Sunday, 17 November 2019

Finding My Writing Voice

Stephen King says, ‘If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. He is right. Nothing fires me up to write like reading a good book. 

I reckon writers, seasoned or burgeoning, will do well to read others and to explore all kinds of writing styles and genres. There are authors whose works have inspired me and informed my appreciation of the art of writing over the years. Authors that include Bryce Courtenay with his African tales, Tess Gerritsen, the former surgeon who draws from her medical experience, Christian author Chris Fabry, Maya Angelou, Chinua Achebe, Alice Walker, Naomi Alderman, to name but a few. 

But writers who want to grow and expand their horizon will understand that it is not enough to just read a good book. They should sit down and write, for it is only through the practice of writing that one gets to explore their thoughts and feelings, experiment with the various writing styles, and ultimately establish their own unique writing voice.

My writing has evolved over the years. Finding my writing voice has been and still is. The process can span for years as one seeks to perfect and establish their uniqueness in the writing world.

Even though I cite other authors in some of my writings and find their works intriguing, I relish being able to create original content of my own: a quote, a poem, a blog, an article or indeed a novel. 

I like to depict my own version of life as I draw from my own experiences, choose my own words and expressions. Over the years, I have discovered that writing is not so much about the words or phrases I use, but rather the way I use those words to depict the world around me that give character and authenticity to my writing. 

My kind of writing's exact nature should provoke, in my reader, specific thoughts and feelings. This way, the reader experiences what drives me and explore my heart and soul.

My experiences are my most significant resource from which I draw knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. I am a product of my own interpretation of the world. How I embrace, receive and digest my experiences determines the ‘product’ which is my message to the world. The end-product, which becomes palpable and tangible in all my writings 

My voice is the rhythm, the tone and the vibe the reader gets when they absorb and digest my works. It is that uniqueness in quality that separates me from other writers. It is writing in a way that does not seek to deceive or betray my personality or what I represent. When, in an instant, a reader recognises that vibe and uniqueness the second, they open my book to read. 

As a reader, I tend to gravitate towards certain books. My mood and needs at the time often determine which book I choose.  I also want a voice to appeal to my senses and to speak to my soul. Therefore, developing and establishing a reliable voice as a writer is your gift to the reader. It is your unique voice that gives the reader the motivation to pick your book over another. And the only reason a reader will keep coming back for more is the satisfaction and the established chemistry. In other words, they are getting, from you, something unique that no other writer can provide. When this kind of familiarity begins to happen, a writer can claim to have established their authentic writing voice. 

I am a versatile writer. I weave a blog is not the way I write a poem, an article or a novel. I derive pleasure in exploring different writing styles, offering different perspectives to diverse audiences. I should delve into uncharted territories and continue to evolve and not remain stuck in my comfort zone. I should be able to let loose and allow myself to explore the strange realms of imagination and create works of art. I am a writer, after all. 

But moving from my personal experiences and letting my imagination soar does not, in any way, take away my authority as a writer. If anything, stretching my creativity will take me to new and greater heights and allow me to develop facets of my character that I never knew existed. Not only do I extend my appreciation of the world at large and grow as a human being, but I also discover a new potential within me. This process of expansion, if I allow it to happen organically, believing in my powers and letting my personality shine, could be the unveiling of a ‘new self’. The self I was meant to become all along.  

And perhaps, just perhaps, I get to become the kind of writer the world has been waiting for all along!

Sunday, 3 November 2019

What It's Like To Go Home

If like me, you’re settled in a country other than your country of origin, then you will know how exciting the holiday season can be. That time of year, when most of us are preparing to visit our loved ones back home. 

Harare International Airport (now Robert Mugabe)

I come from Zimbabwe. As most of you know, it is the country in Africa that borders South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia. It is also the home of one of the seven wonders of the world, Mosi-oa-tunya, commonly known as Victoria Falls. But that is not what my blog is about. I’m here to take you through what it is like for me to visit my home country.

It's beginning to look like Christmas.

As soon as I get off the plane in Harare, I fret about unreliable Wi-Fi, sometimes settle on being hot spotted by those in my company, usually my brother or his wife. Once that business is taken care of, I finally decide how I am going to spend my holiday. 

I can be organised, but I have since come to the realisation that planning my activities in advance when I go to Zimbabwe is a futile attempt. For example, every time I visit, I tell myself that I will not move from house to house greeting the neighbours, relatives, friends, their cats, and dogs, all of whom I will not have seen in many months, and that instead, I will let them come to me. I tell myself that I am the visitor, so I am going to act like one and that my only motivation for doing anything is to relax and indulge in every possible way.

Alas, I always seem to break my own promise. Because the moment I place my suitcases in the house, I am already knocking on doors. There is something about the African soil that just won’t let you sit still.

Back home, I do not need Facebook or Twitter to announce my arrival. All it takes is Jonasi down the road to notice me and the whole neighbourhood is buzzing with news of my arrival.

You had me at mango!

When I am in Zimbabwe, I delight in the little things. Things such as plucking out a ripe mango from a tree and eating it at my leisure, knowing that I can pick another and another, whenever I want.

I love the Zimbabwean markets, especially during December, the rainy season. Not only do I get to bask in the soothing sound of rain as it splatters on the roof when I am in my bed at night, but it is also the time I find my trips to the market the most rewarding. I love viewing the stalls with their bountiful stashes of available merchandise, from clay to brooms.

I love scouring these markets for the vegetables and fruit I cannot get from the garden and orchard in our backyard. I delight in the taste of wild fruits such as mazhanje, the flavour of which leaves a lasting taste in my mouth.

Me holding mazhanje (wild fruit)

The markets in my hometown, Chinhoyi, are always buzzing with excitement - from the man who uses comedy to lure customers to his stall to the chubby-looking woman who quietly flashes you a ‘come hither’ smile as you pace up and down, perusing through the merchandise. Then there is the aggressive vendor selling from the back of his truck parked outside the market, who yells to remind you he is not going to hang around forever.

Often, in my silence and stealth contemplation, I imagine the chubby woman wondering how she will feed the grandkids she’s left at home if she does not shift her goods. I imagine the animated man who paints the marketplace with his antics willing his ancestors to open doors for him for they know he is the sole breadwinner. As for the aggressive vendor, I see in my mind’s eye, the frown on his boss’s face as he reminds him how precarious his position in his enterprising business has become because he cannot sell everything. These people do what they need to do to survive.

I mean, come on, you’ve got to love Africa and her resilience.

For some, including myself, you cannot go home and not visit the grandparents in the rural areas, if only for a day. It is almost a ritual. You see, in Zimbabwe, you cannot live in the city/town and not have a rural home. Having a village to go to means you know your roots. It separates you from the foolish. That's just how it is.

I'm fortunate that my grandfather only lives half an hour from my hometown, so a day trip is entirely possible. When I go there, grandfather delights in showing me around. He treats me as if I am visiting for the first time. Together, we will explore the fields, the borehole, the cattle kraal and he will show me all the new buildings in the neighbourhood. We will even visit the graveyard.

For me, it is the colourful people the culture and the spirit of the extended family that makes me appreciate home. Back home is the place where people greet strangers in the street and stand on the sidewalk to discuss their children or the state of their garden. It is the place I get to appreciate the little things. Playing the role of a doting aunt, basking in the sunshine, and just being able to stand and stare, grateful to be alive. 

Going back to the town where I was born and raised always makes my heart sing with joy. I glow, and the experience ignites within me, a deep sense of longing. I often find myself longing for my childhood days. Days when my parents were still alive and saw to my daily needs. Days when life was as it should be. Beautiful. Uncomplicated. Fun. And predictable.

Even though I have been there a dozen times, each time I visit the Chinhoyi Caves, I always learn something new. There is always a different tour guide to take you through the monument, but what remains constant is the way their eyes glint with pride when they recount the legend of the Chirorodziva Caves. This is a story I have heard many times, but hearing it being told by a different person and with such passion and conviction, always installs in me, some degree of novelty to my understanding and feeling towards this tourist attraction.

Staring at the sleeping pool at Chinhoyi Caves.

So, whenever I go, I tour the two caves with a fresh pair of eyes knowing that my experience will be just as thrilling, inspiring and intriguing as those viewing the caves for the first time.

At home (UK), I am forever telling my daughter about our African culture. I wish to pass on and to instil in her the values of our tradition. The thought of her not knowing what I grew up knowing terrifies me. I want her to develop and to enshrine within her soul, the same pride that I have as an African. I want her to be inspired by the stories of my childhood.

During our trips, I have the pleasure and privilege to show her. I tell her how I spent my typical day as a child growing up in Zimbabwe. I recount, at times demonstrate, to her dismay, how fun it is to climb up a tree. I sat with her on the same veranda where I spent time playing with my home-made dolls and where I played ‘nhodo’ (jakes so I’m told) when the ground was too wet for me to sit. I make her taste the liberating experience and the freedom of walking barefoot, allowing nature to entertain you instead of relying on gadgets and social media.

With each visit, I discover that many things would have changed. People grow old and die, some mature and leave for greener pastures, infrastructure is built, some destroyed. What remains constant, however, is the way people still treasure the little pleasures in life. Pleasures such as sitting in the park and taking pictures. People still greet each other with a firm handshake and inquire about each other’s day. 

Back home, you quickly realise that life is but a mixture of sadness, wonderment, faith, hope and joy. But one thing we are guaranteed is that the sun will rise regardless of what season it is. 

                                      Playing a game of nhodo