It is circa 15 minutes past 1:00am as I write this.
Thursday, 14th July 2016.
I killed the lights as I walked in here, in my room. I love the blackness of this room. No. I am not trying to be racist, or put a bullet in someone’s head. I love black. Darkness. It makes for good reflection time. Me-time! Outside, a light bulb bats an eyelid. Moths cling onto it like an obsessed lover. Above us, God pulls a blanket over His almighty head as the world snores away (this part of the world). Kampala is at its quietest. Finally. Politics has gone to bed with its dirty feet. The only sound is the incessant humming of my laptop. And the voices in my head that I intend to shush as I siphon them down on a blank page. The cursor taunts me.
Ah. I had abandoned this place. I was last here in May, 2016. What? That sounds like a century ago. I know. Scores of people held me captive in the thickets of a rain forest, tightly groped my dangling bits and demanded answers. What happened? Did someone insult your weak sentences? A heartbreak? Who plucked your writing quill? Will you write, again? Last warning, Edd. Don’t you ever leave without warning, heard it? Yes! He he.
Ignore all that. No one cared whether I was even breathing. No one gave a horse’s manure whether I wrote here, or not. The world never stopped when I stopped writing.
Let’s do it differently today, shall we?
I pore over different magazines that hang on the shelves of the internet every day. From The New Yorker to The Paris Review. I love The Paris Review. Everyone should read The Paris Review. And while I wander, I stumble, always, across different interviews. Interviews of millionaires who are the case study of actual arriving. Interviews of people trying to save the world, one innovation at a time. Interviews of the kings and queens of pop culture. Many interviews. But I love interviews of writers more. Novelists. Pulitzer Award winners. Nobel Prize Laureates. Writers live in hidden spaces and unseen caves, in discreet caged abodes and only speak with their words. But these interviews paint a picture of what these humans are. They strip them bare. They lift the hat of mystery off their heads and let the audience look at the receding hairlines and poke their baldness and get to know them better. And today, I will try to do something I will regret after.
I will interview myself.
Speaking of prizes, do you have a Nobel Prize?
Are you kidding me?
Anyways, where have you been? Did Kifeesi steal your password?
No. I tattooed my password in my mind. Look, I have been walking this earth. Only that I couldn’t bring myself to writing anything here. It wasn’t the fungus that is writers’ block. I never suffer writers’ block, because writing is what I do to live. I stepped off the pedal for a bit and tried to reinvigorate. To recharge my batteries. I plunged into a desert to sniff for more stories, gather more insights, and to create content with great aroma. I am back.
You said writing is what you do to live. What do you write? Are you rewriting the New Testament?
I don’t always unpack my life for the world to know. I love anonymity. Mystery is my friend. I love to squat in the shadows of my life and speak through a horn as I peek through a keyhole. But since you have asked, I will gladly answer. I am a journalist. For those who are in Med School, I write stories that are published in the newspapers and read by thousands of people, got it now? Well, I write for The New Vision. I write a fashion column in The Kampala Sun (you should read it, by the way. It wears a tie). I contribute for different magazines (which I won’t disclose). That aside, I am a copywriter at an advertising agency in town. Hey, law students, copywriters don’t copy shit. Don’t come with your plagiarism laws and stuff. Copywriters write adverts. Adverts that play on radio and TV and newspapers and billboards and online. The aforementioned gigs dictate my life. For now. That’s what I do for a living. Most times, when I am not here, I am there and nowhere. Scratching the surface for the right words to sell a pen to a faceless target audience.
Had you always wanted to be a writer? Or you sucked it on a breast?
I wanted to be a lawyer. Then I studied Commerce at Uni before getting bored by credit and debit and numbers and boring accounting terminologies. I pushed my dhow to an International Relations class where I studied Diplomacy, Human Rights, Foreign Policy, International Law, African Conflicts and how countries shouldn’t put each other in a friendzone. I can eloquently explain the insurgence in South Sudan, but I won’t. Come tomorrow. Anyways, I have always wanted to write. I hail from a storytelling world. I come from a world of art. I am an artist. I draw. I paint. Though I stopped. But since writing is a form of art, I fell in love with it, got married and lived happily thereafter. I loved the way words painted a picture. I fell in love with the canvass of nouns and the doodles of verbs and the pencil sketches of sentences. But I started ‘serious’ writing at a later stage. I started writing 6 years ago.
Have you fully mastered this craft?
No. Who has? I am still in kindergarten. Learning from those who have tried to master it.
Which writers do you look at and you go like, “Wow! Look at that Christiano Ronaldo of writing?”
I read many writers. I discover a new writer almost on a daily basis. But I have writers I read religiously. I read different writers depending on my mood. And I read them for different reasons. I will pick writers from different fields. Plus, I prefer reading the ‘not-so-famous’ writers. The unknown. The underdogs. Popular writers turn into a fat cliché and I am allergic to clichés. I plough underground and read what people skip. I like Wright Thompson. He writes for ESPN. I like Martin Samuel. He writes for Daily Mail. I like Adrian Gill, the ruthless food critic. He writes for The Sunday Times. I like Jackson Biko (he is my favorite blogger in East Africa). I read Wambui Gichobi (she should write more, er). I read Giles Coren. He writes for The Sunday Times. I love the way Zukiswa Wanner writes. I like the way Tristan MacConnell gathers and delivers his stories. I read Stephen King, who doesn’t? I love Nick Hornby. But mostly, I read journalistic material and magazines. Oh, I also read the Harvard Business Review for my own consumption. I also read Ugandan writers. And bloggers. I read.
Besides writing, what else do you love, you polygamous skinny human?
I love photography. I take pictures every day. I own an old Nikon camera that I sometimes get out of the garage, rub the rust off it and shoot the world with. I am buying a new camera in a few months. Or a Good ‘rich’ Samaritan should shock me with a Canon Mark 11. It’s cheap. But I shoot with my phone most times. My old phone. I love film too. I am enrolling in a film class soon.
Any favorite photographers?
Sure! But why do you ask me hard questions? It’s like asking a father of 6 who his favorite kid is. Damn you! Anyways, I have photographers I stalk. I follow over 1000 people on Instagram and 800 of them are photographers. I know! In Uganda, I like Edward Echwalu’s work. I follow many Kenyan photographers. I like Mutua Matheka, Sarah Waiswa, Joe Were, Tintseh, Emmanuel Jambo (Uhuru Kenyatta’s official photographer), and many more. Steven Chikosi is one of my favorites in Africa. I like J.N Silva’s work. I like Bruno Aveillan’s work as well. Ah, they are many. I will need a week and a half to finish the list.
Do you watch soaps/series?
Yes. When I am in the bathroom. Anyways, I don’t watch soaps, neither do I watch series. Like everyone else. Game of Thrones? Is that kwepena?
Messi or Ronaldo?
Can’t we just sit down, for once, and breathe and simply thank God for giving us these two footballing gods as a gift to humanity and stop comparing them and simply sit and marvel at how gifted they are? I like them both, but Lionel Messi is better. Messi. The former Argentina international.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself slightly fatter than this. With a slightly fatter wallet. And 5 years older. I will be 30.
What’s your ideal girlfriend?
She must be a girl.
I have seen your Twitter page. Why don’t you tweet more often?
I always have what to tweet, but, sadly, they are always 141 characters. But one day, I will start tweeting more and I will also become the epitome of intelligence like the rest of the Twitter citizenry. I will be the zenith of brainpower. The most decorated tweep on the TL with titanium balls and human traffic in my DM where I will go ahead and hire a traffic manager to sieve out unwanted claptrap from the wanted ones. Once upon a tweet!
What’s your greatest fear in life?
I fear death. But death is inevitable. You can’t hide from it. You will die from your hideout. The fear of mass extinction. The fear of loss of memory. Of waking up tomorrow and not remembering my name. The fear of failure. Of rejection. The fear of waking up and not being able to construct a sentence and later on a 200-word story. The fear of being unable to feed myself, later on, my family. The fear of not achieving my set goals. The fear of bad luck being cast upon my plans. The fear of betrayal. Of marrying a witch. But fear exists only when you give it reception.
Any parting shot?
Just remember a touching, deep, smart quote from a famous person (dead or alive) and pretend I said it.