I’m an insecure writer. I mull over pieces at least 10x (if not more), before I send them in. I take long breaks from writing because rejection is hard and I need to sit with it and myself for a while before having the courage to go again.
Writing requires a lot of courage. And effort. And consistency. And TIME. The latter which I have very little of. I’ve made peace with the fact that I probably will never have a room where I can go and spend 3 hours writing uninterrupted.I’ve normalized writing through noise, and because the only time I’m really alone is when I’m commuting, in the last 5 years I’ve written most of my stories and essays on my phone like I’m doing right now. I tend to get most of my ideas when I’m busy so it’s easy to just grab my phone and jot some thoughts down instead of romanticizing a silent moment with a Kate Spade journal and pen and fancy candle. I have made lemonade with my lemons and as such steal moments of the day, like now, when I’m cooking and also making sure my kids don’t break anything or themselves.
Hold on, Dr Knickerbocker is on and my son insists we dance!
I’ve been told over the years as a writer, you need to carve out time to write, and to write often for (long) periods of time. That’s all true, but that’s not my reality. I work around my lack of time and I still manage to get some writing done. And I’m able to do that because I am disciplined (for the most part) and I give myself deadlines. Like I did when I finished my (unpublished) manuscript. I told myself I needed to have the full draft completed before my daughter was born and I managed to do it. I revisit it every couple of times a year and revise and edit it to death. Editing is almost as painful as rejection.
I’ve been wanting to take a writing course for a long time and imagined what it would look like and the life long relationships that would come out of it. Of course 2020 being what it is, had different plans. Instead of a class filled with diverse faces and nerdy discussions on prose, authors, crafting characters and constructing poetry, I spent the start of the Spring alone, online, emailing my amazing Prof every week, posting on a discussion board and virtually hi fiving classmates. And though it was a much needed mental break from my daily life and the heartbreak, it was also challenging to have to be creative in the midst of these gut wrenching months of continuous murders of Black bodies. Even for someone whose is used to writing in noise and chaos it was hard to turn the news, the world and the rage off. I had to work beside it and move through it. And I used my writing as an outlet here and below…
What’s that thing that you do,
Or supposed to do,
Wait for no man?
Make grief an illusion?
Bring about new seasons?
How do you decide whose side you’re on?
Because ours is due.
You see, we’ve been waiting on you for centuries,
But it feels like we’re back in 1863,
When you know, we were supposed to be free?
But somehow this freedom has evaded we,
For we’re still slaves and it’s 2020.
And strange fruit is still our melody.
I asked you a question.
Are you going to tell me I need to wait?
Wait for what?
Wait for you?
To string me, us, along into believing that one day,
The battle will be won?
You got the Bible on your side.
And that Word is what you know we all abide.
But dammit time!
When will our time come for rejoicing?
Why are we stuck on this ferris wheel of mourning?
Every day is groundhog day in this melanin.
This rage is suffocating.
I don’t have much left in me;
My throat is torn from wailing
It’s all waning,
And now buildings are burning.
So whose side are you going to choose?
Which side of history are you on?
Are you going to stay in 1863?
Because that seems to be,
The part of history, you seem to be on.
If so, then we’ll take this on,
On our own,
Like our ancestors did.
This year was off to a rocky start and I planned not to write anything new except my Becoming essay, which I’d started at the beginning of the year and gave myself either July or September as a deadline depending on time, the publisher and my commitment to getting it completed. In the midst of taking the writing course and despite having tonnes of readings and work to submit, something pushed me to finish it and submit it for publication.
The best thing that came out of taking the writing course, is that it made me realize what writing does for me. As my fellow Zambian writer Namwali Serpell stated, it is a “respite and an escape”. Writing allows me to revisit parts of myself that are hidden, sometimes forgotten and tap into feelings that I need to get out. Sometimes characters take up space in my head and won’t leave me alone to get a decent amount of sleep until I let them have their say. While other times it allows me to construct new worlds that give me a break from my current one.
My writing course gave me the (mental) space to be creative again and I needed to honour that. I also realized I need to celebrate myself and my writing a lot more. I don’t give myself enough credit. My Professor offered me such great feedback and it was huge boost for my writer (self) esteem. This is the first time getting a grade didn’t matter so much to me. Getting better at the craft and learning the tools to tell my stories in a captivating fashion were paramount.
What writing during a pandemic has ultimately shown me, is that though the rejections are many and the rewards few, I need to keep it. I can still be proud to call myself a writer.
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