By Gabriel oguda via fb
I am not of the opinion that I write well. But because I keep being asked how I developed my writing skills. Let me tell you a short story.
There is a picture my kid brother shared last Thursday that has me stunting in a small mabati kiosk in Jua Kali market with my friends Fred Owidhi and Vin Jangu. That picture was taken just after my Form IV in early 2002, inside the kiosk I used to sell paraffin in. Just so that you know, I used to work in a petrol station. But that’s besides the point.
What you did not see in that picture is a newspaper. I am not saying how much they used to pay me but I was a card-carrying subscriber of the Daily Nation newspaper during my time in that kiosk. Every morning, before I opened that kiosk, I would pass by RUJU stores, in Jua Kali market, to buy that day’s Daily Nation. Those days I was never really interested in political news.
I bought the Daily Nation because of that page inside the newspaper that had the Crossword and the Codeword puzzles. My mother actually joked that if the Codeword puzzle was to be sold separately I would be the only guy buying that paper in Miwani. The guy who introduced me to Crossword and Codeword is Dennis Ojoo. He went to Maranda. He was our neighbor in Staff Quarters. If you see Ojoo tell him I owe him a lot. He is the only reasin you will see Maranda in any of my posts here.
I loved those two puzzles, the Crossword and the Codeword. They introduced me to jargon, sharpened my comprehension skills, kept me at par with the rest of the world. I would solve them in record time it was unbelievable. Later on I would buy a Scrabble Board – the only board game I can win a medal in if I was to pit my wits with the best in the business. Miwani had no bookshop, so those puzzles was the closest I came to catching up in English grammar.
Also. A big shoutout to the Otsembo’s. Allan. Mercy. Nyembo. Angela. And big man, Doc. Before I got employed in that kerosene kiosk it is at the Otsembo’s where I often went to read the Daily Newspaper. Doc and Allan would smuggle their father’s newspaper out of his reach whenever he came home with it, and they would invite me over to read it with them after their folks had gone to work. We would fill the puzzles inside that house as we raided their five-star kitchen. I also loved Macharia Gaitho’s Tuesday columns. And Lucy Oriang. And Mutahi Ngunyi had a Sunday column called Transition Watch. You wouldn’t miss it for the world. Whispers was still alive and writing hilarious pieces in there too. There’s a generation who did not read Wahome Mutahi, they don’t know what they missed. If you see Doc and Allan, big them up big time.
The point I am making here is that writing does not come by chance. You have to take initiative. You have to spare time to discover new knowledge. You have to read. You have to write. You have to have a circle of friends to keep you on toes. That circle has to share in your interest. When I came to Nairobi, I developed a small circle of friends who like reading and writing like I do. I will not mention them here. They know themselves.
These people have been extremely resourceful to me. They’re book hunters. They spend more time in bookshops than any other social place. They hunt for book bargains. They hunt for fresh titles on the book shelves. They speed read books before they buy them. They advise on which book is best for which study area. If you want to know about the Rwanda Genocide, they have a recommendation. If you want to know more about the Obama White House, they have a recommendation. If you want to know why grasshoppers have green blood while cockroaches have white blood, they have a recommendation. These guys belong to what we are now calling a Book Club. If you want to write well, you have to read well. And for you to read well, you need a Book Club of your own.
Try it. It works magic all the time.