I thought I would try something different this week. I thought I would let you in on my mind (just slightly) and what often goes through it when I sit down to write this column. It might be presumptuous of me to think that you might be even vaguely interested in “what goes on behind the scenes” when one writes, but here goes anyway…Actually, I know there are people who are interested, because from time to time they ask me questions. Questions like, “Where do your ideas come from?” “Do you write in one sitting, or do you write little bits at a time?” “How do you not run out of things to say?”
When I taught in the Journalism department at CPUT (the then Pentech), I used to employ various means to get the students to write as often as they can.
Sometimes I would turn an entire lecture period into a creative writing session…often a free writing session where they can explore their ideas, hopes, dreams, fantasies etc. etc. “Just get it down on paper,” I would say to them…and many of them enjoyed these exercises, finding them quite therapeutic, liberating, cathartic – their words!
Even when I left teaching, I would still try to get sessions together for a few friends to explore writing and its many advantages, or to collectively discover new ways of seeing, new ways of interrogating our beliefs and our perspectives.
I had one or two such sessions with a friend or four, but as it is wont to do, life would too often get in the way and getting the soirees together would prove too difficult. In the end one gives up and months, even years, go by and the opportunities are just lost.
Anyhoo…I digress. When I started writing this week’s column, I was staring at a blank page as though it were a canvas. What to put on it this week? I wanted to talk about the importance of having an open mind with respect to my latest play at Artscape, but then I thought: too preachy for a Sunday morning. And, lest it be said I am using the space to promote my own work.
Then I thought: what is wrong with that? Why shouldn’t I promote my own work? Isn’t that the point of creating words and sharing thoughts and opinions, so that one may share them with as many people as possible? And, in this neck of the woods we all know that the media would rather spend their airtime and newspaper space talking about Manchester United’s football game for hours (or over four or five pages) rather than to promote the arts. And we wonder why we have so many ignorant people – ones who are not able to see the beauty in life, and not able to offer opinions on life, let alone live it! And now I am preaching on a Sunday morning…sorry!
My second cup, nay mug, of piping hot milky coffee – just the way I like it – is no more than a few inches away from my keyboard. The obligatory honey-and-oats peanut butter sandwich, now just a distant memory, a few lost crumbs scattered on the plate…I wet my forefinger, press it lightly on the crumbs and then they too go down the gullet to meet the rest of their morsel family, firmly being roiled inside me, I am sure.
So, do I write in one sitting? I do. Mostly. But then I would give it a rest for a couple of hours, come back to it, add, subtract and amend. Where do my ideas come from? Well, I observe events (or non-events) and make notes on my phone for possible future Encores.
I often find myself never really looking at said notes when I eventually get to the keyboard though. I write as I feel things, and more than considering the actual content, my heart or my state of mind becomes my muse. There have been times when I wrote little bits – like an introductory paragraph that I would save in my “ideas” folder and then go back there to check on them from time to time. But mostly it is about how I feel on the day that I write. I am fortunate to be able to write what I like. That is such a privilege.
I am also fortunate that some of you read what I write.
That makes me happy. That some of you even write back to me, expressing your feelings – what an absolute pleasure! And, as for the question, “How do you not run out of ideas for your column?” Well, writing is conversation. Writing is also a best friend, has been forever. Do we ever run out of conversation with our BFF?
By: Rafiek mammon