Origins Blogfest

Today I’m taking part in the Origins Blogfest, so I get to tell you where my writing dream began.

Well, it goes something like this:

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Since today won’t be a strict Others have said day, I get to cheat a little. See, the as much as I love reading, the above quote actually applies to me better if it referred to creating stories.
My love for stories is in my blood. By the time I was born, my gran had written and published and/or saw on t.v. a multitude of stories in my first language. So when I played with my cousin (with whom I grew up), we created stories. And characters. And plots. And descriptions.
When I was taught to read and write, my cousin and I started writing silly little books with single words per page that meant something to us. As we grew older, the play-acting continued, but we went our seperate ways when it came to writing. Still, there were few competitions (mainly poetry) that we didn’t enter and win. I think I was nine when I tried to write my first movie script.
The one thing I did not lack was ambition.
The movie script (as happens with nine year olds) lost it’s appeal to me, but in middle school, a wonderful thing happened to me.  I was required to write essays for two languages. At first, it was harsh going, but after my gran explained the basics, I started getting A’s for my efforts. And I fell in love with the chance to record the dozen-a-day ideas I had milling around in my brain.
Still, as I continued to grow older, I got this keen sense of dissatisfaction. I started arguing with my teachers. Because my stories wouldn’t fit into the word count stated. Other kids in my class tried to haggle the word counts down. I begged the teacher to give me more. I mean: who the hell can write an entire deep, complex story in 250 plus minus 10%? Were they kidding me?
That was when I started to think about just writing away from school. Fact was, school writing fixes were to small.
So sometime this month, ten years ago, I opened my first word document and started typing just for the hell of it. And I never looked back since. 

Boo-fest… For something very different, keep reading after the ghost count.

So sorry for being late. But I remembered just now that I promised Quinn I’d take part in the Boo-fest if my schedule opened up.

It did -spectacularly, I might add – so here I am.

BUT. As the heading says, something different is down there in the last half of the blog. So sceptics and people inclined to thing I might be slightly insane might want to stop around the eighth paragraph. You have been warned.

I don’t think I’ve ever not believed in ghosts. In fact. I can’t say that I’ve ever not believed in anything paranormal. Oh yes, this comes with lots of teasing – even from my father who is a full blown sceptic in all things generally considered dead. But if both your grandmothers have seen ghosts (my writing Gran has seen several including an interesting one I might tell you about.), your mother have seen ghosts and everyone (except your father) has independently been convinced even once (at the same time) that you’re living in a haunted house, it seems a whole lot stupider not to believe them.

So… our count so far…

Full body apparitions: Three. (or four or five) My dad’s mother once, twice by my gran the writer and two possibles by me. I say possibles because I saw them, went on with what I was doing and then double-took. Once I was half way between sleep and awake, but I’m pretty sure she was real since we were told the legend of the ghost residing in the residence after the dream. She wore what I saw in my dream and she died in the room beyond the room she entered by. Still. I’ve never been sure.

Shadows: multiple. Particularly noteworthy are a black spot moving around a sitting room of a friend’s house when my mother was in high school. It moved randomly, occurred regularly and have been seen by several people at the same time at several occasions. Another one is a shadow man seen by my mother and my brother in the same room of a house we wanted to buy. Power of suggestion? They were both freaked out and told me this separately over the course of a week. The kicker was that I didn’t tell either of them what the other said until he had left. They didn’t want to tell each other 1) because he was afraid of being ridiculed and 2) because she didn’t want to scare him. Final shadow of note is the one that always passed beneath my door with grunts and heavy breathing and the sounds of light switches… I always knew it was my grandfather… until my cousin and I (who were sharing the room at the time) saw it again – two years after he had passed away. It turns out that my cousin (who had taken my room after I moved out) saw it every night too, but never thought of it since it never occurred to her that shadows could also be ghosts. When we told our gran about this, she burst out laughing and told us that it is believed by the local Sotho population that the house is haunted by an old gentleman. So I assume my confusion was natural. This is also the only haunting that I experienced that didn’t give me a single creepy feeling. If ever there has been a benign house ghost… that gentleman was it.

Poltergeists: Me and my mother at the same time, but I was a baby. This was in my other Grandmother’s bedroom. She got hit with it very often until she had moved out. My one cousin sleeps on the floor quite often because he gets tired of being shoved out of bed by nothing.

Demons: One demon, seen by both my mother and grandmother. And… I’ll get to this later. Maybe.

Omens: My mother was in hospital the night before the c-section delivery of her twins. She woke up when she felt a someone walking into the room. She saw a woman who had drawn the curtains of the window and was staring at the town’s lights below (the hospital is built on a hill). My mother demanded what she was doing there, but the woman just nonchalantly looked at her over her shoulder and said: “Hah. And you think you’re going to raise twins.” My mother launched over to the light switch, but when the light was on, she was gone. Sadly, my mother gave birth to Siamese twins who died four days later. She was never even allowed to see them.

Angels: Many experiences, but as far as I have been told, I’m the only one that have seen them. One when I was little in a house I knew was haunted by something that scared the bejeebies out of me. Once again I was in a sleep like state, so I can’t really confirm. The other, on the other hand, made its way across my living room in right in front of my eyes – quite leisurely I might add. No doubt there.

There’s actually a long story behind this. But lets settle to say I’m a bit more in tuned with the realm people like to believe doesn’t exist than is normal.

No dears. I’m quite serious and for all my insanity, I am not delirious. Also, I am not a medium, psychic or in by any stretch of the imagination satanistic. I’m am blessed with what is referred to in the Bible as the Gift of Discernment of Spirits. Basically, the sensitivity to thing that can’t be seen. It’s just one of a list of gifts. Other Christians can pray for people to be healed, can speak in tongues, can prophecy etc.

Me? I am aware of things that can most of the time not be described as a picnic by any stretch of the imagination. Which is why I went to the seminar I mentioned before. I needed to find someone who understands. Fortunately I did, but neither of us understands a lot of it, simply due to the fact that it seems to be quite rare – or else people rarely want to use it. I would not blame people for this. It does get a bit of a downer when you look at people and see someone in the clutches you would rather not have them be in. Still, there’s little I can do except for praying. I mean. Imagine the conversation that would follow if I actually approached the person. Not pretty. 

But I digress. All this hit me earlier this year when it was pointed out to me by a real person that I did not know previously that I can be seen there, so my hiding from what I know is out there is pretty pointless. My hiding comes from something different altogether, but 1) I’m writing this at eleven at night and 2) I still prefer to not think of it. Which is why despite the earlier promise, I decided to rather not expand on it.

Anyway. Well… I decided to stop hiding and promptly got hit by something beyond your wildest imaginings. But, for fear of being too vague, here’s an analogy what fits quite well. Imagine this, if you have not been exposed to anything of this nature. 1) You have placed yourself in a bullet proof room. 2) A huge bomb is set off right next to it. 3) The blast didn’t get through to you, but you sure as hell felt it.

Not fun when the attack is relentless for about four hours. One of which was an economics lecture. And due to my sensitivity to it, I got treated to every freaking second of it. Finally I asked God to protect me, at which point I was told that I had been surrounded by angels – even though I had been protected before.

I still felt the attacks though, but I felt a lot more at peace about them. Still part of me wondered if I imagined what I heard. At which point I looked up and saw Mr. Angel sauntering past.

Still, things can get pretty creepy. For example, I also have someone haunting my dreams. And my general impression is that he isn’t exactly a nice someone. Note. Someone. Not something.

I’d have your generically random dream. It would be vivid and raucous and would hardly ever make any sense.

And then – as if someone had cut the film running in my head – everything would stop and go very quiet. I would be in my room and he would be staring down on me watching me sleep. The thing about him that gets to me, though, is that he never actually does anything. He just stands at the corner of my bed and stares. I used to wake up almost instantly and freak out. But then I realized that a) he can’t hurt me and/or b) he doesn’t want to.

I’m pretty sure that option a) is the thing, but whether or not b) is actually a factor bothers me when I’m awake. Because if b) is true… why in the name of all that is holy does he hang around staring at me while I sleep? Why, if he doesn’t seem to be a nice guy (and instinct says he’s as strong as any of the culprits that hit my defenses every now and then) does he come back night after night just to look at me?

I mean… once is weird. Twice is a weird coincidence. Four times can be seen as recurring. But he’s been coming by since March. If he doesn’t make his presence known in some way or the other at least once a fortnight, part of me wonders where he is. And no. My subconscious wondering don’t summon him. He comes and goes as he pleases. In fact, if I don’t wake up when I see him, he’ll stare, I’ll stare, he’ll stare some more and then he will just not be there. He doesn’t vanish, he doesn’t walk out. I’ll just realize that he isn’t there any more, turn around and go back to dreams per usual as if they hadn’t been interrupted.

Thing is.. Last Friday, I think he did a walk by while I was showering. He didn’t peek or anything. I just saw someone move past through the shower curtain, did a double take and followed his silhouette moving across it. Oh and… the window in my bathroom gets no light, so shadows aren’t just coincidental. Curiously, I wasn’t freaked out as much as ticked off. I mean… I was showering! Where is his sense of decorum?

Tss… but then it wouldn’t fit with his not quite nice persona either.

Anyway… before I start to really freak you out by turning this into a novel, I’ll stop now.

I’d love to hear from you all about this. Ever ran into ghosts? Sceptic? I don’t mind, but I’d like to know why. I won’t argue with you on this though.

Anyone else had someone walk into their dreams that you instinctively know is actually more human than the normal dream fodder? If so… How did you handle him/her?

If you have a ghost story to share, please do!

More about my Gran

Hey all!

Sorry for the late post. I’m still running around like a mad person trying to do everything that everybody suddenly expects of me. :-/ Anyway…

Welcome and thank you to all of the new followers. I hope you all enjoy the blog.

Finally, I have won two more awards, which I will get to as soon as possible as well as the one that I have not forgotten, but have been unable to get to. Thanks so much for my awards. They really brighten up my day.

Oh wait. Really finally. Sorry for my silence recently on your blogs, but I haven’t been able to read as many of them as I would like to.

With that said, one to the new post.

I’ve gotten many requests to tell you more about my Gran, so I’m left wondering where I would begin.


She was born at the start of WWII, and still remembers how her mother cried on VE day.

For a large part, she’s the one that triggered my love for our history, with stories of the Boer War and the Great Trek.

She’s the one that taught me how to bake cookies. And paint beautifully.

She’s the one that would always see the absolute best in everything I do. Makes her a pathetic critic, but a genius at encouragement.

She’s the one that pointed me to writing.

I love her so very much. She’s a great lady. She’s one of the people I know who has the most faith in God. In a way, she was pretty involved in me meeting Him when I was young.

I say “in a way” because the Holy Spirit tends to be pretty directly involved in these things.

What else can I say?

Almost forty years ago, school teacher asked her to write a book for her first grade class. That book was published and translated to English (she wrote in Afrikaans). She’s been writing ever since.

She knows some of our most famous authors personally and sometimes publishes with them in anthologies. But every time she points out how nice one is, I tend to be surprised, since she never name drops. In fact, few people know that she is an author, simply because she just doesn’t tell them.

She’s cursed with my inability to be understood by others, although she is much more resigned to it than I am. Maybe it came with age. Or maybe because she is much more patient than I am.

I’m hoping she makes it to the birth of my children one day. She was such a great part in my life that I fear that her absence would really be sad.

So that’s bits of her. She’s actually a lot more, but for some reason, I struggle to find the words. Maybe because she is so much more to me than my words can describe.

More about me.

Morning all! Just remember to shoot with any questions you feel like asking me this week. 🙂

Also, I’ve won another award! Unfortunately I won’t be able to pass it on just yet. (I have a major project due in the near future.) I will, however, do so as soon as I can.

OK… On to the post. 🙂

Today I’ll answer a few more me-related questions.

Nancy asked:

Do you have a major in school or are you just getting some required classes done?

And The Golden Eagle Asked:

When did you really start to write and consider yourself a writer?

What do you enjoy most about fencing?
What do you think is a defining characteristic about yourself?
Do you enjoy meeting new people?

Thanks so much for asking these questions, guys.

Do I have a major?

Technically I’m majoring in Investment Management, although I’m currently more concerned with finishing the subjects and getting the credits. I realized last year already that I would never enjoy working as an Investment Manager. 

The hours are much too long, given that I won’t be able to see the job as the passion of my life. Plus I’ve heard about too many Investment Managers that got stroked at or just before the age of forty due to the endless stress of trying to predict the Stock Markets, when any good stock market’s motions are essentially chaotic. 

When did you really start to write and consider yourself a writer? 

Well… I can’t really remember exactly when I started. See, my Grandmother is a published writer and has been in the business for almost forty years. So I’ve seen writing as a possible thing for me to do since I became aware of what she does for a living. 

I think I was nine when I wrote my first poem. I wanted to finish an anthology at that time (nothing wrong with my ambition, eh?), but got distracted by dolls and playing with my cousin. For some reason, I didn’t do well with writing essays for school. 

Still, when I was about eleven, it occurred to me to ask my Gran how to write. I got my first distinction for an essay and never looked back. In fact, I started to complain to my Gran that the word limits given for the essays were much too short. I’d done this quite a few day, until my Gran suggested that I should maybe write a book. 

I blew the idea off, but in December 2001, about two weeks before my thirteenth birthday, my first character walked into my head and wouldn’t go away. So I started a novel about her instead. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I let it go. But by then I considered myself a writer and I was waiting for my next inspiration to strike. 

What do I really enjoy about Fencing? 

Oh many things. Number one would be the history associated with it. Fencing goes back to young nobles training for duels. Contrary to common belief, people didn’t actually use fencing to duel – fencing was MUCH too regulated. Yes, there are rules to duels, but the fighting was allowed to be quite dirty – especially if the
duels were to the death. Anyway, sparring with rapiers and sabres were considered martial arts. 

Fencing, on the other hand, was considered one of the Arts along with music, dancing and (I think) sculpture.

Even in modern times, fencing is steeped in old traditions. For example, if you lose without honor and throw a tantrum, you can be banned from the rest of the competition. Same goes for failing to salute your opponent, or saluting your opponent with your mask on. When we finish fencing, we shake hands with our opponents, but always with the non-weapon hand. It goes back to duelling (in this case to first blood), when shaking the free hand with your own was considered a sign of goodwill. Of course, it also freed up the weapons hand to slaughter the beast if he tries to hurt you.

The other thing I love about fencing (it came a close second) is the fact that my adrenaline starts pumping the moment the mask covers my face. I get to change who I am from a cultured normal(ish) person to a cultured but lethal person. Just like in my writing, I get into a zone. It doesn’t happen often, but the zone is where I can hit the opponent the moment s/he makes a move that opens up a target – purely on reflex.

Needless to say, fencing is a great stress and anger relief. There is something incredibly calming about hitting something (or someone) while only doing it with a percentage of the force you could have used. (You can get red cards for brutality if you injure your opponent).

There are many things I love about fencing, but I’ll move to the next question before I start waxing lyrical about it.

What is the defining characteristic of myself?

Oooh… this is a tricky one. I have many characteristics that take turns as needed to define who I am in a given situation. 

Currently, though, the characteristic that takes up a large part of who I am is the fact that I’m permanently in a state of motion. If I’m not, I am incredibly frustrated with where I am and what I’m doing. 

I always want to learn more and do something new and different. I can only settle in a given place for a few years. Stellenbosch is a wonderful place, but half way through last, my wanderlust came back to stay. It might or might not have triggered my I-DON’T-WANT-TO-DO-THIS!!! phase. After all, there’s nothing that reminds one that you’re doing the wrong thing as realizing that you’re in the wrong place. 

But you can imagine how I’m feeling eighteen months later. I’m fighting really hard not to count down the days to the end of my studies. That’s also a big reason I want the job at Qatar. I want so badly to go somewhere new.

Do I enjoy meeting new people? 

Oh yes I love it. Can’t really explain why, though. I guess it’s because I’m largely an extrovert. I can talk to people about almost anything, and I love hearing their thoughts and feelings about things. 

I do, however, have very high defenses. So although I meet a lot of people that I will easily go out with, or enjoy meals with etc. and who remember me enough to greet me when we bump into each other, I have precisely four close friends. I basically stack people I know/meet into a hierarchy e.g. Close friends, Friends, Friendly Acquaintances and Acquaintances. So I’m friendly with everyone, but I’m friends with just a few. I just think that it’s a lot better to maintain a few close friendships that are worth it rather than to waste time on shallow ties.

That’s it from me today, but those were my last questions, so please feel free to add some more. They can literally be about anything. Have a great day all!

South Africa

Morning all!

So sorry that I didn’t post yesterday, but my PC decided that I should not be able to blog at all on Sundays. Sigh.

Anyway, Jen, you are more than welcome to ask some fun questions.

I decided to rather use the questions as blog topics, but I need a few more (even silly ones) for me to blog about them all week.

Since Nevets’s and Colene’s questions fell into the same theme, I decided to answer both of them today.

Nevets asked:

1) Best and worst thing about living in South Africa?
2) Is there anything distinctly South African about what you write? If so, what?

Colene asked:

1) I work for a South African family and they’re always telling me about how bad traffic is there, is driving always such a pain?
2) Is it scary (because it sounds scary there.)

A word of advice: For those of you that would rather not see the bad side, rather stop on question number three. I didn’t pull punches on number four. I know that this isn’t particularly celebratory of me, but the question was asked and I would insult the memory of thousands if I shied away from it.

I knew from the moment that I read these questions that there are no short answers to them. What few people understand about South Africa (henceforth referred to as RSA) is that we are actually a very complicated nation. Reason number one for this is our history. Reason number two is the fact that we are a nation consisting of at least eleven nations – and all of us don’t really get along with each other. Reason number three is that RSA itself is quite big and varied – so much so that even people from within the same nations but from different regions don’t really understand each other. I think one can compare it to the difference between Northern Italians and Southern Italians or, say… the Union vs the Confederacy before the Civil War.

In fact, in the 1800’s, thousands of Afrikaner farmers and their families moved into the at that time untamed North to escape their British colonists. They established two separate countries. This community actually functioned quite well – except for the fact that they basically intruded onto the Native people’s (e.g. the Xhosa, Sotho’s and Zulu’s) land. (I’d say that the move at that time was at a smaller scale similar to the migration West in the U.S.). Point is that neither the settlers nor the natives were happy with each other’s presence on what each considered to be their land. And these feelings were left to escalate for more or less a century until we were saddled with the mother of all Snafu’s. Namely: Apartheid.

I’m not really going to go into all of it, since I believe that we have moved well and truly past that and since certain segments believe that as a White person, I am supposed to apologize for something that happened at a time that I was a) NOT BORN or b) too young to have anything to do with it – with every reference to this chapter in our history, so I’d much rather just glance past it, if it’s all the same to everyone.

Still. I think you guys have enough of an idea as to our background to understand why we as a nation are where we are. I could go on and on about this, but I might get round to ranting, and you might get bored. SO I’ll just rather move on to the questions.

The best and worst thing about living in South Africa?

Well, there are many great things about living here. One of the best would be our geography. Our climate tends to be gorgeous. Most of the year, the sun shines. Although it does snow, the blizzards tend to be limited to be limited to mountain tops. We rarely get earthquakes,  and when we do, the tend to be mild. I don’t think we’ve ever been hit by a cyclone – although I think there has been two sizable tornado’s (I think they were F-3) and one smallish tsunami. When the Boxing Day tsunami hit, I think that seven people died, because our tides were higher than usual. So overall we’re pretty safe from Mother Nature’s extreme moods. We get in the Cape areas is a wind that literally blows you off your feet – but that only happens every five or so years – and floods, since it rains a lot in the winter and the towns tend to be built in valleys. 

Another geography related plus is the Stunning scenery. Most of you will know about the beauty of Table Mountain. In my opinion, that is probably only the fifth most beautiful place in the Western Cape only. And there are a wide variety of climates. We have cold oceans and warm oceans. We have tropics and deserts.We have pretty much every single climate in between. So I could spend years travelling through South Africa and I’ll still be surprised. 

The worst thing in South Africa will be covered in the second part of Colene’s question. 

Is there anything distinctly South African about what you write? 

I used to think not, since I write mainly fantasy and romances. Although, I’d like to one day write a novel set in a) the Great Trek which I mentioned above or b) the Boer War. But I’m not so sure that it will find a widely appreciative market.

Still, I realized that certain things that come from my experiences living in South Africa make their way into my writing. For example, I’m pretty good at describing fear for reasons described below. I don’t know if that counts though, since I’m sure you can get similar experiences elsewhere. 

Is traffic really that bad?

Well… that depends on where you are. If you’re in the countryside, then no. But even as I say that, I have to qualify that it also depends on which province you’re in. For example in the Free State – where I was born – your number one concern would be dodging the numerous and deep potholes and ruts made by the millions of trucks that drive through. This is in part due to the fact that infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate and that the cross country trains either don’t run or aren’t reliable. Why? Because people steal the copper wire in order to illegally connect to the power grid. I kid you not. Or… they sell the wire as scrap since they have no other way to make money. 

Traffic is a lot worse in the cities, since for as far as I noticed, they only started with a reliable and safe public transport system in the 2000s. Of course, most workers must travel into the cities from the suburbs and so we tend to get lovely snarl ups at about seven in the morning to about nine and from five in the evening until everyone manages to get home. 

Is it scary? 

Once again, that depends on where you live. Things are pretty tame in the Western Cape countryside, but there are certain places in Cape Town that you don’t go to after a certain time. Gang violence is rampant in the poor sections of our cities, same as everywhere else. But in the Western Cape, you’re pretty safe for as long as you are not stupid. For example, going into some of the informal settlements at twelve at night is… well… pretty brain dead. 

Things are a lot worse in the other parts though. Johannesburg and Pretoria are infamous throughout the world for the rampant crime. 

But then there is something going on in the Free State and other rural areas that is kept very hush hush. I guess some of you are aware of the crisis in Zimbabwe in 2000 where hundreds of farmers were killed. So I guess that you will have an idea as to the scope of the situation when I say that murders of that nature has been taking place since the late seventies early eighties. Sure, a lot of those early casualties could be considered casualties of war. But they have grown in intensity in the nineties and has gone on unhindered. And then the government made a law to limit the amount of fire-arms in South Africa. Great idea in theory. Not the best of ideas when the people with traceable firearms and therefore the only people getting sent to jail and getting slapped with huge fines, are those that had been en regle before the laws were made. So the murderous psychopaths get pretty much free run. Especially since the Commando – the rural civilian guard armed and trained by the army – has been forced to disband. Couple this with the fact that we already don’t have enough cops and that most civilians don’t trust those that are there…

We have a freaking problem. But it’s much easier to consider instituting a media tribunal to limit what the press may or may not write about. You know man, hide the problem. Heaven forbid that we should fix it. Think I’m lying? Try researching how many farmers and /or their family members have been killed in South Africa. Any number above a thousand in total is buried deeply. No one knows how many people have been killed. But if it has actually been five hundred per year for the past twenty years, it wouldn’t shock me at all. There isn’t a farmer or farmer’s family that doesn’t know a farmer and/or his family that has been murdered. I know about ten families touched in some way by farm attacks. I know of children orphaned because they were lucky enough to hide under their beds when they heard their parents scream…

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Free State farmer’s community, but I consider it to border on State Sanctioned Genocide. To many of our boys being killed while trespassing on farms? Let’s take away the farmer’s defences. If some have to audacity to keep legal firearms, let’s put those that kill trespassers away for life. Let’s conveniently forget that said trespassers were armed and had trespassed with intention to do harm.

Let’s allow our boys to attack and maim that old white bastard (Incidentally I was eight when I heard him screaming and begging for mercy. There were two attackers. One tortured the septuagenarian while the other kept the two way radio’s button in so that every one on the circuit could hear it. My parents taught me to shoot that weekend.) Let them stitch his eyes closed and pour boiling water over him. After all. He’s part of the Old Guard.

Let fear and hatred and bitterness permeate the communities that supply us with food. If they clear out from the land they’ve been working for generations, we can give them to the families of those very people that killed the farmer and/or his families.

We can do everything we want.

As long as we don’t let the tourists know…

F*cking scary. Isn’t it?

Standing on the edge… Where do I go next?

So… I’m nervous. So very incredibly, sickeningly nervous.

My graduation day looms closer every day, bringing with it the next phase of my life. Brilliant!

Not brilliant when you have been forced to realize that what you wanted and planned to do, might not be a reality any more.

Due to the fact that my navy application form has in all likelihood vanished already, I am forced to accept that I’m going to have to find something else to do. Sometimes it feels like I’m cursed with constant career uncertainty during my exam times.

You think I’m kidding? Lets look back on pertinent thoughts that occurred during relevant times. Note that this is a summery and by no means fully descriptive….

1st year 1st semester: Am I doing the right course?

1st year 2nd semester: Why the hell am I doing Actuarial Sciences?

2nd year 1st semester: I don’t want to do Actuarial Sciences. What do I do? (Wanted to do drama, but was convinced to stay in commerce)

2nd year 2nd semester: OK… Survived the year. What now? (Wanted to do drama, but was forced by ultimatum to continue with my degree)

3rd year 1st semester: Who the hell am I and what do I want to do with my life? I’ll join the navy. I apply at this time and if I get called up, I will stop studying.  Anguish waiting to get the reply. Answer no due to functional illiteracy of state doctors…

3rd year 2nd semester: I know with certainty that I will throw myself out the most conveniently located window within ten years if I am forced to stay behind an office desk with nine to five hours. I am studying something that is going to launch me into a career of office desks and 9 to 5 hours. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS *&^$%&$ DEGREE!!!! I want to do drama… no wait… do I even want to do drama? Or is the thought of avoiding regular hours the real attraction here? Oh and HOW IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY do I pass my exams after spending most of my semester in bed with H1N1?  

4th year 1st semester: everything except for swine flu still apply. Once again have no idea what I want to do. So… finish degree and join navy to decide.

4th year 2nd semester: Navy application process debacle. Most likely will not be recruited. Now what? I still have no idea about what I want to do. I want to have some sort of adventure. And my means of doing both is most likely not an option. What do I do now?

You can’t imagine how tired I am of all this. I spent my entire university time in limbo. Sure I had fun times, but some times things just weren’t good for me. I think you gathered that I was over studying more than a year ago, but I realize that finishing my degree (despite the fact that I will spend my life avoiding its usage) is an important step in my life.

But, as the title implies, it feels like I’m standing on the edge of something while someone is standing behind me ready to push me over. Where will I go? Down? Or will I know how to fly? I hope it’s the latter. Scratch that I know it is. The most important thing in my life that I know about myself is this: I was NOT born to be mediocre. So even if I have to grow little wings, fly I will.

In the mean time, the only place for me to go is to my Father’s arms. I know that He will lead me to make the right decisions, even if my options are dark and murky, so I just have to wait… But patience is a virtue I have never possessed…

What about you ladies and gents? Anyone else standing on the edge? How do you deal with it? Any advice? Also, any suggestions into what options I could consider will be most appreciated.

Dreams and disappointments

Hmm… See what happens when I open my mind and write whatever is on my mind? Brrr… Scary. Deep, but scary.

Have you ever done something that is a big dream in your life? Only to have it hit home that you’re disappointing someone that’s supposed to support you, every damn time you mention it?

At the moment, that’s happening with my mother, who I used to see as my one woman cheering squad.

That started to change when my dreams started to diverge from her expectations. See due to my vast intellect (established as being worth little when doing something that doesn’t interest me), I’ve always been pushed into doing the “hard stuff”, the stuff that very few other could do.

My principal pushed me to Actuarial Science. My parents pushed me to stay in commerce when I changed courses. They nearly flipped when I told them that my future lies in the humanities or arts.

Seriously, the fact that I have a keen “business mind” means nothing when I have kazillions of other things that I have a mind for, and more specifically when I have the heart for other things too.

But… my parents stand security for my study loans and I consider any degree better than none. So… a degree in commerce it is.

In reality, I want to talk about my Works in Progress. I want to write them and get at least the one published. But most of all, I want to tell my mom what I wrote about, and how it’s going without having yet another “I wish you’d spend as much time studying as you do writing” thrown my way. My personality strikes again…

I am doing the bloody degree they wanted. I’m back to passing my subjects after my recent “I HATE WHAT I’M DOING!!!!!!!” breakdown. (At this stage I need to mention that the breakdown happened after I forced myself to stop writing for months.) I’ve postponed all my other extra-curricular activities except for writing. I postpone writing when approaching test and exam days until after the session. I am not going to kill my soul further by giving up writing again. I am not willing to sacrifice my dreams on the altar of other people’s expectations. End of story.

Which brings me to what I wanted to say in the first place. I know it sucks to be going it alone. I know that those casual hints hurt like hell. But it is of the greatest importance that you follow your dream. You had it for a reason and you should never ever let the lack of support cause you to give up. 

We’re stronger than we look. It’s amazing how far we can go on our own. And….

When you’re a raving success, everyone will brag in interviews that they were behind us all along ;-P

Nearly a week. and… nothing but soul searching

I’m starting to feel rather down now, but maybe it’s just that I want to sleep.

I’ve been blogging for almost a week now and this is the impact I’ve made: five profile views. Absolutely no followers.

As much as I enjoy blogging, I never really enjoyed the idea of writing for myself. Not even my book. Since I was really small, everything I wrote was presented to someone to see. My mom (for honest crit) and my gran (full out support) were my favourite recipients. After I got the idea of short stories down, I wrote every assigned task with the idea that someone else is going to read this, namely my teacher.

I would ask, what am I supposed to do? What do you want to see on the blog… but… alas you are not here. So the empty house reverberations continue, leaving me to fight a slight sense of panic.

What if… the same happens with my book… What if… I write all of it and no one cares. Should I even care at this stage of the game? I think so… everything I write comes straight from my heart. Repeating this process again and again and again without anyone actually seeing this makes me feel… well… terribly lonely.

When people tell you that you should blog, they never warn you about the beginning days. The writing isn’t hard. The honesty isn’t hard. Sharing experiences isn’t hard. But blogging to yourself is. It sucks. Big time… So much so that I’m wondering why I’m doing this to myself.

Generally, when the world turns its back on me, I want to turn my back on the world (that cynicism is acting up again). But… that’s cowardice. That’s me running at the first sign of resistance. I can’t have that either. I mean, getting this book published will be filled with obstacles. If I don’t learn to stick to something through the difficult parts, I might as well stop writing all together.

I guess, someone reading might think… jeesh, she’s taking things way out of line, but then, there is something you should know about me. For most of my life, everything I ever tried my hand at, turned to at least moderate  success. I excelled academically for as long as I care about academics. I got distinctions for my ballroom. I had provincial colours at table tennis and I was, if I say so myself, a very good fencer. I maintained a 97% average for university level Mandarin – while spending less than twenty minutes of preparation per test. The thing is, I always have so many things that I want to do, that I can never do everything at the same time. So… when I get bored, which happens often enough, I move on to and excel at something else.

Conversely, if I don’t enjoy something, for example my degree, nothing works to get me working on it… So… I am probably one of very few people with near genius IQ’s that actually failed three subjects that they understand as if they wrote the textbook. This includes Actuarial Sciences. I try to do better, and last semester I did do better. But I just never live up to my family’s expectations of my results.

I am very sorry about that, and I did a lot of soul searching about this. As I am writing this, I am coming to a realisation about myself that I have been looking for for years. This realisation scares me.

In high school, I was the smartest girl that anyone has ever met.  I’m not saying this to brag, it’s just a sentiment that has been drilled into my mind by almost all of my acquaintances. I have been described as scary smart. Anyway… this smart girl never ever knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. Aptitude tests show that I could become anything I like. Whether I’m left or right brained seems to depend on my moods. So… I never had that thing where I thought: hmm… I’m good at math… I want to become a teacher… Instead I looked at what I enjoyed and that was… drama. A collective gasp rose from those nearest and dearest to me… My mind… wasted on drama… The genetic lottery gambled away… So… listening to the prodding of others, I set passion aside and chose to follow the smell of money.

In February 2007 I was one of the few that were selected for the Actuarial Science course. I had to March to adapt the degree. I didn’t. And Misha Gericke, the girl who always had somewhere in mind, who excelled at everything she did, who never made a decision that didn’t work to her benefit, made the biggest mistake in her entire life.

Oh… I know this now, of course, but there’s this old adage: “Retrospect always comes too late.” It took me six months to realize that I didn’t really like the course. It took me another six to wonder whether the money I was going to earn on qualification would be worth my doing the work. Six months after that, I was scrambling to salvage the scraps of my soul. My decision to choose money over what I love nearly destroyed me. It took away the foundations of almost all of my dreams. It took away a large part of who I thought I was. It left me with a stranger.

In 2008 I remember spending quite a lot of time, wondering who I was. Sure, I was still a scary smart kid, but it was never something I wanted to be define me. The young, success orientated business minded ambitious woman on the edge of her dreams was gone. In stead there is a very lost little girl, scared of the day she’s going to have to make a choice, because the last choice she made cost her nearly everything.

It’s half way through 2010 and this is what I have:

  • If I could have anything in life… it would be a life on my terms, where my last words will be: “I lived.”
  • I know that I’m smart, but to me, trying to use my mind to chase after money is unhealthy if not dangerous.
  • the only reason I got through the aftermath of the decision was because I reached to God instead of anything or anyone else.
  • I’m a very very very good leader.
  • I’m a very good public speaker (in fact I love speaking in front of crowds)
  • I am loyal, fair and very very complicated.
  • I will never be able to understand myself.
  • If I can’t understand myself, I shouldn’t expect others to understand me either.
  • I love writing. It makes me happy.
  • despite all my walls and strong personality, I have weaknesses too.
  • while writing this I realized the greatest weakness of them all. It’s so big, it almost scares me to write it down. But realizing this has put a lot of things into perspective. I never really measured my success by money. I measured it by the recognition of others.

That explains why I can think of exactly one composition that wasn’t intended to be read. It explains why I got so shit lost. I fell for the what would the others think nonsense. Even while somewhat annoyed by the fact that people seem to look at a single facet of who I am and think that it’s all of me, I am perversely glad that at least that part of me is gaining recognition. Even if that part of me isn’t good. That’s why I hate when people don ‘t like me, even when I refuse to admit the fact to myself. That’s why I hate when people compare me to someone else – especially when they’re wrong. For heaven’s sake, there’s a part of me that measures the future choices of my life by what I will tell my future grand children.

It explains why I am in fact not living on my terms. Because I’m looking too much at what others are thinking of me.

And, armed with this piece of truth, I look around me in my minds eye, and find myself on the edge of a precipice. Writing for publishing is about recognition. Someone out there will have to recognize my skill as a writer. What if they don’t? Will I be left eighteen months from now having to completely redefine myself after having picked up shattered pieces again?

I don’t know. I guess I should try to measure my success by something else, but what if it’s hardwired into who I am?

I guess that the only thing I can do is to just do my best to get followers for my blog and not get hit so hard by the apparent lack of interest. I’m sure that someone out there cares enough that he or she will stumble across my attempts and join me in the experience. Maybe it’s just coincidence that they haven’t stumbled across me already….

Interesting Wake-up Call

Interesting how we forget things. Even in my book. Recently I got so jammed up, wondering how I was going to start creating conflict between two of my characters, that I haven’t been able to write anything.  I was investigating their relationship from every single perspective, but any idea that suggested itself to me seemed to be forced, repetitive and worst of all, over-used. Then something occurred to me…

Every morning, the first thing I do is to switch on my radio and the first thing I heard this morning was the release of the Lead SA initiative. Basically it’s a call to start changing South Africa by remembering to respect others and rules, to practice what we preach etc. At first I just rolled my eyes and grumbled about it to my mother at the breakfast table. “Yes, it’s all very good and well,” I muttered, “but heaven forbid that people don’t wear the armbands, because without it they’ll never remember to be decent people.” (For those of you that are wondering: yes, I am a closet cynic. I try not to be, but it’s a constant battle.) 

To my defense, I believe that I am a fairly decent person and my belief is simply that people should stop being arrogant self-righteous pricks and just treat others the same as they want to be treated. Note: not as they are being treated. as they want to be treated.

Then, as I took the half an hour trip to university, it occurred to me that, sad as it is, an armband might just be what people need. After all. Years and years of people mistreating us in various big and little ways make us build thick walls around us for protection. It also makes us go automatically on the offensive. We attack without thinking, without even realising it and inflict damage on even more people. It becomes such a habit that we do need reminders that we need to be nice. I realized that even I forget. Especially me, with my walls built even thicker than most.

Generally, I am quite a nice person. Really I am. But I have this thing that I cultured in high school where I retaliate and with substantial force at the smallest of provocations. I’m not proud of this, but it’s how I got through high school. I’ve been trying to kick this habit for four years. But in moments of anger I forget that walking away is an option. That a lot of times it should be my only option. So even I, with my high moral views, can be and was a self-righteous idiot when it came to this topic. (At this stage I am going to lie and say I’m not a good morning person.) I blame it on the fact that I’m not a good morning person.

I was feeling terrible rotten about this, when another thought started careening through my head. It went something like this: “That’s the point! That is exactly the point.”

I had lost perspective. I got so fixated on the conflict that I forgot what the biggest theme of the book is about. What happens if one day, someone actually did something? Basically, it’s about how no problem ever vanishes until people start taking small steps to fix it. So, ironically, the moral of my book is exactly what had me rolling my eyes.

Also, this dilemma also explained one of the Conflict characters, James to me perfectly. Like me he had spent years building walls. And the conflict comes from his being challenged to stop hiding behind them.

Ladies and gentlemen: I can announce with a huge smile that my writer’s block has been vanquished.

How I discovered writing and the first lessons I learned from it

Let me get to the reason for this blogs existence: writing about writing.

I have to admit that I started the blog a little late, so I will have to bring you up to date, starting at the beginning.

As I said before, my gran is a published author, so I have been writing for as long as I could write. It started with little short sentences and later extended to imitating whatever my gran was writing. If she wrote a child’s story, I wrote a child’s story. But I was about ten when I started to become a writer.

Ok… before I continue, I have to explain what I think it means to be a writer. By my definition, a writer is a person who has come to the realization that they are not happy unless they have written something. It can be anything. Poetry (making you a poet), songs (lyricist), writing about your day, anything. I believe that all people can be writers, the difference being whether they just want to write or whether they actually do sit down and start something. Whether they finish it is another thing, but I’ll get to that soon.

Anyway, back to my original line of thought. At aged ten, our family vacation took me to Namaqualand in the Northern Cape. While there, the technicolour carpets of millions and millions of flowers had me waxing lyrical for hours and hours. (Even as a child the strangest things fascinated me.) We drove past an orange and yellow field and I exclaimed that it looked as if the sun had fallen. My grandmother (the writer and my ever-patient sounding board, but by now very tired of my girlish exclamations) challenged me to do something with what I had seen. So I started stringing rhymes together and my gran, thinking that what I said was very cute, gave me a pen and paper. She explained the idea of separating ideas into stanzas and left me to it. Voila, I had written my first poem. Today, the snatches I remember aren’t really that good, but it gave me my first taste of the joys of recreating what was on my mind. It also led me to my first attempt at writing a book: a poetry anthology about the places I had seen.

In the end I had written about six poems in total before other pursuits (such as playing with my cousin Rynerie and school) took over my attention. Still, my gran was encouraging me to write poems and entering them into competitions and I gave the bug to Rynie as well. Soon, when we couldn’t play outside or got tired of our games, we’d write little stories and poems. One of our stories actually was adapted and used in a special church sermon and some of our poems won us prizes. Over the years, both of us won prizes that got us published in mixed anthologies and magazines etc. Where and how many though, I can’t tell you, since I was too young to be bothered to keep track.

Aged thirteen, I was reading a Western when this gunslinger walked into my head and I started realizing that I had to write his entire family’s story before I could get to his. This became the first book I ever tried to write. I had the entire series of thirteen books planned down to the characters’ birthdays, their children’s names and their birthdays. Sadly it was riddled with disasters. First, after I was past halfway through the first book, more than three quarters of what I had written was wiped. Luckily the notes survived. Seeing this as Providence, I decided to start it again. I was happy that I did, since the quality of my work was much better. I was about a quarter of the way when my gran’s computer broke and my mom took out my mother board to replace it with my gran’s. They didn’t ask because they thought I had a backup copy. I didn’t and hours of work is currently residing somewhere in our garage.

First lesson of being a serious writer: ALWAYS MAKE BACKUPS!!!

Demoralized by this set-back, I gave up and resumed with what I knew best, poetry. To be honest, poetry is a much better way to spend time when in school and at university, since it tends not to take up so much time. However, since it has been four years since I paid attention to this bit of advice, I shall promptly suggest you ignore me. Any way. Somewhere along the way I discovered fantasy and by the time I was sixteen, I was writing a book again. This one was a lot darker than anything else I have ever written. It still is, but I was hooked, making this my third attempt at a book. Unfortunately, I was and still am my worst critic. When I say this, I mean that I always find something wrong or to be inferior. So… twenty chapters in, in what I can only call a hissy-fit with myself, I deleted the entire book and started again, with planning, notes, drawings, the works. I had written about fourty chapters of the second version, when I came to a horrific realization: the book was far too dangerous to release on the unsuspecting minds of my young readers… I gave it to a friend of mine to read without explaining what I felt and she had the same opinion. So… I stopped the project dead in its tracks, deleting everything on my computer and burning anything on paper.

Lesson two: Never edit or censor yourself while writing.
Lesson three: Never start writing something you might not be completely comfortable with. If you can’t justify your reasons for writing what you are, stop.

For an entire year, I didn’t write anything, until one day, this bad-ass walks into my mind, grinning insolently as is saying: “Here I am, sweetheart. What are you going to do with me?” So, me being me, I started pondering him. Who was he? Who were his friends? Soon, I had an entire cast going. Each character with their own quirks, hopes and fears and I started planning and writing. It wasn’t long after writing that I realized two things. Firstly that my characters and story were to complex to write in an explanatory way. The reader has to be led through the story. So… most of my planning flew out the window.

Lesson four: Don’t get too stuck in planning, since it might get complicated….

 Secondly: my self-editing was getting worse to the point where the gears in my mind simply ceased up. Out of desperation I decided to buy myself a nice empty book and a pen. I started writing, forcing myself not to reread or strike through anything I wrote. This hand written attempt is now my sixth and current first book. It will be the one that I publish…