Lessons Learnt in Freelance Mode

Olaniran Osotuyi, one of my closest friends and colleagues, appeared before a court for the first time on Monday 27. Earlier, a few days earlier, another friend, Abimbola, had also made her first appearance. We were amongst a total of 3726 Lawyers that were called to the Nigerian Bar on Valentine’s Day. When Olaniran updated his Blackberry Messenger status to state he would be making an appearance in a couple of hours, I felt for the first time that I should be in a courtroom, not facing a computer screen.

In the months following the completion of my studies at the Nigerian Law School, I have worked as a freelance writer/editor/blogger/web administrator. These slashes have ensured that I remain fed, although if I didn’t have the luxury of living with an uncle, things might be different. I knew from my first year in University that I didn’t want to practice Law, and each year that passed in my undergraduate program reinforced my choice, trammelled my legal destiny. Incidentally, I finished few points away from a first class, and finished with the same class at the Law School. I assert these facts intentionally, yet perplexingly — how is it that I survived six years of studying Law, this vocation I did not intend to practice?

I’ll leave that question unanswered. What I might be able to answer is the glaring ambitiousness of the alternative career I have chosen, this literary path, this worded life.

I arrived Lagos in early September 2011, the same evening I attended a job interview. I was offered the job, but declined when it was going to clash with the trans-African project I was involved in. Life went on. I started keeping a beard. I started writing more non-fiction, started working without pay.

Being in my early 20s means I am highly impressionable. In seeking to record my latest adventures, this foray into unknown territory, I consider the relevance of stating lessons I have learnt from my ongoing projects. The premise upon which I state this is the fact of unpredictability, the diverse unity of my projects, the compendious and yet elaborate nature of my artistic view.

There’s Gambit, a conversation project with emerging African writers. It is wonderfully amazing the depth one finds in his peers, equally flabbergasting how easily accessible their erudition is. I have had the opportunity of conversing with Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and Donald Molosi. Sometime this week, my conversation with Suzanne Ushie will be published. All of these young writers, some of whom have been published in not more than ten web-journals, are, I predict, the future of African writing, for whom the focus shall not simply be to destereotype existing stereotypes. In the coming weeks, I will engage Ayobami Adebayo, Abdul Adan, Damilola Ajayi, Dango Mkandawire, Ayodele Morocco-Clarke and Richard Ali.

In January, I wrote a series of posts around the Occupy Nigeria protests. The most gladdening thing that happened, and this could be considered vain, was that while the internet swirled with links to these posts, Keguro Macharia, one of my favourite bloggers, recommended my posts. Yet, a certain Nigerian critic, who I shall not name, resident in the United States, argued that revolution was the wrong word for the events that unfolded that week in Nigeria. I mocked his insensitivity, joined by a number of my friends, and I still mock such profound denial of change. In the coming days, most likely weeks, I will work on posts that addresses the evidence of post-Occupy change, beginning with an online anthology of Occupy Nigeria writings. Please check here and KTravula for those posts.

And then, in early January, I got an email that changed the course of my life until May. I was given a licence to host a TEDx event in Ile-Ife, one of my dearest towns. It suffices to note a TEDx Licence does not portend any other benefit except the freedom it gives the licencee to curate an event of real value. So it’s true, as my friends know, that my life has been overtaken by TEDxIfe, which keeps me on the road, keeps me sleepless, more daunting than probably any offline project I have organized. I’m left to prove if I have counted all my demons, thrown the bad ones away (that’s Coldplay, by the way).

Of course, there’s 3bute. I say to myself: don’t play with your dreams/ideas, they are not playthings in the real world!

A quite ironic thing is happening. I am asking for help from my colleagues, certain loved ones are asking me to carry out legal duties. There are certain tasks I didn’t imagine I would fulfil — drafting a deed, a Memorandum of Understanding, such legal stuff. It wasn’t a waste, after all, all those years of studying Law.