Born to Write

Courtesy: Deviantart

Hi guys,

My name is Charles and I have something to say. Many of you know me only as a guy who writes, I have been called “a crazy guy but with good intentions”, “a bad boy”, “confused”, but mostly, I have been referred to as a somewhat good writer.

Thing is guys, I wasn’t born writing. I might have been born to write, but I was not born writing. That part came later, after a lot of work. These words that I put down on paper didn’t just start pouring out of my pores along with my sweat. I wish it did, but it did not. It took work. Tens of thousands of hours spent bent over a laptop or a book, trying to put together a story.

This little thing I am about to jot down here is my story so far. My journey to be who I am today as a writer. I am not much, but I am at a point where I know that I am nothing without these words.

Sure I was writing compositions like everybody else in both Primary and High School. But I knew I enjoyed writing those Compositions more than most. I was faster and I was more creative than, not all, but most. My journey to be me today however, didn’t really start until July 2006.

July 2006, just months before I could sit for my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam (KCSE) (anybody ever wonder why the name of an exam doesn’t have the word ‘exam’ in it?), I started writing my first manuscript ever.

I was sixteen years old.

The manuscript was for this kickass Mission Impossible kind of story called Survival of the Fittest with an antagonist who could beat Bond, James Bond on his worst day. I just went to a Coca Cola kiosk situated beside the chapel at Gaichanjiru High School, bought a 200 page exercise book, hurried to class and started writing that story.

Mind you, this was three months before KCSE which everybody knows is the most important exam in any teenager’s life. You fail that exam, you don’t go to university and in those years before there was some kind of university or college stemming up behind every public toilet in every town in the country, not going to university meant you were destined for failure.

I didn’t care.

That book had to be written. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus on anything other than Survival of the Fittest. I wrote and wrote and when the book filled up, all 200 pages of it, I rushed to Mr. Isaac’s Coca Cola Kiosk and bought me another. I wrote.

About a month to KCSE, a teacher on duty wondered what it is I was writing and she took the book. You guys think I write dirty now? Well, wait until you have seen what I was writing at sixteen. The F-bombs came more freely then. And my sexual descriptions had extensive dialogue in them. It was not funny!

The teacher saw all this but instead of caning me as I thought she was going to, she confiscated my manuscript, all 200+ pages of it, and promised to give it back when I was done with the exam. So a month left to KCSE, I started studying like everyone, but it still felt like a part of me was missing.

I did sit for the exam, and whether I passed or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that back then, writing my story felt more important than studying bones and Lobengula and whatever the hell it is that constituted our syllabus then.

When I got home after finishing Form Four, I couldn’t wait to finish my book. I wrote an entire 238 pages by hand and I told everybody in my phonebook then about it. I remember writing the last page. There were all these explosions and people running in slow motion in my story and girls dying in their men’s arms…haha, you want any cliché in the world, it could be found in that manuscript.

I finished writing it at around two in the morning, in November 2006 and I started calling people, waking them up with my excitement.

Me: Hey Dave! I finished it! I finished my book!

Dave: Dude, (sleepily) who are you?

Luckily, I only had about twelve contacts in my phonebook then so I didn’t embarrass myself to too many people. But I remember my mom stepping out of her bedroom at night and rubbing her eyes, trying to get them to adjust to the light and she asked, “What are you still doing up?”

“I finished it mom!” I exclaimed. “I finished my book!”

“Oh yeah? How long is it?”

“Two hundred and thirty eight pages.”

And she asked a question she has asked me a million times since. “And all of them came from your head?” There is a way my mom’s eyes twinkle whenever she asks that question. And she looks at my head as if wondering how so many words could come from a head so small. OK, maybe my head is a little bigger than I am making it out to be, but still…

Next stage was publishing. “Writing is the easy part. Getting your book out there, that’s a little harder.” Those were words said to me by the very first celebrity whose hand I shook. His name is John Kiriamiti.

The first time I met John Kiriamiti was in high school in 2006. He came to talk to us boys at Gaichanjiru Boys High School about crime and what a horrible thing it is, and of course, how it doesn’t like to pay. He ended up talking about his life in crime and how a bullet had grazed the back of his head and we all had a great laugh about that time he escaped a cop through the window of a toilet and how hard he laughed about it in the plane. You cannot make this sh*t up!

After the talk, I followed Kiriamiti and bombarded him with questions I had written down on a piece of paper and I couldn’t even hold the paper in my hands because they were shaking so badly! I mean, here I was, me, standing in front of a man who had published a book! That made him a giant in my eyes.

I figured that since he was a published writer, he could get me published too.

By the end of the conversation, he gave me his number and asked me to call him once the manuscript I was working on was done.

Flash forward to early 2007. Back then, KCSE results used to be announced somewhere around March. It was back before Matiang’i came around and made everyone a little less lazy. So form four leavers used to be so idle, just sitting at home, watching TV, hanging out with other kids, hitting on chicks unsuccessfully and just waiting for the results to come out so you could know how badly you had messed up and what the next step was going to be.

I spent those months trying to get published. Since my manuscript was handwritten, Kiriamiti advised me to get it typed before anything else could happen with it. I couldn’t type. There weren’t computers at Gaichanjiru and I had never placed my fingers on a keyboard. True story.

First time I placed my hands on a keyboard was in my mom’s office at the Law Courts where she used to work. I remember thinking, “This computer thing is so boring. How am I supposed to write an entire story on this when I can’t even find the “K”? Where is the damn “K”?! Oh, there you are. Took you long enough. Where the hell have you been?” I would type in the K, then I would embark on a journey to locate the A.

So I had my mom pay somebody three thousand bob to type my story. And when she was done, the typist went like, “Damn, that’s a movie your son has written! It should be out there already!”

High on praises, Kiriamiti had my story put in a floppy disk and also printed out so that now, I could try and weed out the grammatical errors! Haha, that was the most boring thing I have ever had to do, but I did it!

In the meantime, the results were out and by some miracle, I hadn’t totally failed. Since I wanted to be a lawyer and work in a Law Court like my mom, but since I hadn’t scored highly enough to automatically land a place, I started applying to universities to allow me to pursue a Bachelor in Law Degree. That is a story for another day when I’ll be interested in talking about me as a lawyer. Today is not that day.

I got a place and I was so caught up in being a law student, drinking, hazing, meeting girls who could type on laptops, had touch screen phones and could speak English through the nose, handing in assignments at the very last minute, that I forgot that I wanted to get published. I didn’t know this then, but I was too busy growing up.

See, as a writer, you need to allow yourself some time to grow up. That doesn’t mean you stop writing, it means you allow yourself growth room as you write. Allow yourself to live; whatever your description of living is. See, before university, I couldn’t write a story without a Chuck Norris feel to it. I wasn’t an original writer because I wasn’t an original thinker. Every thought I had was heavily influenced by a movie I had watched and a strike I had lived through in high school.

By 2009, I had reevaluated Survival of the Fittest in my head and decided I didn’t want it published. It wasn’t worth the hustle. Basically, I knew I could do better. And this was after I had written Survival of the Fittest Two and Survival of the Fittest; Armageddon.

Hahahaha, yep, the last installment in that handwritten trilogy was based in a dystopian post apocalyptic future where police officers were half human, half robot and controlled vide a remote by a God in the sky who also happened to be the main character’s best friend from high school. Oh, and the main character’s name was Charlie. I read some of these stories these days and I feel embarrassed by the teenage writer me.

But writing is a journey, you know. And the more you write, the more you grow. You can never stop writing guys. I cannot overstate that. Never stop writing, because then, what are you going to be? I thought you wanted to be a writer.

In 2009, I started writing another manuscript called Slum of Fate. Here is how that happened. Back in 2008, there were all these prostitutes murdered somewhere in Shauri Moyo in Nairobi. And I wondered, who would target so many prostitutes? Why?

So Slum of Death was inspired by that headline. I started writing it during my first year at Kenyatta University School of Law and I gave my friend Emmanuel “Aces” Mueke the first few pages of the handwritten story to read. He enjoyed it.

It was January 2009 and I used to be a Manchester United fan. Quite a staunch one actually. I have since lost interest in both the club (after Ferguson left) and football (after Man-U became so useless) as a whole. Anyway, back then, Man-U had just given Liverpool a thrashing and I was so jazzed that I named the main character in my new story, Ryan Giggs Kariuki after you know who.

In between campus life and all, it took me four years to finish that manuscript. I was still handwriting it since I couldn’t type for crap (I started learning how to type back in 2010 when KU started demanding that we hand in typed assignments and I now type 5,000 words of fiction a day, so guess who’s having the last laugh. Muhahahahahahahahaha!!!!) and by the time I was done with it in 2012, it was 550 something pages, most of them written on A4 size books.

I still have the entire manuscript in the house. It was a beautiful love story about these kids who became friends in boarding school at ages ten and twelve, right up to how they get their first baby and how Ryan became this huge business mogul. But now when I review it, the dialogue feels wrong, the plot feels stretched and emotionally blackmailing and basically, it is not something I would want published in my name, even though it felt like a great story about ten years ago.

In 2012, I typed my first manuscript on my laptop. A true Bonnie and Clyde kind of story which stretched two 200+ pages. I loved that story! I would dream about it when I closed my eyes and wake up thinking about it. I loved my characters even at their most violent and cried with them when they were in pain. I have never felt so emotionally connected to anything I had ever written before. This was it! The story called “Sacrificial Lamb” was going to put me on the map as the best Creative Writer in the globe.

I would read through that story and think to myself, “Sh&t, Sidney Sheldon couldn’t come up with this masterpiece if he tried! John Grisham couldn’t write like this to save his own damn life!” I was it! Guys, when I read Sacrificial Lamb today, I cringe. It is unoriginal, it is a tired story, I used too many words to say so little and those characters would confess their love for each other for pages and pages on end! God! It was a tiresome story to read through.

But I believed in it then and I took it to publishers to see if they would publish it. They didn’t call me back or reply to my emails. It was so frustrating, especially considering I had to go to various offices at Forest Road, Westlands, Industrial Area and I was a twenty two year old kid who didn’t have enough cash to feed himself, let alone chase a dream all over town.

In the meantime, I started writing stage plays. One of the plays was called “Givers and Takers” about the then new Constitution of Kenya and how it was already being manipulated to the advantage of a select few.

My friend Gabriel Mak’Owade and I had it staged at Kenya National Theatre. He directed it and renamed it “Nyahunyo” because apparently, nobody would come to watch a play called Givers and Takers. One day I will write a script for a movie about this journey of staging that story at Kenya National Theatre (KNT) because that in itself, is a long story.

The Poster for Nyahunyo. It has been saved in my computer as “NYAHUNYO POSTER MPYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!”

But to shorten it a bit, I had realized that publishers weren’t interested in publishing my book. This was in 2013 and I had forwarded my manuscript Sacrificial Lamb all over the place and screamed my throat sore, trying to get someone to notice it.

However, in this country, writers forward hundreds of manuscripts to publishers everyday so it is not surprising that I never got that call back, to date! Not about that particular manuscript anyway.

It’s 2013 and I am this scrawny twenty-three year old kid, angry with publishers and determined to have my own way in this country as a writer. So I figure, why not get Givers and Takers aka Nyahunyo, staged somewhere. Anywhere.

Both Mak’Owade and I are broke. But I go to my mom, so confident that I have written the best story ever and with the right marketing, everyone will watch it. I tell her, “Mom, loan me 50K to stage this play I have written and when I get the money back, I will give it to you. I promise, I swear, we’ll even sign a contract if you want.”

She goes to the bank, takes a ka-loan and gives me the 50K.

Mak’Owade and I slave away with that play. First of all my play has like thirty characters. For a stage play! Are you kidding me?! But hey, I was feeling Shakespearean when I wrote I so cut me some slack. We audition and come up with a great cast, which we have to thin out as time goes by because honestly, we cannot afford it.

Also Mak’Owade is a very street smart dude with great friends in very high and in very low places and this helped us secure rehearsal space for three months at Sarakasi Dome in Ngara; a place which we obviously couldn’t afford. Of course Edu and the Dancers had priority when it came to using the premises but we worked around their schedule and it worked great. So thanks to the Sarakasi management for helping us kids out.

My girlfriend then was also very supportive but I cannot mention her here because I think she hates me now, but hey, thanks girl. You could have made things either very hard or very easy for me back then. You chose to make them easy and I am grateful to date.

Anyway, I was a young man in pursuit of a dream. I had to make it come rain, come shine! So I lived and breathed that play. Even though Mak’Owade was the director and I was only the writer, I showed up every day for the rehearsals and also, he and I walked into tens of offices in this Nairobi looking for sponsors. Organizations whose mandates rhymed with the message of the play and who could support us in one way or another, even if it’s by buying tickets.

It is during one of our meetings with one of Mak’Owade’s friends in low places that we ended up at Choices Bar along Baricho Road; a cool little place where they used to play live music on Thursday I think. I hope they still do. At that place, we bumped into Bobby Mkangi.

Bobby was a member of the Committee of Experts involved in the implementation of the new Constitution. The play we were working so hard on was about the new Constitution. It felt as if God had placed us at Choices that evening, just so we could have a minute long conversation with Bobby.

Somewhere between introducing ourselves, taking his number and asking how he manages to be a lawyer with dreadlocks in Kenya, we pitched him the idea for the play and he asked us to call him later for a conversation about it.

When we called, he asked us to meet him at Prestige along Ngong’ Road and boy, I for one didn’t have enough money to get me there and back home. Hey Mak’Owade, I think that was the time we quarreled with that conductor so we would alight the matatu before he realized we didn’t have enough bus fare, right?

Anyway, we got to Prestige and Bobby had all these great ideas and contacts for us. He directed us to the then Law Society of Kenya CEO Mr. Apollo Mboya because since the play was legal in nature, he could at least get a few Advocates to attend the play.

Mr. Apollo had an email sent to EVERY advocate practicing law in Kenya as of July 2013, notifying them of the play. It was the kindest gesture we had come across in that journey. Had I been the crying type, I would have cried.

Spoiler alert, the advocates didn’t show up to watch the show, but at least, Bobby and Apollo did their part which really is what mattered. Because in this life, as a writer or otherwise, you need to know who you can count on.

It was during these days of trying to market our upcoming play that we came across the kind of friends who tell you, “I will be there” and they never are. But we had a great team.

We were required to pay some money at KNT or they wouldn’t let us have the hall so I used the money mom gave me plus a little of what Mak’Owade had to pay for that. We also needed to hire furniture and here, Sarakasi came through for us because they gave us some stools without charging us (I hope I’m not putting you Sarakasi guys in trouble with your bosses; it’s just that you were so helpful and I honestly can’t share this story without mentioning you).

And we had to feed the cast members and incur many other expenses that kept us on our knees financially, but we kept moving on.

And when the weekend when the show was staged came around, we were ready. And it was a great show. This was the first time I saw any of my characters coming to life live on stage and guys, I’m telling you I had never been so happy in my whole life.

The girlfriend I can’t mention was there too and she was so happy for me and I was so grateful that she had been a part of the team that had made this play come to life. Oh, and guys, this was before H_Art The Band was famous. They used to perform their hit song “Uliza Kiatu” (ask my shoe) at KNT for free and they performed it at this play and it was so great! It was so lovely and we all cheered and forgot how hard we had worked to be here.

And when the play started, I am probably totally biased right now, but it was just beautiful. Alright, I have to say this.Gabriel Mak’Owade, thank you man for believing in that play and in me as a writer. Thank you for directing the most beautiful play I have ever watched my entire life.

Fred “Freddie” Nixon, you gave that show the best you had. I know you had a wife and a little girl to look after and you had to work hard to provide for them but you still found the time to rehearse for and act to perfection, not one but two characters in that play. We probably don’t talk as much now as we should because time does that to people, but I haven’t forgotten what you did and it was simply amazing.

To Johnstone “Stone” (I forget your last name and I wonder why Mak’Owade called you Shtone), I have never met a firmer believer in God, and a better actor. You have probably gone on to become a big shot advocate somewhere now and you are probably charging clients millions just so they can experience the confidence you exude when your English comes pouring out through the nose, but I hope you never forget what we did here. You are an amazing actor; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And you are one of the most decent human beings I have ever met.

To Pesh, you were a great accountant. Thank you for taking care of the little money we had and for taking care of us boys, because God knows we needed that.

Jasper Otieno, you gave that play everything you had and then some

Nancy Wangui, I know we treated you like crap for a while there. It’s just that we believed you could be a better actor than you were willing to let the world see and hey, we were right. Every day I kept thinking you wouldn’t show up for the rehearsals because of what we put you through, but you did. You showed up and you overcame your fear and you nailed it! You nailed that role and you had fun doing it

Margaret Manyasi, I know you used to travel from far to come for the rehearsals and money wasn’t a luxury you had, but you came anyway.

Mary Usaji, Josephine “Jo-C” Guchu, Davis “Ocampo” and everyone else who came together to make this show such a success, thank you. I don’t say this a lot about anybody, myself included, but God bless you. We didn’t pay you because we didn’t have any money ourselves but that didn’t stop you.

When I embarked on a journey to bring Nyahunyo to life with Mak’Owade, it was all about the money for me. “Making it” involved having money and being famous and so I chased that paper and that fame that my life depended on it, because honestly, I believed it did.

By the time we were staging the play, I knew it was about friendship, about commitment, hard work, determination, life. I knew I was having the best days of my life as I was living through them and that was the greatest gift I have ever been given. To know that I am living “the good old days” as they are happening and learning how to make the best of them.

One day I will make a movie about the journey of Nyahunyo and about this amazing team that worked so tirelessly for no money at all, because they were the people I had when nobody knew who I was.

From “Nyahuyo”, I learned the most important lesson a writer in Kenya will ever have to learn. Writing isn’t about the money. If you are a writer, don’t do it hoping to get some paper. You will die painfully disappointed. It is lonely and it is thankless. Yet, you somehow find joy in putting words out there regardless. And somehow, that gives you joy and satisfaction.

Writing is like a relationship with someone who you wonder why you’re with them because they drive you absolutely nuts, yet you can’t leave them because, and here is the cliché, they complete you. The day you realize you are nothing without your words, is the day you start taking yourself seriously as a writer. You stop doing it for money and fame and start doing it because it is what you do. It is who you are. Got it?

We didn’t make money from Nyahunyo, so I didn’t pay my mom back. Heck, even the cast went home with peanuts. Best part, we didn’t finish paying for the hall, and not because we enjoyed running away with the money, we just couldn’t afford it. But there was so much joy in bringing that story to life in front of the few people who came to watch it that even going home broke thereafter didn’t feel so bad.

At least even in our financially embarrassed status, we still had each other.

I spent 2014 writing scripts for movie and TV shows, none of which has ever been produced to date, and not for lack of trying. Also in the course of 2014, I tried getting published again. I remember creeping into the DM of one Kinyanjui Kombani (another published writer) and whining like, “I have taken my manuscripts to like ALL publishers and they are asking me to forward hard copies and I am a student and I can’t afford it because I am too broooooooooooooooke!!! Please help me!” Hahaha. Sorry KK. I just needed to get my stories out there.

And KK advised me accordingly and has continued doing so to date.

Another friend of Mak’Owade’s in low places is a nice dude called Ken “Shakespeare” Kibiru. Hey dude, what’s up? I must have written ten movie scripts and TV shows for Ken, and we even shot a pilot for a TV series I had called Strength.

We even had big shot actors like Gerald Langiri in the pilot. It was going to be the next big thing! Oh, a pilot is that first episode of a TV series. If it is picked up by a studio, e.g. MNet, then you get money to shoot like an entire season or something.

I had so much belief that the show would get picked up, that I wrote seven episodes. They are still in my laptop, gathering dust.

At this juncture, I had tried writing novels. That hadn’t worked out so well for me. So I turned to stage plays which were enjoyable but not financially sustaining so I quit and turned to screen writing. This also proved to be financially unsustainable for me, so I stopped doing that also. But during this time, Ken said something which I have never forgotten.

“One day, your work will be to wake up and spend the day in the house writing. Working from home and getting paid for it.”

It sounded like a dream, and it became something new for me to chase.

In 2015, I reviewed Sacrificial Lamb and decided it was a horrible manuscript. No wonder publishers wanted nothing to do with it. In fact they probably hated it so much that they wouldn’t call me to tell me how much they hated it.

So I did my research on Kenya’s LGBT (there wasn’t the Q back then, I think) community and after someone dropped a bomb at one of their offices, I became very interested in their lives. The bomb didn’t go off. But there was an entire conversation about it and guys started complaining about being hit on by other guys in nightclubs in Westlands etc.

I decided to write about random people in Nairobi, connected by their sexual orientation and the idea for The Realm of Humanity was born. It was basically a story about people and sex. We all know sex sells, right? I mean, who wouldn’t buy such a novel?

Also, I started becoming a “deep” person then. I think it was a phase where I felt that since I was twenty-five years old, it was time I became smarter, more intelligent, yada yada. Anyway, I think I had my own quarter life crisis pressures to deal with. And one of the things that I kept telling myself was, “I need to write this book in case I die.”

So I typed The Realm of Humanity in a record two weeks and of course, started embarking on a journey to get it published. I even got publishers’ number and called them but they kept saying they would get back, and they never did. Too busy. And the one who finally replied to one of my many emails went like, “Oh, sorry. I left the publishing field last year. Pole sana!” And he was my contact person there. Ha!

At this point I already had my degree in Law and everyone was pressuring me to get a real job because obviously, this whole writing thing wasn’t helping me. Everyone had tolerated me for years and now it was time for me to wake the hell up and live in the real world like everyone else.

I think this was the time I officially quit trying to be a writer. I had tried novels; screen and stage plays and none had worked out. I was at that point when one says, “I tried my best” and quits. But here is what I had forgotten. I wasn’t trying to be a writer. I already was one. But since it was proving a little hard to be one, I was quitting, and hiding under the celebrated “I tried my best” mantra.

I got a job at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) here in Nairobi and for the first time in my life, I was broke, but not so much. Haha. At least I could afford to get wasted every other weekend and save enough money to put myself through Kenya School of Law.

Here is the thing. When I was working so hard to chase my writing dreams, I had given up on law. This is because i couldn’t see eye to eye with my first dissertation supervisor.

Now that I had given up on writing, I was determined to be a lawyer. I had never been much of a ‘multi-tasker’. I can’t pursue both writing and being a lawyer. One or both will suffer horribly. It is just how I am wired.

So I spent 2016 working and traveling and ‘resigned to dropping short stories purely for my entertainment on Facebook’. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t writing with the endgame being to make money. I had tried to make money from writing since I was sixteen years old and I had failed miserably, so now I was just dumping bits of writing on Facebook as I focused on my life.

2017, I started Kenya School of Law with my sole aim being to dedicate the entire year towards passing the bar exam because people fail those exams like nobody’s business, take up a crappy pupilage position in 2018 and get admitted to the bar so I could live out the rest of my days as an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.

And I was actually happy about it because as far as I could tell, I didn’t have a choice. My dream to be a writer had turned out to be a fantasy just like everyone had said it was and now I had to pursue the more realistic and more financially rewarding dream to be an advocate.

One February 8, 2017, I dumped another one of my short stories on Facebook. It was early in the afternoon, I was one week old at Kenya School of Law and I was sailing happily through an introduction to Probate and Administration. I was already busy scanning the class with my eyes to check out the hot ladies and see which one of them could be my… ah, forget it.

A few minutes earlier, the lecturer had asked the entire class to introduce itself. She had said, “Find out the person you’re sitting next to’s name and introduce them to the entire class.”

Here is what the lady seated next to me stood up and said. “The gentleman on my left is Mr. Charles Ndegwa. He is a Kenyatta University alumnus and is single.” That had been fun. I could already sense that I was going to have a lot of fun at Kenya School of Law. Sure it was going to be a tough year academically, but people have given up on dreams to settle for less.

As the lecturer taught away about what Probate and Administration is all about, I uploaded another short story on my Facebook timeline using my phone and tossed into my pocket to focus. I would check out the notifications (if any) on the Citi Hoppa ride home in the evening.

The name of the story, “Around Nairobi in One Night”, happily nicknamed by Kenyans, “Confessions of a Kenyan Uber Driver.”

I guess this is where I should say that the rest is history.

Twenty four hours later, the story went viral. Shared everywhere. Thousands of times on Facebook and on Twitter. Less than a week later, I was being interviewed by BBC! Yeah! BBC interviewed for a story I posted from my phone, on some lazy afternoon, seated on a chair in class.

Just when I stopped chasing money and fame, that happened. It was reported that that story was shared over one million times around various WhatsApp Groups and other platforms.

You remember how I got tired of writing movie scripts way back when because they weren’t going anywhere? Back then, nobody touched my stories other than Ken, because nobody knew me. Now my phone couldn’t stay charged because I couldn’t get movie producers to stop calling.

Everybody wanted to turn Around Nairobi in One Night into a big movie. I was interviewed by Betty Kyallo on KTN Friday Briefing and Kalekye Mumo on K24 Talk Central. For about two weeks, I was literally one of the most famous people in Nairobi. Maybe the entire country. And I am not even exaggerating.

I remember calling my friend Silas and going like, “Dude, I feel like I’m losing my mind. Can we go to church?” I would put my phone on silent and when I looked at it thirty minutes later, there would be all these missed calls and messages from all these famous people. It was insane!

And I remembered, I never stopped being a writer. I kept writing. Even when it didn’t seem to work out, I kept at it.

Look guys, I am not saying I have made it. God knows I haven’t. Ask people now whether they know who “the guy who wrote that uber driver story” is, and they won’t tell you. They have forgotten, but I haven’t. I have seen firsthand what resilience can do for you.

It hadn’t occurred to me to share this story until right now because it hadn’t struck me as a story that needed to be told. But I keep getting these messages from writers, asking me how they can be as good as I am, how they can make money from their writing because they are tired of writing for free and nobody appears to be giving a sh%t about them.

If anything, they write and write and when people see their good stories, they steal them and share them on their own social media pages. Guys, it is wrong to steal a writer’s work. Don’t do that. How do you feel when somebody comments “Great piece, keep up” for an article you stole, knowing very well that that great piece isn’t yours? I mean, really? How horrible must your life be, that now it has to be lightened up by strangers’ comments on a story you stole? You can’t possibly be that shallow.

And writers, the world isn’t fair. The world doesn’t owe you sh*t. You will spend hours alone writing, you will feel bad and lonely and you will come up with a great story! A perfect one that will make you feel happy! Then some idiot will plagiarize it and get more likes and comments than you and that sh*t will hurt!

But don’t let that stop you. Keep writing guys. Coz these words, they are all we’ve got. Ladies, gentlemen, we have nothing but the words we have to share with the world. I have a cliché for you. When I am not writing, I feel like my life has stopped moving.

This whole story that you have just finished reading is meant to tell you one thing; you can’t stop writing, no matter what. I haven’t made it, but I am not where I was two years ago. And the difference between now and two years ago can be seen in the hundreds of thousands of words I have put out there. Only way I am going to stop writing is when God takes my soul. And if there are readers in Heaven, I will write for them too. You and I will write for them too. It is why God put us on this earth. To write. So write, Goddamit! Write, and stop acting like you have a choice. And hey, you are not alone. I promise.

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  1. And while amid the river crossing,
    Crossing to the side where
    I may be called a writer,
    The waters rage, and I have doubts,
    I fear, and I want to go back,
    To the bank of risk-less nondescriptness,
    I see your journey – not easy, but
    There are stones upon which I can step,
    And though I might slip n slide and fall in,
    If I keep at it, like 5000 words a day (Wow!)
    I’ll get to the coveted bank.
    Thank you, Charles.

  2. ‘Only way I am going to stop writing is when God takes my soul. And if there are readers in Heaven, I will write for them too. ‘

    I relate to it at so many levels. I cannot start to tell the number of times I have typed a piece and in frustration said it is my last. But somewhat, my soul comes back to writing. And just like many writers out there, I cannot tell you the number of times people give you gigs that they end up not paying for. I even think I am at that point, I no longer trust anyone who comes at me that ‘you are great,let us work on this. We will get good money’😂😂😂😂(si kwa ubaya) But despite all, my whole system hurts whenever I do not write.
    Now Charles, this is deep. Your writings usually fascinate me. This particular blog post though, it has MOVED me.

  3. I have enjoyed every piece of writing you do. It makes me relax my mind and open my inner eyes to reflect on the paths I have walked through.

    Great work Charles

  4. You’ve always felt shakespearean charles.
    Damn it,,who wouldnt feel such if shakespear and slack are all in one sentence and no one faults it?. You still owe mama charles 50Gs. Now i know how nothing comes easy

  5. Hey Charles, this is more than just inspiration. It is what I wanted to hear so much like my life depends on it. I will write. Viva!

  6. Without heroes we are all plain people, and dont know how far we can are my hero despite not yourself saying you havent made it being. I write too but I know am not good enough, I give up and come back. No published work yet.

  7. Aki Thank you for sharing your story. Super inspirational! Thank you for pointing out that this world owes us nothing. I believe the same thing, that we owe it to the world to give our best.
    I must also say your work is amazing! Honestly thought I was a poor reader (the generation x kind) who could read a 32 page book in a week, but now I know all I needed was a great writer’s stories!


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