Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Socialising the introvert- When Intelligence is out of reach

I wanted to be intelligent.

People around me would talk about intelligence like it was something very very  special in life but only achievable by some.
You heard them talk about someone’s child or the other:

"We we we! Ta tiga. Ucio mwana kaĩ Atarĩ tobo mũtheri. Mbũthĩ mbuthĩ."

They would say about the kid who topped the exams in three divisions.

 “Kwanja when he speaks English, it comes out through the nose.”

I was at that stage when I didn’t say  much so someone would  remember I was in the room and say
 “Hĩ, this child of Nyawĩra is very quiet, nĩ akirire ũũru.”
“Ah, ũyũ tiga rũng’athio atonagio ndũtigane nake, hinga ya mwana.

I was trying, really trying to say something clever. I was not sulking, I was not a hypocrite but after such an expression of faith in my cloudy disposition I would of course start to sulk and when I  talked it came out in a whinny voice.  I might as well have been bleating like the sheep I am.


But I had another problem. Not one that you take to a special education teacher, a kind of social slowness and lack of adeptness.  As a girl, of course I should have been in on the 411 of everything happening around me but I was always the last to hear about which teacher was getting married, which girl was dating an Alliance boy’s high school head boy. Who stole the food from another girl’s box.

 Maybe I don’t care much about gossip. Maybe I was afraid of being caught up in drama.

“What did you say about me?”
“What did I say about you?”
 “I swear when we meet no grass will be left on the ground.”

As such I never really got to hear what people said about me, apart from that one time a girl said I was writing four A4 loose leaf sheets of letters to a boy. I laughed and asked her if it was true she had said that, she said yes.

I asked why would you say such an untrue thing? "Four foolscaps?"

But I wrote too much on my composition papers so people believed I was capable of such  scribbling.
I frowned at the girl then found the boy and told him the story, I had such fun, telling him I would never do such a thing. " Imagine, four foolscaps to you?"

Not much got to me about me after that. Probably people whispered behind my back but I didn’t really care what my peers thought of me. I was always an old soul.
It was the grown ups’ opinion I wanted to hear, or not hear, in case I heard something like I feared they would say:

“Ndongoro ĩno kuri kĩndũ ĩtihagia…”
(She has the brain of a mollusk, she is incapable of any intelligent ideas.)

And then I decided in my simple brain that :
1. Intelligence was not really something I need to pursue.
2. Being smart in the head is relative
3. Not every intelligent or smart person is necessarily happy.

I stopped worrying and if I have nothing to say, I keep quiet. If I am with my friends I say everything I’m thinking and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a smart idea or a really stupid one. I’m just interacting, and there are no rules to that are there?

Monday, April 10, 2017

WRITING TIPS- Surviving disappointments in five crucial ways.

In my work, the graph is never completely drawn. One thing could go wrong in a minute and that is the end of you. You are dealing with sensitive data and information that doesn’t belong to you and mishandling it can bring your ruin.

Last year, I came very close to losing one of my major clients. The one whose work ensures I can live in a house and afford water, electricity and this time it wasn’t even my fault. At least not 100% my fault. Things went kaboom. I lost cash, I was distabilised for a few months, it was just horrible.

 I can be slow and procrastinate a lot. But when it comes to the work that fuels my life. I will be up at 2a.m trying to resize those 3MB pictures I received, to have them ready a client  expecting pictures for an article. I will be on my desktop, feet wrapped in a blanket trying to proof read the article I just finished even though I can no longer make sense of the words on my screen.

But freelance work is also tricky in that, it involves a lot of people with different skills. Our jobs are dependent on another, and when one person fails to complete their task then the whole web is up in flames. I didn’t lose the client, partly due to many many prayers and asking God to help me out and shoveling my way out through sleepless nights trying to fix other things to appear relevant and being honest. I remember saying to my client at a meeting when questions were being fired at me.

 Questions I had no answers for. I simply said:
“Hata mimi nimeshindwa sasa, I don’t know what to do.”
But I picked up lessons that I will share with you, not that I have completely found a fool proof method, but these can help to cushion against disappointments in your freelance writing career.

Maintain a good record

Have you ever walked into an office, looked around and saw that every one was either on Facebook or on a betting site? On average, 80% of office workers spend a minimal average of 40% of their office work hours doing something totally unrelated affairs,  chatting and calling up their friends to arrange for a dinner after work. That’s okay. They still get a cheque at the end of the day.
My friend Bonnie tells me often, the internet is not just for mailing and social interactions. Let the internet work for you. 

As a freelance writer, it is very easy to spend time reading very 'life changing facts' on buzzfeed

There is  nothing wrong with that. But have you met your deadlines? True, you seem to work better under pressure, but this is not college my friend. This is real life. And ensuring that you get your work done will help you to maintain a track record of good performance. People will hear you out when you need to be heard.  Do your job, apologies are awkward.

Do the Dirty work

When I went into freelancing, my friend Ken gave me one very simple rule about freelancing.
He laughed
‘You need these guys more than they need you. So be ready to beg them when you have made a mistake, and provide fine work.’
I was up for the challenge, but I didn’t know how many times I would be required to use my bargaining skills. See, as a content writer, you have your own ideas, you have your own creativity, but your client has their own mind and their own ideas as well. The  crunch is how to merge that  to come up with something that works for both of you.

You will be asked to revise work, scrap work, wait for review when you are dying to put the work out there. You will need to dig for information, guess what people are not saying in interviews without misquoting them. You need to correct your errors too.

 My big one is the stupid typos. Gosh, sometimes I want to jump off a building when I look at something I posted on a site three days after, after three hours of editing just to find a typo in every paragraph.
But don’t be shy about it, you are not perfect. Say sorry and do it properly.  Even if it’s your third time.

Chill Out Man, just Chill.

It’s not life and death here. And most things can be fixed. Those that can’t we bury them in a shallow grave and pretend we donno what happened as we intently focus on the current work.
 Being anxious will stress you out and there is no way you can deal with clients when you are stressed out. You will both get migranes and hate each other.

When some work is stressing me out, I take time out to collect ideas for other  projects, read and do my research. It recharges the mind. But it doesn’t mean you go into hiding. You need to be seen…yeah, that I’m still working on. People need to know you are still breathing coz they could forget you.

Know your team

You cannot do everything, you need a team. As a content writer, people often ask me if I can make websites too. Someone will also ask you about marketing and videos. So know your people. The people you can call up on Saturday morning to tell them you need to present a job on Monday morning. These people will call you up at midday on Sunday to tell you to check you mail, job completed, exceeding your request.
I have a wonderful team this year.

 A video person, a graphic designer, a web designer and models.
Don’t be afraid to work with people you have not worked with before. And know what you want out of each project. Some people can guess what you need, but others need you to work with them every step.
I have also come to realise that people who have few or no recommendations work harder to prove their worth. If you can find a bunch of people who are trying to keep alive as you are through hard work. Then you will spare yourself the migraines we talked about.

Trust In God

The way I see it, most of the scrapes I have survived in my short life didn’t kill me because someone higher than me was making a way out for me. Don’t be afraid to involve God in your work affairs, after all when you get kicked out of your house he will be the one you’ll be crying to to please not let it rain tonight juu vitu zako zitanyeshewa hapo nje and the couch will never dry.

My friend Eva taught me how to layout a work plan and have a discussion about it with God. But it also means you have to work extra hard to give him something to bless.

I know I have used the phrase- to live, to survive, to keep breathing too many times here. But that’s what we are all trying to do. Unless you belong to the Lord Delamere clan, you gotta work to keep living.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The fatherless race- the surrogate fathers we look upto Baba John

We of the fatherless race have one thing in common. When we are not judging people by the arrangement of their facial features when they talk, we are weighing their actions on honesty scales which we invented to see if they measure out to be someone we can attach honor to. These scales are passed on from one fatherless generation for the next.

And as we constantly try to find a friend among the throngs that walk on our carefully tended emotional paths, we once or twice bump into someone that exceeds our theories on morality, justice and intelligence. If it’s a male, he is slotted into the small brother, brother, big brother or uncle section. If it’s a woman, she becomes a friend, or a bossom buddy. With women age doesn’t matter very much.

But there is one slot that few get to be slotted into.

The surrogate father.

This is someone we look up to, respect and don’t mind at all.
Our race has  the advantage of forming, or carving out the ideal father figure out of unrelated male acquaintances without the burden of carrying the weight of their mistakes should they make any. My ideal surrogate fathers have always had specific characteristics. Animal lovers, music lovers, nature lovers, non- judgemental, and a pinch of strange(someone we’ll never quite understand)

A year and a half ago, one of our neighbours died in an accident involving a motorbike. I was very very shocked. He was the indestructible man in a small body. I could not imagine how a motorbike rider got him. The last time death missed him it killed his donkey. He has always owned a donkey, so they found the donkey standing by his hurt dying body.  My first thought was, what will happen to his donkey? I momentarily forgot he has a son. I was sick at the time of the funeral, but had I attended the funeral I might have re-written the eulogy.
Because this man was my surrogate father.

He loved animals
Baba John has always had a donkey. His donkey never got wounds nor was it ever seen panting under the weight of grass on its cart. It was a happy donkey that knew its way home. When they delivered luggage to the town centre, I am told he had an agreement with a hotel owner to give it mandazi. So after a job, it would stand at the hotel’s door waiting to be served.
He also had a dog, his own and later one of his customer’s dogs. A German shepherd imitation that started to follow him home. Baba John tried to bring it back to its owner but at night, it would break free to come to his home. He explained to the owner that, he didn’t think he could feed that type of dog. The owner locked the dog up, but it found a way out and moved in with baba John completely. I liked the dog, it was friendly.

His cow, a brown and white aryshire was more of a pet than a worker. Whenever I would pass by its feeding trough, it would be happily eating grass, stinging nettle and other greens. Sometimes he would graze it on the path between the road and his house.

Baba John, his dog and his Donkey.

Children loved him
One time, we were waiting for the afternoon milk truck to come, there was a bunch of kids waiting too and baba John passed by, they all said a greeting, all eight of them one after the other.
Then they said:
‘Baba John, we are very hungry, we’ve been waiting for this lorry and it’s not coming.’
“Aaaa, is it? Follow me, I’ll give you Githeri.”
They followed him, and soon after each one of them came back hands full of Githeri.
they came back looking like he had fed them at kungu maitu. 

Our small cousin, would run away to go hang out with baba John. You would find them having a conversation like two grown up men.

His Controlled Drinking
Sometimes on my way home I would find baba John making his way home. I could tell he had had a few beers from his cheerful greeting. I would walk a bit with him then walk ahead to avoid scandal. But the thing that used to surprise me was, even when drunk he never said any obscene word or found an excuse to misbehave. Even when I was already grown up and he might have pretended not to recognize me aanjie wana.  No. He spoke to me as a self respecting grown up man should address a grown up girl who is of similar age to his daughters.
He was a man I felt that in case one day I was running away from the big bad wolf, I could easily hide behind him and he would not turn out to be a big bad wolf as well.

His smile
I love people who smile. Not people who smile when you ask them to, but people who have an underlying smile behind their face.  A smile that can mean they are studying you and think you are not what you are acting out to be. Or the smile that tells you someone doesn’t take themselves too seriously and they are just happy with the way their life is moving along.
Baba John had one of those faces that you are not afraid off. Open faces which don’t stare but look at you just enough to assure you they are not ignoring you.

You know, if our real fathers were put on one side and the surrogate fathers on the other and we were asked to pick one. We would pick the latter, the one we know.

Efficiency, why we must learn to be.

 There are no schools that you will sign up to to learn how to be efficient. Most will teach you a profession or a skill and it's up to ...