The Merit of Volunteering: my own experience in writing and editing


Kayode Taiwo Olla

I am always thankful for quite a few opportunities that I’ve utilized to sharpen my writing and editing skills. Yet I still sometimes brood over a few other important ones I eventually did forgo but only because I was rather too occupied already. And this is how my little story of experiences in honing my writing and editing skills goes.

When I got admitted into Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in November 2008, to study English, specializing in Literature from my second year forwards, I decided I had to do my best possible to develop myself in the skills. It was during this time I was writing my first work, Sprouting Again, a novel; and I started getting it proofread, critiqued and re-written in 2009.

In late 2010 and late 2011 on campus, I volunteered as part of the crew that edited the Redeemed Christian Fellowship’s annual magazine, JEANS—the 7th and 8th edition, respectively. This, I never knew, would further prepare me for something even bigger. In 2011 October, I was already publishing Sprouting Again—publishing with Syncterface Media, London. During this time of work on the manuscript, I got emails from the publisher bearing batches of the edited drafts of the work which I was to go over again and comment wherever necessary, before they were prepared together for the next stages of publishing. I proofread them thoroughly each time and commented everywhere necessary, and then replied with my very detailed comments. The publisher was very impressed with my thorough proofing. I’ll place here exactly what he wrote. Here’s it:

… You do have a very good eye for proofing which is great. If you can do this with other books, you could be a good proof reader for some of our books here and make some money for yourself….

And that is how I got that. I was to assist their editors in proofing some of their manuscripts being prepared for the press, and which would be cross-checked or further copyedited by them. The first work was to be without charge and afterwards there would be an amount paid into my account on every manuscript proofread.

At this time also, I got a letter from the committee preparing the comeback edition of the Fount Magazine in my department that they would need me in the team if I’m pleased. It was without pay but a certificate of participation was to be issued. It was to open me, had I gone through it, to several things and people in my line of discipline and carrier—interviewing some writers, gathering data, editing materials, and many other things. My reply was certainly a yes, even though I was working on the Syncterface Media job. I always wanted to improve myself with every single opportunity and to be part of people doing something. I’m a type that enjoys being busy working; my roommates then at times used to call me a workaholic. Now I’m reluctant to add this now, that at this time I’m talking about I was even also taking one extracurricular course on top of everything. It pains me today—I eventually had to resign from the committee out of real stress and also so I don’t appear uncommitted. It pained me I couldn’t avail myself of it, but I was glad it was because I was in fact doing something!

Early this year, moreover, when I had just finished my undergraduate studies, my final year project supervisor Dr Hunsu called on me to help edit a young student’s prose manuscript, when he brought it to her for editing. She told him she was occupied and that I have written and published a novel. I also noticed that she had begun to trust my writing skills from my final year thesis, in which I had a 70A in the first semester proposal writing and a 66B in the main project in second semester.

Consequently, in 1st March 2013, I got a paid contract job with Dr Hunsu as a Researcher Assistant in preparing the ‘20th Century English Literature’ Course Curriculum for the National Open University of Nigeria. My writing and editing skills that had been sharpened all this time was sought for. Again, it continued and continues to find dignifying places to be deployed. I should also add that Syncterface Media, London, is presently publishing my second literary work, titled ‘SOFTLIE: Love Poems Spun into a Storyline’, and targeted at being released by December 2013. The publishing house is also planning to enter it for the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize in Canada.

In all, I have learned, if nothing, this one thing—that at every level, before we can get up to its next, where we’ll be talking about how much our skills worth and we then can negotiate our pay in fact, we actually might still have got to climb from its preceding step where we concentrate on adding to ourselves and sharpening our skills for that next level. And one of the sure ways I know to do this is through volunteering! Don’t stop adding to your skills. It’s not just for now; it is wisely investing in that tomorrow you’re thinking about. I have learned that the investments do yield.

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2 thoughts on “The Merit of Volunteering: my own experience in writing and editing”

  1. Well said, sir! I’m probably in the same situation now, where I have to write for blogs and magazines – while I work on my own book too – and it really makes me feel ‘occupied,’ added with my Architecture profession. For me, writing is destiny, and I feel, nothing will be too costly to get to its destination! Thanks for those inspiring words!

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    1. Thanks, ‘Tope. Great you’re also availing yourself of the benefits of volunteering already. I also agree with you that writing could be more than just a hobby. It can, in fact, be a calling. Thanks for your comment, brother.

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