Our #WriterSpotlight features keep getting better. Today’s guest is Ibukun Gbemisola Ogunyemi. Her biggest dream is that her writing inspires young women and children to rise above their pain and struggles; to step outside all shades of boxes.
There’s a lot to learn from her today.
Hello Ibukun, how are you doing?
Very fine, thank you.
Your bio says you are a Content Writer, Screenwriter, Fiction Writer, Creative writer, Poet, Spoken Word Artist, lifestyle blogger and much more. That’s a whole lot! Can you please take us through the journey?
(Smiles) Wow! It’s truly a lot. Writing has always been a part of me. My life in total is writing. There was a time I wanted to change my writing style even though I knew that I had a thing for descriptions and words because I felt unaccepted and unconventional. One of the things I’ve learnt so far is that your writing style always pays off. Unconventional is not flashy but it’s creative, beautiful and resourceful. As for cooking, baking and recipe development, I will say I picked that from my mother. She’s one of the best cooks I know and my Dad loves making recipes. Cooking and baking for myself and people actually gives me joy. It’s an art. The ability to feed oneself good meals and pastries, and then having your family and friends enjoy that is artistic. Talking about the Media, I realized some things are better said than written. So I’m working towards that too.
Of all your many abilities and duties, which one do you love most?
It’s hard to pick a favourite because most times, it’s hard separating one from the other but I’d pick Creative Writing because it encapsulates all my shades of writing.
Let’s talk about your writing. When did it hit you that could do all of these kind of writing; fiction, poetry, screen writing etc?
For poetry, I can say it was around the time I started writing Creeping Voices and that was in July 2015. Fiction on the other hand has always been a part of me; in fact I think that was where I started from and the Screen Writing journey started this year when a young man contacted me from outside Nigeria and asked if I would be interested in writing a screenplay for a feature film. Apparently he had been reading the series on my blog and I was like why not. I had no basic knowledge in Screen Writing. We agreed on a pay and as it was my first time, I really didn’t care too much if I was under-charging but the pay was good I heard. I sought a friend’s opinion, I downloaded materials, and screenwriting apps. I read, practiced and when the story came in, it was a little bit challenging and different but I was determined to give it the Ibukun touch.
The story took me three months to deliver. It was a 90-page story and I was off at camp during those times. The experience was beautiful for me. I couldn’t believe myself when I finished because I had to write virtually everything in pidgin and even make rap lines patterned to a beat style because the lead character was into music. The joy and self-confidence that enveloped me when the guy mailed his comments and sent my balance was everything I needed to be sure that I was born for this. It was a good story that fell into the right hands and there I learnt the importance of using something good for a first time. The movie is not out yet.
What’s the weirdest feedback you’ve gotten from your writing?
The weirdest feedback I’ve gotten would be at the beginning when I launched into writing proper. I was writing more about heartbreak series then and someone told me my writing was targeted at somebody. It was weird because for me, I wrote my way through with little or no encouragements and when I had thought I was getting there, someone came up with a comment that sagged my spirit and I realized that the way people will appreciate a literary work of someone they don’t know would be eternally different from the way they would with someone they know. If only we can view every literary piece with an open mind and try to separate a writer’s personal history from their works, it would make room for real literary appreciation. Also, I think unless a writer is categorically telling you this is what it is, it is wrong to categorically affirm he/she is talking about themselves. The world is too big a muse that we don’t have to draw materials from our lives all the time.
What’s the biggest thing you have achieved with your writing?
For me, the biggest thing so far beyond the features and the opportunities I never sought yet found me is the fact that my writing helped someone through a difficult time and chief of all is that it inspired one of the best people I’ve come to love and admire strongly this year to embark on her own writing journey. I think that alone is enough achievement and in one way or the other, it has inspired me never to quit on myself because I don’t know who is getting inspired somewhere or who might be inspired.
You wrote an e-book and even got it on Okada books! How did you make it happen?
Hmmm. I think one of the things I try to acknowledge as a writer is that I am a very impulsive one. I realized that some of the writers I’ve met are really not a fan of impulse but most of my written work are impulsive and that makes me different even though I tend to feel like I am a different type of writer too outside the impulse. Talking about Creeping Voices, I never planned to release it as an eBook. It was meant to be personal. Everything about the book was done under the span of 5 months. It had been a hell of a writing journey for me and I was going through different things personally that included repressed emotions and I felt like I could just confess my way through those feelings but like I said in the dedication part of the book, some emotions won’t go unless you give them life. So, in mid-July of 2015, I had a surgery that changed my life. I started questioning everything I ever believed in and all the emotions I thought I was done with began to come to fore. I was determined to seize and enjoy every moment. I couldn’t afford to allow all those emotions torment and rot inside of me.
After the surgery, I gave in to the emotional invasions as I began to write them down. Living became different for me. So, I wrote all 76 poems on an hospital bed in one week and I spent August reading them over and over again asking myself how I came about each poem. In September, I gave it to a friend to edit after which I struggled with whether or not I should release it, giving it a title and then designing the cover. I finally made my decision and I published it on Okada books for a meagre fee. Basically I would say the journey was unplanned but it made me a better and a dauntless writer. It was me allowing myself to feel, break down, be blunt, and evolve, and step into purpose.
What’s the biggest lesson writing and publishing a book taught you
It taught me to be true to myself, my motivation and my passion; to seize every moment and most importantly, never to define my writing worth by numbers or by support base.
Can you share the best advice you’ve ever gotten with us
I had an imaginary friend one time and she said to me, “Don’t get so caught up looking for encouragement in the seemingly important places or with the seemingly important people that you forget to appreciate those that give it you effortlessly without asking.”
Where is the weirdest place you have gotten inspiration from?
I think I am the kind of person that gets inspiration from weird things and places; from pep talks to arguments, fights, pain, offences, seemingly minute scenarios, food, comments, discussions etc. But I think the weirdest of all would be at the Salon; on two different occasions.
Tell us two platforms you would love to see your work featured on
(Laughs) I rarely think about stuff like that but if I’m to say, that would be Caine Prize and Commonwealth Writers; for now!
When Ibukun is not writing, reading or cooking, what is she doing?
She’s probably listening to music, or watching/listening to messages, watching movies or documentaries.
What legacy would you love to leave behind?
That my words and writing inspired, blessed, healed and dared girls, young women and children to rise above their pain and struggles; that it helped them to be themselves, love themselves, step outside all shades of boxes, maximize the opportunities available unto them; that I inspired them to dare to love and trust God again and that families breed emotionally healthy children.