In 2013, when I did it for the first time, it felt surreal; like I was doing something that actually mattered. It felt like making an impact on people’s lives and this was all the more beautiful because I was getting this feeling for the first time in my life. Writing made me feel important.
The first story I wrote was set in a fictional village I called Okunlewe, it was about the killing of twins. I titled it My Mother’s Daughter and it had more than 2,500 words. After I finished that story, I knew I was ready to take on the world.
I have written many more stories and have been published in places that I would never have dreamed of.
And then I started and finished Dear Ella, my first novella. Even though Dear Ella is presently stuck in a limbo, I have never been prouder of anything in my whole life as I have been proud of writing Ella.
So why do I write?
The first time I read J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in Rye, I thought ‘Man, this is the dumbest book ever.’ It took a second reading, a few months later, to understand its genius and that this writing thing is the most private endeavour one could pursue. The only person for whom your writing must make sense is you. For example, the first line of The Catcher in the Rye more or less sets the tone for the book and if you are not really into being called a phony, then the book is probably not your cup of tea and the writer does not care: ‘If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.’
You feel that Holden Caulfield, the narrator, does not care about you, he tells his story and cares very little if you like him or not.
That is the way writing is, at least to a larger extent. It is not about the reader. I have written and sent out stories I swore were crap and the reviews came back and they were brilliant, same time, I have written and sent out stories I was sure were pieces of gems and the reviews that came back were ugly. Writing, at least the process of story creation, has nothing to do with readers.
So why do I write?
I have a book by James Frey called How to Write a Damn Good Novel. On the top cover it says ‘a step-by-step no nonsense guide to dramatic storytelling.’ I scoff. I have never read past the introduction where it whines on and on about what ‘a damn good novel’ does and does not mean. No person can teach another person how to write. People can only teach people how they write which is usually useless because as I said, writing is an intensely private thing, therefore, how you write may be repulsive to me.
People give writing advice all the time, in fact, there is a verified handle on Twitter @AdviceToWriters. There is nothing wrong with giving writing advice. It is just a question of writers having the ability to sieve advice because many advice are silly. The long and short of this analysis is that there isn’t a soul on earth who can teach you to write better than you can teach yourself to write. And most importantly, writing is not a popularity contest, you want popularity contests, go for Big Brother. The only writer to whom you ought to compare yourself, is the writer you were yesterday – now that is some brilliant advice.
So why do I write?
Can you not see that I haven’t the slightest clue?
And maybe that’s it. Maybe once we start giving reasons to things the importance of those things begins to dissolve. Like saying you love someone because that person is beautiful, what happens in 10 to 15 years when the fleeting beauty starts to fleet? Liking a tree because it produces fruits – what the hell happens when said fruit is out of season? Here is the thing about chocolate, chocolate is chocolate only because it has the cocoa-sweet taste of chocolate, if that cocoa-sweet taste vanishes for some inexplicable reason, chocolate ceases to be chocolate. So we do not like chocolate, what we like is that cocoa-sweet taste.
So, no. there is no reason I write. I love to, so I do.