Writing Masterclass

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There are days I can’t write. Days when words turn into powder that a gust of wind suddenly comes and blows into someone’s soup at the next table. Those are the days my deadline stands over me brandishing a big stick, and I have nothing in my head and even less in my heart. Tormented days. Then there are the days words come oozing out of my ass and the tap won’t close. Days I wake up with a start at 2am with an intro in my head, and I have to tap it into my Samsung Note 4’s S Note, the best thing that has come with a phone. (Hey Samsung). Do you know how beautiful it is to have the right intro in your head? Those are beautiful days. Days I feel like the sun is on my face and I have the world by its nuts. But those moments are fleeting. Most times it’s a grind. It’s a slog. You are either chasing deadlines or being chased by the demons of the pen.

As a rule I never read my published work. It embarrasses me. No matter how much I enjoyed writing it I never go back. It’s like going back to a scene of a crime you committed. The only time I go back to my work is if someone says that I was offensive, only then will I go back and see which parts offended. For example, the night I posted How to Bury A Kikuyu, the missus said that she thought it was “kinda insensitive,” so I asked her which parts. And she just sighed in that way that women do when they think you are a moron. So I apologised and told her I would have it pulled down first thing in the morning. Only, in the morning she said, “It’s OK, leave it.”  But I went over it again to see the offensive parts.

There are tons of people who ask me, how do you manage to churn out all that content across all those platforms consistently? Simple: It’s because I love writing. Even when I can’t write I still love it. I love words. I love how words sit on a page. I can walk around with a catchy phrase in my head for days, dying to find an opportunity to use it on paper. There are words that I want to adopt and give a happy home. Words I feel sorry for. Like Chi-Chi. Such a lonely word, sitting there hyphenated because it’s not strong enough to stand on its own. Like it’s just recovering from measles. A word that tiptoes onto a page and hovers alone in the corner, hoping that a word like “brouhaha” would come over and do more than haha at her.

So I churn copy because I love it. I love it because this is what I want to do with my life. I want to write until I’m too old to see. Then I will dictate stories to Kim’s kids to write for me, as I groan grumpily; “I said cork damn it, not cock!” Hehe.

The best part of writing is actually the re-write. When you get to polish it up, smoothen the curves and sharpen the edges, when you gloss it up and blow it off, when you let it sit there  in the sun and you stand back with a smile and say, “she is ready.” Then you send it off to its other owners (you now) and from that point on I don’t know what you do with it; you can lock it up in your basement and deny it food and light for all I care.

I get quite a bit of mail from budding writers asking me to teach them how to write. But here is the “dhing”; I don’t believe that you can actually be taught how to write. Not anymore than you can teach a goat to play the flute. I think like most things, you have to have a passion for it. You have to want it so bad someone can smell it off your shirt. Secondly I think to be a decent writer you have to read a hell of a lot. You have to have a very personal relationship with words, so intimate they can feel free to fart around you. Then lastly to be a decent writer you have to write. Daily. Every week. All the time. You have to explore better ways of breaking into a story. You have to throw away all the handbooks on writing and just find your own voice and stick to it, even if it sounds like a girl’s.

This year will mark my eighth year of writing. I’m ready for two things; I’m ready to write a book and I’m ready to share what I have learnt with likeminded folk.

I, together with some passionate people, are starting a masterclass which I will head. I won’t teach anyone how to write, I will share my craft with this class and maybe from there they might get something that will inform their own writing. There is a charge. I could have done it for free, but Tamms joined this ballet class and she needs ballet shoes and those short dresses. Do you know how much ballet shoes cost?

I’m only looking for passionate people for this small class of 20 people maximum. As time goes on we will have a smaller group. Interesting? Click on this link to sign up. Have a look. Come join me. Let’s make words sing.

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91 Comments
  1. So, that thing you say about being unable to teach people how to write…well, its funny you say that. Watch this movie “The Rewrite” starring Hugh Grants. I just watched it jana. It’s about the same thing.

    I agree. The S Note comes in handy for me too. I write in matatus when the muse strikes. The flip side of that is risking being robbed by those scavs who hang around traffic jams, ready to snatch your phone.

    Well, let’s see how this will go.

    P.S: Lipa Na Mpesa is the service you need. Not so many people use Paypal

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  2. This reminds of a phrase by one of my favorite authors..C. Hitchens..

    “To my writing classes I used later to open by saying that anybody who could talk could also write. Having cheered them up with this easy-to-grasp ladder, I then replaced it with a huge and loathsome snake: “How many people in this class, would you say, can talk? I mean really talk?” That had its duly woeful effect. I told them to read every composition aloud, preferably to a trusted friend. The rules are much the same: Avoid stock expressions (like the plague, as William Safire used to say) and repetitions. Don’t say that as a boy your grandmother used to read to you, unless at that stage of her life she really was a boy, in which case you have probably thrown away a better intro. If something is worth hearing or listening to, it’s very probably worth reading. So, this above all: Find your own voice.”

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  3. You always amaze with your words….
    ‘. Words I feel sorry for. Like Chi-Chi. Such a lonely word, sitting there hyphenated because it’s not strong enough to stand on its own. Like it’s just recovering from measles. A word that tiptoes onto a page and hovers alone in the corner, hoping that a word like “brouhaha” would come over and do more than haha at her.’

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  4. Sounds like a fantastic idea, the Writing Masterclass. And you are absolutely right about writing; it cannot be taught, one has to have the passion for it.
    And i thought i was the only one who doesn’t go through my writing once i post……..i tried it once and i was like, what the hell was i thinking coming up with this stuff??

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  5. I have had this (pipe) dream of writing ever since I was a kid. But then again, I have never sat down to write anything meaniful at all; the last time I sat down to write anything (meaningful) was on the English composition paper in high school, 11 years ago. So, in as much as I would like to, this is not for me. If I could I would, but i can’t so I shan’t.

  6. Even when writing to talk about writing, you still wanna write to kill. Why can’t you simply write like a common boring newspaper reporter & let it sit? You don’t have to polish it and smoothen the edges- you have it in your heart and in your finger tips…so let it be bro, yours is effort less. In born. Good thing you’re teaching common folks to write Biko, I might join the class if its in CBD.

  7. “Words I feel sorry for. Like Chi-Chi. Such a lonely word, sitting there hyphenated because it’s not strong enough to stand on its own. Like it’s just recovering from measles.” I love the way you build imagery.

  8. And I know the frustration of not getting the right intro. Too bad if you are writing for a daily and they are taking the baby to bed in the next half an hour and the editor is standing next to you looking like a pathologist ready to cut you up and peer into your intestines

  9. a book…finally! well, i won’t be joining your class coz i ain’t a writer but i will wait for the book coz in am a reader….good stuff.

  10. That’s a lovely idea Biko. I love reading. I think most of us would appreciate if you could share some of the writings from that masterclass here, all things considered of course! No?

    This part though: “You have to have a very personal relationship with words, so intimate they can feel free to fart around you.” L.O.L!

  11. This is awesome Biko! I can’t wait for the book 🙂 And yes, I know something about having a personal and intimate relationship with words *sigh*

  12. Biko, The only reason I would register for that class is because I would love to finally put a face to the ‘Biko’ I have in mind.

    I used to think I could write, but since I become a regular here, I don’t write any more, cos if I can define ‘writing’be assured I’d put “Bikozulu/Jackson Biko’ next to it

    1. I just wanted to write
      I like to think that I am a selective participant despite all the people that call me lazy but today I will succumb to their will. Just this once. I find inspiration to write from a blog I found when stalking, a dreadfull thing-I know. But then I was young as I still am and a degree less wise. So on that fortunate day I stumbled upon an article by bikozulu. You see those scenes in the cartoons where a bulb glows upon their heads, well I had something close to that. His words carressed my young mind and nourished my little soul. It is hard to find a good read when your selective participation does not invole moving around in the hot Nairobi sun asking some cocky book vendor whether a book is right for a young reader, my apologies to you vendors. He probably hasn’t read a single page of it, after all, all he cares is that you buy and if he has doubts about the book, he moves to another location and grows a beard or whatever they do because I havent seen any one of them twice…
      I strayed, I was telling you about me and bikozulu. So I read as many articles as my dwiddling mbs would allow. Despite the good find, I haven’t stopped feeling guilty about the stalk, my first and my last. Discouraged from the little information I was able to dig up on the person as well as elated by my new find. So I subscribed and checked my email every two hours for an update and finally he deliverd a Writing Masterclass. I really do wish to be the first to read his work so I was contemplating joining his class until he shaterred my dreams with the three least ignorable words if you are a typical Kikuyu or any kenyan for that matter, “It’s not free” Dear sir Biko, I don’t mean to be rude but, what kind of marketing strategy is that? Do you know how much it hurts to see free and not in one sentence? Maybe not, well, let me tell you, it is shattering, shakes you to the roots of your existance like those Mwiki vehicles that literally need their chairs rearranged after they hit a pothole. It wrecks your nerves and gets you mad for no reason, I hope you get my drift.
      So as I write to satisfy my urge to write, it is in my high hopes that your heart may feel that tug, that crazy feeling to help like Jesus and be my mentor at a closer distance so that we may light the world together with words just as they are churning out on this borrowed device I am using until I am not poor enough to buy my own ‘Lady’ and love her as you do yours, atleast thats what I thought you said. Let us remain alike, you marketing by seeking sympathy in the form of your lovely daughter’s ballet shoes and I in the blessed form of knowledge.
      Yours alike,
      Syl.

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  13. That you’d want to write until you’re too old to see. Now that is some passion worthy of great mentions!! And I await many mentions in global literary awards now that we have a book in the offing! I hope the Gang gets that auto!

    Meanwhile, lemme share that link with my writer-peeps #OperationgettingTammsballetshoes

  14. What I’d really love to know (and I think I speak for many others) is, does the masterclass include lessons on how to earn from your writing? Especially online earnings since traditional publishers and newspapers can’t accomodate us all

  15. Thank you for not allowing the pressure of the gang asking for a book every two seconds move you. When the time is right, it’s right….2015 is the time. I can’t wait…

  16. Awesome! However, I’m trying to register for the class and there might be an issue with the site, continuously clicking on register and nothing happens..:(

  17. Finally!! I cannot wait for a copy, you write so well. I am on the edge of my sit coz I know this is a masterpiece. I am so excited!!

  18. Only you can write such an interesting piece in what would otherwise have been a boring sales pitch. Your way with words literally give me goose bumps; how in the world can you just be so damn good?! If I could, I would attend this class…not so much to learn how to write but just to hear a master speak. Much respect

  19. Month six of writing sort of a roller-coaster. Reading all these books sometimes you get depressed when you put pen to paper because you have to match up to all these great writers. But I totally agree with Biko, you need to find your own voice and stick to it even if it’s a girl’s haha. And it’s about time we saw the face behind the writing LOL.

  20. Come on Biko,you have me feeling all sorry for chi-chi now…A book by you would free our souls, we have been waiting for too long.

  21. Biko.Biko Biko.I like the way you make your writing so palatable. So easy to chew. So easy swallow and digest. I love writing and I totally agree that there are those days when it is a dry spell (and it is funny this is when a certain piece is needed the most, from your editor or whoever has assigned you to do it) but then again there are those days when as a writer a pleasant intro pops up in your head like 2am and then you completely lose your sleep until you wake up and put it on paper or type it; (I always wonder, why is it that even if you try your best to assume the idea, you can’t get your sleep back until you wake up, put it down and then now you can sleep peacefully?). This happens to me always until at some point I think, Ok, Emmanuel, you are taking this writing ‘thinge’ of yours too far. But I guess that is the beauty of writing. And then the most interesting times are when you are driving or in a matatu or flying, you see something and then words come oozing into your mind like blood coming out of a fractured blood vessel. I totally agree that no one can teach you how to write. I believe every writer has their unique style. There are those who wish they were Biko and my advice is; You can NEVER be Biko. There is only one Bikozulu and the best you can do is read a lot and then discover yourself and come up with your own style. Be unique. Be different. Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful writer and duplicate him/her. Don’t be structured. Structured people never grow. They always remain in that little box that says, “No you are not meant to go past here, this is where you belong, this is what you were taught.” Ok, not that I am big headed but I don’t apply everything I was thought by my feature writing teacher in my journalism class. Not that I hate my former feature writing teacher, Mr. Wanyama. No. I just like being creative. I like to put down words in my own way.. I like the idea of a writing masterclass and I hope it churns out more creative writers and the book should have come out like the day before yesterday and oh Biko, glad ‘bout Tamms. Good ballet shoes cost between $17 and $19. May be this site could be of help. http://www.discountdance.com/

  22. It’s always refreshing to see words come alive and breath. A dance of the tenses, subjects flirting with verbs – disagreeing and finally agreeing. Good one, Biko!

  23. I also found the article insensitive to the madam, it was more a funny jokey kind than a memorial piece telling us more about Kim or his relationship with his daughter or you than joking about the food or lack of, Which would have been more appropriate not to us your readers but to mrs Zulu

  24. Hi, Biko would like to join your class.Have been writing since class five.I have always dream t of writing.I started a blog my friends said it was good but I was not able to continue.You are right about finding one’s voice. Can’t wait for the book think it will be a great book.

  25. Am absolutely gutted that I cannot make it for this because of work commitments. It is exactly what the novice writer in me needs to get off her bum and write something. I am on the line for the next Master class. Kudos for the great idea.

  26. I am registering using Pesa-pal/Visa. Pesa Pal now requires me to send photos of my visa card. Is this part of the process?
    However, I have a confirmation complete email from PesaPal. Need I do more?

      1. Hahaha…the way Kidikibudi spilled words on this blog was something!

        Biko, you have a way with words but they’ve certainly had their way with you!

      1. PS. One can only try and pour water on a fire for so long! The fire has a source and will always reignite…..so better go start your own fire and see if others will try to put it out LOL

  27. I love that you said you can’t teach a person to write. My eyes watered on that line because it’s just so right. Sometimes people ask me to teach them (no, I’m not saying and neither do I think that I’m an amazing writer. People just seem to like the way i see the world) and when I say I can’t, they get offended. Probably calling me selfish in their heads. I wish they could read this post and understand. I’m barely legal and I only read True Love magazine because of that last page where you speak. i wish I could join your classes but since I’m not holding down a job, I won’t try my mother’s patience. I pray that you may never ever stop writing. That would be a tragedy, to me at least.

  28. i love to write… it’s personal; the words burn somewhere in me…and i long to see them on a piece of paper.
    Well, having someone else read my write-ups is another story; i have no clue if the reader will feel, see, taste or just stumble over my vision. With that in mind, i keep a personal journal…musings of my life, my thoughts, how one word/act/image triggered a whole lots of things in me.
    Once, i let a friend read a piece from my musings…she hasn’t recovered from the shock. Hahahaa, i think i would love to see a whole of people walk around with a similar expression for days!
    And then your Tickets Sold Out…

  29. Biko, I don’t get it.
    How can you stand not to look? How could you not go through what you write, tasting every word, feeling every nuance, celebrating what is beautiful and cringing at what now seems like a bad idea?
    Its like you said. Writing is intimate. You have-what Sheldon Cooper would call- coitus with your pen and papers and keyboards and a baby is born of it. High chance your baby looks- read, reads- like a bald featherless chicken, but s/he is your own. And the entire process makes you terrified and excited and vulnerable and brave. But that intensity is the beauty of it.
    Again, how can you bear not to?

  30. That’s a great idea…for the book too…just make it a hilarious love story or loosely based on characters like Farouk..heh heh heh..btw how is the cuz doing?update please…

  31. I am still not over: ‘Words I feel sorry for. Like Chi-Chi. Such a lonely word, sitting there hyphenated… . ‘
    You just make my evenings Biko. Must read before I sleep

  32. ” I’m ready for two things; I’m ready to write a book and I’m ready to share what I have learnt with likeminded folk.” – this has made so happy, a book finally!

    Just 2 issues:
    –please let us pay for the classes using mpesa surely.
    –please i have missed the spot for this session, please have a session for each month, sort of like the ones who already started can continue but new pple can have their classes each month, – i dont know if im making sense.
    –please allow for weekend classes, please.
    Thanks.

  33. I found this poem somewhere couldn’t be truer:

    so you want to be a writer?
    Charles Bukowski, 1920 – 1994

    if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
    in spite of everything,
    don’t do it.
    unless it comes unasked out of your
    heart and your mind and your mouth
    and your gut,
    don’t do it.
    if you have to sit for hours
    staring at your computer screen
    or hunched over your
    typewriter
    searching for words,
    don’t do it.
    if you’re doing it for money or
    fame,
    don’t do it.
    if you’re doing it because you want
    women in your bed,
    don’t do it.
    if you have to sit there and
    rewrite it again and again,
    don’t do it.
    if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
    don’t do it.
    if you’re trying to write like somebody
    else,
    forget about it.

    if you have to wait for it to roar out of
    you,
    then wait patiently.
    if it never does roar out of you,
    do something else.

    if you first have to read it to your wife
    or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
    or your parents or to anybody at all,
    you’re not ready.

    don’t be like so many writers,
    don’t be like so many thousands of
    people who call themselves writers,
    don’t be dull and boring and
    pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
    love.
    the libraries of the world have
    yawned themselves to
    sleep
    over your kind.
    don’t add to that.
    don’t do it.
    unless it comes out of
    your soul like a rocket,
    unless being still would
    drive you to madness or
    suicide or murder,
    don’t do it.
    unless the sun inside you is
    burning your gut,
    don’t do it.

    when it is truly time,
    and if you have been chosen,
    it will do it by
    itself and it will keep on doing it
    until you die or it dies in you.

    there is no other way.

    and there never was.

  34. Hello I love reading and writing and your pièces ate just mind blowingly amazing.These are reads I could do for years of my life without constrains.I would also love to enrol for the mastery class on writing. Kindly give me a feedback about the payment.

  35. You are amazing, and I wish I could join in the Masterclass, the link above unfortunately ain’t working.Please write back to me.