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ART CULTURE

Abiero in 2020

I have known for a while that some of the best writers have or had full-time jobs. But now I also realise that these people are geniuses. I am not.

2019 is over.

With it goes the decade in which I not only ventured to explore my penchant for writing and to use it for more than school work required (I was in form three, in 2010, when I started writing novel manuscripts on dog-eared exercise book pages), but also developed it into a skill that has come to define me more than any other.

Yet it has been over eight months now since I last wrote a blog post. Since then, I have thought of blogging almost every day. But every day has ended without me putting down a single word. It is true I wrote other things during that time. There were a few contracted pieces on which you will never see my name. And then there were the nine articles I wrote on MercatorNet.

But everything I wrote in this period – and much of what I wrote in the months leading up to it – required of me more effort than I have had to muster in a very long time. The only exception was the article I wrote for MercatorNet on the Dusit terrorist attack in January 2019. I felt every word of that piece.

And so, as the decade drew to a close, I slipped into a writer’s block, that dreaded apocalyptic moonscape which takes of the form of the worst fears of any writer who loves his art.

It did not come at once. The zenith, believe me or not, was March 2017, when I wrote “The Death of Lake Victoria.” From then on, I gradually sank. By the end of 2019 I was lying on the bottom, mushed on my slime like a slug.

You have no idea how terrible a tragedy this has been for me. It has been a period of creative darkness, marked above all by a dislike of art of writing so intense that I defaulted to distractions whenever the idea of writing chanced to grace my consciousness.

I have done a lot of soul searching to figure out what exactly caused my malaise. It is never easy for a writer to do this. The transformation often seems random, like a switch pulled by the proverbial muse that inhabits our creative selves.

However, the causes, when sought out, are usually more prosaic. In my case, I have been able to descry three. I outline them here, not to assign blame, but rather to acknowledge reality. I would not avoid any of these things if I had another go at these last two years, but I would be better prepared for the impact they have had on my creative life.

The first factor is that I have been doing a master’s degree. Maybe I am extra dumb, but the energy required to do a master’s degree, especially while working full time, has been more than I could muster while maintaining a creative career.

I talked about this in a few articles when I realised what was happening, but I had not appreciated what it really meant. I now mention it first because it is not the biggest factor. As you have seen, I place my zenith in March 2017. I started graduate coursework in September 2017.

The second cause, more important than the first, is that I have been working full time. I could have resolved this with some order and hard work. Instead, I employed those two virtues at the workplace only, and did not figure out how to transfer them to my writing.

I have done a lot of thinking and research into how to balance a creative hobby (which is what writing is for me at the moment) and a full-time job. I have realised that this will be necessary for as long as a I hold my present job.

But this cannot last forever. I have known for a while that some of the best writers have or had full-time jobs. But now I also realise that these people are geniuses. I am not. Therefore, I will try their techniques only in the short term. In the long term, I figure that the best thing will be to make writing my full-time job. We will see how that works out.

The third cause of my block, and this is usually the hardest for any creative person to acknowledge, let alone deal with, is the fact that I just got fatigued. At some point, I dreamed too big, took on too much, and spread myself thin.

Thus primed for a downfall, when the other two factors came along and obscured my dreams, I lost the will to even try standing up. The gas went out of me, as out of a punctured tyre. But as a new decade begins, I realise that it would be a big mistake to let go so easily.

I want to try this again.

I am going to do it as a purely creative pursuit, mixing in only those professional elements that are necessary for me to achieve my goals. For this year, I have more modest ambitions. At their core is the desire to revamp my blogging career. And I intend to accomplish this in a very simple – which means difficult – way.

I will post an article, on this blog, once a week. Just so you know how serious I am about this, I will send KES 100 using Mpesa to the first person who leaves a comment on this article for every week on which I do not put up an article.

I will not commit to a tight schedule, but, provided I clear the tough challenge of staying alive, I will drop a new piece here before the end of each week, until 2020 goes to ashes.

I also do not commit to a topic or set of topics. I want to let loose my creative energy on the broad field of human endeavour. I want to write about everything, in every way that I know. I want to stretch the limits of my intellect, and bring the force of my words to bear on the most varied topics mankind has ever contrived.

Finally, to consolidate all of these gains, I want to limit the avenues through which I disseminate my work. I will post my creative articles only on this blog. The only exceptions to this will be MercatorNet, where I write on African issues, and any other platforms for which I might be contracted to produce content.

The particular reasons why I will be abandoning the other platforms, like Medium, where I have been present for several years, are varied. I can explore these further in future – and would you believe it, I just got an idea for a new article! Just 50 more to go.

To those of you who have, in many and varied ways, hounded me for content during my creative silence, I wish to express my sincerest gratitude. For your faith in me, I thank you very much. It is humbling to know that there are souls out there for whom my writing is something worth appreciating.

I will try to do good by you. But this year, and I do not mean to offend you with this, I want to write for myself. I want to let loose my words. I want to feel what I felt when I produced the content that made me the proudest. I want to write articles that I enjoy reading. Hopefully you will too.

If you don’t, I will always leave the comments sections open.

PS – This is not my new year’s resolution.

Feature image: Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash.

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16 replies on “Abiero in 2020”

Thank you Brian. As I said, this is not a New Year’s resolution. That particular fact remains private and confidential.

Sometimes one has to jump out of the comfort zone with reckless impetuosity in order to what needs to be done.

Well done. Did you mean to commit to Ksh 1000 or Ksh 100? Be that as it may be (incentive or disincentive), let your writing pen benefit from the kick of your heart beats🙏

I meant KES 100. And someone else already beat you to the honour of being disappointed every week. Thanks for for encouragement.

Thanks Mathew,
We readers have never known the challenges you writers go through to give us something to read but we really appreciate that you struggle to give us content.
I wish you well this 2020 and I also promise to be a faithful reader.
Just make me understand this part “I will send KES 100 using Mpesa to the first person who leaves a comment on this article for every week on which I do not put up an article.”

Hi Kiptanui. Thanks for the wonderful words. The first person who commented on this post (his name is Peter, check the top of the comments) will receive KES 100 from me each Monday if the preceding week passes without a blog post coming up on this website (barring extraneous circumstances, of course).

Wonderful resolution Matthew. I look forward to reading the weekly articles or earning the 100 bob from you. Thanks a lot, I really enjoyed your writing in 2019 especially on MercatorNet. I am surprised that you say you had a block during that whole period. I can’t imagine how wonderful 2020 will be when the block is finally lifted from you. But maybe I should also commit to at least one article per month. Let’s see, I have just committed.

Quite encouraging. We pray for the energy and soundness of mind so can accomplish this. I look forward to reading more of your articles or earning the money.

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