Writing Notes from 2015

I wanted 2016 to be the year I stop using the phrase, “Sorry, I’m running late.”

But here it is. Decomposing deadlines and backlogs remain my bane, my breath is still too short to catch up with my legs.

On an unrelated note, I’ve been waking up with a door creaking in my throat, the hinges whistling. It sets my day to a discordant music. I am living between coughs; mostly unproductive hacks shuddering me from one task to the next. It appears to be seasonal allergies, the worst I’ve had. My medication promises clarity. Everything we know is changing. It doesn’t rain when it should, people bleed when they shouldn’t. We are living between tragedies.


2015 was not my best writing year. I did not submit much prose work to any call for entries, except for a short piece of fiction I can now safely assume did not meet with success. As for my novel project, I am exactly where I was last year this time – at a sketchy outline phase.

The year was not a complete write-off though.
Two revisited poems, The Phone Call and Grandpa, were published in the 2015 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology and Ons Klyntji respectively.
I braved it and sought out a new audience for my work on Instagram and started a somewhat anonymous fiction blog which received a bit of media attention. It was a year for learning and some of the most useful insights came from being a preliminary reader and whittler for Writivism 2015‘s West African entries. After reading 123 short stories from that region alone and settling on 19 for the judges to consider, one develops some sense of what makes a story successful.
The invitation to attend the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival in Maseru was an uncontested 2015 highlight – ignited minds in a soothing setting talking craft and politics, making connections, feeling like you’re part of a bigger story, it was a heady weekend.

My 2015 Writing Lessons

  • Don’t take it personally. Revisit. Edit. Submit. Revisit. Edit. Submit.
  • Be brave. If you can’t be brave, become someone else until you are.
  • At some point you have to got to stop worrying about what people will think. Their offence has nothing to do with you.
  • The first paragraph you write is almost always superfluous. Edit to start strong.
  • Stories are commutes. They start at one place and end somewhere else.
  • A story must manufacture change. Either in your protagonist or in the reader after having read it.
  • Stories don’t have to be about big things.
  • Stories don’t have to be written with big words.
  • Writers are lucky in that their worst lives are their best material.
  • Poetry is hard. But it is always worth it.
  • Read. Read. Read.
  • Write. Write. Write.
  • Reading writing advice is a bit like taking too many vitamins. All you’ll end up with is very expensive urine.

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I am a writer and photographer (look up my work on www.shootcake.com) based in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have an MA in Creative Writing from the university currently known as Rhodes. My writing accolades include winning the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize and the 2020 Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize for my debut collection, Zikr.

One thought on “Writing Notes from 2015”

  1. Your notes splash more life light into my eyes than 365 NYTimes headlines – you are never running late, your thoughts are just trying to pass each one after the other… your medicine is just fooling you! 2015 was a very good year indeed.

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