Writing for what it is: Things never told

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Back in 2015 I started Mzangila Writing Masterclass. The same year, I also initiated Mzangila Writers’ Café. I ran Mzangila Mentorship Class adjacently. This was in my third year in college when I was obsessed with success. Most importantly, my obsession with writing had advanced to another level where I felt I needed to hone more young writers. This is not to stay that I was a kick-ass at it, even more surprising is that I was just starting off. I felt that if I brought writers together we could learn better and build something phenomenal together. I was right, at any rate my initial desire was, until it was replaced with a new outfit that outfitted it.

This outfit was this blog. It is the outsider that came and killed that dream. It stole the dreams of many others too, killing their dreams and embellishing mine in a new dimension. It was never my intention for it to come in between me and my devotees who at that time followed me religiously. I happened to have pursued a respite from school to get my thoughts around as my will to live had been murdered, and my craving for freedom wistfully allowed me to make decisions that not many agreed with. Amidst this period, I joined a chama.

Before I started blogging, I would flood my Facebook timeline with poems. I had been drunk in poetry so much that no one could convince me that at some point in life I’d find it obsolete. Then one man, a friend of my cousin saw the light in me, reached out and advised that I need to open a blog. This man was John Maroria.

He fell in love with my work and encouraged me to widen my scope by opening up a more legit platform to archive my works. I paid him 11,000 Kenyan shillings to build me this blog. In case you’re wondering how rich I was at that time, I got that money from the chama I had joined. In the chama, I was the youngest amongst the single mothers and fathers. The chama was an empowerment scheme to justify our situations and shelf us with comfort and dependability on each other, to help us run away from the fact that the world had abandoned us with kids, and that either the world or death had escaped with our other halves leaving us lonely and single.

Wearing this new shoe, Mzangila.com, made me a different man. It occupied my being. It helped me forget my troubles once in a while, and feel joyful because at last, I owned something to my name. During that period, blogs were not as popular as they are at the moment. However, there were the likes of mpasho and ghafla that delighted in gossip about Nairobi’s finest whores, socialites, Mps and TV personalities. People were gradually coming into terms with what blogging meant.

This is to state that I had dreams, however different, and there are people who saw in me something and helped me get them out. Without Ebenezer and John, my writing would have been stowed away in the dark recesses of my mind, while I pursued different dreams. That is how the world conspired to enable me become what I am.

This blog occupied my first days. There is some joy that engulfs a man when he achieves something, not for others but for himself. That kind of joy has to do with a different kind of light shining on a man, the kind of light that had never shone on him before, making him feel his self worth and thrill in that moment because it makes him happy. It is an achievement that elevates his living, bolstering his self-esteem. I was that man. A different kind of light shone on me, and I felt my world had changed for me, to shape me to be where I was supposed to be.

Before my dreams with Mzangila Masterclass crumbled, I had tutored a few students; none graduated eventually for reasons I will talk about in this post. This class was an eye opener for my writing career. It was the first real lesson that anyone ever taught me.

In that class, I saw students come and then leave. As the days progressed, the number of those who returned kept dwindling. Until one day, I was the only student in that class where I was the tutor. Instead of leaving, I sat on a chair near the corner and reviewed my way of teaching, and everything else including each of the twelve students to gather what was wrong. I am not the type to blame myself first when pursuits crumble; I take time to assess all the possible factors contributing to that failure.

I discovered that no one can ever teach you how to become a good writer. The best one can do is to guide your writing. There is no standard to being a writer. Each comes with varied descriptions. But you can configure and control each to write in a specific way. That formed my basis because after that I didn’t stop honing writers.

After a while, my adoration for the blog leveled to normal. The excitement that inebriated me ebbed after realizing that after all, a blog is not the only mouth-watering orgasmic invention I was to meet. Then, I took in more writers now using a different approach. The advantage was that they were willing to write, they had the drive. I offered this blog for them to do their gigs, no matter how bad they looked. Mine weren’t any better. If anything, they were worse when compared to those of my students. I felt joy because I knew they had become better than me; that they had learnt something and used it to improve their writing.

Now, I have seen many people who desire to be renowned writers. Many of them proclaim they are writers yet have nothing to show for it. Some of them think this job is about fame; that if they own a blog, they can do a few posts and become Jackson Biko overnight. Others think this job is about money.

And I have always been wary of such people; people who have wants, desires and wishes. Writers desire to be good writers by writing more, yet these people desire without penning anything down. Most of them feel the need to be recognized or identify with others when in the company of writers. As you might be aware, many writers don’t talk much. They listen more, and when they talk you are compelled to keep quiet because they talk sense. These are people who ravage through a number of books and articles on a daily basis, harbouring heaps on knowledge. They know things and know how to put these things on paper.

In changing the course of this discussion, I want to speak about things that people never tell you about writing- the back story to the books, articles, poems and movies that you see. Perhaps you haven’t given much thought how things translated into books and movies and whatnot. Today I want to take you through that long, rugged, jagged terrain of hopelessness, turmoil, surrender and diligence that move men and women’s brain from a mere word into prose. The prose that is articles, magazines, books, and movies.

Writing is an art where no one becomes a master-Stephen King.

Writing is a journey full of anguish, surrender, hopelessness, sleeplessness, stress and restlessness. As writers we might not share all these, but each journey composes of struggle that people don’t know about.

Sometimes writing is like a crying baby who is out of control. No matter how much you try to shush it to sleep, it can’t. Sometimes it is like a girl you’re trying to seduce but for ages has heedlessly ignored your pursuits. You can chase her all evening, she listens to you and laughs, and then when you think you have got her right in the heart, she tells you, “Well, you know what? You’re good and all that but you’re not my type.” That is what it feels like when you write something, a story or an article that at first excited you, yet on the way you couldn’t muster words to finish it. So you throw it in the sin bin forever.

There are many days spent sleeping because you feel useless. Days when there is no juice to oil your creative groins to enable you ejaculate enthusing stories. You feel dry, bored and unskillful. On such days you question if you really amount to anything worthy in this life. You question your existence and your contribution to this world. When you can’t find any, you feel awful in many ways, and you feel you want to die.

A number of days are spent in front of your screen, writing and deleting words and sentences as nothing makes sense. Everything is incoherent. You can feel the energy kicking alive in you but there is no coordination between your brain and your fingers. Your mind says good things to you but your fingers lack the skill to translate that to sensible stories. So you stay there, hoping and waiting for a half a day that you’re going to overcome this drag and create relevant content, only to end up disappointed. You become mad, flip and storm out of the house to go gather some new, fresh ideas from somewhere else.

This is followed closely with days when watching endless movies is much better than writing. You spend days, or even weeks watching movies and serials. Your mind blocks everything, and all you think of it to heap and watch movies. Nothing else matters. Sleep, eat and watch movies- repeat.

Then there are treacherous days when you feel like thumping 10k words on your pc. These are days when your mind is happy, your stomach is happy and your fingers are happy as well. Every element in you is excited. You can sit all day writing without halting. These are the better days, except the part where you will read your work and discover that even a child can writer better than that. No editing can improve its taste. Editing it is a waste of precious time.

The long days of reading will stretch into the night. Writing doesn’t cross your mind on such days. But this is the integral part of your writing. Without reading, how will you know what to write? So you relish great books, tearing the pages one by one with unbridled enthusiasm. Your phone is usually off. No one will find you unless they come to your house. It is fun when you read novels and enthralling stories. Somewhere in the night, sleep will knock your lights out while you’re clutching to your book. You only wake up hours later with a pool of saliva on your book. You’ll switch off the lights and head to bed, but of course, with a curse for drooling on your book and damaging its beautifully written pages.

There are days when writing will flow. You will be brimming with creative juices, writing all day and night very impressive stories. You will forget of the hard, laborious days, the hopelessness and the grim moments that life presented previously. You will eat better, wear better attires, shower even thrice a day, and let the world know how joyous you’re. People will comment and laugh heartily at your stories, even if yourself you never find them good enough. You’ll feel accomplished. There will be many days of this.

Then there will be days when you have assignments. This means pressure on your side. Suddenly, you don’t know what to write. It is at this point when you discover that maybe you weren’t cut out for this. Every single word you know that makes sense abandons you. You can actually feel the deadline edging closer, yet there isn’t a thing you can do. Your brain burns. You feel Murphy ’s Law glaring at your face and mocking you. You want to call your editor and tell her that you can no longer write for their publication- but where will you get the food? So you write a very long or brief email asking your deadline to be extended for reasons which might be true or false, mostly false. You can’t elucidate to her that your mind is jammed. You once to her that and you almost lost your job. There are many people who survive because of that job that you have.

Days of slapping yourself and self blame also exist. Just like other days, you can’t hold your shit together. You’re drained, and tired, and feeling useless. You belittle yourself because you are unable to write at all. So you spend your days soaking in guilt, sobbing or even getting drunk and occupied with vanity. Nothing makes sense when you’re sober. For those of us who don’t drink, we wander in search of women to have sex with. Women who can allow you to fornicate all day without them saying something like, “Aki Mollis nimeshoka.” You want to eat her all day, all night, all week without a break, until that feeling of ineptitude leaves you. Only then and there will you ask her to pick her belongings and leave immediately because her sight disgusts you.

Writing is a combination of forces that make you bleed, sweat and suffer. It is a craft that is mostly build on the power of your imagination. You write every day until the skin on your fingers wears out and you start bleeding. Those days of constant practice leave you lonely. As you might have heard, writing is a lonely enterprise. You spend most days alone, trying to perfect the craft. Those days deny you the chance of getting out and enjoying life with others. You learn to live by yourself. Writing becomes your true friend, the one that never leaves your side. It becomes your shadow during day and your eyes at night.

It is a dream that only a few people achieve.  For others, it remains to be a dream that stays on their lips. Those who achieve it become renowned columnists, authors, journalists, story tellers and poets. These people don’t need to introduce themselves with their mouths. Their business cards are books.

It is at this point that I say writing is an inside job. Just like happiness, it is triggered from within, and only abounds when others support it. But first, you have to take the first step. Someone will see your effort and skill and decide to guide your way to a new territory where people and words are friends.

Until then, you can never make it to be a writer. And just because you write here and there on social media doesn’t make you one either. A writer is someone who cannot live without writing, someone who consistently produces highly creative, relevant and authentic content.


Mzangila Snr,

(The Supreme hunter in captivity)

Where shall we go, we who wander in this wasteland in search of better selves?

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