Good people, the Malawian short story did not die yesterday.
It was already dead and buried when I endured the ‘burden’ of editing the literary pages of Weekend Nation from 2010 to 2013.
Sanitising the so-called ‘creative works’ was no honour, but hard labour.
Patience was not enough. As articles that were better tossed into trash can left writers’ desks, editors needed deadening painkillers to stave off the headaches that mending broken sentences, blurred thoughts, misplaced phrases and dreary copies entails.
Just as politics is a dirty game because good people shun it, creative writing in the country is dying because gifted writers are not writing spiritedly.
Some have reportedly gone into hibernation to disassociate themselves from the prevailing mediocrity.
They are sustaining mediocrity.
The noble pens that once produced the finest of writings are gone to the dogs because exemplars of literary standards have gone to sleep.
When watchdogs slumber, thieves come to play.
Esteemed writers, quitters and slumbering giants cannot keep snoring.
It is chilling that thousands of short stories that newspapers receive are not up to the enviable standard exemplified by writers we grew up enjoying.
Alas! Most submissions are neither good nor redeemable, but the bad, the worse and the worst from pretentious writers who do not read, write or think like writers.
Those who cannot write or think properly are not writers at all.
But they pose big instead of learning the ink.
This is the major crisis.
In place of talented writers not eager to be associated with the mediocre prose have emerged arrogant upstairs and delinquents who are startlingly unteachable and simply going nowhere.
These disconcerting writers are overrated by their peers and schoolboy critics who blind them from the basics that once made Malawi a writers’ bloc to watch globally.
Hear the silent cry, old-timers.
The country’s literary context needs no pampered pretenders who think they are already top of the pack when they have actually not even begun the desired walk to the foot of the mountain which only the talented kindred climb.
Lovers of truly creative writing are dying for inspiring works that will offer aspiring and overrated scribes priceless lessons everything to do and no to do.
The seasoned writers are irreplaceable..
Unless they rise and shine, no one will shine the light on the dos and don’ts of the industry they live most.
In 2006, I asked fallen literary giant and editor Jika Nkolokosa: what must I do to write like you?
His answer was simple: read and write like your life depends on this.
The read-write pep talk was aptly expounded by Mzati Nkolokosa who insists that good writers must ceaselessly read works of great authors and write better than them.
In reading, writers encounter intriguing styles, diction, signposts and perspectives that jolt aspirants and give veterans an upward push.
Being sick and tired of mediocrity, impassioned and gifted writers must not stop writing, but write even more to show the deficient the right way to do it.
Writers must come out and recapture the literary pages to ensure the pretenders have no inch to dirten.
This has nothing to do with the 700-1000 words limit imposed by weekly newspapers.
It has everything to do with utilising and sharing the gift of writing within the limited space available.
Surely, creative writing is not farming out limitless heaps of words as clueless beginners, but telling captivating stories to fit the spaces on offer.
The Amazon Forest would be wiped out if all happenings were short stories. Writers have no licence to jot down their all without putting the final full-stop where it matters. n