Early evening. You are seated by the counter in a smoky bar somewhere in the city. Just about to kick back and sign off for the day. Exchanging pleasantries with the barman and engaging in small talk here and there. Farther along the counter there is a rather attractive young woman ordering a drink. By her style of dress you figure she’s either a lawyer or works in an audit firm, probably one of the Big Four. Same difference, except that the lawyer will most likely have an air of self-importance, dozens of points to prove, a chip on her shoulder and misplaced feminism to boot. Okay so it’s not the same difference. After a while you notice she’s casting furtive glances your way every so often. When someone walks in and greets you by name, you can see her pretty little ears perk up a little, and the glances increase. In between questions posed to the barman, she finally gathers the courage to speak to you. A year or so back you’d have been the first one to talk to her but now, well, now is now.
She speaks: “Hi. You’re so and so?”
You: “Ummm, errr… Why do you ask?” (You learnt the hard way, the very hard way, long ago, never to answer that question in a hurry. It has too many possibilities behind it, many of which are not pleasant.)
After pushing and pulling for a while, and after judging the situation reasonably safe to continue, you finally admit that you are who she thinks you are. She goes on to gush about your writing, how she follows your blog religiously. Due to the reputation that Kenyan bloggers have achieved of late, you wince at the mention of the word blog – you hate the term blogger. She continues to say things about you and your writing – since people assume they can tell the type of person you are through your writing- saying how she thinks you are intelligent, crazy, humorous, arrogant, chauvinistic, confused, you have a mean streak, but she likes it, thinks you curse too much but it’s okay, she’d like to pick your brain, perhaps, you should write more about this and that… And then the question: “Why don’t you write anymore?”
A slightly cold night in the countryside. It’s heading towards midnight and you’re heading towards town to pick up a friend who has arrived late. A roadblock in the distance, the ones mounted with lanterns by the side, and manned by eager young policemen. They flag you down, and you quickly think of ignoring them and speeding past or acknowledging them and still speeding past. You doubt that they have a chase car somewhere waiting to chase after you movie style. Anyway, you slow down to a stop and roll down your window. One policeman walks over to your window, flashlight in hand.
“Mzuri sana baba”
“Naezaangalia gari ndani?”
You allow him to check the car because you have nothing to hide. Plus this is the country side; people tend to be courteous to each other including the police. While he is checking you remember the bottle of whisky on the passenger seat, and the glass, with whisky, in the cup holder next to you. Both you and the police officer notice these things at the same time.
“Sio sana afisa. Pole pole tu.”
“Hapana afande. Hiyo ilikuwa ya rafiki yangu ameisahau hapo.”
He smiles, laughs, and keeps looking at you. After a while it looks like he’s trying to remember you. You’re doing your best not to be remembered. He asks for your license. You hand it to him, and his eyes light up like a little boy.
“Ni wewe? Yaani it is you? Nikuulize, unaandikanga mambo kwa mtandao? Yaani internet? Hii jina na sura ninazijua. Walubengo Den?”
You ashamedly admit that it might be the truth. He goes on to tell you how he follows your blog religiously, and that he is actually currently studying at some college close by, and his lecturer directed all of the students to read your blog to gain some knowledge and improve their language. (You almost burst out laughing at this. Poor students. Poor lecturer.) After getting over his initial excitement the young police officer’s face turns a bit solemn and he asks you: Why don’t you write anymore?
You leave the earnest policeman with a glass of liquor to keep him warm, and you head off into the night. Thinking. Why don’t you write anymore? Why don’t you write?
Perhaps in the words below we will attempt, or endeavor to extricate ourselves from this morass. Perchance I will favour the well trained lawyer’s style of writing; Brief, concise, precise, and accurate. Or perhaps I will favour the grandiloquent style of some law professors and speechwriters. Maybe both. Then again, may be none. The author’s style: describing sunsets and sunrises and moons and oceans and landscapes in magnificent, almost numbing words punctuated by suffocating similes and a myriad of metaphors. No. Perhaps I should just say shag it and have a ghostwriter write out all this shit. But I’m not a rapper. I think I’ll just bumble along and wing it.
In bars. Restaurants. On the street. On the highway. In the club. Even at work and at home. The world seems to be teeming with people keening to know why you don’t write anymore. Surprisingly, people will read what you write sometimes, and if you are vain enough to include a picture or two of yourself in your articles they will know what you look like. Also, if you have a ‘common’ face (polite way of saying ‘watchman’s face), many people will think they have seen or met you before. Anyway.
Methinks the more important question is: “Why do you write? Why should you write?”
I’ve asked this question to many others, seeking to find out why they write, seeking to know what drives them. Some say it’s money that drives them, others say it’s passion. Some say that writing is a need, it is something you inexplicably need to do. Others of course write for vanity, or for fame or notoriety. Others write to stir unnecessary controversy or to spread hate steeped in mutated feminism like that girl/female/woman (what is the politically correct term?) who was insulting Subarus the other day, specifically Subarus of a blue hue. I never liked Subarus much in the first place, but now I do. I tend to gravitate towards the things which stupid people don’t like. Oh well, to each his own and we haven’t paraded ourselves here to judge.
I still remember someone telling me that I should write because I feel good while writing. But the end results are the words, the sentences, and they will be read by people. So making myself feel good then sharing the results with the reading public. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds an awful lot like masturbating in public. Some say you can only write and write well when you are sad, or when there is a great cause that one is writing for. I don’t know. Some draw motivation from the bottle and perhaps a pack of cigarettes – Keeps them writing.
Some write to make their voice heard. Some write to make the voices in their head go quiet.
Why do you write? Why should you write? Me I don’t know.
If there’s anyone out there who has an answer to these questions, or ideas, kindly share. They might just help to spark a light.