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Obinna Ochem: The excellent young writer writing his way to world-acclaim

Obinna Ochem
Obinna Ochem

Obinna Ochem: The excellent young writer writing his way to world-acclaim

Obinna Ochem is someone I’ve known for a while and someone whose work ethic as a writer I admire. And by the end of this little exposé, he’s someone whom you’ll definitely be interested in.

You see, writers are a special breed (this is also self-praise because I’m awesome too!). Yet, writers are probably the most forgotten, ignored, and overlooked creatives in the world today. To be honest, I don’t blame the world for forgetting the names of writers like myself and Obinna Ochem after consuming and enjoying our written content: from the think pieces to the stories, to the web articles and the web copies, and the books. After all, data from March 2019 reveals that there are 4.4 million blog posts published daily.

Then there’s the fact that our world is quickly shifting to audiovisual, which makes it a miracle that writers still manage to have very large audiences. It’s this shift to an audiovisual world that has made even the Chimamanda Adichies, the Tunde Leyes, the Nnedi Okoroafors, the Ben Okris and the Akwaeke Emezis of the world begin to appear more on screens than in written pages.

There’s also the fact that we’re living in a very “socially aware” world and writers who can’t shape in, get shipped out. This is exactly why I admire Obinna Ochem very much as a writer.

Obinna Ochem is a 500 level Marine Science student at the University of Lagos. He is passionate about marine life and ecosystems.

Controversial and brave: Obinna Ochem tackles a world that ignores writers

Obinna Ochem main body of work is speculative fiction (sci-fi, supernatural, fantasy and the likes) and satire, but as a full-blooded writer, he does whatever he’s called to do. “Of recent, I have been writing more of nonfiction (personal essays), and it has made me to recognise my untapped talent in literary fiction,” he says.

He loves speculative fiction because it gives him a free run with his imagination. He loves to explore the world of the unknown in his head and put down the worlds he’s imagined for his readers. But Obinna Ochem is also very aware of the times he lives in; times where writers are easily forgotten and need to shape in or be shipped out.

“I navigate the subjects of gender, class, sexuality and environmental effects caused by humans and other activities to the environment in my works,” he says. This has helped him stay on his defined path; the path to world acclaim as a writer. Obinna Ochem found his calling in 2014 while browsing through the busy pages of Nairaland. He stumbled upon a story series that helped him realise that the stories he’d been writing as a hobby could be read by a much wider audience online.

“It’s safe to say that story on Nairaland’s front page moulded me to become what I am today,” Obinna Ochem says, explaining how he entered the world of mainstream writing. “I created a blog and occasionally wrote stories for my Facebook friends. There was also a rave on Nairaland back then where we had online diaries recounting our daily activities.

Obinna Ochem continues: “I had a [Nairaland] diary. It was fun. That made me. I wrote for about a year. That was revolutionary for me. Then, I wrote to get people on social media to tell me, ‘yes I read it. It was beautiful. Nice read’, and so on. Nairaland was filled with happy people. People that owned blogs and updated daily. They kept my writing career alive.”

An excerpt from ‘Deep Ocean’ by Obinna Ochem which made it to the finals of the Quramo Writer’s Prize.

Now, Obinna Ochem writes because he wants to be successful in this field. The compliments are nice, they serve as good motivation, and make him feel like he can be an influential voice, but a career which takes care of his bills and needs is what Obinna has his eyes set on now.

“When I was in SS1, I won the award for ‘most-determined boy’. I have kept that determination because I know that if I want to win, I have to be very determined,” Obinna Ochem continues. “I’ve raked in lots of rejection letters from international magazines and home alike, but I’m not stopping because I know what I want. I’ve also raked in lots of commendations, certifications, been accepted to exclusive training with accomplished writers both home and abroad, and made it to the final rounds of many writer’s prizes.”

Another reason why writers are easily forgotten is the fact that despite the acceptance of career creatives, writing is still not considered a talent that can become a career. This is a challenge that many young writers Obinna Ochem who are trying to build their audience constantly face.

Obinna Ochem (bottom, middle) was a finalist of the 2019 Quramo Writer’s Prize.

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In fact, so many of us write “anywhere belle face” because we want people to read our work and find the encouragement to keep going from it. Then there’s also the huge challenge of having to compete with an audiovisual world. Obinna Ochem has had his fair share of “Huh? Full-time writer? You no go go find better work?” comments. His experiences made me chuckle a bit because I could relate very much.

“Most people don’t seem to know what we do. And sometimes, when I tell them the amount I earn from a particular [writing] contract, they wonder for what?” Obinna Ochem says. “They think writing is just about, ‘I can write,’ not, ‘I can write creatively,’ or ‘I can write what people want to read.’ And to get to that level, you have to have honed your craft for a long while,” he adds.

Obinna Ochem continues: “It may take years of writing, rewriting and reading every day to get there. Writing requires learning always and talent for ideation. There’s also the fact that you need to get professional training. Apply for workshops, participate in seminars and get the validation to boost your CV. No writer will be given work anywhere if their work isn’t anywhere that’s accessible, even if they’re the best after Chimamanda.“

“There are many writers and your achievements will sieve you out of many others. It is a very competitive field and a very solid career,” Obinna Ochem adds.

And what a beautiful career writing can be. Many writers have genuine talent but are without direction. Obinna Ochem’s determination to make a career in writing and his hunger for success keeps him going. And that is a direction worth taking. Follow Obinna on his social media – Facebook: Obinna Tony-Francis Ochem; Twitter: @obynofranc; Instagram: @obynofranc.

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Chima Umeh-Saboyo

A half-baked Geologist and anime lover with a huge bias towards upcoming creatives and the start-up culture.

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