February 24, 2022|4 Minutes|In Editor's Desk|Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop

Editor's Desk

To write is might!

It’s tough and I’m doing it again. Staring at a blank screen wondering what to write – how to tackle it, how to improve.

I have been doing this for nearly 41 years, with my first few years staring at blank paper in a rickety old typewriter, whatever the technology, it gets no easier. Good thing too, nothing worth having is ever easy.

It all stems from a desire to get better; to excel, not to settle for the easy or mundane.

It means scrapping, rewriting and cutting and polishing over-and-over again.

It means agonising over the right words and weighing them to perfection. On top of this, you live under threat of the pain of getting a name, or a fact, or a nuance wrong. It is a never- ending job.

It was once said that being a writer was a bit being like a boxer. It takes training courage  and skills to survive, but most of all: you are on your own in the ring; every move you make will be scrutinised and analysed at ringside.

This is the rigour that makes it possible to rally the words of the English language and send them into battle with words that can live in the imagination of men and women as long as people read.

For sheer power, clarity and brevity; I proffer 16 words from the master of the potent sentence – George Orwell. In his masterpiece 1984 he uses this phrase to sum-up the iron grip of an oppressive, totalitarian, regime: “If you want a vision of the future imagine a jack boot stamping on a human face forever?”

When I was learning to be a writer – and I am very proudly self-taught – I devoured writers like Orwell. You can never read enough in this life and used to tear through as many as `I could: Hemingway; Wordsworth; John Pilger; Chinua Achebe, Dambudzo Marechera and Chenjerai Hove. How many joyful hours have I spent reading their deathless prose- looking away from the page and smiling in satisfaction– before re-reading to see how the writer worked his or her magic to raise that smile.

Despite the ugliness and brutality, I have reported on in this world; I am still that writer romantic who believes the pen can be mightier than the sword; that words are strong enough to beat the bullies and make the lion lie down with the lamb. That is me- that is what sustains me in the dark days.

What also sustains me is that the stories I write are part of the first draft of history. That one day – when we are all dead and gone – people will pull out your words as a record of what was going on in your day. That still gives me a shudder of excitement every time  I pick up the pen.