To express happiness, you would smile, shout out aloud and jump up in delight! To express sadness, you would cry….
To express these emotions and more, I would write. It’s my ultimate cathartic release.
Seeing those words on paper in black and white, with scribbles and scratches in my handwriting, is a validation of how I am really feeling. My smile can lie. My eyes can hide my fears. But my writing is a true reflection of my inner self.
It’s a love affair that was born out of another love affair… of reading. Growing up, I had this insatiable appetite for reading. I would shut my room door and read for hours. It was “me” time. Books were were my greatest companion. My headboard was in fact a bookshelf with reading lights fitted on each side. I fell asleep reading and woke up to begin reading again.
Weekends were spent visiting second hand bookshops and flea markets for good reads at bargain prices. And when there was a new book I really wanted, I would use my pocket money at the more established bookshops. Yes, that was my idea of splurging out!
Books on apartheid heroes and heroines… Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Fatima Meer, Rick Turner, the teachings of passive resistance icon Mahatma Gandhi and Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country… these stand out for me, and have helped shape my world view and my career. While at high school, I began to see writing as a form of activism… as a way to shape attitudes and beliefs, as a way to champion change. And how beautiful it is … decades later, that hasn’t changed, it has only grown stronger.
I started off writing poetry, stringing words together to dance on a page. But the content wasn’t always light-hearted. I remember writing about the impact of South Africa’s AIDS denialism policy on an HIV positive person in 1999/2000. It was for an inter-school competition and I was one of the awardees. Before that, two of my poems had been published in anthologies by the Poetry Institute of Africa. It was an exciting phase in my life. I felt empowered to be able to articulate my voice through poetry. And to have people understand and appreciate my original, creative ideas was a bonus! I would often go to bed with a notepad and pen by my bedside. This, in case I had a brilliant idea at night and wanted to pen my thoughts. Writers, by nature, have active imaginations.
Then came the many essay writing competitions at school that allowed me to shift from poetry to prose, and be recognised by my fellow learners. I vividly remember writing a piece about women standing up against abuse – a cause that I continue to champion today. Here, I must acknowledge the teachers and learners at my alma mater Dr AD Lazarus Secondary. They created the climate for the writer in me to come alive, and flourish.
And so, when it was time to decide on a career, there was no doubt in my mind, that I would be the happiest being a journalist. It set in motion four years of studying at Technickon Natal which became Durban Institute of Technology and eventually Durban University of Technology. Getting into print media was my initial goal, but I started working at SABC Radio News at the end of my first year of studying. Contrary to what many believe, radio still requires you to write. In fact, it requires you to write well.
And so I was hooked, for 15 years. I loved being out on the field and interviewing people, but what I loved more was the entire process of writing their stories and crafting a radio package. With radio, you have less time to be creative but you still need creativity. It requires you to write sharper, to think of more active words… to truly create a picture in the minds of listeners. Your words literally become your voice. I wrote stories every day. So much so that I stopped writing for myself. But I never stopped thinking about writing. I knew that I would come back to it, someday.
Last week, WordPress sent me an anniversary message. It was two years since I had registered. But I only wrote my first blog on the 20th of July this year!
I’m glad this time has come. There is no going back now. For my own sanity, I can never stop writing, never again. I have been wondering why I feel so much happier and so much lighter recently. (certainly not in terms of physical weight- don’t get me started on that!)
It all made sense after I read a piece by The Writers College that explained how writing by hand has a similar effect on the brain as meditation. Writing is indeed my meditation. A stroke of the pen is me inhaling, a full stop is me exhaling. The topic that I choose to write on is what I fixate my mind upon and shut out all other external factors. Writing becomes the entire focus of my being.
I must admit, it is daunting when you put your writing up for public scrutiny. The reality is no writer writes for others. It’s a very personal journey. But the journey is interesting only when it is shared. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog posts and comment. To those asking me to write longer pieces…I’m getting there!
And as far as my topics of writing go, well let me draw inspiration from Steve Biko once again… “I write what I like”.