Creative Writing and Reading Culture in Nigeria

by Sunday Ogundugba

“We need many novelists and visionaries because the story of the African continent is not finished,” says Achebe in an interview in a national daily. I ponder over Achebe’s statement almost everyday as the supposed vacuum to be filled seems unappealing to our generation of today. In truth, people get enticed with ovation showered over distinct writers but are not ready for the price. The price to pay to be a novelist and visionary as Achebe states is a healthy reading culture among the youths of today. Wale Okediran’s position that to be a novelist one must have read hundreds of novels is instructive of the essence of reading. This article lays emphasis on the poor reading culture in Nigeria as the cog in the wheel of creative writing.

Ade (not real name), a graduate in one of these science oriented courses approached me sometimes ago on how to be a good writer, especially in creative writing. I advised him with all humility that creative writing is not just something you wake up to do. the fact is that to be mused to write is through mastering other people’s works in listening, reading and being a good observer of event in one’s environment. Particularly stressed in my advice was that he should cultivate the habit of reading which he hitherto had not been doing. Seeing the price he has to pay, I could discern he was put off.

It is often said that everybody has a book in him, how to go about it is the hurdle to cross. A lot of factors have been identified as the lack of wherewithal to do so. At tender age, negligence of parents to monitor their children’s reading habit is one. The home video of a thing has also eroded the virtue of reading as a dramatic film is preferred to the supposed boring and monotonous job of reading. Paucity of literary books recommended in the syllabus of SSCE students where synopsis and summary of such books have become alternative is also part of the problem. But to these problems that we all hold on to as excuses for not reading, others have weaved out ways for themselves and here they are today shot for stardom.

Alluding to the bible that a servant is not greater than his master, I wish to laconically bring to fore the experience of leading writers in Nigeria today in their quests to get their feet stamped on a solid writing rock. Dimgba Igwe, THE SUN deputy editor in chief said he mandated himself to read two books a week in his youthful days and he nearly had gone through almost all the books in the AWR, African writer series. Shakespeare is reputed to have 22000 vocabulary bank which he acquired through reading Latin books, roman history and ancient mythology. Chinua Achebe published his first novel at age 28, implying he had read so much in his twenties to have mastered the techniques of story telling. Even Sunny Ade once said he developed himself through reading newspaper as alternative for formal education. How then can the desire to write be achieved where the reading culture is poor.

In line with my love for creative writing in consonance with Achebe’s call for more novelists, I approached my supervisor here in the University Of Ado Ekiti that I would be setting to write a novel as my BA thesis, in partial fulfillment of my BA degree. The Doctor, apparently aware of the decadence in the reading culture looked at me derisively and said, “Who told you you can write a novel? I hope it is not these soaps or home videos stories you want to copy for me o-o.

Although I knew my competence to write such is not at stake, I knew the Doctor was right to question me that way, for today the belief that writers like Soyinka, and Achebe Chinua might never be produced again in Nigeria seems to be justified by the prevalent poor reading culture in Nigeria.

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backgammon September 9, 2008 - 12:52 am

I want to be a professional writer. Thought currently i don’t possess any professional qualification in this field. But i have deep interest in writing. Am i be able to cope up the adversities and obstruction which will come across all my way to my goal of writing.

Francis April 23, 2008 - 7:53 am

It is indeed excellent write up. I dont there is a wesite like this. It will be great if you can work along with government that resposible for the youth or colleges/university.

Or advertise the website in Nigeria daily newspaper


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