April 14, 2014

The Power of the Word: Let Us Strive To Make A Positive Difference
by Ndaba Sibanda (essay, PG)
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The Piker Press celebrates its 12th anniversary this week. With Ndaba Sibanda, we exhort all writers to free the stories within them.

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Is writing not something of great magnificence? If so, why can we not make a difference?

The world has never been static, so has writing. It is dynamic. It makes the world revel and reveal itself. Out went the traditional writing feather or pen, and in surged the typewriter, then the "wise" computer. Kudos, the world crooned in celebration of probably one of civilization's amazing conquest and result.

However, this does not mean that the pen is down and out. Not at all. Neither does it mean that the pen has ceased to be mightier than the sword. Writing is writing whether by virtue of the might of the pen or the wizardry of the computer.

One well-known author, Maya Angelou, says, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." How many authors have burning stories to tell, but yet they still owe the world a huge debt because they have not taken time to tell them, or have not figured how they could tell them in the most effective and efficient way possible? How many artists are "pregnant" with rare and exciting ideas and experiences but sadly, have been in labour for too long without actually giving birth to those ideas and experiences which could feasibly stir, illuminate and inspire the world?

It is a world so fast-paced that some "forward-looking people" believe that books -- as we know them now -- will be transformed into dinosaurs by the emergence of the e-books. What are the implications and complications for the writers and publishers? Does it mean that writers who stick to the old book idea will also perish or become dinosaurs? This discourse will not dwell on those possible ramifications. Maybe another time and space will be explored and created.

This essay seeks to motivate writers to write insightfully, passionately and selflessly, for writing is a noble profession. Words are powerful weapons which can transform the world for the better.

l believe each and every artist has a responsibility not only to excel and leave a good legacy, but also to SELFLESSLY reach out to the artistic needs and aspirations of other people at a given time, especially the young, and make a positive difference wherever and whenever possible. Like other talents, writing is a privilege and platform we can use to reach out, and in the process find meaning in this seemingly meaningless world, find voice for a voiceless society and even find ourselves, discover who really we are in the thick bush of confusion and desperation we sometimes find ourselves in.

Through writing we find courage, ammunition and inspiration to go on, in spite of all the odds, we find vision to define and refine our identities and destinies. Yes, through writing we find ourselves, our voice and verve. And through writing we get personal and meaningful solace, fulfillment and a true sense of belonging and of being blessed. Through writing, we have every right to thank God for His kindness in bestowing love and life upon us, life endowed with something special -- writing abilities and possibilities.

After all, on a broader spectrum, writing is a form of communication, and we all know that without communication and interaction the world becomes hollow, chaotic and meaningless.

There is no gainsaying the fact a writer's humble efforts have to exposed to an appreciating or interested audience. This calls for patience, diligence and research. Many "aspiring writers, " if ever there was such a group, seek instant success. They become too obsessed with the end result instead of patiently perfecting and nurturing their craft. More often than not, a wave of disappointment and disillusionment ambushes and hits them mercilessly when they do not find the expected success, fame and fortune. At best, they could fail to reach their potential, and at worst this could spell doom for them as they begin to resent writing as an exploitative and unaspiring abyss.

Writing is a process, not an event. Waiting for success or recognition could seem like an eternity. It could seem like waiting in vain. On the contrary, like all good things, one has to scale up one's efforts and wait. Complacency is a malady. Too much haste tends to bear frustration, half-baked products and stillbirths. Start small, and grow. In today's world, the platforms presented by publishers, print magazines, online publications, networks, writers' clubs, blogging and agents play a crucial role in a writer's career. In this day's digital age, one has to make or break it. Competition is stiff. This does not imply that the prospects are not rosy. Innovation is the buzzword. Writers should know their story, otherwise they risk remaining in the dark like light covered by a cloud of darkness. In today's world, the state of the arts presents a wide range of publishing opportunities and possibilities which one should not whine about, but take advantage of and shine.

J.D. Salinger came up with an interesting observation. He said "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though." Are you not ready to knock many a reader out? Are you not ready to unleash your greatness? How many writers are sitting on their works of art?

One never knows , possibly a script one has not been working on wholeheartedly, or one has even abandoned in fear of getting rejections from publishers could be a masterpiece to unlock the literary keys of success and not only propel one to dizzy heights but also endear one to the world. Different editors have different tastes, choices and policies. One editor's immediate choice could be another's instant rejection. Keep those rejection slips as inspirational reminders that one has to keep on writing, rewriting and rewriting until one's writing shines like a piece of diamond. As readers, we all wish to read unputdowns. Similarly, writers worth their salt wish they could write that text which will linger on the minds of their readers long after the book has been put down. Cornelia Funke once said, "Which of us has not felt that the character we are reading in the printed page is more real than the person standing beside us?"

Writers and words are good bedfellows. Pass that word. Maya Angelou, the famous author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings says "Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning." A word is a unit of expression which is intertwined with sight, sound, smell, touch, and body movement. I think it is memorable (and obviously powerful) because it appeals to our physical, emotional and intellectual processes. As language practitioners, this knowledge (of the mental schema) is crucial.

What is in a word? I believe there is a statement. For me, words illuminate, revel and reveal the world. Literature is literature because of words that constitute it. Words can change the world. Why? There a certain potency or power that is wielded by words. Patrick Rothfuss says, "Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts." Yet, Rudyard Kipling claims, "Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." I think this is a very interesting observation.

Writers' sites are important because they do not only help artists hone their skills through practice, some of them also give one information about expert writing tips, pitfalls to avoid, and about publication opportunities available here and there, including the literary achievements of other community members. In essence, all these elements serve to inspire people, and even attract them to the site. They make them better craftsmen and craftswomen, they bring authors together, and they market them and their craft.

To this end, l urge fellow writers to meaningfully use writing as a platform to reach out and touch lives in a positive way. Solidarity is a rarity to be nurtured and encouraged. This could come as a congratulatory message to people who have done something special. Let us celebrate with those who have won writing awards, published books or even joined our sites.

Writers have an assiduous duty to unravel the mystery of life. Writing presents a mirror through which one seeks to understand, analyse and cherish the complexity of human life and its dynamics. For where there is a breath of life there is a kind of theatre. This is the beauty of writing. l have my favourite phrase: "It is right to write..."

Madeleine L'Engle once said, "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

Have a great day, and continue to spread that great message of reaching out to the young, for the writing future belongs to them!

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Article © Ndaba Sibanda. All rights reserved.


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