Graphophobia with the youths: the way out – Part 1

GraphophobiaThere is no denying the fact that most Nigerian youths live in an environment that is saturated with the media. They enjoy increased access to television, movies, music, advertising, games as well as reaching out to diverse social media communities. As worrisome as it seems, the media in our contemporary society is often driven on pocket-sized devices.

The foregoing view does not suggest that the content and programmes that are inherent in the media generally are bad, but data showing the negative effects of not affording the youths adequate time to concentrate on their studies, particularly as to the adoption of sustained reading culture and the acquisition of good writing skills are convincing.

There is evidence of the imbalance between obsession for the social media and academic performance. The imbalance, no doubt, has created setbacks in the writing skills of most youths while some of them have developed what can in this context be called an intellectual sickness that is psychologically known as graphophobia.

Before this piece is misconceived as a result of the usage of the word, graphophobia, it is germane to explain that it simply means “a fear or dislike for writing.”

It seems unbelievable to come to grips with the fact most youths of today are afraid of writing. It is also worrisome that some cannot even write simple application for employment that may not be more than three short paragraphs.

It is imperative that the youths of today that are glibly called “Leaders of tomorrow” equip themselves with good writing skills and sustained reading culture.  The reason for this cannot be farfetched when viewed from the perspective of the fact that reading, writing and speaking are the primary basis upon which a leader’s work, his learning, and his intellect will be judged. Not only has that that is, reading, writing or speaking expressed who a leader is as a person.

Above all, writing equips a leader with the communication and thinking skills that he or she needs to participate effectively in a democracy. The three tiers of communication as mentioned in the foregoing form the basis of determining the level of knowledge of a leader. How would you rate a leader that was simply asked, “What are the minerals that are available in your state?” and unashamedly responded by naming brands of soft drinks or beverages that are available in that state? Or how would you perceive a leader that suddenly burst into euphoria and switch to pidgin English by asking his or her audience “Una don come?” or “Na only you waka come?”  The foregoing ridiculous instances are enough for anyone to reason that it is incumbent upon today’s youth to imbibe the habits of reading, writing and speaking as they are mutually dependent.

It is not arguable that many elderly Nigerians are looking up to the youths of today to become leaders in the nearest future.  In the same vein, many youths are on their own aspiring toward the direction of becoming leaders, and of which some of them are excelling and have remained outstanding far more than their parents. This, no doubt, is a good omen as an African proverb has it that, “a child that surpasses his or her parents in achievements is an answered prayer.”

At this juncture, it is expedient to ask what, are the steps or way out to take for today’s youths to be more successful in the art of writing than their parents. The answer to the foregoing question can be found in the following paragraphs.

First and foremost, today’s youths should have it at the back of their minds that there is hardly any pastime that exists today that has not got its own share of challenges. It is in the light of this truism that they should accept most of the frustrations they face in the process of writing with equanimity.  The truth is that writers are faced with myriads of challenges.

One of the challenges that is often encountered is the one that usually rears its ugly head at the stage of inspiration. At this stage, many writers find it difficult to write a meaningful piece, and even find it difficult to coin an appropriate heading. It is a stage where writing a lead paragraph becomes a problem. For those in the writing profession, this kind of situation is usually caused by a phenomenon called Writer’s Block. It is simply a situation where a writer finds it extremely difficult to write a new piece or improve upon an already written piece.

It is usually a terrible situation for any writer at the stage of conceptualising a heading or generating contents for the body of an article.  In my own view it can be easily overcome as it is known in all religions that it is only God that gives inspiration to anyone to be creative. The book of Exodus chapter 31 verse 1 to 5 attests to this when it says, “Then the Lord said to Moses. See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah and I have filled him with the spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also, I have given skill to all craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.”

As a writer, this is one of the favourite verses I usually resort to in the Bible whenever I am stuck with writer’s block.  What any writer needs to do whenever  he or she experiences writer’s block is to remind the Lord of this biblical injunction and ask Him in prayer for the in-filling of His spirit for the skill, ability and knowledge to write. For non-Christians, it may look so simple and unbelievable but it works. This particular scripture is not peculiar to the art of writing but also to all creative activities like singing, dancing and even to secular office tasks. Therefore, rather than become defeated in an effort to write, any wise writer should always try this whenever he or she is struck with writer’s block.

It is not unexpected for any reader of this piece to suggest that writers should be thinking of other pastimes rather than wasting their time on over-flogged issues that have seemingly defied solutions. This writer has severally received this discouraging counsel from some friends and relations but taking this path does not help any writer as it makes him or her to be frustrated the more. If only they understand the eccentric disposition of an average writer they would keep their counsel to themselves. The reason for this cannot be far-fetched as a writer is not like any other person.

A typical writer is eccentric. He is naturally inspired to see an interesting story in a dreary situation. A typical writer moves about with his pocket-sized jotter and biro as he is readily prepared to jot down any idea that drops into his mind; whether on the streets, in the cyber-café, in the market, in the car, at home with his family members and even while sleeping. Many people expect the night to come so that they can have a nice sleep but the writer hardly sleeps as he intermittently wakes up, leaves the comfort of his bed to jot down any idea that drops on his mind.

A committed writer always ensures he has his pen and jotter by the side of his bed. He sometimes, between 12 midnight and 3a.m. takes his pen and paper to the sitting room, having realised that both his wife and children are fast asleep to develop the ideas he has overtime garnered into a meaningful and inspiring piece on critical national issue. A writer who does not want to be afflicted by graphophobia often visualises and ruminates over a topical issue for days before scribbling it down on paper. Suffice it to say that any meaningful and topical piece of writing is first and foremost subconsciously written on the mind of the writer before it is transferred to the paper as manuscript.

Still in the same nexus, a writer is not selfish. He writes for the benefit of all.  If he writes against any societal vice it is for the benefit of the people and the nation.

Paradoxically, a writer is often seen as an enemy by those who often misconstrue his writings to be referring  to them even when he did not specifically mention names or even when the article was bereft of innuendo.

For instance, when he writes about corruption, a politician that was not specifically mentioned in the piece would be infuriated. When he writes about the evils that are inherent in prostitution, some dyed-in-the-wool feminists will see him as a campaigner against the sanctity of womanhood. When he points out the inadequacies of a political party, some die-hard party loyalists would begin to cry blue murder.

When he writes about Boko Haram, kidnappers, armed robbers and any other dangerous set of people, family members and friends would be angry with him that he is endangering his life. These are some of the factors that make some youths become afflicted with graphophobia.

The most frustrating of all and the reason why most youths hate or dislike writing is that their articles are not published. Suffice it to say that not all articles go beyond the wastebasket of the editor. Therefore, it is expected that any youth who wants to be a good writer should be more hardworking and committed to meet the set standard of most newspaper publishing organisations. The reason for this cannot be far-fetched as he may not be the only contributor to any media organisation. Some writers may not understand that the editors know about the art of writing more than they do. An average editor is both academically and professionally trained in the art of writing. Apart from being academically and professionally equipped, the editor is daily exposed to writings of diverse styles from writers of various backgrounds.

The editor knows the right topic to soothe the mood of the nation or the timeliness of any article and understands the expectations of the readers more than you and I.  Like an oracle, the editor can easily predict the article that may easily fall into legal pitfall.  The editor knows the appropriate words to use in building captivating paragraphs. I see the editor as my mentor, teacher and my examiner. Whenever he rejects my work, I would simply understand that I need to work harder.

Dimgba Igwe of blessed memory in his book, “Secrets of Writing Successful Articles,” says, “One thing I know for sure is that editors are no sadists. The truth is that many editors are looking for suitable articles to print but are despairingly finding little or none suitable for their need.”

In my view, why would any youth become afflicted with graphophobia as a result of a rejected article when Ben Okri, a one time winner of the booker prize and J.K. Rowlings, a British writer, variously had their manuscripts rejected by publishers?


• Asabor, a journalist, lives in Itire, Lagos

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