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Focus on your writing goal to stay the course

By Lucas Wafula | January 23rd 2016

Carey Francis is best known as a mathematician yet few of us know he is one of those who inspired Ngugi wa Thiong’o to write. He directed Ngugi and his schoolmates to ape the simple writing of the bible.

To Ngugi, this was a new thing that he felt helped him a lot. Yet just as Mandela said about climbing a hill, you realise there are more hills to climb once you reach the summit of the one you were climbing. It took him, Ngugi, many years to write and be published. Yet he kept at it until he made it.

Starting a writing project and staying the course is not easy. Apart from the muse disappearing now and then, there is the editor who may not give you the green light any time soon. There are bills, which keep reminding you that you will not be able to surmount their ever-growing pile, a song that may be sang loudly by some Sanballats around you.

Yet you must focus on your goal. There is no better feeling than that of your own book being placed in your hands – when it is finally published. I witnessed this three days ago when two authors came to our offices.

One was a prospective author while the other was already published. The published one stayed at the reception as I spoke to the prospective author. When we were done, we joined him at the reception where he was leafing through a book.

“Which book is that?” the prospective author asked.

Her colleague smiled and said, “It is not just a book, they are books.”

He had five of them! “I really hope to hold my own babies soon!” the prospective author said, underling her desire to see her work out.

One of the things that cause budding authors to be discouraged and lose focus is the gospel that some ill-informed, ever-mourning, discussants in the literary discourse preach. They are so pessimistic; one would think they even hate themselves too. Nothing pleases them and they scream louder than the bereaved yet they have no idea what publishing is − they are neither publishers nor published authors.


Certainly, and I have said this before, publishing just like any other endeavour is not a bed of roses. There are challenges that you, as a writer, will face. What you should ask yourself is whether other authors have ever gone through these challenges and overcome them. Personally, I think I would wait for established authors to give up before I do but if they are still writing, I will draw strength from their resilience to keep going.

Self-publishing (read online publishing) has never been more attractive to writers today. There are those among us who feel this is an easier way to be published. Others think one realises more sales this way. There are even those who feel this is a way they can ‘whip’ the traditional publisher who delays publication of their works.

Well, I would say a new author who has interacted with the traditional publisher, even been rejected on numerous occasions, stands a better chance to succeed when it comes to self-publishing. In the rejection and exchange with the editors, one learns requirements for a good manuscript, develops a thick skin and tenacity of purpose. As it is, self-publishing is not a walk in the park and it requires quality, astuteness and a strong will to create a following online.

If self-publishing is the pull, then self-doubt and fear are the push; they stifle growth and drive young authors out of the system. Self-belief is what will help stay the course. You must remind yourself that you have what it takes and that if anything you are improving what other people have considered inadequate. You can draw your learning curve and see it exhibiting development. If you do not believe in your work, then very few others will consider its value.

I will finish with a story about an award-winning author that I know. When he came to my office, he told me he did not think much of his work.

“I have done something that I am not sure you should look at,” he said.

I encouraged him to write and before he knew it, he had won a national award. He kept at it and today he has written many books that have been approved for use in Zambia and Rwanda. If only you can focus on your writing goal, I might be narrating your success story next.

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