The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer.

A good friend of mine, who I admire and respect, suggested that I rewrite certain sections of, and add more chapters to my book.
I took the advice. After all, my friend is of the female persuasion and one never, ever, ignores advice from members of that particular side of the human species! I set myself up in the loft with computer, comfortable chair and, of course, that essential tool of the writer’s existence – the coffee maker.

First order of business was to read what I had already produced with a hyper-critical eye. And found a mess of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors that would have made my dear old English teacher cringe and walk away muttering about “shenzi English”. Not wishing to invoke the wrath of the inimitable Mrs. Lewin, or my friend, I rapidly altered the offending areas and sat back, satisfied that I had averted a disaster of volcanic proportions.

The effort involved in making all these changes had depleted my coffee reserves to a decidedly dangerous level. Topping up the mug with my brew of choice, I settled down to read it again.
I was not displeased, but could see some parts that should be deleted, and others enhanced. I also wanted to add a fair amount of new material, so out came notebooks and photographs to jog my memory
And jogged my memory became. I found images that brought back to life the fine times I had experienced in the bush, and sat there chortling, giggling and often laughing out loud as the memories surfaced.

Fired up and inspired I started to write an account of one incident in particular that I found to be hilarious.

It was not to be.

The words were dry, lacking colour and any form of smile-inducing construction.

Is this writer’s block?

How many times must one try to get the words down? If I don’t find the words interesting or amusing, what on earth will the readers’ think?
OK – this is depressing me, so I shuffled that attempt off to the nether-lands of obscurity on the computer, figuratively started a new piece of paper and started another anecdote, this one having a slightly more serious demeanour.

No chance!



Meaningless words that should have no place in any form of literature, classic or modern, professional or amateur. What could be wrong with me? When I initially started to write “Msomi and Me”, the words literally flowed out of me, my fingers battling to keep up on the keyboard as my brain commanded them to type.

I had assumed that the new book, all well documented in my notes and images, would be just as easy. So maybe I am over-confident in my abilities as an author. Maybe I expect too much of myself. Maybe, because my friend is such a highly respected individual in the writing, publishing and mentoring world that I don’t want to disappoint.

My excitement at getting stuck in to writing again is rapidly dissipating. Reading though a couple of drafts of three extra chapters, they read like a poorly written homework assignment from primary school. You know … the one that is so bad that the teacher immediately selects it a the one that just HAS to be read in class, out loud, by the writer, in front of the entire class, with cheeks red from embarrassment, cringing at the expression on class-mates’ faces, mumbling the words on the off-chance that no-one will actually hear them.

I had already tweeted my friend with the assurance that I was busy doing the work, all was going well and I was having a great amount of fun.
But, as I said, upon re-reading my attempts at the new chapters, that tweet went to hell in a hand-basket!

So what to do? How does one get rid of the dreaded writer’s block, that seemingly impregnable brick wall?

I have no idea what other authors do in this situation, but me? I headed up into the mountains, found a really cool place up on the side of a grassy hill, opened the flask, poured the coffee and leant back against a rock and simply became one with my surroundings. Clearing my mind of all the thoughts scrambling around fighting for prominence, slowly letting them all go. The breeze caused grass to rustle gently, the sounds of the mountains, quiet but insistently acting like one of those meditation tracks that the ‘wellness’ practitioners try to sell you. A few hours spent happily soaking up nature was all it took.

Heading home with a cleared mind, a fresh outlook on life and the feeling that all was well with the world, I sat down at the faithful old computer.
And the words started to flow.

Makes me happy, it really does …..


About msomiafrica

Author, photographer and conservationist who sincerely prefers interacting with animals rather than people.
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