Authors Eat Main Characters for Breakfast

Photo by Denise Jans via Unsplash

by Kanyinsola Ojeshina

I once heard a joke that went something like “If we could go back in time and pull some of the very first leaders across the globe into the future, their first question to us would be “You guys didn’t write any new sh*t?!’. I still don’t know if I laughed so hard because it was so funny or because it was so true.

We’re toldyou can do it all to ensure that we never want to choose.

Why are we the way we are?

As human beings, we have a tendency to go through life ‘following a lead’ or ‘playing a character’ and for many African women, that character starts off with another episode of history repeating itself. We buy pink clothes or pop pink confetti to announce the arrival of a daughter, we’re taught home keeping skills to develop the abilities of a wife, we’re showered with childbirth prayers to increase our chances of fertility, and (if we’re ambitious) we’re told “you can do it all” to ensure that we never want to choose. It’s an interesting cycle that one very creative author named ‘culture’ — and obviously it stuck.

Who wrote these rules?

Once we all got past the age of books with fairy tale endings, we started to wonder: how could both Romeo and Juliet die; didn’t Beauty have Stockholm syndrome to fall in love with the Beast, and was there really no space at all for Jack on that floating piece of debris?

Credit: Science ABC

A lot of people underestimate the power of an author — but if you ask me, they are some of the most powerful people in the world. They control the narrative, are limited only by their imagination, and no matter how invincible their main character may be, they will always have the final say. Yet, even though deep down we know that there’s nothing special about a main character and that the author holds all the cards, the former is really what most of us aspire to be — the main character in someone else’s fantasy, simulating taught behaviours. We dress like the celebrities we like, buy products because someone told us to, follow leaders based on popularity, make decisions based on culture, and live life based on people’s opinions. We’re all subconsciously erecting altars of the people we want to be in our mind’s eye without stopping to think about who we’re meant to be. If no books had ever been written, no characters had ever been created, and no stories had ever been told, who would you be?

What rules would you write?

As another International Women’s Day (IWD) approached I had a list of topics written down that felt like the political approach to IWD — ‘Managing the workplace as a leader’, ‘Women in tech’, or something about women being the future of work. But, when I asked myself what I really wanted to write about, I found that it was something that few people talk about — discovering who we truly are. So I wrote it anyway.

Are you doing what you really want to do? Do you want to get married? Do you like your friends? Do you actually enjoy the taste of champagne? Do you want kids? Why do you wear heels? And do you like Beyonce because everybody likes Beyonce or because you like Beyonce?

Photo by Chela B. via Unsplash

As funny and basic as some of these questions sound, they aren’t all that easy to answer. Because behind each answer is the real question — who are you trying to be that’s so much better than who you already are?

The journey to finding ourselves is not linear and I have no doubt that many inner battles will be fought before most of us can get to our place of self discovery. I’m an author, not an expert so don’t quote me, but here are 3 things I think you can write into your 2022 journey to ease yourself along:

  1. Always stop and ask yourself why. If you can’t answer, that’s the wrong answer.
  2. Don’t be afraid to put precedents on hold while you think. Established principles are great, but so is establishing principles.
  3. It’s never too late to discover what you’re really good at. And when you do, don’t be afraid to fail on your journey to excellence.

Please, write your own rules.

Know that whenever you want, you can stop ‘playing’ the main character and start writing the book, and you can let the world inspire instead of distract you. Control your narrative, create a new standard, change the game. Be the author that breaks the bias.

#IWD2022 #BreakTheBias

Kanyinsola Ojeshina is a lawyer and Comms professional currently leading Communications in the CEOs office at the African Leadership Group. She is excellent at telling the stories of people, products and policies; blending her legal expertise and a writer’s gift to produce fluid, unconventional and refreshingly simple content.

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