Though not a mother myself, at the age of fourteen, I journeyed with two of my close friends (also aged fourteen) who fell pregnant. What a bizarre experience to witness being that young. Their circumstances differed, yet both stories seemed similar in theme. Threads of scandal, secrecy and pain regarding their tender age and choices they had made, the fear of not knowing what they were doing, or how this impacted the bigger picture of their lives and then yet the natural maternal excitement, expectancy and joy. It was all similar.
Cautiously I’ll suggest that to me, this is how it was with my writing journey.
During my final year at school, I announced to my parents that I would be going to a woman’s leadership conference, in Zambia (Africa). While I live in Cape Town, South Africa, Zambia still felt like the other side of the world, and needless to say my mom was NOT impressed. She felt that I should focus on my studies (obviously).
A little like my rebellious friends who ran away from home when they ended up pregnant, I had made up my mind that I was going. My 18-year-old naivety, faith and pride I guess, helped me decide that sometimes in life we had to make decisions, even if they didn’t please people, even if that people were our parents. (Sorry mom).
While the conference had many highlights, most outstanding to me was a simple two-day workshop I “accidentally” attended. A writing workshop. The workshop taught that everyone has a story to tell, that words mattered, and that we were able. We thus all fearfully yet enthusiastically participated in various writing exercises for two days. We listened, wrote, learned and at the end of the workshop, we each got given a bead. A bead and piece of elastic to make a bracelet. Our writer’s bead bracelet. As if it were one of those urine sticks, I stared at mine for a long time, considering what this would mean to me. I wasn’t sure I understood. To me, whether I believed it or not, that was the conception of me being a writer.
The growth of my “being a writer” baby somehow was a quieter process, and not very dramatic at all. Just like mothers have glimpses of the future through ultra sounds and baby kicks, so too I had moments where I felt like the writing possibilities were endless and that the future was filled with life, and happy writing dreams. However, in the same way expecting moms often have the unpleasantries to deal with, like heart burn and morning sickness, I too had some unflattering “writer to be” moments. Grey periods where I was plagued with self-doubt, demotivation and times where all wonderful words would elude me, leaving me in a very unattractive writer’s state.
When did it sink in?
When did the water break? Or in other words, when did it all become real? I tend to think it was reading Jeff Goin’s writer’s manifesto not so long ago. I tried picking a sentence for emphasis but alas, the whole thing seems true so if you want (http://goinswriter.com/), check it. I read it and realised everything was true for me. I had a light bulb moment. It was a monster light bulb that came crashing through the door and slapped me upside the head. Plain and simple. I was indeed a writer and I wasn’t alone in the process.
Flooding my mind were all the random moments during arbitrary days and silly activities, moments when my brain would narrate whatever I saw, my thoughts translated into story or emotions into poetry. I thought about the question people often asked, “What would you do even if no one paid you… even if there were no acknowledgement?”
The answer now seemed simple. I would write.The process both exhilarated and freaked me out. Yet the simple act of acceptance somehow allowed me to see that I was indeed able to birth life through words and offer something to the world through what I loved.
I’ll be honest and say that at the moment, it feels a bit as though I am going through labour pains. The struggle, the fear, the pushing through even when writing doesn’t make sense in my bigger picture. I have begun writing, simply because as Jeff so adequately put it, “I can’t NOT writer”. I write because words are inside of me and I honestly believe the lesson my writer’s bead so readily remind me of. Everyone has a story to tell, words have influence.