Ayomide Ofulue is a Nigerian writer most known on Twitter for his writing and self-improvement tips. The Week of Saturdays team found him and his Twitter account when we were desperately looking for African writers who tweet about writing.
We recently had a virtual interview with him to learn about his writing process, his crazy exponential growth which we’ve witnessed, and his most significant writing lessons since joining the Compound Writing Community.
Ayomide Ofulue drops golden life and writing advice in this interview. Writers and readers, grab your notepads (!) and let’s get into it.
Congratulations on getting accepted into the Compound Writing community. They are friends of ours, and we admire what they do. What’s your greatest writing lesson so far?
Thanks a lot! It was a surreal moment to get the welcome email from ‘Compound Writing’ given I only started writing online in May 2020. The greatest lesson I’ve learned since joining Compound is two-fold.
First, no matter how good you think you are, there are ever-increasing standards in writing or any career path. The volume of good writing from established writers that goes through the Compound workflow is exceptional. I had impostor syndrome for a while, like, “What the heck l am I doing here?”
But I had to adjust my mindset and accept I belong there because of the writing I’ve published so far and used the high standards at Compound to improve my expertise.
I know now that the fastest way for anyone to elevate their skill is to join a group of people that are better than you. The level we aspire to reach is limited by where we belong. Growth is engineered by inclusion.
Secondly, to bridge the gap between the current level of your writing to where you want it to get to, you must work directly on the kind of writing you want to produce. At Compound, we do a lot of co-editing. I’ve edited better work than I have written, so in the process, elevated my own work.
Instead of taking the slow route of iterating on your writing at the level you’re at, it’s beneficial to rework the words of classic, great writers. You’ll become better at a faster rate. Acceleration does not demand originality.
Study, edit, improve.
You’ve worked in marketing and communication roles for a while, but only recently started writing and publishing online? What motivated you? What’s your Why?
Great question! Marketing and Communications are dear to me because that’s where I started my career after graduation. It’s a role I’ve enjoyed, particularly the marketing side as I have a flair for selling and ideation.
With writing online, it’s a different ball game. Nothing has come as easy to me as working with words. To find my motivation, I’ll tell you how I’ve tried about eight different skills, and none of them felt like the real deal. From modeling to music production, to video editing and coding, my greatest growth has come in the manipulation of words for a reader’s attention.
Writing could possibly be my gift as some of my friends have said, and I’m grateful to Jesus Christ for it, as all good things come from Him. In light of that, I never think a gift is for you alone. Instead, we should see our talents as seeds that when dug into the ground and cultivated, sprout up and become sheds for birds, food for animals, paper, and oxygen for humans.
Whatever we’re skilled at should have an umbrella effect in that same manner. Seeds exist to become trees. This is why I started a newsletter to share what I learn with others. I tweet about writing as well. I want to help as many people as possible.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, writing isn’t my gift, and I suck at it.” I want to debunk that. A gift is anything you become good at through continued application. With the other things I tried, I never gave them my complete attention neither did I do them long enough. But writing, I published every day for two weeks straight. When I saw people responding positively to the articles, I knew there was potential.
Six months down the line, I have written over 20,000 words through my website, Medium, and newsletter. So there’s my motivation — Becoming a beacon for everyone to change the world through the power of online writing.
As a Science and Technology graduate, the expected career path is to become a tech bro, but you chose to become a creative writer and marketer. Was this intentional?
Not intentional at all! If you had told me a year ago that I would be an online writer, I would have labeled you deluded. Tech was the dream path. It still is. But what I’ve seen is that life isn’t linear and perhaps my road to the tech industry is through a street called creative writing and marketing. Or it could be headed in another direction different from tech.
I veered away from communications for a while and was working with a travel company, handling operations and guest hosting. It was a rich learning curve, but I became apathetic at a point. In May 2020, completely out of the blue, I decided to try and write a short article every day (2-3 minutes read) and publish on Medium. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Writing long-form articles is difficult, let alone 40 articles in 4 months. How do you achieve this? Please share a bit of your writing process.
Writing 40 articles in four months was a lofty goal I set for myself in September 2020. The plan was to write about 10 articles a month up until December 2020. Before that, I had written about 20 articles in the previous four months. I haven’t gotten anywhere close to the goal yet as I’ve written only about seven since that time, as I took an unplanned one month break from writing in October which really slowed down my progress.
The major lesson I’ve learned during this period is that the most important thing is your writing system. It was convenient to pause in October because of the incidents that happened in Nigeria with the ENDSARS protests. But when I dug deeper, I found out the primary reason I took that break was I had stopped doing the things that enabled me to publish consistently in the first place. As writers, we never want to get too confident in our ability at the expense of our process. Systems beat ability 90% of the time.
On a typical day, my writing process can go from streamlined to sporadic, but my best writing occurs when I follow my system to a tee. It looks like this:
1. Gather notes
I’m always recording information. I detest writing on a blank screen so much as it leads to writer’s block and impostor syndrome on the days I have no ideas. One thing I preach is that you don’t need creativity, you need a bank full of notes.
When I’ve found an idea in my notes that peaks my curiosity, I’ll write about two to three sentences from the top of my head about it and then go swim in a pool of content about the topic/idea. The aim at this stage is to gather enough information that gives you a foundation to work with while showing you a new perspective that everyone has missed.
You must be careful here as research can be procrastination’s most subtle and seductive concubine, so you want to extract what you need and get back to the actual work of writing.
Ha! The three-pronged spear. I focus on publishing any body of work that doesn’t meet the public eye as a personal journal entry. I write to publish, not for fame or a platform or likes.
If more people understood the power of words to shape and influence culture and minds, they wouldn’t keep their words to themselves. History is literally known because of the people who tell it, not necessarily the people who lived it.
So in this regard, after I’ve whipped up a draft, I then begin the arduous process of review and edits until I feel the main point of the message contained in the piece is passed across.
On some days I get satisfied, but the more I reread it, the more I hate it. So I don’t aim for satisfaction in writing, only clarity. At Compound Writing, I’m learning to streamline my editing process, but presently it’s still instinctive: “How does this sound? Where is the flow broken? Is this word necessary?” The better the questions I ask, the better I edit.
You’ve leveraged Twitter really well to distribute and elevate your writing and career. How did you start and what’s your advice for other writers struggling with using Twitter professionally?
I love Twitter! IT’S THE BEST SOCIAL MEDIA APP IN THE WORLD (All caps because I’m putting my back on it) I mean where else can you test your ideas on a small scale and get instant feedback with zero pressure? Twitter is the dream environment for budding writers when appropriately leveraged.
Twitter really kicked off for me when I started publishing online. No magic tricks, influencer strategies, or anything of the sort. I wrote an article every day on Medium for two weeks and shared every night on Twitter.
People took notice, and that was the propellant for growth. But I didn’t just stop there and think I had arrived. It was easy to see the potential for leverage, so I started following quality accounts, studying what they were doing right, and learning on the go.
Using social media comes down to finding what you’re passionate about, doubling down on it, and sharing it with everyone. The time it takes to get results is not up to you and really doesn’t matter. I always say the internet is a loop and value is the fuel behind its engine. How it comes back to you is relative. Don’t go in for results, instead, take a ride for the experience.
For budding writers to leverage Twitter or for anyone really, these three things are necessary. Luck, Work and People.
Luck because the reception you get for whatever you put out there is out of your hands. So have fun with it and don’t get too attached.
Work because it all begins and ends with the amount of effort and value you put into your content. In the best period of my Twitter growth, I spent hours drafting calendars and tweets and researching and publishing articles. So this mundane part of the work is inescapable.
People because you cannot have success on Twitter without a community that believes in your work and pushes you to keep going. Every retweet and like they give, every mention, every DM or reply moves you one step up the ladder. Love people, find friends, not followers, do everything you can to help and support. Niceness is a free currency and it brings good rewards.
Do you monetize your writing? Or is it just a hobby?
Monetization has happened in a short time in various ways, and I’m looking forward to more opportunities in the future. The first time I got paid to write was a technical article for a tech startup who reached out to me on Twitter.
The second one happened when I decided to turn on paid subscriptions for my newsletter. I tried it out for a month, and that was an interesting period as I learned many things about value, audience building, and newsletter monetization, which is a new stream of income for many writers. There’s nothing like making your first dollar on the internet from a group of people you’ve never met, who’re delighted to be on the receiving end of your work. It’s surreal!
The third one is currently in the beta phase, and I’m really excited about the outcome in the coming months. I can’t share it now, but in the spirit of building in public, I’ll definitely give out all the details once the beta is complete. I haven’t yet made enough to qualify it as a full-time income. Still, the compounding effect will definitely do its work shortly. I just have to keep showing up.
The main takeaway from all this is I never actively set out to monetize my writing, but by putting value out there, I’m feeding a loop that comes back full circle.
Whew. Thank you, Ayomide Ofulue for all you do and share.