We have interviewed a lot of writers since the inception of #WriterSpotlight but this week’s interview is one of a kind. Tobiloba Ajayi is deep, fun and oh so inspiring. Rising above the odds, Tobi is proof that your circumstances and situations should not define you.
Born with cerebral palsy, a condition caused by brain damage around the time of birth and marked by lack of muscle control, especially in the limbs, it was easy to think that she would wallow in self pity. However Tobi went ahead to prove that with the help of God you can, despite the circumstances get more out of life.
Ladies and gentlemen meet Tobiloba Ajayi, a lawyer, writer, author of three books and disability management specialist.
Why did you choose to write?
I remember that in secondary school my class mates used to bet on my essay scores. I had always been good with expressing myself. Because I couldn’t move around so much, I read books a whole lot. I found out that once I was done reading the books I would start editing it and changing what I thought didn’t fit in the book. It didn’t take long before I started writing.
In 2010 someone asked me how I could look like this (referring to my disability) and still believe in God. I said to myself, ‘This is a valid question.’ This led me to start asking so many questions and exploring my faith. I had to go back to read my Bible. It was then I started collating things that formed my first book.
What would you say has been your most challenging moment as a writer?
It has not been easy but convincing my family members to allow me write professionally was a tough one. They felt I was out of my mind. I am the fourth child in my house and my father called a family meeting to announce to everyone that Tobi wanted to become a writer. They didn’t understand why I would leave law to write. After all the money my father invested in me, I now said I want to become a writer. That was a challenging period.
Since you made this decision how rewarding has writing been and what would you say is your most rewarding moment as a writer?
Writing has been very rewarding, although not really financially. I feel very humbled when I know that my book has touched someone’s life, or has made someone hungry for the word. I remember Bankole Williams called me one day and said ‘Tobi I have read your book twice and can’t get over it. You made as ask if it is the same God I’m serving that you are writing about.”
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell her to have started earlier. I cannot even imagine how many more lives would have been touched if I started writing in my 20s. I would also tell her to let go of the fear and just write.
Do you have writing goals?
Errr not really. I write only when I am inspired to. If I am not inspired I do not write.
So you consider writing as just pleasure instead of work?
Yes I do. I find it exciting.
Will you ever consider writing as I full time job.
Honestly I do not think so. My job is one thing I love much more than writing. Living with cerebral palsy myself, I consider it a great honour to help families and give them hope that their children can also make something of themselves. I know mothers who have my picture on their wall and say if Tobi can overcome cerebral palsy and achieve all that she has my child can do the same.
Most times when I visit these families I am so engrossed in talking and relating with the child that I don’t notice what’s going on with the other family members. I remember my friend told me one day that while I was with a family, the entire time all the mother was doing was crying. Somebody has said to me “Tobi you do not understand the hope you just gave me.” Although I love writing this is fulfillment for me.
You wrote your third book in three weeks! Please tell us how you achieved this?
Well I write about things I love and what I believe so it is not very hard for the words to flow. That’s why I don’t understand people that write about things they do not love. With my third book it was like I was obsessed. I was always writing. I wouldn’t stand up except I needed to get water or use the convenience. In three weeks I was done. My free days were just Saturday and Sunday.
Do you have a writing mentor? If yes why
Yes I do. She was one of the first people to identify my writing as a gift. Her name is Mrs. Yvonne Awosanya Adefajo. I remember that she would call me on Sunday morning to write a poem for recitation in church and right on the spot I would write. She looked at me one day and said “Tobi if you can do this on the spot I wonder what you would do when you are given so much time.”
What do you do in your leisure time?
If Tobi is not working, reading or talking to her family, she is definitely sleeping. I love my sleep.
What would you pick;
Continental Food or African Delicacy? Honestly this depends on my mood. There are days when I would only eat Chinese rice and other times all I want is ofada.
Fiction or poetry? As much as I love poetry I would say fiction.
Fashion or music? Definitely music
Which of your three books will you say has been your best so far?
Ahhh. This is so hard. Why will you do this? It’s like asking a mother to choose just one out of her children. But if I have to choose I would say my second book. ‘Who’s with me?’ I wrote that book when I was at a very low point n my life. Of all my books people have been able to connect more with this one.
Any last words for upcoming writers?
Don’t let anyone define what you write. There are two things that are important; authenticity and honesty. Don’t be afraid to be honest in your writing. Your honestly will shine through and that’s what will draw your own audience to you. You also have to understand that you are not sent to everybody so don’t try to please everybody. Write what you love. Love what you write.. Have fun!