So, I’m getting inked.

Oba?

Tattoos were cool when they were frowned upon. One as harmless as a butterfly would make self declared ‘right thinking’ members of society judge you. They’d form dark opinions about your upbringing and refuse their children to date you.But now, tattoos are as normal as dreadlocks (and dreadlocks are as normal as permed hair). The shock value is all gone. If you’re thinking of getting a tattoo to express how edgy you are, you’re too late, sorry. You may as well use that money to pad the foundation of a land-buying/ car-buying fund.

However, if your itch to get inked comes from a deep, dark, genuine place, get one and let me know how you zeroed down on your message or drawing.

A whole new kind of pressure has infiltrated the process of getting a tattoo. Since coolness and peer pressure have been taken out of the equation, tattoos now have to mean something:  a memory that you hold dear, a date that changed the course of your life, a phrase that reaffirms your beliefs, etc.  I’m judgmental of anybody who just goes into a tattoo shop, opens a book and picks a design and I’ll totally judge myself if my own doesn’t seem well thought-out to the world.

I’ve been hunting for the right message for over two years because my expectations of the phrase that will occupy rent-free space on my skin are unrealistic. I want it to be funny, deep, a bit shocking and full of feeling. I want every human that glances at it to be thrown into a frenzy of self-reflection.

My first idea was ‘writer’s block is for amateurs’. It was stupid. Every artist goes through periods of hyper creativity, followed by periods where their brains refuse to start, like the engine of a third hand car. I thank my lucky stars that I chickened out because I’d have this nasty, mocking message running from my chest to my belly button, paralyzing my creative process and driving me over the cliff of sanity.

Ever since I discovered a website called Zen pencils, however, I feel I’m as close to making a decision as I‘ll ever be. What this guy does is take inspirational words and turn them into comics. I don’t know how wonderful the lines will remain when they do not have his pictures below them, but I’m slowly moving past the point where I mind so much about what people will think. It’s not like I’m going to stand at city square showing passersby my body ink.

The best ones I’ve found are: Fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds’ worth of distance run. Rudyard Kipling wrote that. It’s beautiful because life is full of unforgiving minutes. Boredom, depression and ennui can combine to make you useless and this message will spur me to action every time my cubicle feels oppressive.

Make good art. This one’s by superstar of the pen Neil gaiman. He says to make art out of every situation, especially the ugly ones.
Baby, air and light and time and space have nothing to do with it! This is by Bukowski, that coarse and brilliant man. It bashes the notion that one needs a certain combination of factors to be perfectly aligned for them to be creative.

My favorite idea is to have the word LAUGH! printed on my belly with a naked fat lady laughing uproariously below. That’s the second one I’ll get.

Now to find the first.

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Telling stories can be buladde.

Being invited to give a talk is exciting. It means that people think you know a lot about whatever field you work in and that you’re wise. Wise! I’ve been invited to exactly four gatherings since I started writing Stiletto Point, which makes me suspect that people didn’t think me all that clever before.

The latest event was  Rotaract gathering at SteakOut bar. Not knowing that this venue is well loved by Rotaract clubs, I stumbled from one group to another awkwardly asking if they were the one supposed to have me as speaker. Without fail, people’s eyes would glaze over with indignation, like, “How dare you interrupt our meeting? Why would we have you as speaker? Who are you?” and I would always stifle my instinct to say, “Excuse me. I am Apenyo. Don’t you read? Don’t I look like my caricature?”

I finally reached the group I was supposed to address, ordered my gin and tonic and tried not to scrunch my face at the level of formality with which members of Rotaract address each other.
The subject I addressed was writing; specifically the ugliness I suffer whenever I’m upgrading, growing in the craft. My growth process is hideous and I’m going to share it with you, like I did with them because I have no personal pride.

It starts with me noticing a pattern in my stories, a kind of stagnation. There’s no one particular thing that alerts me to this pattern really but when I notice, my stories start to suck.  I begin to criticize words before they even hit the page and even become unable to hold coherent conversations because I’m too busy editing my words before I say them.  I become irritated with the world, anxious and hateful of any person that stares at me for a fraction of a second longer than I deem necessary- basically, I become a sociopath.

The Knowledge that I will have become a little better at telling stories at the end of it all is little consolation. The pain is too much. Meanwhile, my story generator doesn’t give two shits about my situation. It keeps throwing suggestions and ideas at me full knowing that any attempts to flesh them out beyond the idea stage will result in pain. So frustrating.

When I chose the writing path, I didn’t think things would be hard. Coming to the realization that the actual work involved is just as hard as anything else I could have chosen to do was very disappointing. I thought I was escaping the challenges of growing up by choosing something I already did as a hobby. I was wrong.

Writing requires discipline, a decision to sit in the same place at the same time everyday and create even when you’d rather be stabbing your face with a pencil.

Things are particularly hard right now and to cope, I’ve been reading Angela Kintu and Charlie Brooker online, going at a rate of an article every three hours or so. They’re keeping me alive.

Writing is fulfilling when it’s easy and ugly when it’s not.

I have shared my angst-ridden growth process with you. Tell me. Is this what you all go through in your profession? What are the things that you do to revive your mojo when it collapses and makes you useless?