A number of Art/Life readers have over the years inquired from me about the writing process. This time Karuya Maharero from Tsumkwe posed the following specific questions on how to improve his own writing skills.
What does it take for one to establish one as an author?
A certain degree of creative writing talent that comes with time and have a work published in whatever form, self-published or through local established publishers of which there are only a few conservative ones I might add. Most Namibian publishers are focused on the education market, steering clear from publishing ‘real’ literature, is my experience.
However, don’t despair too easily with the many return slips you might receive in your quest to get a publisher.
Yes, writing literature is 10 percent creative talent and 90 percent perspiration, I have learned in my writing career over four decades. And I have been involved in most writing genres such as the novel, short story, essay, newspaper writing and film script writing, but for poetry in my life time. And it has paid off, eventually: two publishing house books and one self-published book with another one in the pipeline.
This process demands a lot of writing, writing, rewriting, rewriting, more writing and rewriting, at least three hours per day, 365 days per year for the rest of your writing career. Once you master this basic process, you are well on your way to become a disciplined writer, at least.
My advice to you from the outset is never fall in love with your own writing. Submit whatever you write to your family and friends for objective criticism. They will give you honest answers about your natural creative skills before submitting your works to publishers.
And don’t worry, the so-called Big writers of today also had their ups and downs with the writing process. Some of them had many return slips of rejected manuscripts and they survived by continuing to write. Today some of these big Hollywood blockbuster movies adapted from books took years to complete to write and to produce. So, don’t wait for inspiration, WRITE, anything under the sun.
What kind of style should one use when writing?
I take it every writer has his/her own style because I see writing as a natural process. You either have it or you don’t. In my view one can go to university to acquire a degree in literature, but not in writing. Such degrees can lay the academic foundations for writers, but cannot necessarily teach them how to write and what to write. That doesn’t mean I am discouraging you and others not to go to university. Just remember the proof of the pudding lies in the eating of writing – writing itself.
Styles normally come as you start mastering and become conversant in the art of writing.
As a writer leaning more to theatre writing (dialogue story telling for stage and screen, I prefer calling it), I have over the years experimented with and tried to master combining prose and dialogue as a craft. I must admit that the process is only now coming to fruition and its full cycle through my writings.
This is an added advantage to further enhance and improve my creative writing.
Whom to approach to have your works published?
My advice to you is join the two or three writing clubs that exist in the country, e.g. PEN Namibia, etc. Become a member. There is nothing wrong in joining such a writer’s club. Through such clubs or unions one can learn a lot about other writers so that you do not operate in isolation. One needs to be on the ball with the latest writing trends in Namibia, Africa and the world.
The best way to know that is by joining such writing bodies. Naturally you can submit your works for publication consideration to any publishers.
Can I consider writing as a career?
Of course if you possess the staying power, the perseverance, the determination, the natural skills, the discipline, etc. anyone with talent can become a writer because there exists a popular belief that every human being has at least one book to write in their lifetime.
There are many avenues to explore in the writing world from newspaper writing to advertisement writing as well as literature. Writing can be very self-satisfying or a mental trauma from which one can never really get rid, once the bug had bitten you. And beware of writer’s block. I have been very lucky never to have experienced that process in which you just for the life cannot write.
I hope I have answered your questions and shared my personal views and experiences satisfactorily.
Until next time: Keep on writing.