I’ve always had a way with words from as far back as I can remember. I remember reading my first book – Goldilocks and the Three Bears – when I was around one/two-years-old. My parents had bought me a bear, and it came with the book. Each of the bear’s ten toes corresponded to the ten pages of the book; and, if you pressed the toes, the bear would read the corresponding page. That’s basically how I learnt to read. I read and re-read the book with the bear until I got it right.
Reading that book got me curious. I wanted to read more books and I wanted to know more words. The little me wanted to understand what the people around me were saying and what was being said on TV. I wanted to know why jokes were funny, why other things made people angry, why religion is a thing. There were so many questions, and I needed answers. So, I started reading just about anything I could find. Storybooks, novels, the Bible, textbooks… I even read my aunt’s medical books and some philosophy books I found at home, all before I was ten because I was so damn curious.
When I was six years old, my aunt Carol gifted me Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I had never been more enchanted with a book. That was the first fantasy novel I’d ever read, and it got my wheels turning. I had never considered that possibility before, that fantasy writing was a thing; which is absurd, because, in my culture, the art of storytelling is a big deal. But yet, somehow, it took a foreign novel by a foreign woman from a foreign land to give me that ‘AHA’ moment. I think maybe it’s because around that time most of our cultural activities, such as storytelling, had died down, but now, fortunately, we’re seeing a lot of people starting to take pride in their cultural identity again. I love that Africans are finally starting to believe in themselves after years and years of self-doubt as a result of colonisation.
Anyway, after reading that Harry Potter book, I started writing my own stories. I composed stories in all the three languages that I spoke: English, Kiswahili, and Kikuyu. The school’s compositions and inshas – the Kiswahili version – were also great practice. I’m thankful to my teachers who saw great potential in me and gave me great tips and advice.
I would say that the moment that made me think that I really could be a writer was when I sent a letter to the Daily Nation asking them why they didn’t feature stories from children in their children’s magazine. I told them it would be a good idea to feature writers who are children and I sent in one of my stories along with some drawings I had made to go along with it and what do you know! They actually featured my story and one of my drawings. I didn’t think they would, it was totally a shot in the dark.
That was back in 2008. I remember it clearly because it happened while I was in school and it was big deal. The newspaper feature was pinned to the school noticeboard. People came to get me from class, chanting my name. Everyone was so excited because it wasn’t just my name in the paper, it was also the school’s name in the paper. Since then, the newspaper has been featuring stories from children in their children’s magazine.
When I finished high school, I started my blog – Randomly Creative – as a means of applying myself. I was terrible at it when I started. I knew that building and maintaining a website would be hard work, I just didn’t know how hard. The design part of it was especially hard. Although people were nice and told me it looked great, I thought it looked like shit. I have gradually built on that. Now I can confidently say that it looks decent. I struggled a lot in the beginning because I had no one to guide me with all the necessary things or the extra fancy-shmancy things that concern blogging/writing on the internet/website maintenance. But I did it. I’ve made it thus far. I still struggle though. There’s still more to learn.
A lot of people often ask me why I write. The answer is simple: I’m an introvert. Writing is often the only way I can get all my thoughts across. And even if I weren’t an introvert, writing is an effective means of communication. Also, no one talks over me when I’m writing; no one interrupts me/cuts me off.
I also write because I’m good at it. I think that if you’re good at something, in the positive sense, you should do it. If you’re good at singing, sing. If you’re good at painting, paint. In an ideal world, people would be able to do things they’re good at for a living, but I’m aware that it’s not always the case.
Sometimes people are stuck in jobs they don’t like because they have to pay the bills because what they like wouldn’t pay them enough in that particular scenario. I currently don’t earn any money from writing. It’s more of a hobby at the moment, but I’d love for it to be a career. I’m also a scientist, and I love that too. I don’t know how I would balance both as careers. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to write, but whenever I do, I’m always happy to. I love writing.
And that long story is how I fell in love with words. In closing, I’d like to leave you with the words of Christina Baldwin in Storycatcher,
Story is the song line of a person’s life. We need to sing it and we need someone to hear the singing. Story told. Story heard. Story written. Story read creates the web of life in words.
About the blogger
Name: Yvonne Wabai
Blogs at: Randomly Creative
Follow her on Twitter: @nimuyvonne
Get in touch: [email protected]