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Writing should be a humbling experience

By Lucas Wafula | June 25th 2016

NAIROBI: Writing and the position of being a writer sometimes, if not always, elevates you – the writer – to a certain level above your readers. They feed in what you say; most believe you and some will quote you. A number will be critical of what you say, which is perfectly in order.

This state of affairs should not, however, make you develop a big head. Indeed, it should humble you yet some writers’ attempt at ‘getting publicity’ leaves a bitter taste in the reader’s mouth.

I have read works by some writers which leave a lot to be desired. Some assume writing gives them the licence to slur others and or assume a “holier than thou” attitude. For instance, perpetuating negative ethnicity will not place you in good stead with anyone apart from those you wish to please, which in itself is a poisoned chalice. This will breed hatred among those you attack, yet you are supposed to attract bigger readership as you grow.

Some writers unashamedly embrace stereotypes in their writing. This is extremely unfortunate. Consider, why would you assign the custody of witchcraft, stealing or overfeeding to any given group? Why should anyone glorify such humdrum spectre in his or her writing? Conversely, why would anyone think that your writing is great just because you are attacking women, or unfairly disparaging men? Any writer who does this surely shoots himself or herself in the foot. I observed something interesting during Ngugi wa Thiong’s lecture at the University of Nairobi’s Taifa Hall. There were a few young men in the audience who beseeched the good professor during the question-and-answer session, to say something radical. In response, Ngugi advised one of them to establish the meaning of the word “radical” before demanding for radicalism. Being a “firebrand”, as a writer does not directly translate to being a troublemaker. A writer cunningly outwits tyrants not by being a dictator himself but by causing the readers to laugh at the folly of and the ghastly nature in the dictator. The writer is that responsible mirror that in a nice way tells the emperor he is naked.

Discover your purpose

Further, writing means researching. It is extremely unfortunate and sad, how some of our writers today never research what they write about. Many of them simply copy or write imaginary things that cannot stand the reliability test. For instance, if your writing is based on facts, then you shouldn’t just say things for the sake of saying or just mention people anyhow. You must get your facts right. Writing is meant to right the wrong in society and not to wrong the right without cause. Maybe we should go back to the basics and ask ourselves why our oral narratives ended with the question, “What is the moral of the story?” Your writing should not only be beautiful, which includes attacking vice, but at the same time useful.

As a writer, you must endeavour to discover your purpose. Why are you setting out to write? What do you want to achieve? What value will your writing add to your life and that of those who read your works? What is driving you to write? Some people write because they are annoyed with others, have had a bad experience or just want to poke fun at others. Some write because they hope to get rich when their novels become the bestsellers. However, there are those who write because they would like to make the world a better place and those who read their work better people. How about you? Discovering your purpose as a writer will ensure you stay the course, driven by a passion for achieving the set objective.

Finally, you must be critical of your own work. Ask yourself if what you have written represents the best in you. Could it be better, well-reasoned? What might you have missed? This will ensure you grow and become better. Writing should be a humbling experience. It should make you think through issues before you give your considered opinion.

Remember, your work as a writer establishes an unwritten contract with your readers. Consider this relationship like tying the knot, which traditionally meant literally tying the hands of the bride and the groom together for a whole year and a day before the marriage was ‘legalised’. You must search your soul and consider the power of the pen before you put ink to paper.

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