, Covid19 felt like they wasted one year from their undergraduate days. Even though it felt the same for me, it was not so entirely. Covid19 helped me to get into two writing workshops. Covid19 helped me to apply for writing jobs and I left my comfort zone. And 2021 made me who I am today. I resumed 500L from February 2021. My 500L has been halted since March 2020 because of Covid19 and ASUU. And since May 2021, I’d say I have embraced freelancing fully. I no longer earn ₦1 per word. I have been earning X3 – X10 of my initial rate since 2021.
This is because of my intentionality. 2022 will be my year of embracing this career path fully. It has been a bliss.
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Obinna Tony-Francis Ochem is a freelance writer, who navigates through gender, class, sexuality, climate change and shape shifting monsters. He is alumni of the Lolwe Fiction Workshop facilitated by Zukiswa Wanner and SpringNG '20 cohort writing mentorship programme. His works are published or forthcoming on Elseisy Blog, Kalahari Review, Rustintimes, LivingFreeUk, Punocracy Longlist '19 & 20, Tush Magazine essay finalist/winner, Chinụa Achebe Essay Anthology, SpringNG anthology, and The WorkBooth magazine. A finalist for Kalahari Review Igby Prize for Non-Fiction and longlisted for Second edition of Kitodiaries Prize for Literature. Also, a finalist for the '19 Quramo Writers' Prize for his manuscript, Deep Ocean, and Afire '19 Linda Ikeji Prize for Literature, for Living in the Ghetto. He is currently studying Marine Sciences at the University of Lagos and has a link to his works, https://linktr.ee/obynofranc. He tweets, @obynofranc.