I ‘Love-Hate’ Your Writing: Echoing Dr. Sodzi-Tettey
By I. K. Gyasi
IN HIS article entitled, I ‘LOVE-HATE’ YOUR WRITING!, and published in the DAILY GRAPHIC of Saturday, February 2, 2013, Dr. Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey poses interesting questions about the writer and his readership.
Before I attempt to help Dr. Sodzi-Tettey answer some of the questions, let me go to the opening paragraph, where he writes: “After 17 years of various features in the Ghanaian media, including the past year as a columnist in the DAILY GRAPHIC, it is the ‘love-hate’ relationship of some of my readers that most fascinates me, especially the oxymoronic emotional conflicts afflicting the same individual reader.”
Dr. Sodzi-Tettey does not tell the reader what an ‘oxymoron’ is, though he gives an example in the expression ‘love-hate’ in the title, and in the first paragraph of his article. What is an ‘oxymoron’?
In English, words and phrases can be used in a way that gives a vivid or special force to the statement one wishes to make. They are grouped together under the term ‘Figure of speech’. Very common examples of figures of speech are the Simile and the Metaphor.
An Oxymoron is also a figure of speech. According to THE CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY, an Oxymoron is “a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.”
The Dictionary says that the word is from Greek, meaning ‘pointedly foolish’, and formed from ‘oxus’ meaning ‘sharp’, and ‘moron’, meaning ‘foolish’.
Examples of oxymoron include ‘sweet-sorrow’, ‘bitter-sweet’, ‘an honourable villain’, ‘the living dead’ and Dr. Sodzi-Tettey’s ‘love-hate’.
These examples bring together two apparently contradictory terms. They sound ‘pointedly foolish’ or strange.
Obviously, Dr. Sodzi-Tettey’s dilemma is that the very people, who praise him when they like a particular article of his, also criticise him when they do not like another article also written by him.
What troubles Dr. Sodzi-Tettey? In the second paragraph of his article, he asks, “Does the writer then write to please his committed readers, or does he simply stay true to his convictions? Does the writer avoid potentially controversial topics in the hope of his retaining his readership with benign topics?
Dr. Sodzi-Tettey continues in that same paragraph, “Will the writer ever succeed in pleasing all men at all times with every write-up? How concerned should a writer be about the image he spawns with what he writes, and should he ever be overly concerned lest he disappoints with a certain unanticipated opinion piece?”
Let me hasten to tell Dr. Sodzi-Tettey that there is no way he can ignore his readers, especially those he calls “committed readers”.
I know what I am talking about, because I have been in the newspaper column writing business since 1966. I have written for THE GHANAIAN TIMES, THE DAILY GRAPHIC, THE MIRROR, THE PIONEER, THE ASHANTI INDEPENDENT (articles also reproduced in THE INDEPENDENT) and THE CHRONICLE (continuously since July 1996).
GRAPHIC SPORTS published my article on sports, and THE SPECTATOR published my letter on English.
If Dr. Sodzi-Tettey were to set up his own private clinic, he would depend on his patients (do doctors now say ‘clients’?), especially his committed patients, to keep him in the business, or else he would soon have to close down the clinic.
Just as a steady stream of patients is good for a doctor, readers constitute the oxygen that keeps a writer going. As Geoffrey Chaucer states, it is no use for a lecturer to continue when he is losing his audience. A writer needs all the readers he can attract to his writings.
Why does Dr. Sodzi-Tettey write week after week? I strongly believe that it is not the money the GRAPHIC pays him. Knowing the GRAPHIC as I do, I will not be surprised to learn that the paper does not pay anything to him at all.
Even in the unlikely event of the GRAPHIC paying for his contributions, what he receives will definitely not be enough to tempt him to stop his medical practice. So why does he write?
He writes, because he strongly believes that he has facts, ideas, views or opinions which he considers interesting enough to share with committed and potential readers out there. He would stop writing the very minute he found out that no one reads his pieces.
I have belaboured the point that a writer needs his readers, and so cannot ignore them. He should feel sad that for one reason or another, he has lost a reader. Still, Dr. Sodzi-Tettey should know that a writer can never succeed in pleasing all men (and women too) with every write-up.
Perhaps, if Dr. Sodzi-Tettey, for example, chose emotionally and politically neutral, strictly medical topics like malaria, no one would accuse him of favouring a particular political party.
Even then, he would have to be careful not to write that lack of malaria drugs was causing needless deaths in the hospitals. The party in power might accuse him of trying to make the government unpopular.
The examples Dr. Sodzi-Tettey himself gives of the disaffection he has created in certain readers, constitute an empathic answer to his question, whether a writer can please everyone with his write-up day after day, week after week, month after month, etc.? Indeed, he will succeed in pleasing NO ONE.
While thinking of his readers, especially the committed ones who will not desert him, he must also write with the courage of his convictions.
As long as he continues to write, he will have many admirers, but he will also offend others. The offence can arise from just a mistake in the date, just as I found out to my cost when one of my hitherto faithful admirers, Madam Naa Kordai Asimeh of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and also of the Ga-Dangbe Council, spotted a mistake in my article on a Ga-Dangbe demonstration.
The offence may arise from the simple fact that the writer has expressed an opinion which some people might find unpalatable, and not because it is simply not true.
After 17 years, Dr. Sodzi-Tettey himself knows, as his article makes clear, that he does not intend to be all things to all people. He simply cannot, unless he throws away his pens and computers, seals his lips with plaster or tape, and goes into seclusion on a far away island.
Finally, let me tell Dr. Sodzi-Tettey that a writer must be concerned about his image. He must be careful not to create the contemptible image of a writer whose pen is for sale to the highest bidder, and is prepared to write what he does not believe in.
Dr. Sodzi-Tettey may not achieve perfection, but the ultimate aim is to try and improve himself and his writing all the time, even as he reflects “our passion, fear, contradictions and our fight to lift ourselves from our development morass unto a higher pedestal…”
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