Chinua Achebe famously proclaimed in his brilliant interview with Jerome Brooks few years before his death.
Published 1994 in "The Paris Review' here are excerpts of the interview.
He begins with an explanation of what inspired/pushed him to start writing:
"When I began going to school and learned to read, I encountered stories of other people and other lands. I grew older and began to read about adventures in which I didn’t know that I was supposed to be on the side of those savages who were encountered by the good white man.
I instinctively took sides with the white people. They were fine! They were excellent. They were intelligent. The others were not . . . they were stupid and ugly. That was the way I was introduced to the danger of not having your own stories."
Indeed, Achebe's unflinching resistance to stereotypes spurred him to write. He told Brooks:
"There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later.
Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian. It’s not one man’s job. It’s not one person’s job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail—the bravery, even, of the lions."
The interviewer posed the following question: Has your work been translated into Igbo? Is it important for it to be translated into Igbo?
Achebe explains in detail how the difference in Igbo dialect may cause confusion in translation:
"No, my work has not been translated. There is a problem with the Igbo language. I don’t really have any interest in these translations. If someone said, I want to translate your novel into Igbo, I would say, Go ahead.
But when I write in the Igbo language, I write my own dialect. I write some poetry in that dialect. Maybe someday I will, myself, translate Things Fall Apart into the Igbo language.
Just to show what I mean, though for me, being bilingual, the novel form seems to go with the English language. Poetry and drama seem to go with the Igbo language."
When he was asked what advice would he give to someone with literary promise. Achebe produces the following, a blend of the pragmatic and the aspirational:
1. Do all you can and be persistent.
"I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it. Just think of the work you’ve set yourself to do, and do it as well as you can. Once you have really done all you can, then you can show it to people.
But I find this is increasingly not the case with the younger people. They do a first draft and want somebody to finish it off for them with good advice. So I just maneuver myself out of this. I say, Keep at it."
2. Sweat it out, do your best.
3. Don’t publish it yourself
"Don’t publish it yourself—this is one tendency that is becoming more and more common in Nigeria. You go and find someone—a friend—to print your book. I think once you have done all you can to a manuscript, let it find its way in the world."
4. Reorganize your day so that you can get in as much writing as possible.
Read the full interview in The Paris Review