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To Hell with Creative Writing; or, Politics: an Alternative Amusement

To be a writer is to acknowledge the secret wounds we carry inside us.” – Orhan Pamuk

That’s the end, you vow. I’m finished with writing. You don’t rise at once from the beach; instead, you lay back and let the froth-lipped waves lick your feet. Between the emerald sea and you stand the nectarine sun bowing out. Behind you is the edifice of The Palms, a hotel on Collins Avenue. This entire landscape is fuel for a verse, a scene, but you overwhelm it.

They will feel shocked. They’ll feel saddened. It is for the good of the literati, you hope to convince them. The general community as well. YOU ARE QUITTING. Not because creativity has turned into an exhausted oil-well. You just can no longer live among the ghostly legion that yanks the imagination in all directions or the riot of phrases – phrases that strive to outwit each other. You. Are. Fed up.

The self-flagellation, all of it. You have recognized that the more you try to conceive and juxtapose words and worlds in your head the more demanding writing becomes, more insatiable than the grave. Though you’ve started to drag yourself out of the wetlands of angst, you feel so powerless you just want to lie in it.

Sometimes creative writing is the paradox of the flame and the moth. Reality is suspect, and the air is the crypt of a thousand simulacra. It is magnetic, but you have willed yourself, at least for now, not to succumb to the pull of penning The End to your life.

On countless occasions though, migraine and fever assault you from every angle. You bear the attacks as stoically as a Zen disciple. Silence in pain promises inspiration, a threshold to an artistic nirvana never before experienced, you readily fantasized, calming the spate of self-doubts churning in your heart. You’ve often glared at the peaceful beauty curled up next to you. The kolanuts of insomnia are more acerbic than wormwood, and though you abhor it, you are compelled to chew it at full tilt. Because of your impotence.

You’re unable to thwart the skirmishes of characters badgering for attention. Can’t turn off the fervent cries of characters whose souls you’ve crushed, like a mixer, and tossed into the bureau of ephemera. How long can you keep on, smothering and smiling – when the world about teems with such sunshine that you feel like choking the person nearest to you? How long can you live with the demons dashing about in your head?

Barbiturates are familiar as your blues. There are nights you long to empty the bottle down your throat. Moments you feel so dark it seems leaping off the bridge or in front of a speeding vehicle is gratifying. Can’t remember the number of times you want to twist the naked electric wire round your neck.

This is crazy, life. Even Sigmund Freud failed to explain his self to himself.

Nobody knows the torrents in your mind. They don’t know. None of them, not even those dear to you. Or close. But all this would later change.

All along you were committed to writing, particularly since you alighted at the Cedar Rapids Airport. Less than 48 hours later, you took to absorbing sights and sounds as a wife takes to the kitchen, dutiful, eager. Read as widely as possible. Wrote just as frenziedly too, pounding away at the keyboard until heavy-lidded you slumped into the bed and slept like a whacked janitor. Once complained to your family that you’ve been sleeping for only 2 or 3 hours, and they expressed alarm, told you it was pointless and vain. Besides, why were you driving yourself so hard, they queried. You would have laughed, but fatigue in your bones tightened your jaw. Pensively you replied: What about those thousands of Nigerians in U.S. slaving away on a job they despised?

Then Miami…

Sand, sea, sun, and sex.

You’ve watched Will Smith’s video of Miami in 1998, the same momentous year the infamous Abacha passed on, the dictator who inspired you into escapism, an alternative opiate. You swore to visit the Magic City, whenever you set foot in America. A decade later, the opportunity fell – Plop! –  into your lap.

American Airlines flew you to Miami via Chicago. That evening, the weather was one unapologetic sneeze from the skies, and drizzly. The road echoed the nocturne of the rain. Yet, safe was the flight. Straightway, your guide chartered a Chrysler car at the Enterprise lot, and, as you hauled your luggage into the trunk, you caught sight of a baroque-looking building. The Embassy Suites, sky-high and expansive, just across the road.

Every architecture has its story. You took some shots. Then the soothing cruise down to Miami Beach. Minutes later, you are face-to-face with another structure. Before you admire its splendor, a likable Hispanic bell-hop said, “Bienvenido,” and assisted you with the luggage. In a while, you rode the elevator to the eight floor in a backdrop of jazz – so hypnotic you almost nodded off. You slid out through the lush corridor into your suite.

Lips cracked open. The butter-cream spaciousness captivated you with a burst of aesthetic singularity. It surpassed the last 5-star-hotel you spent a weekend in, back home, an ocean-view though.

That instant you imagined Will Smith whispering in your ears: Party in the city where the heat is on

Fling your carry-on to the floor. Leap to the large window. Place your palms against the glass panes. Fix your eyes on the partying below. There, the bar throbbed with Calypso. Couples and friends sated their appetites in drinks and banter. Some people lounged by the blue pool, books and magazines folded across their legs. And beyond, the sea gleamed as molten gold, the incandescent sun half-swallowed by the sedate horizon.

There’s more to living than writing, you observed. Life has to be lived till it brimmed over like the bubbles of fresh palm-wine. Life has to be redeemed from all encumbrances. Go and dominate, the first man was instructed. Let your seeds run wild, you added for fun. Writing is a grind, no doubt. How tedious it is, you sighed, to burn precious time caught up in surreal landscapes, conjuring up a facsimile of creation, aiming for some cathartic and redemptive goals, when eventually humanity dismisses you as just one more result for Wikipedia.

You couldn’t think up how you would go about living life, how to afford the luxury. Tried to come up with a means, but your mind was just too-dazed, because the sense of it all now blew mist in your face. You soon realized that literature is a quixotic ego-trip, feeble attempt to impact community, both local and global. Change the worldview, probably. Creative writing obliterates identity, pulverizes the soul. It becomes inevitable to accept the writer’s vision as the quintessential farce; the grand artifice.

Huddled up in bed watching Biden and Palin try to outshine the other that night, it flashed before your eyes. Politicians seldom get disheartened. No matter the density of defeat, the smack of shame, they never lose a wink. No politician, as it were, would consider jumping into the river even when disgraced in a fraud. He knows that even scandal can be manipulated. Fury and fisticuffs, the politician may yield to, but never puts a bullet in his own head.

Now it’s clear enough that the greatest contribution to civilization is not through literature, but through embracing the sun-dried excreta that is politics. The politician is the change-inspirer, the revolutionary, the iconoclast, the legend, all you have dreamed of and toiled for.

That same night you still tried to discredit him as you’ve done all these years, because for the past decade or more, you found politics as shallow as it is stomach-turning. And when you tried to name some politicians who had shortened their lives, what came to memory was Hemmingway. Rabearivelo, Plath, Nortje, Gumocia, Lindegren, Urmuz and Jonker. Then the world almost tumbled over when Wallace took the road most travelled.

Back to the beach where the epiphany started. The sands still sponge your back, while the cherry petals of the sun brush over your ecstatic face. To evade the dénouement that awaits the writer, you conclude that politicians don’t cogitate, or dwell on the mysteries of things. They don’t let ideas and circumstances disturb them. They respond as instinctively as possible, quick and smart. That’s why someone as international and fatherly as McCain would say, “That one.” That’s why your former president exploded at journalists who tried to feel his response about the Ikeja bomb blast because they had disrupted his libidinous salad.

Ordinarily you hate politics. But it’s a pastime that is so arresting you’d have no moment to nurse manic thoughts. Very occupying indeed. So forget the hate. Forget the stench and wallow in it like a swine. There are pearls beneath the rot.

The problem with writers, though, is that idealism tends to skew judgment into nebulous dogma. They romanticize and don’t politicize, so much interested in being heard and read as if the world was simply a two-act pantomime. Ha, a writer! – as though the mere mention of that could incite orgasm.

The writers who had encouraged you all these years will call you a deserter; regard you worse than a pedophile. Down with the turncoat! Luckily, you wouldn’t suffer cast-the-first-stone scenario that woman whose husband couldn’t satisfy her went through, when she had to scratch the incurable itch against another’s man groin.

Let them know that there is no greater misery than writing. And you just cannot go on treading uphill. You’ve decided to caress your crumpled bitter self. Therefore, farewell to the careworn cavern of bookworms. Don’t give a hoot about effeminate reactions, because he who hits gold the world adores.

They’d support your resignation and hail it as timely, an auspicious omen, if they are wise. Whatever you amassed from the national house would service the aspirations of nascent writers and the entire coterie; that would certainly be an immense contribution to the old constituency.

Obstinacy is one of the things you should eschew when you finally register with a political party. Obstinacy, the classic Mephistopheles. It mars and never makes. Politics is about making not distancing alliances. Although it is in the nature of writers to be assertive, because, for goodness’ sakes, not only do they spend most part of the day evoking how best to give voice to expressions and project impressions, but also because the creator is also the fiddler of fates.

Now everyone has accepted the reality that the national house cannot be cleansed complete of its cherished soot and stink. Most of the “aliens and usurpers,” (whom you’re more qualified than) who do not possess the basic qualifications, would continue to parade outlandish degrees such as Yoruba genomics, Igbo empiricism, Hausa pyrotechnics, Niger Delta toxicology, and other gobbledygook degrees in the sacred chambers!

So wipe the wrinkles off your brow. In due course, friends would again rally round you. After all, yours is a nation where crooks become celebrated, charlatans become commemorated, pastors become politicians, and politicians become pastors.

And the tagline?

The more riches you stockpile in Switzerland and other open lands, the more protégées you attract. Not to mention the august fame. The media-hype as well.

On a final note, always remember that politics demands extreme creativity too – and the more imaginative you become the closer you get to appearing on Forbes list of enterprising young black politicians.

Uche Peter Umez
Uche Peter Umez
Uche Peter Umez has won awards in poetry, short story and children novel writing. He is the author of 'Dark through the Delta' (poems), 'Tears in her Eyes' (short stories) and 'Aridity of Feelings' (poems).


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