As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed sometime back, I came across a tweet. This already established Writer, felt that the only way you could support a struggling Writer, was by giving him/her money. I couldn’t agree more.
A struggling Writer many times, is one who has not yet started making any money from their writing and if he/she has, it may not be enough to rely on as their only source of income. A struggling Writer may not have any published books yet. A struggling Writer can also be an upcoming Writer, since he/she might be working night and day, to get their name out there. Something that may not necessarily be a walk in the park.
Every established Writer was once a struggling Writer. They once knocked on doors, trying to get published or kept sending in their work to Publishers, in the hope that their manuscripts would be considered. There is also that struggling Writer who did not even own a laptop because he/she could not afford it.They had to spend most of their time in cyber cafes or on borrowed laptops, working on whatever stories they were writing.
That struggling Writer, who would keep on salivating at relevant books on bookshelves, but knew that he/she could not afford them. That struggling Writer, that nearly hid their face in shame, whenever anyone asked the question, “what are you reading?” because they never seemed to find books to read and yet it was crucial for them to be reading, if only to write better.
We might take some things for granted, such as having access to book clubs and easily obtaining new fiction works in the market when in the real sense, there is a struggling Writer somewhere whose locality is challenged in the reading department. Let’s be honest here for any Kenyan who might be reading. When was the last time you walked into a Kenya National Library just to read Fiction works on the shelves?
There was a time, when our National Libraries were relevant but in recent times, not so relevant. Not to dispute the fact that some Kenyans still frequent them. There are people for sure, who walk into libraries and spend a significant amount of time there reading. As a child in Eldoret town, I was a Library frequenter for the longest time, thanks to my parent who thought it wise to preoccupy me with books. I was even a member and had that Library card but as I grew up and got to upper primary, then high school, then campus, that changed.
In campus, I read the books I found on our campus library bookshelves. Luckily, there was a well stocked fiction section, which I discovered one day when I was bored and didn’t feel like studying academics related material. I stumbled on autobiographies by Hillary Clinton, Wangari Maathai and Cherie Blair as a result (remember, it was the fiction section but there were autobiographies there too), which I read out of curiosity and was not dissapointed. It was in our campus library, that I found and borrowed “I dreamed of Africa” by Kuki Gallman.
However, how common is it to bump into books by Elnathan John, Akwaeke Emezi, Lola Shoneyin, Noviolet Bulawayo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Binyavanga Wainaina, Yvonne Owuor, Mukoma wa Ngugi and the likes on our Kenya National Library bookshelves and especially in other towns and not the Capital? And that is why I believe, it is indeed very possible, for a struggling Writer to fail to read because they may not be able to find relevant books to read (not implying that other writers are irrelevant depends on what in specific they would like to read), may not know of any book clubs in their locality and may not be able to afford books.
It is imperative that we look at the challenges that a struggling Writer might be facing. God forbid, that such a Writer gave up because he/she decided that the odds must be against them and especially, in the event where they may be working so hard but failing to see the fruits of their labor. It is time that Established Writers became true to themselves if only to uplift those struggling/upcoming Writers who might look up to them for inspiration. Sometimes, what the latter needs might not only be money but for someone successful to sincerely say to them, “I was once in your position. I know how it feels to struggle, not to make any money and to have writing doubts.”