You’d think that as a writer I’d have a wonderful way with words. As a poet, my words should taste like your favourite meal. That when reading a ToniVerse piece you’d smell party Jollof rice or candy floss... (pick your sweetness). Well at least that’s what I aimed for.... and to an extent have achieved. However, deep down inside, I KNEW I didn’t know how to use my words.
I’ve always been good at spelling... in primary school I had the highest dictation test scores. I used to love reading words I. My encyclopaedia (I loved spelling that word too) and memorising the spelling. However there came a point in my life where vocabulary began to intimidate me. People around me knew more words than me and used them better!
I think that was my first encounter with imposter syndrome. It left me feeling unqualified to ‘write’. Which when I think back is extremely ridiculous considering we were all from the same environment. Fair enough some people’s parents were lawyers/editors... hut I’m not sure I even knew this. All I (thought) knew was that I wasn’t qualified to be a writer
I think that’s why I chose poetry. Poetic licence gave room for weak vocabulary. It allowed for poor grammar, weak structure and even spelling mistakes (which had become a much more common occurrence as my reliance on autocorrect picked up).
I shied away from writing tasks, competitions and even favours. The worst part was when I failed my first essay in school. It had never happened before then. I was great with words, but all of a sudden my words just weren’t cutting it. I stopped helping friends write things and even my blog suffered. I could only write about my experiences as they were present time. When it came to expressing myself, I was a lost cause.
Slowly and surely, imposter syndrome won me over and I began to lose my passion. It didn’t help that depression came in and again, I couldn’t use my words to cry out for help. I mean, leaving cryptic clues in poetry was hardly a cry for help.
I can’t tell you the exact turning point, if it was a conversation, or even an epiphany. But it came along with intentionality. I remember realising that the way I said things or the deliberate use (and even omission) of certain words afforded me the privilege of controlling the narrative. I understood that words had power, not in that sticks and stones way, but in a position yourself in someone’s brain way, which when you actually think about it is what that really means.
I began to care less about my inferiority complex when it came to grammar, and started paying attention to the words (autocorrect actually had me type out swords here and for a split second I considered leaving that here because words are in fact my chosen weapon due to familiarity) I knew and how to use them.
After falling victim to the words of a sweet boy who in plain essence broke my heart (this might be an exaggeration), I realised that words can be manipulated to fit me. I started referring to myself as a writer only 2 years ago. I sometimes joke and say I’m a wordsmith because I know how to use my words. Sometimes I pay close attention to what’s being said... I hear between the lines. Sometimes I say things so there’s lines between my words. Either way I’ve learnt how to use my words.
I’ve learnt that vocabulary is almost useless if no one understands you. I’ve also learnt that words translate differently when other languages are involved. I’ve also learnt that not everyone understands how to use words.
I’m really pleased at where I am now, how comfortable and confident I am. I’m still learning new words, or re-familiarising with words that confused me in the first place. I love thesaurus.com and a cheeky right click on word. All in all, I’m developing myself at my own pace. I may never be a Patrick Obahiagbon, however I am comfortable in my ability to speak to the words I know. I can stand in a room and navigate conversation and say whatever it is that I have to say. I know how to use my words.