The End of The Road

Writing and I have a love- hate bittersweet type of relationship. Half the time I cannot stand writing because it he hurts me so much. Somehow, writing manages to be that manipulative and emotionally abusive boyfriend who, in a passive way, manages to make me insecure and doubt myself.

However, whilst stripping me of my confidence, writing also has a way of making me feel liberated and happy, he sometimes gives me a feeling of emancipation. After he has stolen a few minutes of my time in a day, I feel like a completely different me, but in a good way. The cycle is never- ending though. No sooner than he puts a smile on my face, he rips my heart out and crushes it before my very eyes. Writing hurts my feelings by making me feel like I am not good enough.

The most puzzling thing about writing well, is not knowing whether you are doing it right. I know that there are no set instructions for how to write, and that is what frustrates me the most. Anyone can write, the challenge is how to write well. I thought that by the end of this year I would at least have a clue about what it takes to be a good writer.

I am generally a woman of principle, in many respects. In the academic context, what I find to work best for me is: to give me the task, give me an overview of the expected standard and which principles to follow. I will then carry out the task to the best of my ability, my performance will be assessed using set criteria.

The beauty of knowing what the criteria and standards of an assignment ought to be, is that you know exactly what is expected of you. Honestly it helps give direction. However, the set- back of constantly being told what to do is that one is given no freedom to do what one enjoys. As a course having one of the most flexible systems, I can commend the Writing and Editing course for allowing students the freedom of choice.

If I were to truly reiterate what the course has meant to me, I would refer back to a post I wrote on my blog “Dear Diary” about “What it Means to be A Writer”.

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. The Writing and Editing course helped me come to this realisation.

When I first applied for Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, my idea of being a journalist was to be the voice of the people. Helping those who cannot help themselves, and holding politicians accountable. All of that changed over the years. Instead, I find myself asking one question, what exactly I would do with this qualification. I found that this question bothered me the most this year as I feel that I have not learnt any particular skill in the Writing and Editing Class. The majority of the things we have been taught are not new to us, we are a technological generation that is very familiar with ‘tweeting’ and blogging. In all honesty on many occasions I have been filled with regret. I have imagined how different things could have been if I took TV journalism, design, radio or photography. The reason for all this second guessing is that I do not feel complete in this course. If someone were to ask me which skills I have learnt in this course, I would not have an honest answer to give besides, no not really.

The Mail and Guardian says that university is supposed to have a purpose, a meaning behind the madness. It’s supposed to give you not just life skills but training that will allow you to become a productive member of the workforce. Do I feel that this course has one that for me? No. I do think however, that it has shown me what I cannot live with. Uncertainty. Perhaps there was uncertainty on the assessor’s part too. What began as a flexible environment of choice, later became a system of mandatory criteria. This would not be a challenge had the powers that be decided which direction to take early enough and communicated it to the students. Instead requirements were communicated halfway through a short fourth term, many students found themselves under pressure and short of time as a result of what seems like a “split decision”. This applies to both the personal and beat blogs. Delay was also a challenge when it came to uploading my stories on the beat blog, I had two stories waiting to be uploaded by the necessary administrator who insisted I get a particular angle out of the subjects. Unfortunately, the subjects were unwilling or perhaps unable to schedule another meeting, which I understand because they are extremely busy individuals. In light of that, I do not understand why I was urged to constantly bother the two ladies any further for what seemed like three to four weeks, while my stories sat in a DFS folder. It was demotivating, and I personally felt it was unnecessary. We cannot control the sources’ schedules nor can we force them to do something which they are unable or unwilling to do.

When Muncey said making meaning is not static, it cannot be measured, but it’s meaningful, and human behaviour is generated and informed by this meaningfulness. It is almost as if she was preparing me for what is to come this year. I know now that I found no meaning in the course. For this reason, I thought that there was nothing worthwhile which I learned. And as Muncey says, my behaviour was informed by this lack of meaningfulness. What had happened with my beat stories in the beginning of the term was a very demotivating start. I believe the experience affected my approach to the course later on.

In terms of the personal blog, I struggled with having too much choice. It led to uncertainty about what exactly I should write about, the style in which I wrote, and the subject matter of the beat itself. However, even though it was difficult to decide what to blog about at first, I learned to write for me, and thus became more comfortable with my writing.

Taking away all the negativity, I must say that at least I have found my own voice as a writer. Typically, in first and second year we were told how to write as a journalist, that was to say write objectively and your voice should not be heard. It was the opposite this year. I was nervous at first because I was not a confidant writer, this all changed this year.

As amateur writers, we pick up a few tips from well known, talented writers whom we consider experts at writing. However, the reality is that we are all different. We cannot all write the same, just as we cannot all think in the same manner. If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that I need to work at making my writing flow more and to not be afraid to explore ideas in more depth. I guess one could say I tease my readers to much and do not show them enough. I have walked away from this experience feeling puzzled. Am I a bad writer, or is it this course which was insufficient? When it comes to writing, I guess at the end of the day it is a question of whether you have it in you or not.

At least after all the madness, pressure and confusion which I experienced all for the sake of Writing and Editing, I get to walk away with a credit and hopefully a degree.

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