Nwachukwu Egbunike

What is the worst of woes that wait on age?

What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the bow?

To view each loved one blotted from life’s page

And to be alone on earth as I am now.

– Lord Byron, English poet/writer (Vanguard Book of Quotations; no 213)

Beyond the glamour of having your name protruding like an over sized and over ripped mango on that piece of print lies the pain of birth. All who write – or pretend to do so – it matters not if fiction, fabrication, fact or fantasy, have savoured this pitchy pod. Though people with no end adore the pages filled with your ink, yet many will never penetrate the agony that garnish those pieces.

It’s not a matter of painting the globe in gloomy gurgle.  Every writer has encountered this feeling of being just ‘on your own’. This changes not whether commissioned or not. Who cares if you gatecrash or just aspire to be a noisemaker and then get noticed? What lies always behind the madness to write is that you have to do it ALONE.

When you scribble as a hobby you may never encounter this bitter reality. But no sooner you get swallowed up by the caress of vanity which people’s praises produce then you have just strolled into a first class train to purgatory. By the way, those who sing your admiration most times hardly ever read past the first paragraph. When they are gracious enough, they scan through the middle and then fast forward to the last paragraph.

When you have been commissioned, either by an agent or by the purse of your employer, with an excruciating timeframe to deliver, then you have arrived. Though your keyboard bears the punches from your fingers, it can never produce the story for you. Soon you realise that writing is not as easy as it looks. And you have no reason to envy those who make ‘masterpieces,’ ‘page tuners,’ ‘worthy additions to the growing library in this field’ or so numerous book review over used expressions.

You have a thousand thoughts, the plot and sequence of your essay flows in chaos within your mind. You scavenge books and writings of other writers. Like the madmen/women’s work you consult, you have a burden to stand by the truth. Or at least try to gain a larger perspective that is no prisoner to your whims. What many never realise is that a writer is a reader. The more he reads, the better he becomes.

Back to those fluid views bouncing forth in your brain. They never impersonate lady logic, it’s your shackle to fill the spaces and make sense out of nonsense. You would very much love to throw this back on someone else. But where do you find that another who will fully appreciate your agony? Is it your editor, who roars like a starved lion? Or your publisher whose interest lies solely on the coins that will drop from your work? Don’t dare ask your family, they appreciate your fame but may never understand your plight. Your colleagues, you may find some solace, but never expect a solution. For they have their own sack loaded with similar wahala (sorrow).

Soon you will have to accept that you act weirdly. People soon avoid you; they have suffered the pain of your irritation once and do not intend to go through it again. Is it not true that no sooner you are possessed by the agwu (spirit) that plagues your trade, you lose reason? How many times have you been aloof though surrounded by people? Have they not tried to chatter while you prefer peace?

All of a sudden it clicks, the jigsaw falls in place and you rush to spew it out before it gets lost. That phrase that holds the key to your bread out of nowhere appears and insolently shams innocence. Your keyboard again suffers the revenge of your zeal; you knock and kick it to submission. And then the breaks are applied again – certainly not by you – but by the agwu that rules your pen. There is a block that has shut down all light. It is reinforced and it swings you back into bitter gloom.

If you write in Naija, then you have an edge. Your challenges will certainly be legion, so also your dexterity.  You have to time your output with the differentials of electric power and dry-cell battery of your notebook. Not even the constancy of your generator can power full confidence because diesel or petrol can overnight turn into gold.

Delusions of grandeur; who cares that you are a writer? The noise decibel in your neighbourhood is not about to tide down. The sources increase day by day as the pitch tones higher from the factories. They know no vacation especially the prayer industries. The elements you will soon notice have made a pact with your enemies; the rains will either flood your home or the sun scourge out the remaining particles in your head.

Take not the human right ranting from the West serious. They may declare the Internet a human right, that will only apply across the Atlantic. Down under, it remains a privilege. You will certainly pay a ton for your modem but you will remain the slave of the ISP’s who will only treat you as dung, never mind their condescending ‘sir’ or ‘ma’. With the whizzing waft of corruption, the fear of your safety to the open hypocrisy of the trustees of our commonwealth, you gain an insight that a Creative Writing degree in Harvard will never grant you.

But write you must, failure of which means losing your humanity. Writing: the only antidote that keeps you sane, the exclusive outlet for your passions and the only sphere where you reign as a sovereign. For your words waters the world and greens the field. There are two options write or suffer the silence of insanity. This is the writer’s realm: which may never attract but keeps him addicted to his trade.


One Comment

  1. Very beautiful piece Don Nwach! True, writers (well, the good ones) are at once the most miserable and most happy people in the world. The loneliness, the confusion, the frustrations and sometimes, the pains a writer goes through to produce even the smallest piece can only be fully appreciated by him/her alone. Yet, once the job gets done, the feeling of fulfillment and joy is usually indescribable and always acts as a force which draws the writer more and more into the lonely world of writing. Again, writing is one of the very few difficult vocations in our crazy & money conscious world that continues to recruit many adherents who are ready to practice even without any form of monetary incentive. As you rightly noted, “…write you must, failure of which means losing your humnaity”. May God bless us with a persevering spirit in that difficult and lonely vocation!


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