On writing — for Write of Passage students

Here’s a list of my essays on writing, finding your identity as a writer and building habits to go with it.

Fear is a dead dragon

I know this, though: working up the courage to face the dragon when you thought it was alive—that’s the real battle. That, in a sense, was when the dragon died. And even if the fear remains unchanged, you’re not: you’re a different person, a person who is willing to take on dragons even if they might die trying, and finds community in the process.

How to have an essay for everything

Anyone familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe knows that moment Cap says those words to a bully, but to my mind he was saying the words to himself. In that moment, a scrawny boy facing down a larger and stronger and more skilled opponent realised his real superpower: the power to keep going. I believe he wasn’t saying it to psych himself up—he was saying it because he recognised it to be true.It wasn’t a recovery, it was a discovery.

Collecting versus connecting the dots

The ideal end goal for food, whether for body or mind, is to be released back out into the world as energy. But between ingestion and release, absorption needs to happen: the food needs to become taken up into who we are. And it’s this process of breaking food down into forms that can be absorbed that we call digestion.… We do it by (to switch the metaphor) connecting the dots we’ve collected.

Success is how you define it

How successful you feel is often more about how you define success than it’s about what you’ve achieved… It’s not semantics, or trying to claim some kind of consolation prize. No, it’s not that at all. It’s about the very practical reality that there are often multiple desirable endpoints, and we do ourselves a disservice when we assume only one endpoint is valid.

What are you willing to trade?

Who says you have to choose between being quick and being thorough? Who says you can’t deliver excellence at a low price? Who says you can’t be both gentle and firm? Who says you have to sacrifice being human to be professional? Or— as I had to challenge myself on when I started publishing regularly—who says you have to give up quality because you’re producing your art in quantity?

Productivity for “lazy” people

As we say in Nigeria, “life no hard reach like that.” At least it doesn’t have to be. Yes, there’s a lot that’s hard about life, but that’s precisely why it doesn’t need our help adding to how hard it already is.… These are less about tactics and more about perspective: not what to do to be productive, but a way to think about productivity.

The slacker’s guide to habits

[I]f I’ve learned anything about learning, it’s that when you get stuck, more knowledge isn’t helpful—it’s more frustrating, even. No, what you need then is to figure out why you’re stuck and how you can come unstuck. And in those moments I’ve found the most help in those who’ve struggled too. Sometimes by insights from their own experience, other times from just the kinship of knowing my struggle isn’t unusual. I’m offering both.

Scroll down to content