” What is your number-one reason for writing?” Mathew Otieno was asked.
” You’ll be scandalised. My number one priority is to refine my opinions. For in writing and publishing, you expose those opinions to scrutiny. The result is you strengthen them of any weaknesses.”
Mathew Otieno holds an undergraduate in Geology from the University of Nairobi. But he is now a writer. How did he nurture his admirable skill of writing? Read this article and you will understand better the word admirable.
From an early age, Mathew has been an avid reader of books. Common sense has it that you cannot write what you do not know: to be a good writer you need first to be a good reader. As a rule, Mathew still reads.
When exactly did he begin writing?
In school, Mathew excelled in composition writing, not once did his compositions get templatized. But in high school, in form two, he consciously began writing. He wrote fiction at this time.
Later on, he set up a blog and started publishing short stories. Stories which many people enjoyed. After a while, he was asked to write for MercatorNet, an Australian online editorial. The great Renaissance Cartographer Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) shaped the identity of the modern world through his innovative maps and map projections. MercatorNet on the other hand, like Mercator, aims at “reframing ethical and policy debates in terms of human dignity, not dollars and cents or political calculation”
In accepting the invitation, he would dive into the stormy sea of opinion writing. His first article at MercatorNet was just about Obama’s visit to Kenya. In it, he synthesised the decisive Kenyan response against the homosexual ideology that Obama sought to impose down our throats. Needless to say, he received scathing criticism.
Even now he still gets criticised for what he argues for and against. This is something he says that makes for uncomfortable learning. He faces the challenge to rationally articulate not only his opinions but also objective truths to others. Mathew thinks this pressure is good for everyone.
What makes for good writing?
In response to a question, Mathew’s answer was: good writing consists in a balance of style and solid content. A pitfall in any one makes ‘painful’ works. ” It is painful to read badly written, or poorly edited work”
Writing, he would add, consists not so much in writing as in editing. The large part of the exercise of the pen(or keyboard for that matter) is editing. Editing may be defined as removing the irrelevant or the nonsensical no matter how good it sounds. Reading well-written work, the reader feels that their time is valued. The contrary happens with badly-written work, it is a painful experience for the reader, as Abiero would say.
Should everyone write?
As renowned Canadian psychologist, Dr Jordan B Peterson would have it, thinking is not very easy. By writing one can refine their opinions, one can think deeply about them. Mathew recommends writing to everyone. One can even write for themselves, that is, to not publish what they write.
But one needs to allocate time for writing and do it consistently.