Recently, The East African published one writer’s list of 25 most famous African writers. Most were from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. No Rwandan featured on the list. While the list could be dismissed as one man’s opinion, I could not help realizing we do not have many renowned Rwandan writers.
A few have ventured to write novels (mostly about genocide), create their own blogs or post their work on social network sites like Facebook or submit articles to the media.
I am pretty sure there is a lot of raw talent out there, it just seems like it has never been harnessed, encouraged and developed.
Many people seem to believe that writing is a very specialized skill which can only be obtained by formal training. While formal training in writing is beneficial it is not a prerequisite for good writing. If you desire to express yourself through the written word, it is never too late to start.
It may help to read other writer’s works and compare writing styles as you begin to write. Eventually, you will find yourself developing your own style.
If you are like me, then you may find writing very daunting the first time. And you are probably still filled with dread every time you encounter a blank piece of paper which yearns to be filled with words. Fear not, it happens to even the most accomplished writers.
Every time I am confronted with a blank paper or computer screen, I remind myself of the famous Chinese proverb, an article of a thousand words begins with one letter. Or is it the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step? Anyway, you get my drift.
Every once in a while I will be hit with this idea which desperately wants to be expressed. But for the most part, I will choose to ignore it resolutely and go about my life as usual. The idea goes away and comes back after a while, with a greater sense of urgency and insistence, a bit like the landlord who pesters me till I pay my rent.
After being nagged and pestered for days on end, I relent, I embrace my fate well aware that I can only regain my freedom once I commit the idea to pen and paper and give the idea the life it deserves.
Not all attempts at a giving the idea a life are successful. Some are still born, with a few words liberally sprinkled all over the paper but not amounting to much. Do not worry, such is the life of a writer.
Other times, I write one word and am surprised at how quickly the idea takes a life of its own once I start developing it. With every new word, comes the possibility of a whole new sentence, till I have a few paragraphs and soon I have an article.
Why should you write? Besides monetary benefits, there are several other benefits to writing.
Writing can be therapeutic. If you are feeling sad about some problems you are facing and you write in your diary for instance, it will almost be like you are sharing your life with some invisible person and you will feel lighter about the problems.
Also, writing can help clarify and develop your ideas on any subject. Once you commit your thoughts to pen and paper, you will find yourself critiquing them. And when you start finding loopholes in your ideas, you will want to refine them by reading more about your chosen subject, and the more you read up on your subject, the more you develop your idea until it is ‘whole’.
In addition, by sharing your writing with others, you are able to influence and engage with the wider society in debate, and this can be intellectually enriching to all those involved.
This is especially the case if your writing is published on interactive media like Facebook or some newspaper websites, where the readers can fire away their comments about your piece, with the click of a mouse. Since we are aiming at being a knowledge based economy, this exchange of ideas is vital.
Writing also expands your vocabulary, widens your imagination, helps you find your voice and encourages spontaneity. Enough said already, its time for you to get out there and start writing!
Richard Balenzi is a lawyer