Many people become writers because they have a burning desire to tell their stories, get famous and maybe even rich off them. I do it because it’s the only profession where you have the world’s permission to walk around drinking coffee, kicking things and behaving like a self-important clown; and also for the invites to fancy breakfasts, yoga retreats and other pleasant get-togethers.
Last month, I was invited to UCU for the Azania Experience, a monthly gathering of poets, writers and other artsy types. After making it to the gate of the university without dying of Visitor’s Anxiety (a madness which convinces you that you are hopelessly lost and are never going to make it to your destination on account of you not remembering where to tell the taxi conductor to maasawo), I got shouted at by a stranger in uniform to GO and change my clothes! This confused me because I was under the impression that I looked very nice. Turns out, there are certain fashions that UCU’s women are not allowed to rock. Like jeans.
How comes UCU’s men get to wear trousers? Has management not considered the dirty way in which their belt buckles draw attention to their groins? The only way we can save Uganda’s morals from slithering to hell is by making everybody wear kanzus, not so? No, I didn’t rush to a roadside boutique for more homely clothes. I smiled my way in.
One of the things I really enjoyed about being Azania’s special guest was seeing my name on a poster that wasn’t a sweeping roster or a list of debt defaulters. My boss is thankful to the organizers for making me feel special as my productivity has shot through the roof. He encourages everybody in the world to show me a lot of love.
Because I was under such pressure to give writing advice, I may have spewed a lot of fey gibberish.
To make up for that, here is some really good advice from Doreen Baingana (author of Tropical Fish and awesome woman) that I scribbled down at a Femrite session where she was reading from her book and mingling with her groupies.
She said, “Writing doesn’t get easier”. So get used to however hard you’re having it now. Nothing apart from the volume with which you voice your complaints is ever going to change.
She said, “Write whatever wants to come out. Silence the editor”. Learn to ignore that part of your mind that laughs at and insults you by turns. Don’t become fearful and inhibited as a result of people’s opinions. Use your head.
She said, “The biggest challenge for writers is that nobody is crying for your work.” So whether or not you give it your stories, the world will continue to revolve in that irritatingly slow way that makes it hard for me to use Google Earth.
Baingana is motivated by deadlines. I am motivated by the need not to be the kind of nasty, kennel bred heifer that hands work in late.
My mojo nearly exploded from the stimulation of being in the same space as Doreen that day and I felt ready to machine gun my stories at the world; stories in which I’d turn my best and worst moments into entertainment for strangers.
I hope that feeling will return soon.