"Write what should not be forgotten." Isabel Allende

Archive for the tag “Writing”

A point of departure

Day 2

I have six blogs (five unused); a motley collection of journals filled with ramblings, attempts at poetry, the beginnings of stories, ideas for other stories; a head full of images and descriptions; muses tugging at my attention – the heart of a poet. But I find words fail me when I try to formalise my attempts; they skip elusively beyond my reach, taunting me and trying me. This attempt was exhausting – finding a starting point. Putting pen to paper, or in this case finger to touch screen. Why do I find it so hard to pin them down?

One writing prompt that has helped is Ray Bradbury’s idea that list-making can stimulate creativity. He writes:

“These lists were the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface. I was feeling my way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.”

He believed that making lists helped tapped the subconscious and allowed new ideas to flow freely; that the writer would be able to see patterns emerging in the lists that could lead to new ideas, titles, links and more.

He urged aspiring writers to pick one of the nouns from the list and then sit down to write a long prose-poem essay on it.

“Conjure the nouns, alert the secret self, taste the darkness … speak softly, and write any old word that wants to jump out of your nerves onto the page…”

I like this idea. It is a way to bypass rationality, insecurities and fears and to let the words come to life, to let the stories start to reveal themselves and become full-blooded, bold, beautiful narratives.

So, I took a deep breath and jumped…



As one of my friends recently wrote on his facebook profile, “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.”

For many of us it’s back to mind-numbing traffic, deadlines, too much caffeine, and stress. What I miss most is the sense of freedom I experienced during the holidays riding pillion with my partner on his Suzuki. Although, physically, it is a lot more strenuous than taking to the open road on four wheels (a roof can be very advantageous), it is one way to travel in a more unconventional manner. On a motorbike you become part of the scenery – you can feel the cool shadows of trees growing along the road; you experience the sudden dip in temperature as you pass over a river, and you can smell the rain or mud, the sun-baked tar, or – less poetically – chicken farms, dust and pollution. When you ride, you are more in tune with subtle changes in geography, and each town and city has its own smell and mood.

You can’t help but feel uninhibited and a little devil-may-care with all that horsepower at your disposal. There is an unmistakable nonchalance inherent in the purr of the engine and the smooth way the machine leans into curves, and it’s this feeling – free and a little crazy – that I miss most.

Freedom. To me, it is the colour blue. The midnight black 1967 Chevrolet Impala from the series Supernatural. The immensity of mountain ranges that cradle the sky. Distant horizons. U2, Depeche Mode, and the Stereophonics. Autumn. A wolf’s howl – the siren song of wild and free spaces. And, when I was a young girl, the thrum of traffic outside my grandmother’s small flat in Joburg that lulled me to sleep at night.

Maybe that is why I often associate freedom with movement – a lack of restriction, exploring, road trips and adventuring.

But how do you feel free when the weight of the working world and its rules and routines overwhelms you? Is it even possible to feel free? I hope that freedom can be a state of mind, as well as a long stretch of highway to a new destination; allowing yourself to get lost, swept up and swept away. I hope that freedom can be found in the choices I make to continue following my goals, dreaming big, being spellbound by fiction and imagination, and letting go of the restrictions in my own mind – the fears of failure and inadequacy – letting go of those days of intense frustration over small minutiae and small-minded people.

I hope that freedom is all about perception. On the motorbike we still travel the same highways that we do in the car, but the experience is very different, and I think it is because our perceptions are different – we feel free and defiant – and the road changes for us. It reflects our “biker insouciance” and we experience it as more electrifying.

I hope I can be like a Jedi knight and bend my perceptions to ease the weight of that tedium. I want to find freedom in sharing laughter with my partner, in books, and music and eccentricity, and in being a writer. This has been a long journey for me. In fact, a journey that spans 14 years of my life, starting in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape as a journalism student who went on to spend many years searching for a higher purpose. A purpose that was always with me, but was obscured by faulty perceptions.

I would like to think that I have found some clarity on the back of a Suzuki – with the wind bearing down, and storm clouds racing us on the horizon.

Maybe finding our purpose frees us. Here’s hoping.

Show me the networking

Being a freelance writer and editor entails more than just skill, qualifications and a good turn of phrase – increasingly it includes being a consummate networker – whether it’s on social media platforms or in person, it’s a skill that is invaluable when making new business contacts and securing work – it is also about building a solid reputation and linking up with other professionals in a similar field. I came across the following article on the website, which is a great writing resource, about networking and I think the tips are quite useful for any writer trying to break into freelancing.

These were their top 10 tips for successful networking:

1. Join an online writers’ community or social-networking site. (Facebook or LinkedIn are good starting points.)

2. Become a member of a writers’ association. (In South Africa you could join SAFREA, which is the South African Freelancers’ Association, or the Professional Editors’ Group.)

3. Sign up with a genre-specific writers’ association, such as the Mystery Writers of America.

4. Form or join a writing group.

5. Look up a site for writers of fan fiction, such as

6. Take a writing or literature class or workshop, and keep in touch with the students (and the instructor).

7. Attend writers’ conferences.

8. Attend (or organise) author events, poetry readings, open mics, and other literary gatherings.

9. Cultivate relationships with editors and with other writers. A rejection letter can be a beginning as well as an ending, and freelance writers (and editors) can pass leads on or hand surplus projects off to each other.

10. Develop your networking skills outside the writing realm by joining a civic or professional organisation, volunteering with a nonprofit organisation, or getting involved with a club or a hobby group.


Of course, creating your own blog is another way of showcasing your work, and being active on discussion forums for writing professionals is another way of using other writers as soundboards for your ideas and for getting advice.Where possible list your services on editing and freelancing associations’ sites, or any other sites such as Bizcommunity, where you can list your services for free. And, never underestimate the power of the Internet – if you have the resources available, a personal website is a powerful networking tool.





It matters…

A long time ago I stumbled across a simple little website called Pioneers of Change. On their website, the pioneers write: “All change starts with our perception and understanding of ourselves and our situation. A pioneer needs to think and see possibilities and connections. If we choose to redefine ourselves and others as unique human beings, each with something special to contribute in a world where positive change is possible, then we invite the possibility for transformation.”

Possibilities. Potential. Pioneers. I have always envisioned creating a blog that is a site for wordplay and creativity: a space of potential for stories, ideas, notions, imagination, activism, change and challenges – challenging perceptions, and making connections.

My passions are many – human rights, education, literature, science and technology and the environment – and I would like this space to be a forum where I can write words that matter about topics that should not be forgotten.

Here goes…

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