Discipline is something many writers learn the hard way. I am still learning

At Ebedi, there is no one forcing you to your computer, no one checking to see if you wrote anything or slept away your whole day and blamed it on the demon called writer’s block. There are no workshops or anything of that sort to “guide” you. Your only obligation is to yourself and the community, through your interaction with the students.

Here, you truly have your 24 hours to yourself. Oh well, almost. Deduct the minutes you spend when you take a bath, eat, have a chat with your housemate, catch up with the news on TV, teach the students and maybe make water for tea. The question remains: what will you do with your time?

Sleep? Walk? Read? Ping? Sometimes, I switch off my phones and pretend they do not exist. The bigger challenge is switching my mind off the phones.

Discipline is something many writers learn the hard way. I am still learning. I’ve had several opportunities pass me by because I kept on shifting my personal deadline, focusing on other not-so important things. Sometimes, you decide to sleep or play all day and watch the deadlines slip past. Some weeks before Ebedi, I resumed an old addiction; Zuma game. It’s a game of colours, balls and speed.

Sometimes, after playing a game of Zuma, I begin to see the colours in my head as I am about to sleep.  This addiction followed me to Ebedi.

Some days I would be in the middle of writing a story and then I’d say to myself, “Temitayo don’t you think it is time to take a break? OK, take one hour off.” One hour of Zuma usually becomes two or more.

Then, drowsy, unable to write, pissed with myself, I’d go to bed, the story unfinished. So, in my second week at Ebedi, I got rid of Zuma from my PC. I uninstalled it. I found some other way to distract myself.

Piles of short stories, interviews and articles that I’d downloaded in the past became my way of relaxing.

It is easy to get distracted. I had the good distractions, one of which was writing short stories that I did not have plans to write, short stories that would just appear to me in a tweet, in a Facebook message, in a story from Barbara, from anything. These I call pleasant distractions. They never go to waste. 

You know the thing about these good distractions is if you don’t let them go, you can hardly even focus on your main work, so why not let them go? So, I scribble when I happen on such story ideas. I also watched some movies that I’d had for a long time. One of those that stood out was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, an adaptation of a short story by Scott Fitzgerald. I was swept off my feet by this movie, simply because it is based on a short story. How does one write such brilliant story? Since then, I’ve been looking for the story.

Sometimes it is hard to choose between sleeping and getting up from bed, booting your computer and getting some work done. The pull of sleep is a strong one, a strong one that keeps your fingers on the snooze button of your alarm until you yank yourself from its hold.

So, one strict warning to anyone going for a writer’s residency; have a plan. You could also map out some sort of distraction strategy. Truth is, you will get tired of writing at some time, so how do you keep yourself in check to ensure that you do not go entirely out of your way? Well, I had some accountability partners. I promised to send two friends a story every week. So, every week, I had to write at least one story. This ensured that I wrote consistently. I am also doing this column for Daily Times, so whether or not I liked it, I had to write a fiction piece and a non-fiction piece weekly.

It is easy to be undisciplined but at Ebedi, I am learning ways to stay disciplined. Again.

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