By Kedibone Adams
One of my earliest dreams when I was growing up was to become the first scientist to discover the cure for HIV and Aids. I guess the seed of that ambition was planted by seeing so many people I knew in my community in South Africa, losing their lives to the virus.
But when my limitations in maths and science underlined the fact that I wasn’t destined to become the mother of all doctors, that dream quickly dissipated.
Next, I wanted to become a lawyer!
Alas! That ambition disintegrated too when it transpired to me that the law didn’t function on exacting standards of righteousness at all times, as I had naively assumed.
What really killed off the idea for me was when a friend made a rather unflattering remark about lawyers. She said: “Haven’t you heard that when lawyers die, they are buried face down in their coffins, because they are too ashamed to face God in heaven with all the lies they told in court?”
I guess I was a precocious child and being surrounded by so many possibilities and mystery, the future seemed a little vague and perplexing.
The day I became acquainted with a pen and paper was through a writing competition hosted by ‘Poetry Institute of Africa’ in 2004. As a finalist in the competition along with several other kids aged up to 12 years, I had my first poem published in an anthology Rock Pool Musings by Chantal Thomson.
I had entered the competition with no expectation that I could become one of the finalists. I had no creative writing experience of any sort. If anything, I was compelled by my daring spirit to have a go. After winning the competition I made a vow to myself that I would never stop writing and that I would eventually make a career out of it.
Little did I realise then that my style of writing and the subject matters I vied towards, seemed to evolve around the family bereavements I had been through as a child. I entered spiritual battles beyond my comprehension and beneath it all was a crippling fear I couldn’t explain rationally, nor could I even understand. Even obstacles which stood in my path during my teenage years when I also experienced countless rejections, seemed calculated to deny me the success I fervently desired in my heart. So what was my medicine when I could not make sense of lonely thoughts with sleepless nights beckoning?
I sat at my desk and wrote endlessly, oblivious of the fact that my writing was a form of therapy to my internal turmoil.
The more I wrote, the more healing I received. Every word I have ever written still echoes in my mind. And every time I revise a chapter I wrote a few days back, I feel as though I am reading the work of another writer because there seems little connection between my feverish scribbling on paper and my state of mind at the time of writing. It seems that my mind has a mind of its own when I sit down to write. I guess that is power of the muse.
Once I had discarded my doctoral and law ambitions, I enrolled for media studies at university. I felt certain that journalism was the ideal profession for my restless personality. But fate intervened again!
Instead of becoming one of those celebrated scribes who risk their lives covering stories in far off war torn zones, I got a job as a lecturer; working a 12 hour shift. My work took so much of my time and limited my creative output, to the extent that I gradually lost the inspiration to write. Instead I got into the habit of reading more and more books and becoming increasingly obsessed with comparing my writing style to various authors.
I convinced myself that I too could earn a living through writing. So I went public by unleashing some of my short stories online. That turned out to be a new chapter in my life as my creative juices began to flow again. The realisation that I had a significant following of enthusiastic readers was incredibly overwhelming. The mere thought that there were readers out there, who felt devoted enough to my writing, to spend their precious spare time reading about the fictitious world I created, made me appreciate that I had a responsibility to myself and them.
I had to unlearn a few things, so I made the following notes to myself:
- Don’t get caught up in mediocrity and forget why you started writing.
- Everything one can write about has probably been written about. The key is in telling the story differently, in your own unique voice.
- Don’t be drowned by other writers’s opinions about your writing or compare your style to theirs.
- Give yourself time to be inspired and travel if you can to capture particular scenarios or personalities to populate your story.
- Allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable because your best work could come from it.
One day I will finish the book I have started writing. Hopefully, the story of my journey as a writer will help somebody, somewhere, feel energised and inspired enough to start writing and discover what lies within themselves too. I know there has to be a great reason for why I am who I am. Perhaps it is the essence of that which I am searching for, when I pick pen and paper and start writing.