Going against the grain

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I once had a writing mentor who insisted on specialising and niches. If you are a poet, stick to poetry she said. If you want to be a journalist, ditch fiction, and so on. Obedient student that I was in my youth, I followed instructions. My chosen path was journalism, beginning with news writing and then branching out to features. News was too dry and structured for my taste, whereas features gave me the opportunity to go out and find human interest stories.

Later on, I met an ardent poet who tore my work apart (poetry). Nothing I presented him was ever good enough and this destroyed me self-esteem as a poet for the next three decades. It was only when I was well into my 40s that I realised that my poetry is exactly that, mine. If it wasn’t good enough for him, or not structured enough with the little nuances of perfection that he demanded, then I would blaze my own trail. My goal was to indulge in my emotions, find a way to channel them while working within a creative and structured form.

Truth be told, if it had not been for that young man who trashed my work, I would never had given fiction writing a go. It was that kick in the butt many years ago that propelled me forward, and led me down a whole new path, a much more fulfilling one.

Do I believe in specialising in a genre? No. An adventurous writer who is true to him or herself will never shy away from a challenge. The first few productions will certainly not be masterpieces, but the point is to remain faithful to the craft and art of writing. This is how I landed in literary translation, and discovered that there was a brilliant way of combining languages and literary flair. Mind you, before I began enjoying translating novels, I had to go through a plethora of strange pieces that kept me unhappily awake for many hours.

The point is, negative experiences should never be a reason to completely abandon anything. Just write it.

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