Sandile Memela
Sandile Memela

Everyone has a story…so write a book

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!


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  • Copyright notice
    • Brent Meersman

      Well said. Or perhaps that should be: well writ.

      I’d just add that not everthing written needs to be published. From an early age (I mean under 10 years old on my mom’s Olivetti typewriter), I wrote for my own pleasure. I’ve always written with the state of mind that it would be great if it were published but I’m also content if it ends up in a box under the bed – as much of it has!

      It is important to find the words, to articulate and understand what is going on around one. Now that I have had three novels and a volume of poetry published, communicating to the public has become more important in shaping what I do, but being published is not the be-all and end-all of writing. So I want to add for those out there who have stories to tell, just to write them first and not to write them with some “market” or publisher in mind as the starting point, and not to evaluate themselves on whether they get published or how many books they sell.

      Looking forward to Jozi book fair this October.

    • Isaac Kasenjere

      Sandile,this made my day,it reminds me that all my unpublished essays and articles can still be read by the world one day…… an agent of change.You need to write something on how to go about publishing……just thinking haha.

    • http://n/a Gisela Coetzee

      Write, yes. After all, there are writers JM Coetzee, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Francois Verster, with those still here.

    • http://Telkom Conrad

      Started my own story.

    • http://[email protected] Suzanna Strelitizia

      I write because I need to and I feel better afterwards !
      I write about my extraordinary childhood, so that my children will know where I came from. I wrote a letter to each of my parents after they had passed away, as a sort of grieving process and as a memorial to them so that I will never forget them and that their grandchildren will learn more about them.
      So far I have not felt the inclination to publish — perhaps I don’t trust editors with the stories of my life !!

    • Joseph Coates

      Sandile, well written. encourage those who have the talent to write and express themselves. Start taking a leaf out of your personal experience and write. You could join a local writers circle who meet maybe once a month and receive valueable critics and input from those eho have already had something published. It’s great fun.
      Read , read and get ideas from various situations to inspire you to write. Make notes while you wait for friends to chat at a coffee shop, for example.
      Yes, I agree, we all have a story within us to tell the avid book readers. So, keep on attending book fairs and don’t stop your writing talents, keep writing something every day until you think you have a story to publish. Encorage our younger generation to read from an early age. You never know what aspiring authors could emerge from them. Thank you again, for your interesting article. All the best.

    • http://n/a esther pietersen

      I would like to write my life story from childhood until now. Please let me know what i must do and how i can get help from you.