The Right to Write

What right do you have to write? That question isn’t rhetoric! That is the question of doom that always ruins any chance of anyone writing, isn’t it? For years, I battled with that question. I was made to believe that some sense of depth and profoundness is what gives me the legal right to share my opinion. It has to be earth shattering. No, not really.

Many writers, like my fellow bloggers of the Storymoja Festival 2014, have admitted to struggling with this. I started a blog that was what I perceived as deep and profound, a pseudo news blog showing people that I can “tackle Pan African issues”.  And I am not solely the wacky copywriter who churns out radio copy; I can be worth CNN’s time (I even dreamt about tanking at anchoring on CNN on my first day on air). But with time it was strenuous, it just didn’t quite work. I was just trying really hard to be something that just wasn’t innately there.

So I started having man problems and I started another blog on that. It was pure catharsis. I felt delivered. I realised that a lot of people resonated with my entries. Then when that phase ended so did the blog. It was over and I wondered to myself ‘why do I write?’ I went through this ‘you must brand yourself’ phase; blabbering on about being known as a ‘powerful’ and ‘respected’ social commentator. But that didn’t work either.  Again with the newsy blog; that one was quickly incinerated.

Then I had a deep and profound conversation with a friend, she said something that changed my complete outlook on writing. I knew writing was what I want to do till the ancestors demand that I join them in consuming libations from the living. She told me that it reaches a point where the honeymoon phase of what you do ends. Then you reach the point where you “write because it is YOUR DUTY to WRITE.” Pause for effect.

I had been wondering what kept people like John Grisham, Francine Rivers, or J.K.Rowlings writing novel after novel. How do you start and keep at it to the 90,000th word? I felt relief when I recently watched Channel 4’s interview of Chimamanda  Ngozi Adichie. She admitted to taking 5 years to write Americanah. But irrespective of her taking that long, my fascination is that she kept at it.

I have worked on about four fiction novel treatments, written 3,000 words of one and I don’t like any. I recently had an epiphany, after commencing a read of the Chronicles of Narnia, and reading David Walliams novels. Teen fiction seems to be my thing now – I think – I am to start on the plot and treatment of my new novel. I hope it will eventually yield my debut manuscript. But again I fight with the question, the dismissive, fear laced question that I entertain. The reason why it has bothered me for so long is the basics of lessons in advertising; just because you have something to offer doesn’t mean that people want to partake of it. You have to (cue Britney Spears and song) ‘scream and shout’ to get people’s attention.

So why am I rambling on about this? I realised with my current blog what my friend told me. A great storyteller focuses on sharing a great story because he wants to. At times it is actually the author’s selfishness that propels the book. I now understand that I write because I can and I want to. No one forces you to read my blog entries or even those on the Storymoja blog, but the fact that writing is just a print format of day to day conversation why not? Everyone has the right, will and power to express themselves the way they feel fit, without infringing on anyone else’s rights.

I just use fictional pieces to do that 5 days a week. I intend to do that even more once my first novel debuts. And even if it takes 5 years to get it done, so be it. It’s what I want to do and what I HAVE TO DO, because…that is what I WAS MADE FOR.

First published on


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