Francis Imbuga would turn in his grave

I remember lying in bed, incapacitated, with darkened eyes and drips in my arm and all, looking like Whip Whitaker after the crash. I remember coming to and finding the nurse with her pen and pad in hand and ‘Cecilia’ tagged on the left side of her chest. I try to stand but she tugs my shoulder ever so gently and tells me something about how I’m still in bad shape and shouldn’t move. How it’s nothing short of a miracle that I’m okay. How everyone else from my regiment (I’m a high ranking casualty in this reverie of mine) has been fallen by the enemy, the cold. Unheeding to her words, I clutch against the drip-stand and stand to reveal the patterned hospital robe I have on. It’s the only thing I have on. Its straps are undone at the back so my bare ass is in the open but I care not about that. All I want is to leave. She rushes to my side of the bed, holds me so I don’t tumble over and insists that I shouldn’t stand. With my husky voice, I retort, “I gotta get outta here” and she asks “Why, sir? What is more important than your health?” I turn to her and shoot a disgruntled-Clint-Eastwood look and roar, “The blog damn it!”

I guess what I’m trying so colorfully to say is: Apologies, to my modest but loyal readership, for my inconsistent posting. I did not slack off, I promise, it’s just.. (here it comes) I had a nasty cold. I cannot even begin to tell you the what kind of hell it was. Let me tell you, colds fuck me up. For some reason, the symptoms and discomfort are more profound. My life stops. I can’t write let alone talk normally.

My nose becomes like a field of battle. Something synonymous to the great battle at Thermopylae. Remember that? The hordes of King Xerxes against Leonidas and his brave 300 in the plains of Sparta. Remember? Yes? Now picture that, but now with.. like.. pathogens and antibodies and shit. And me, with my handkerchief.

I must say, there is something remarkably irritating about colds. It’s like it knows what it’s doing. I mean, there are plagues like malaria and Ebola, true assassins whose mere mention strikes fear in souls of all and sundry – No personality, just unsentient bringers of death. And then there’s things that aim only to test your patience. Things that irk. Things like colds. Things like Mombasa Rd traffic (rant for another day). Things like Niki in the morning before she goes to school. (also rant for another day). Colds are like a scorned brother who was excluded from his dad’s will – the inheritance being the power to cause devastation and populicide – and now he’s taking out his inadequacies and impotence on the good, young bloggers of Kenya. Tsk.

Cold, please, if you’re listening, no one needs you. No one. No one needs your itchy throat coughs or your nasal blockages (the nasal blockages are a bitch). No one. Kindly look for something better to do with your life; start a blog or something.

Anyway, enough of that. I see those dirty looks you guys are giving me like: Is this dude really going to yak on about a freaking cold for a whole post? Well, no. I’m going to yak about something else. Disclaimer: It gets boring from here.

So, epic visuals and hyperboles aside, I wanted to tell you about an article I came across around the time I was recuperating from that demonic cold (I’m done now). So as I was googling around things like ‘Huddah Monroe age’ and ‘yellow stuff in Morgan Freeman eyes’ et al, I stumbled upon this gem piece by an 29-year-old author. His name is R. Holiday and in it, he talks about writing.

A paragraph in, I could already smell his ego and braggadocio hovering around his austerely-put opinions. In the article, he disapproves of what to him is a false connotation, one associated with writing that depicts it as though assembling words together is somehow its own activity. An activity whose only prerequisite is in it’s doing. In other words, identifying yourself as a writer just because you write. He dismisses this belief and refers to this ‘assembling words together’ as simply a means to end. The end being the prospect of speaking some truth and impacting someone with your words.

He proceeds to use illicit amounts of sarcasm to bash people who lack depth in terms of the subject matter they choose to explore; people who just write. Its clear that this Holiday guy knows his stuff. But from all that he said, what really got me was something he said about purpose in writing. Something that cut as deep as it sunk.

First, he quotes a German scholar guy who said something to the effect of establishing a distinction between writers who write because they have something to say and those who write for the sake of writing. Then. Then he lands the plane with this gold right here: “… or better yet, you need to have something that you can’t NOT say if what you’re writing is a compulsion rather than a vehicle for your display of how smart and well practiced you are. So think about it one more time. Is it that you want to be a writer? Or it’s that you have these things inside you that you want very badly to communicate to people and writing is the best way to do it? Getting the answer to that question right is the day you really become a writer.

Deep, right? That last part. The fine line between wanting to be a writer and wanting to write. (As a means to communicate). Think about it.

I myself have and here’s the truth. Like Holiday, I don’t know the first thing about writing. I’m not sure what exactly qualifies one as a ‘writer’ in terms of what or how or for how long you write. Think of someone who scribbles down ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the last dog‘ over and over again till he fills a foolscap. Is he a writer? Certainly not. Thus the question, what is writing? or to be precise, what is good writing?

Personally, I think good writing is bold and honest. Good writing should make you feel. Sort of like what a good drama flick does to you. What we do, in my opinion, is merely borderline writing. We write stories about our lives and about what we think about things and publish them as blog posts under categories like ‘thoughts’ and ‘introspection’. We make it habit to leave comments on bikozulu and share out our posts on Facebook and Twitter in order to market our writings and up the stats. We are hopeful. Or deluded, we don’t know. Some of us nail it and come up with passable pieces that guys relate to but some of us don’t. Some of us write plainly and our writings reek of it. And we don’t know it but we suck.

And you know why we suck? Because we lack the objectivity to know when we truly have something to say. Writing because we want to be writers while in truth, we lack experiences to share. Paramount to one who writes, as Holiday also puts it, is to discern when he/she has something to say. You know because it burns your insides and only stops when you find a way to communicate it, to put it out for people to read. That “to have something to say is, by itself, virtually a sufficient condition for good style.”

That is what I crave. To have something meaningful to say. To be out there, to do things, to learn and experience. It’s why I turn to books and newspaper columns, why I peruse through blogs in the dead of the night, why I like to talk to people and listen to opinions. To gather perspectives and make observations that I too can form opinions from. It gives me something to say. That is also why I will not promise you regular posts. Because often times life becomes boring and you cannot always find thematic depth in everything. Certainly not in a matatu.

Am I talking to someone this morning? (wipes forehead with handkerchief)

So, back to Holiday’s question. A question almost of philosophical proportions. A question that touches on the crux of purpose in writing: Do you want to write or do you want to be a writer?

Personally, I want a lot of things. Let me tell you what I want. (Cue in Reddington’s voice and distant stare). I want to drive an 18-wheeler trailer to Mombasa with a wife-beater on and a cigarette between my fingers. I want to never have a cold again in my life. I want the coming election to be peaceful and transparent. I want to make movies; movies that will live on. I want to hope that things get easier in campus, in my studies. I want the show-runners at Game of Thrones to write a happy episode with no violence and death. I want to be rich, the kind where I wear blazers with polo necks. But most of all, I want this to be the last time I ever write a post this long.

All these things I want but you know what? Half these things won’t happen. I know that and that is why I write. Not ati because I want to be a writer, ati sijui my mind aches with poems and words unsaid, ati ohh I want to write for my generation, for the youth, ohh our young voices need to to be heard. No, none of that. I write because I enjoy this. This writing stories. This venting. This living out my desires and fantasies through the pen.

That, I guess is my answer. Writing, however august a profession it is, has “its owners”. Ikona wenyewe. Far be it for me to think that the fact that I am a WordPress user validates me as a writer. I think that belittles the entire craft. I think kina Grace Ogot and Francis Imbuga would turn in their graves. Yeah.

But then again it’s never that serious because at my age, I could be somewhere in Mtwapa injecting narcotics into my forearm, harboring great ambitions to go to Nairobi and be a tout.




6 thoughts on “Francis Imbuga would turn in his grave

  1. Imbuga’s smiled in his grave after reading this..
    I like the sincerity man, it’s accurate.
    As usual man, amazing piece!


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