Hello, African freelancers.
Today we bring another exciting interview across to you. We spoke with Temitope Owolabi, a prolific writer and a storyteller, and an avid reader. She gave us some useful writing tips you don’t want to miss out on.
Enjoy our interview with her!
1. Can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Tope. Writer and Reader. You are probably expecting more but sorry that’s all I got 🙂
2. How long have you been writing?
Officially 5 years, but I did write as a kid. I compiled poems and stories in note books but it felt like just a hobby at the time, something I just really liked doing in my spare time, not necessarily something I would make money out of.
3. How long have you been freelancing?
Errrrmmmm I have always sent work out, if it got accepted fine, if it didn’t we move. On to the next one.
4. In the course of your freelancing, what are some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Hmnnnn, perhaps the challenge of writing something to fit the magazine or newspaper you are writing for, as opposed to writing what you actually want. I would say though that whatever the case, it is important to always put out your best work, even if it is something you would rather not write. I never even put out a blog post if I don’t think it’s at least good enough, let alone send it out to a publisher. This way, when people read my piece based on say economic policy’s which isn’t exactly my forte it may not be the best thing they ever read on the topic but it most importantly not crap. Another challenge can be editing. So you send your work out and your editor thinks differently and changes half of your work to something else entirely and you are just there like wait, what’s happening here?
5. What are your favourite tools for working?
I am still largely a pen and paper girl. It’s ridiculous because it can cause quite a lot of clutter – sheets of paper on my desk, in my bag, by my bedside etc. I’ve recently started coming to terms with typing straight into my device, but I still mostly write on paper with blue or black pen, do a first rough edit, before typing. So favourite working tools would be good old pen and fresh A4 paper.
6. Tell us about your works.
This question makes me feel like I’m being placed on a pedestal that I am not even any where near. It’s what Yoruba’s call eshin ayan. But well I like to think I am a story teller, so I do have short stories published in a couple of literary magazines mostly online. One of my short stories IYEYE is what got me into the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop with Chimamanda Adichie in 2015. I also have a number of published essays on parenting, feminism and mental health – I look forward to discussions on mental health and treatment being normalised and not spoken about in hushed tones especially in Africa.
7. How do you motivate yourself to write?
I just write to be honest. Ok ok I binge read Chimamanda whenever I’m in a rut. I just look for anything she has ever written and read them all over again. I do same for Oprah. Just watch her make people talk, cry, be real, watch her dash 300 people cars. Somehow all of that washes over me and there’s always something from the experience that causes a stiring, and the cycle continues.
8. Tell us about one of your works you consider as your favourite.
I wouldn’t call any my favourite, because that word is relative – in that I’m mostly in a different frame of mind when writing different things. However, I would say I have two works that are probably the truest I may have even written. Truest because they both come from a deeply personal place, so much that I never sent them anywhere, but published on my blog in 2015 and 2016. You can find them here and here.
9. What is your best writing tip?
This one is easy. Read. To write better you have to read, read, read.
10. What is your best freelancing tip?
Keep at your work. Be steadfast.
11. What advice would you give to a budding freelancer or writer?
Same advice I got from a certain Norwegian that made me give myself validation and see my work in a different light – Normal is good enough.