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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The Devil is a Liar

BIBLE BLOG

“‘How can you say, “We are wise,
for we have the law of the LORD,”
when actually the lying pen of the scribes
has handled it falsely?
Jeremiah 8:8

This is a verse a friend of mine recently brought to my attention. I think it poses a very good question, one that has been lingering in my mind for a while now. I am not very good at expressing my feelings. Even though writing usually helps me deal with my feelings, most of the time I have a hard time actually putting my feelings into words.

For those of you who perhaps figured it out from my ‘apology’ post, I have been having a hard time these couple of months. I do not exactly know what to call it, whether it is depression, fatigue or just plain laziness, I really do not know. All I know is that I have been struggling to cope. I found myself more frequently in bed guzzling down a bottle of dry red and having a lot of take out. I think the main reason for my episode of feeling defeated has to do with the fact that I needed answers and I was not getting any.

I have always wanted to be a successful person in life, I wanted to enjoy life and be as happy as can be. However, I found this more and more difficult to do when I could not even figure out what the point to life actually is. Why have I spent the last 14 years and 20 months in school, is life not meant to be lived? I just began to question everything. Although I do not exactly know what triggered it, I do know that the root of it all was the question of religion.

I was raised Christian, and although my parents were not the type to shove religion down my throat, as an adolescent I happily followed suite because Christianity is all I have ever known. During my episode of, depression, or whatever it was, I questioned religion. Particularly Christianity. As a Christian, I personally have not read the Bible back to back like most, I actually have not read the Bible at all. Perhaps I have always questioned its content, or perhaps my parents did not motivate me enough lie other people’s parents. I don’t know why I did not read it, I just did not.

More recently, I found myself looking at the Bible and wondering where it came from and why I am told to believe what is written in it. I found that to be my biggest problem with religion. The idea that we should take what someone has written as truth, without there being any proof thereof. I guess that is the biggest problem with writing. At least these days we are told what is based on real events and what is fictional. However, even from those texts which are allegedly a recollection of reality, we cannot possibly take everything as truth. It is known that it is human nature to spice things up in order to make a book a hit, or autobiography whatever the case may be. My biggest issue was not knowing which version to believe, the Islamic, Buddhist, or Jewish version? We cannot deny that religion is based on similar ideas which have taken on different forms. Which one of these versions is the closest reflection of the actual truth?

Although I am not the most religious person around- I do not go to church much if at all, and I have never read the bible- I do strongly believe in a higher power though. For someone who enjoys reading, one book which I have not yet brought myself to pick up and read is the Bible, and to be completely honest I feel no urgency to do so. I know, for someone who believes in God, the first and only book I should believe in the most is the Bible, but that’s not the case really. I just believe in God, and I am sure all the people involved in writing the Bible did a very good job. Well done to them. I am sure God will tell me all the stories in the Bible when I meet Him one day.

Black Jesus 1

Cool Story Bro

“You do journalism and law, don’t you get tired of reading?”

Academic writing1

When a friend of mine asked me this question over a meal at supper, my first instinct was to defend the art of writing by replying with a firm, no. I know how tough it is for writers to get people to care about reading, because if people do not care about reading then who are they writing for? There would be no point to writing.

His obvious disdain for too much writing made me wonder why he hated it so much and how many other people despised written texts as much as he does. What I misunderstood however, was that he had nothing against the art of writing itself, he had done too much reading in his life and I suppose he was beginning to grow tired of it. Upon self-reflection I realised, that I do in deed get tired of reading. I suddenly began to notice how, as a journalism student, I avoided reading articles and preferred to listen to the news instead. When reading textbooks and other school related texts, I noticed that I was in a rush for the writer to get to the point so I can extract from the reading whatever is important or necessary. Now is that not being tired of reading? I think it is.

bored baby

I do not feel bad for being tired of reading, even though I am a writing and editing student. I think academic writing falls into a whole other category on its own. The best description I can give about academic writing is: it is an educated person in a particular subject who wants to tell you more about the subject, in a way which makes them sound smart so as to ensure that you take them seriously, even if it means they write in circles and bore you to death. That is academic writing for you, now all other writing which is not academic writing can be described as an art. Academic writing is not an art, it is merely the regurgitation of learned facts. Hence I am not the slightest bit offended when people hate it so much. Heck, I am tired of it too.

Academic writing 2

My Relationship With Reading

Cat in the Hat

The first time I remember reading a book was when I was in grade 2 and we were forced to rotate between Arts and Crafts and the reading book. I can still vividly remember the cover of the book I picked up, it had a long, slender cat wearing a distinctive red and white hat. The book was by Dr Seuss’ ‘The Cat in the Hat’. I would re-read the book everyday for about a month and eventually my teacher encouraged me to be more adventurous and try and read another book. Reluctant to read anything else for fear that all the other books would be inferior to ‘The Cat in the Hat’, my teacher eventually persuaded me to try another book from Dr Seuss. I cannot remember the name of the book, but I do remember enjoying reading the book. I read Dr Seuss books exclusively for the rest of the year.

By the time I was ten we were required to read Dick-King Smith’s ‘Babe’. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would create mental images of what I imagined to be happening in my head. Naturally, I went through a Dick-King Smith phase and would read all his books available to me. In grade 6 my English class read ‘The Hobbit’. I enjoyed the fantasy world of goblins and wizards and I found reading novels about fantasy worlds incredibly entertaining. Around this time I discovered Meg Cabot and read most of the books written by her including ‘The Princess Diaries’ series and her series for teenage readers. After the Meg Cabot phase and a small fascination with chick lit, my reading habits progressed to Mizz Magazine, Seventeen and whatever other teenage focused publication I could get my hands on.

By the time I got to university I was reading as little as one book a year. Only recently I picked up “Ways of Staying” by Kevin Bloom, I’m told it is a good read. Even though the first time I picked up a book was not out of my own will, I can say it is the only occasion forced upon me which I am grateful for.

Reading in University

Book2

Gone are the days when reading was pleasurable. Here are the endless readings and analyses being shoved down ones throat as if one cannot watch a documentary and gain the same information.

University makes reading so boring. While in school, particularly in primary school, being forced into reading was actually quite enjoyable. Yes, the stories were fun and exciting, so I enjoyed reading. Now, I would much rather stare at all wall than read half the things I am forced to read all in the name of education. Why read confusing articles when I can just watch a documentary on a particular subject, I’ve always loved documentaries. I think the biggest issue I have with academic writing is that unnecessarily big words are used to make a very simple point which can very well be articulated in simple terms, I mean are these writers trying to make sure that we do not understand a thing? Secondly, there is no imagery involved, it’s all nothing but words on a page, and did I mention that it’s confusing?

The bottom line is, I am a technological age kind of gal. When I pick up a text to read, it better be interesting or I would much rather be on my computer watching stuff or on my phone texting. It is what we do after all. What I would like though is some time off the boring university readings so I can read the pile of 8 unread books that have now sadly become part of the furniture. Who knew books could make for good decorations? Well, now you know.

Books 1

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?

reading-addiction