Things are Changing

A Strange Note in Semmus*

I think a great deal about the constant shifting of the self. About how we are called into, pass through, and emerge from phases that become a defining point of our existence. I think about the frightening nature of new seasons and how, despite their gardens of uncertainty, our lives are still full of breath for our future self. And as I find myself being levered through a shifting period of questioning and utter disinterest for a library of triviality, I am reminded of how our hesitation toward submitting to this update of the self is often met with a counterforce by the universe to propel us into who we must become if we are to live wholly. The motion of change is constant, and it is with this engine of life that I am, among other private actions, reassessing my dedication to publishing Strange Notes on a weekly schedule. 


When I started Strange Notes toward the end of 2020, it was in a bid to, firstly, flesh out my web of unanswered questions and, secondly, learn to write authentically. To address the latter, one of the things about being a writer is that you possess an inescapable eye for listening, and your writing is ultimately impacted by the materials pocketed during your moments of watchfulness. But the voice, with which these observations are made, continues to be edited until a writer understands and embraces their essence. This is what John McPhee notes, in On the Writing Process, that ‘the developing writer reacts to excellence as it is discovered — wherever and whenever — and of course does some imitating (unavoidably) in the process of drawing from the admired fabric things to make one’s own. Rapidly, the components of imitation fade. What remains is a new element in your own voice, which is not in any way an imitation. Your manner as a writer takes form in this way, a fragment at a time. A style that lacks strain and self-consciousness is what you seem to aspire to, or you wouldn’t be bringing the matter up. Therefore, your goal is in the right place. So practice taking shots at it. A relaxed, unself-conscious style is not something that one person is born with and another not. Writers do not spring full-blown from the ear of Zeus.’


I too have borne witness to this unavoidable imitation of literary voices, fueling my pencilling of words across a variety of fields. It was through my mental visualization of Two Women, a story by Olivia Cole, that I narrated events of crime and freedom, which became one of the first fictional stories in my digital footprint. It was with the patiently detailed voice of Malcolm Gladwell that I contemplated the elements of success and the overlooked influence of mitigated speech, and inculcated a new style for weaving real stories within the intersection of art and academia, thus resulting in essays on understanding the root cause of our bad moods, approaching friendship with its core attributes, the problem with solving problems, and footprints of other essays


Artwork by Izunna Dike

Her Dreams Come Alive by Izunna Dike.

Writing, for me, is an important affair. It is a life through which I constantly understand the world and my place in it. Having taken numerous forms – from the infusion of skeletal sketches of people in my young age to the collection of styles from other writers –, I made a decision, during the later months of 2020, to write a new piece every day. In doing this, I churned out essays – most of which now sit behind my digital storage box – that met my goal for quantity but failed in their quality.


So, I put on new boots and raked out a new approach that could cure this concern. I landed on placing my effort into writing an article every week and have since actualized this goal as Strange Notes, a reflective collection of questioning.


Every work of art effects change in anyone with which it comes in contact. The form of such change – be it mentally or in action – depends on the language of the artist and what the receiver makes of their creation. I cannot control your interpretation of my work, just as, a majority of the time, I do not seem to have control of how words are transported from my mind to a screen. But I choose to decide how much of myself I give to a piece – which, in all cases, is all of myself. I find that without this giving, I do not write with the right intentions. And it is with this realization that I am switching my writing and publishing of Strange Notes to a monthly schedule.


With other fabrics of my life coming to play and your response to my poll question on this switch, I understand that publishing monthly would grant you time to digest each note and award me time to dutifully contemplate matters in a manner that is valuable to you and me. The next Strange Note will be published on the first Sunday of June, and future notes will be published on the first Sunday of each month. 


As with every new season, this period of shifting is terrorized by uncertainty. Regardless, I am convinced that it is a defining point for my trajectory and I am charged by James Baldwin’s observation that ‘a good writer is always shifting and changing and searching.’


If you are yet to, please subscribe to my letters, which will now become a weekly letter of consolation with a round-up of delightful short films, curious videos, and collections of rare findings.


Artwork by Marcellina Akpojotor

Study Time by Marcellina Akpojotor via RELE ART GALLERY.


1 Question for You

How are you responding to your shifting?


As you think through this question, here’s all you should read next: Dig through the library of Strange Notes to digest questioning you might have missed. 


*Semmus is the Tachelhit word for the number, 5, in English. Here, five is used to represent the month of May. Tachelhit is a member of the Berber language, which is classified as an Afroasiatic language. Tachelhit is spoken by 3.9 million people, primarily in Morocco, but also in Algeria and France.