4 February 2017
Nigerian writer and author of Born on a Tuesday, Elnathan John, in a Twitter thread on Thursday, advised young and aspiring writers on how to survive in the business of writing using the analogy of a chicken.
He began by stating that “writers are like chickens”, and then went on to explain the dynamics and expectations of the writing industry using the metaphor of a layer, also known as egg-laying hens, to describe the nature of the industry, using terms like “forced molting” and slaughtering to depict the potentially destructive nature of the industry.
He ends with a call to young writers to be careful of indulging in self-destructive habits in a bid to stay in the game and “keep laying”, noting that, “it is a lonely business this writing thing. And we are not magic. We can break”, before concluding with the charge to “just lay the eggs”.
You can read the full thread below:
Writers are like chickens. Sit down, let me explain.
Not just any chicken. Like layers (otherwise known as egg laying hens). A writer is useful to publishers and agents when they are “laying”. Layers are well taken care of especially when they are about to begin laying. Don’t get carried away. Your job is to lay eggs. In the one year that a layer is active and laying up to one egg (or more) per day, it is priceless. It will be fed. Pampered even.
When the egg laying capacity of the chicken diminishes, there is a practice called Forced Molting (popular in the U.S. but banned in the EU). Forced molting is a controversial process that involves withdrawing all the love, food and sometimes water so the hen can resume laying. The farmer denies the chicken food and water to induce egg production in a chicken that has stopped or slowed down natural egg production.
A layer has a terrible life. After it stops laying eggs (c. 72 weeks), even though life span is like six years, it is slaughtered. No use for it. A writer is a layer. People, from agents to others in the book industry will dine with you, worry about your body, family, lovers, health, especially in the days leading up to your productive, egg-laying phase. Do not, I repeat, do not get carried away. They are not your friends. They are in business.
They are there to feed you so you can lay healthy, (hopefully huge), economically viable eggs. Lay the fucking eggs. Because they may hang around to “force molt you” when your production declines. But you WILL be slaughtered when there are no more eggs. Nobody is your friend, except if they are your friend outside the industry. You are as valuable as your eggs. There are always new layers.
So, especially early in your career, don’t mistake concern for your ability to lay eggs for friendship or love. Just lay the fucking eggs. And while you are laying the eggs, take care of yourself. It is a lonely business this writing thing. And we are not magic. We can break.
If you fall into the cliche, all the alcohol or tobacco or drugs, it can, will, break you. In the end, they will move on, get new layers. Only your work will speak for you. All the careless living. The risk taking. The excesses. No one gives a fuck. Only your eggs matter.
Author: Aderonke Adeleke
Writer. Music lover. Movie junkie. Social Media Enthusiast. Aspiring dancer. Aspiring photographer. Social Introvert.