Imaginary friends for grown- ups: A wild imagination makes reality a breeze

My relationship with reading is that it revealed to me that writing is an art, one which I have always aspired to be a master of.

I read my first novel in grade 8, it was called “Don’t call me baby”. Don’t let the title fool you, it was not a very good novel, which is why I don’t even remember the author’s name. Amidst all the disappointment, I was sure that I could most likely be a better writer than the author of this book. I found that I had a lot of criticism about her work, from her use of vulgar language in a failed attempt to make the novel humorous. Instead, I found her vulgarity rather annoying. To further add to this, the entire story was utterly boring. When one imagines a story about a fifteen year old girl’s experience with the opposite sex, the process of her teenage pregnancy and her journey as a mother; one’s first reaction would not necessarily be to yawn. However, I found myself yawning throughout the entire story. I would say that the only reason why I finished the book in the first place, although it took me quite a while to do so, is because I am loyal to my reading.

Perhaps it was not a matter of the story being a boring one. The main issue was the way in which the story was told- in writing and not in imagery. You see when I read a book, I do not want to constantly be conscious of the fact that I am reading a book. I want my imagination to take me to a place where I am an observer, watching as the story before me unfolds. I want to be taken to a place where time does not exist, a place where I even forget to eat; this would take a lot of skill by the way because I have an extremely close relationship with my food.

A book which got me excited about reading is “Blind faith” by Barbara Folschier, I remember Folschier’s name because she took me to the place I longed to be, and she made me stop thinking about food a few times. Her story is rather a cliché one in the sense that I had watched and heard too many tales about a white person who, baring the burden of guilt, took in a black person and went out of their way to help this poor black person while protecting them from the National Party. With my parents having lived through Apartheid, I knew all too much about the struggle. Despite the redundancy of the story, as I flipped through the pages of her novel, my imagination was always at play. I felt like I was there with her as she took in a wounded man, nursed him to health and later transported him to his final destination. I saw him laying on that Cape Town shore, bleeding as life was slowly leaving his body. I had the image in my head of a Caucasian woman with long brown hair and brown eyes. I knew her well enough to know that despite her conservative surroundings, she was a natural born hippie. No matter how much she tried to hide it, it would manifest itself throughout the novel. Her love for painting was one of the indicators, her Beatle vehicle was a dead give- away.

Meeting this Cape Townian hippie who featured in “Blind Faith”, made me eager to meet many more characters and embark on various journeys with them all. Perhaps in my next post I might tell you about a street kid I recently met, his name is Nelio and he is about to die.


Remembering Nelio

Remember Nelio?

He is the street kid from Mozambique, I told you about him a while ago. In case you have forgotten, I will remind you of his story. Nelio’s family was murdered and his village burnt down by bandit; who then took Nelio and attempted to make him one of their many child soldiers.

Nelio managed to flee, but he had nothing except the clothes on his back. He became a street kid and had to fend for himself. In his book about Nelio, Henning Mankel tells us about the circumstances under which Nelio had to live. Nelio is described as a very admirable character, as a child without parents, who lives on the street he turned out better than most. Nelio is smart and introspective, he is mature for a boy his age, although I cannot recall how old he actually is. I guess he had to mature quickly giver the circumstances. Unfortunately, Nelio gets shot. He is discovered by Antonio who is a local baker. While doing the best he can to nurse Nelio back to health- which is very unlikely that he will recover- Antonio hopes Nelio will have the strength to tell him how he was shot and by whom.

While reading about Nelio’s story about his life as a street kid, I too remained anxious to find out how he got shot and who shot him. On my bus ride home during the September vacation, I was closer than ever to finding out the story behind Nelio’s shooting. When I arrived home, I was dismayed to find that the book about Nelio was not amongst my luggage. When I realised that I left it on the bust, I literally started cussing in my room and throwing my luggage around. It is as if I knew that I could never retrieve the book. I called the bus depot in Johannesburg, they looked through their lost and found items after which they reported that the book was not there. I think I called three times, and asked three different people. I took to social media and posted on various facebook pages asking whether anyone had a copy of the book and would allow me to buy it from them. No one had the book, again I was not surprised.

This book is one of my favourite books thus far, though that may be the case it is not desirable for me to have to buy the book twice. However, my dedication to my reading, and this particular story, has me budgeting to buy a copy of the book, again. Since the day I lost it, I have not stopped thinking about Nelio and the book itself. It almost became an “obsession” to me. This had me wondering whether it is even possible for a person to become addicted to reading I am not at all a reading addict, however, what if there is someone out there who is addicted to reading and how extreme could a reading addiction possibly be?

Yes, I know, my mind wanders and I sometimes think about the most random of things… but what if?


Fear is stupid

Karen Jayes’ attitude is the kind of attitude which I aspire to have.

Having grown up in similar circumstances, I admire her bravery. When she spoke of her over baring father, being a child of paranoid and overprotective parents, I knew all too well what she was referring to. I guess the difference between her and me is that she did not let the protective shell her father kept her in stop her from making bold decisions.

After I get my degree, I would like to pack my bags and explore the world, learning about people and telling their stories. I am hesitant though because I have my parents to deal with, and I am still weighing the probabilities of the likelihood of my survival as a young journalist; especially with talks about writing being a dead end career.

Karen Jayes’ father was over baring yet she still managed to go to the Middle East and cover the unrest, though she was later summoned home after suffering a rubber bullet wound. I want to be able to tell my parents that I’m about to leave and still manage to be immune to their concerns and discouragement.

Instead, I have taken the safe route, literally. I have chosen a career in law because let’s face it, it would offer more financial security than being a freelance writer would, and the law profession does not often require a person to travel to dangerous places and risk their life. I like security, but I want to live as well. I suppose what haunts me the most is the fear of failure. I would not say that I am afraid of being in a foreign place and being away from my parents, what I fear though is the thought of failing at life, and failing as a journalist.

What is somewhat comforting though is the fact that my fear is not abstract, it is real. Jayes herself experienced struggles as a journalist; namely that she struggled to get her book published and she currently has 25 unpublished short stories. The reality of life however, is that it is not smooth sailing. Regardless of what you do in life, there will be challenges, so why play it safe when there are guaranteed obstacles regardless of what you do or where you go?

I must say that I admire Karen Jayes’ ability to not conform. Coming from a non-Muslim family of accountants and doctors yet still having the will to stand up for what she wants by becoming a journalist instead and converting to Islam. This is something to admire in my books.

The Journalism lecture of the 10th of August of 2014 gave me a different perspective on my own life. I realised that doing what you want to do is not that difficult. Perhaps I should stop raising the excuse that my parents are overprotective and would not allow it. Monday the 10th was a reality check for me, and I did not mind it much. It is about time you grow up Zinhle Hlatshwayo, make your own decisions.

What it means to be a writer

images hemingway
To me, writing is not a trivial activity but a cure for emotional baggage. The words of American writer, Solotaroff make sense to me when he says that writing is not necessarily a matter of talent.
Journal writing is one way of curing one’s emotional baggage. Writing my feelings in my journal proved to be a cathartic experience. The reason I enjoy writing in my journal is because I am not writing for anyone. I have no anticipation of criticism and judgement.

Writing has shown itself to be a gift not only to me but also to the world in the sense that it teaches people and it keeps them informed. If I could take something which helped me and use it to help the world, then why not be a writer?

As a high school pupil, I hated writing merely because I was terrible at it. My lack of writing skill made me question the whole point of writing. What I could not understand was, how on earth could a person make a career out of such a trivial activity? Most importantly, the main question I wondered about was what is good writing?
My high school English teacher, Mrs Peverette introduced me to Ernest Hemingway. Subsequently, I enjoyed his novels. When reading his work, I would experience the same feelings of alertness, curiosity and creative thought; the kind of feelings elicited by Roald Dhal in a young Zinhle. Hemingway still inspires me. I would love be able to do what he had done in my own writing as well. Of course I realised that not everyone has to be an Ernest Hemingway writer. Although I enjoy his work, but I am not him. I have to be Zinhle.

As a journalism student, my challenges with writing carried all throughout first year of university. But second year changed everything. Perhaps that had something to do with my tutor and my lecturer. Suddenly my marks improved. Oddly, I began to enjoy writing. I enjoyed it so much that I started keeping a journal and eventually, I abandoned the idea of TV and I chose to write.

I find my inspiration to write well from Ernest Hemingway who once said that “there is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I am happy to say that it has indeed worked for me because I have written my best stories by letting my heart bleed through the ink in my pen. Being a writer means that you can share your work with the world, if you choose to be an author. Being a writer also means that you can educate the world by writing about what they need to know and being a journalist. There is more to writing than what people think, it can serve a variety of useful purposes, I know that now.