Not too long ago I attended the first Jozi Book Fair held at MuseuMAfrica in Newtown.
It was the initiative of Khanya College to create a space for small independent publishing houses to display their books, newspapers, highlight opportunities, share resources, reconnect and, hopefully, create an information-exchange forum and networking platform.
I was impressed by the diversity and number of people from what liberals call “previously disadvantaged communities” who had taken their lives, dreams, aspirations and dreams into their own hands.
The resounding message that was echoed by the small-time publishers, graphic designers, book editors, writers and other uncelebrated intellectuals was the same.
Everybody said: “I do not need big-time publishers to have my book out there. I can do it for myself with a little help from friends, family and supportive community members.”
I will not concern myself with the merits or disadvantages of self-publishing.
I think we should leave it to every individual author who has something to say to the world about the world and life experience to make up their own minds on the issue.
What is noteworthy is that there was never a time when so many opportunities have opened up for creative people to express themselves.
And probably never a time when so many people are paying great attention to the spirit that moves inside their souls and desire to put it on paper to share it with the world.
You will never know what you can write, how it will be received in the market or how it can touch fellow human beings except when you write and put your work out there.
When people write, it should be with total freedom and desire to simply express oneself.
And then you just let the so-called market be the judge.
What this country needs most for intellectual nourishment and upliftment is more writers who are going to give society different perspectives and ideas on the same issue.
More and more people should be encouraged to produce pamphlets, newsletters, brochures and books that tell us more about their experiences of freedom and democracy on a personal level.
Of course, we have a number of self-appointed figures who are paraded as the epitome of creative intellectual thought simply because of who publishes their work.
Much as they are welcome, we need to familiarise ourselves with the notion that anyone who chooses to exercise his mind can be a writer or so-called intellectual.
Presumably, it is personal choice and determination to develop spiritual resilience and character that can see an individual make their own dreams come true.
The whole emphasis on getting more and more people to consider writing is to encourage and entrench a culture of reading and critical debate.
Also, it is to discourage this elitist notion that only a particular kind of individual with particular qualifications can be an intellectual. After all, who has the authority to decide what can or cannot be published?
If we want our democracy to be strong, then – as Mahatma Gandhi put it – “we must be agents of what we want to see” in our democracy.
If you think you can think and have the potential to be a writer, if you are moved by mysterious super-powers to say something to the world, then just do it.
The ingredients that will, ultimately, make up our values, norms, culture and heritage are what creative people are willing to share with humanity.
Writing is, often, a highly personal project that comes from within and moves the writer to make sure that the book is out there for humanity to share in what it has to offer.
The emergence of more and more writers would mark an important step in getting our artists to do things for themselves rather than wait until government provides the money or publishing houses dictate to us who is a creative intellectual and who is not.
We have to be agents of what we want to see happen in our lives.
There is nothing as enriching and inspiring as meeting intellectually inclined individuals who have taken their lives into their own hands and are not afraid to say what they have to say to the world.
We should not wait too long to make ourselves, families, friends and communities be heard.
At the end of the day, every society deserves the kind of intellectual it gets.
There is room for all of us in the notion of collective leadership and responsibility.
Let us all help contribute to the first draft of South African history and literature.
You, too, are a creative intellectual who can write a book. You have a story tell. So, write!