Experts tell us there are four language skills that are arranged in a progressive manner; they are listening, speaking, reading and writing. Although each skill cannot be acquired without a degree of effort, the writing skill tends to be most tasking. This is so because the art of writing requires diligence, thoughtfulness, a level of creativity and consistent practice. The role of the writer is therefore important and cannot be overlooked.

The writer writes for a number of reasons. He sometimes writes to put down his thoughts when moved by happenings around him. Also, he writes to express himself to others with the objective of affecting their points of view and make them change their positions on certain things. When a writer writes, he does so with the aim of passing across an important message to the target audience in order to mirror obvious or obscure aspects of human realities. Just as the potter moulds different pieces with clay, the writer uses words to shape his thoughts in order to achieve results.
People make decisions, have a shift in their worldview, and change their course of living based on what they feed their eyes on. For instance, here is an imaginary case of a young man who was raised in a religious home and has come to believe that God is the centre of all things. He gains admission into the university to study philosophy. In the course of diligent reading of ancient texts by thinkers of the time, he begins to reconsider what he thinks about God – all because he read works that had been written ages ago. This scenario tells us how powerful a man can be when he puts his thought into writing.    

Just from the seemingly insignificant location where he writes, the writer is able to play different roles at different times. When he sets out to write about social ills, political instability and graft in public offices, he becomes an activist. Sometimes, he merely aims to liven up his audience, shift their focus away from prevailing situations and make them happy. At this rate, he is an entertainer. At other times, he is not happy about people’s sense of history concerning certain events and therefore attempts to reconstruct the past in order to make it relevant to present realities. In this capacity, he functions as a historian. What more, a writer can also stand in the office of a prophet – foretelling what is yet to happen. Great authors like George Orwell and Chinua Achebe, through their works: Animal Farm and A Man of the People respectively have foretold events that are to unfold on their different socio-political scenes. Interestingly too, a writer can be a sales man whose objective is to sell an idea, product or service and convince his audience to buy it. Whichever function the writer performs, he indisputably stands in the position to make things happen. 

A writer must reflect and interpret his society, his world; he must provide inspiration, guidance and challenge. His primary motive is not to make financial gains but to pass a message across and do so in a persuasive manner. He is caught in between the worlds of reality and imagination. He observes true-life experiences and seeks to explore them using the creative cum artistic tools at his disposal. The writer’s role is to testify about man and his circumstance and strike a blow at the indifference that dooms society to stagnation and mutual misunderstanding. It is the writer’s vocation to explain to people the essential meaning of today’s world, which contains the seeds of future hope.

Image Credit: Christine Stemfels