Dear Justin: About My Writing - Part 3 (Final)

Wed, 16 Jul 2014 Source: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Garden City, New York

June 13, 2014

How I go about my writing is not an exact science, as you may already know. What I do know for certain is that I have at least two sources of afflatus or inspiration for my kind of writing, namely, esthetic and journalistic. I suppose my mode of journalistic writing was what you were alluding to when you asked to know precisely how I do my writing. And the answer to your question clearly appears to be quite well known and familiar to you; which makes me suspect that you are yourself a writer of remarkable flair and ability, even inasmuch as your questions seemed to be cyclical and torturous, in the tentative sense of the positively plaintive and earnest.

You see, I have long been there, too, and done that, as well, as many a New York is wont to say. That eerily palpable sense of angst often indicative of a false sense of personal inadequacy. A really false sense, because it is invariably just that. I write whenever and wherever I feel like, although I would rather plunge into the art in either the privacy of my study, after my boys have gone to bed for a couple of hours or more, and I feel the placid quietude of a world that is peaceful and calm. I acquired this idea and practice from my maternal grandfather, a Presbyterian-trained schoolteacher and catechist, and much later in life a clergyman of remarkable erudition and scholarship.

Sometimes it is the persona of my grandfather that I gloriously assume, especially for the bulk of my journalistic output bordering on immediate and pressing issues of moral dimension and heft. And, of course, you must know quite well, by now, that I do not miss the scandalous "Dumsor" world of Ghana's in anyway, shape or form. Not the least bit; for about the only way to ensure the continuous flourishing of my nocturnal outpourings would be to have my own electricity generator, were I on state side, which would be rather prohibitive for a civil servant of my status - unless, of course, I could be guaranteed free fuel by the Mahama government in much the same manner that I hear certain Machiavellian journalists have been enjoying.

But even were such an opportunity to present itself, I can quite assuredly be counted on not to avail myself of the same. For, you see, my dear Justin, with me everything boils down to one's conscience. And if there is one disease with which I have been incurably afflicted, and gloriously so, it is definitely the disease of good conscience or conscientiousness.

I suppose I inherited this trait through my maternal grandfather, the Rev. T. H. Sintim, of Akyem-Begoro and Asiakwa - and if one pushes the temporal span of this side of my family a couple of centuries upstream, then, of course, one has to add such cardinal royal traditional townships as Asante-Dwaben and Asante-Mampong. And as I have matured and become an avid student of Akan culture, in particular, and Ghanaian culture in general, the logical and biological absurdity of identity construction, that is the purportedly essentialistic aspect of it, becomes all the more strikingly absurd and at once otiose to me.

I also like writing because I suppose it offers a prime opportunity for discursive control, which means that much more thought and deliberation go into writing than extemporaneous rhetoric. Which is why I often wonder precisely what reason lies behind the solemn privileging of oral discourse over chirography by the ancient Greek philosopers. Writing is also a dietary regimen of the most ideal kind.

I mean, it is extremely difficult for me to fathom, or even appreciate, the idea of any writer's being publicly, or even privately, accused of the misdemeanor (I suppose) of writing too often and too much. For as far as I have been able to verify, almost no one can legitimately be accused and/or faulted for writing too often and too much, the way that some species of our own class of primates have on occasion been accused of talking too much and then too obnoxiously.

And here, also, I must confess to the point of the virtually scandalous, that it is only among my fellow Ghanaian citizens that any writer could be said to write too much and then inordinately. Which is rather paradoxical, because by his or her very functional designation, a writer is one who engages in the literary art, or composition, in much the same way that living humans breathe by the second and the split-second. Discussing the very mechanical process of writing, rather than the content of what is written, is thus one of my pet aversions. For in the Ghanaian context, it invariably verges on outright envy and jealousy, almost as if one were engaged in this very basic human function with the blood-filled pen of one's critcs.

In other words, it was almost as if one were writing with a pen whose ink tube/filter was not filled with ink, but the very blood of the one bitterly criticizing you for talking too profusely with the tongue of your pen. Of course, on any bright and mildly sunny day, I like to talk my lungs out, in much the same way that some people smoke their lungs bust and voice-box raspy. I am also addicted to the writings of the best and the brightest of our race... of any race, to be frank and honest with you: Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, June Jordan, Ralph Ellison, Cornel West, W. E. B. DuBois, and even Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,... and the list goes on and on and on and on....


Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame