Written by Ekoja Okewu |
Published on:

As a young boy growing up in the agrarian region of Benue State, the expectation was for me
to go to school and fall back on agriculture. Many of my peers were either cultivating the soil
with sizeable hoes or raising animals at a subsistence level. I equally had a fair share of
agriculture when the responsibility of raising my father’s animals rested upon my shoulder.
My father, being an engineer at Benue Cement Company, would usually resume work by 8
am and close around 4 pm. During this interval while he was away, I usually fed them. There
was a time when one of the boars at the farm knocked me down as a little child for feeding it
late. This experience dismayed my thoughts of embarking on a writing journey. My teachers
at school, who should have helped me in primary school, unfortunately, never had the
knowledge of creative writing nor could they spark up the writing potential in me. This
negligence made me reserved and unable to coordinate my thoughts.
After my primary school education, my first exposure to writing stared at me during an
entrance examination at Mount Saint Gabriel’s Secondary School Makurdi. One of the
questions asked was "In 10 sentences, write an essay about how you spent your last holiday."
Since I was competing with over 900 pupils for a limited 150 admissible space, I quickly
organized my thoughts and wrote an essay with the sketchy knowledge I had acquired from
reading novels. Fortunate enough, I was among the few selected from this pool of pupils when
the admission list was released.
When I returned to secondary school, I was always taken aback when my seniors were called
up for awards during the assembly session. This made me start to develop an interest in
competitions. On one occasion, during a literature lesson in JSS3, my teacher introduced a
book titled "Animal Farm" for our use. As we took turns studying this captivating novel, I
began to appreciate the efforts of writers like George Orwell and Jerry Agada. How he sat
down to critically think and put down such a fascinating story wowed me. The way characters
like Snowball, Boxer, Squealer, Napoleon, and the farm owner were woven to play their roles
in the book further oiled the wigs of my writing potential.
One fateful day, while in junior secondary school, Maclean (a toothpaste manufacturing
company) organized an essay competition for students in Benue State. According to the
requirements for submission, each participant was expected to write an essay and enclose it in
an envelope with an empty pack of used Maclean's. Our teacher then informed us that there
would be a Nokia phone for the star prize-winner of the essay. This mouth-watering prize
motivated many students across the state to send in their entries for evaluation. During this
period, I was faced with the dilemma of writing a winning essay and getting a Maclean's pack.
The latter was a harder nut to crack because Maclean's products then were not popular among
Nigerians. Nevertheless, I gathered my thoughts together to write an essay on a foolscap
sheet. Searching for a Maclean pack made me visit waste bins, search my school hostel, and
foot paths. My search was unfruitful at first, but with persistence, I found an old pack of the
toothpaste, enclosed it in an envelope together with my essay, and submitted it to the
organizers. After the evaluation of entries, a young boy from a command secondary school
won the star prize. Despite my failure, I was encouraged by the effort I put in to participate in
the competition even without a writing coach. This, I believe, was the spark that ignited my
writing potential. During the 3 rd term holiday break of 2007, my story-telling writing skills
took a new turn after attending an English holiday lesson. My teacher at the lesson introduced
me to the use of provocative openings. According to him, "it helps a reader to be interested in
a piece of writing." With this knowledge, I was able to craft numerous compelling stories for

the entertainment of my peers. It even assisted me in answering the essay section of my
English language paper during my Junior Certificate examination.
After these experiences, I was placed in a science class to study sciences due to my
performance in the junior secondary school examination. This decision starved me of
literature study and slowed down my writing journey. All I was concerned with at this point
was ionic bonding, projectile motion, differentiation, and Mr. Niger d.
In 2009, my writing journey was revived when a relative of mine gifted me an internet-
enabled Nokia phone. With this device, I signed up for accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
The more I read posts from my friends and influencers, the more I was motivated to also
coordinate my thoughts and transform them into writing. For instance, my first form of
writing on social media, which was done on the 18 th of December 2010 around 6:52 am, was,
"Jesus is the reason 4 de season". With continuous practice, my writing started getting more
engagement. When I attempted to write longer posts, I was limited by the 1024 character limit
of Facebook and the 140-character limit of Twitter. This made me migrate to the use of
Facebook notes for longer writing compositions. The more I wrote the more commendations I
received from other social media users. This gave me the confidence to start searching for
writing gigs online. Each time I find one, I will retreat into a quiet place to scribble down my
thoughts on sheets of paper. Due to my limitation of not owning a computer set, my writings
would first be typed as notes on Facebook depending on the word count. Afterwards, I will
visit a cyber café, pay for an internet connection, and copy all the notes from my Facebook
page to Ms. Word. I will then edit the work into a presentable format before submitting it to
the organizers.
In my first attempt to participate in an online essay competition, I was slapped with a rejection
email. I continued, however, but still got loads of rejection mail. Due to multiple messages of
failure in my inbox, I adopted the habit of deleting rejection emails for my writing. While I
was about to delete a rejection email one day, a thought flashed across my mind. "You have
been deleting loads of rejection emails without count. Why can’t you keep them as a
testament for the future? At least you will be able to track your writing journey and growth
through them. The email will also serve as motivation for future writing mentees who may
face the same challenge." As these thoughts crystalized in my subconscious being, I stopped
deleting my rejection emails. As I look back after several years of writing, I fault the younger
me for not having a writing mentor early in life. If I had one, many of the mistakes I made
would have been avoided. As rejection emails littered the corridors of my inbox, I developed
the habit of voracious reading. This exercise helped me to expand my vocabulary and build
my creative writing skills.
In a bid to meet up with my equals globally, I began cultivating the habit of reading winning
articles from writing competitions. Immediately after a story, essay, poem, or prose is released
as the winning entry of a competition; I will download it and spend time internalizing it.
Sometimes, I will read them over five times to become acquainted with the literary tricks and
skills used by the writer. Soon, my writings too began to command some forms of technical
After writing my Jamb examination in 2012, I was employed at a bakery for 6 months before
gaining admission into the university. The stressful nature of the job squeezed out my writing
interest as I was then expected to resume as early as 7 am and close sometimes by midnight.
Things, however, took a new turn when I honoured my admission to study plant breeding and

seed science at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi in 2013. This relieved me a bit
and helped me refocus on my writing development. In my second year, I got a laptop, which
eased me from the stress of typing with a phone and visiting the café.
One of the remarkable things that helped me on my writing journey was the discovery of a
writing niche. Prior to this period, I was a jack of all trades but master of none. After
evaluating my writing, I discovered that my strength aligned with essay and research writing.
In the year 2020, I continued practicing within my writing niche until the COVID-19
pandemic brought the world to a halt. The lockdown period was a blessing in disguise for me
because it allowed me to block out distractions and fully focus on developing my writing
skills. While surfing the internet one fateful morning during the pandemic, I came across an
essay competition organized by the Alfred Agunbiade Foundation with the topic "The Nigeria
of my dream". After reading the rules and requirements, I set out to conduct extensive
research before scribbling down my essay draft. An effort was then made to reread my essay
and make corrections where necessary. With this done, I carefully typed my essay before
submitting it to the organizers. On the 1 st of October, when Nigeria was to celebrate her 60 th
independence anniversary, the foundation announced my name as one of the winners of her
maiden essay competition. This was followed by the presentation of a 20,000-naira cash prize.
My spirit was inspired to keep working on the path to my niche.
( )
In 2021, I again participated in another international essay competition organized by the
International Justice Initiative. The topic of the essay was "Holocaust: How have
understandings of genocide and human liberties progressed since and do modern policies and
social structures reflect these changes?" Being an empathetic writer, I employed my pen to
write on behalf of the oppressed globally. After evaluation by the organizers, I was declared
the winner of the competition globally.
In June of the same year, the International Atomic Energy Agency organized a global essay-
writing contest for young professionals globally. The essay's focus was on raising youth
awareness of the opportunities available in the nuclear industry. Despite having a vague
knowledge of the industry, I conducted extensive research to come up with a compelling
essay. About a month later, I was notified that my essay had been shortlisted as one of the 30
best essays globally. This feat won for me the role of a panellist at her annual conference in
Austria. After processing my passport and informing the Nigerian government of my
achievement for the nation, I was denied a sponsored trip to Vienna for the conference.
Though it was a bitter experience for me, I never allowed it to impede my writing journey.
I have gone on to get a finalist award in the Food For Thought essay
( ), a runner up award in tripartite agro
enterprise, a finalist award in the MANI essay competition about the relationship between poverty
and mental health (
between-poverty-and-mentalhealth/ ), an honourable mention award in nature writing contest
( and an honourable mention award in
the Wise Ink writing contest.(
In 2022, I noticed the need to oil my writing wheel because of the frictional pebbles that were
clogging my writing wheels and impeding my progress. I started watching writing tutorials on

YouTube, participating in online writing courses, and listening to tips from writing coaches.
My quest further helped me to come across the cmonionline writing community. I was
encouraged to continue writing through her weekly writing prompts. One feature that amazed
me about cmonionline was the use of peer review, online defence, and feedback from the
judges. All these provisions helped me to adjust my writing lapses to be well grounded in the
art of writing. I also remember learning about the use of Grammarly, an online tool that helps
writer’s correct grammatical errors in a piece of writing.
Being a self-taught creative writer, I went further to pass this knowledge on to my pupils
through the organization of intra-school essay competitions on topical issues like corruption,
insecurity, and education.
Fortunately, this effort paid off when two female pupils of mine got honourable mention
awards for their essays in the 2022 TSL international essay on the topic, "How would
combating inequality help in fighting climate change." Another male pupil also won the 2022
national children’s day essay competition organized by Classic FM after reeling out his
manifesto for Nigeria.
Presently, I am working on a story titled "Sugar Quest" for conveying a message about the
slave trade to the millennia generation, who are often starved of historical knowledge. Some
of my writing works can be accessed via
*Common mistakes new writers tend to make
From my observation, I noticed that new writers, in a bid to get the fame of "I am a published
writer," always jump the learning and skill-sharpening processes. This leaves them destitute
with a pocket of deficiencies. As a new writer, please incubate properly before going out.
*My advice to new writers starting out
Get a niche that complements your strength and talent.
Read, read and read the work of others.
Leverage technology to learn.
Network with other writers.
Write patiently every day to build capacity.
*Tips, tricks, and things to pass on to dedicated writers
Find a niche that complements your strength and talent.
Read, read and read the work of others.
Leverage technology to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Network with other writers.

Continue writing patiently every day to build capacity.
Do not forget to commit all to God's hand.

Copyright ©

Author: Ekoja Okewu
I am Ekoja Solomon from Nigeria. I love engaging in writeups that spur humanity into action


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