Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

Writer; writing

People sometimes say to me, seeing me write, or learning that I do, “I want to write, to be a writer.” This nonsense, one either writes or one does not, there is no in between. Though I don’t tell this in those words. I am more polite. I mean writing is not like wanting to  walk on the moon; now that we have literacy and have the ability as a result to write, writing comes naturally to us like driving, a car, an automobile. Wanting to walk on the moon is different. Although they have stopped sending rockets there. At least for the time being. It doesn’t matter diddley squat whether you write badly or well or somewhere in-between. You write because you want to, are driven to. Those of us who write, do not write for fame or fortune, though the latter might be a worthy goal. The wannabe seeks celebrity in the way that many say, “I want to be rich.” Well, you will never be. You not get rich, unless you are given to thievery, or skullduggery, through hard work, relentless effort, always pushing and pushing yourself whatever difficulties you face, whatever obstacles you meet. No wall is insurmountable. You simply find a way round it.

As I stand at the threshold of becoming a professional writer, as I know I will, I am finally learning my craft – took some time – I am learning that what makes a writer, a good writer, is not skill or talent, not a gift for the blarney, but a control of ones tools; a mastery of our language, whatever that language be, learnt at the mother’s side, at school, and a willingness to pay attention. To watch what we write and take a dispassionate view of it. Writing well can never come from the “look how clever I am” approach, the narcissistic.

I met a fellow the other night at one of the few all night food places here in Houston, Texas – there used to be more – (I shall never use the real names of the people I meet or talk of or photograph unless they specifically give me permission to do so). I had not met him since 1988. He wanted share with me “what he had written recently.” He thrust in front of me some writing he had recently done, 40 pages or 400 pages. “You want me to read all of it now?” I said. I could see that the merest glance that it was junk. He kept doing this until it was as plain as the typeface of a bill board that I was not going to do so.

He started to read it out loud, unasked, uninvited. It was utter bilge, imbecilic. He was reading to assure himself. I told him that he was ,,, the word I used above, that he was self absorbed, not a pretty thing to see or hear in public. His companion of the opposite sex, if we still have such things, who seem to be of uncertain relationship to him, said, ”He does that all the time.” To be a companion of such a man, no wonder the relationship was opaque to me. Was made so by her when I had earlier asked her.

So, writing. Yes. I have tried to write all my life. Been told countless times that I have the makings of a good writer, even a great one, but have never been able to. I have kept continuously a journal, the study is filled with piles of the completed, favoured note books I use. But they are all full of junk, too embarrassing to go back and read.

What one needs at the very least in order to write is a clear head. And, through depression I never had one. If one is not clear as to what one wishes to write, how on earth can you. You stumble and stumble. Some call it writer’s block but maybe that is different. I have never known it.

Now the journal I keep is filled with stuff I can read, that makes sense, that I shall have to go back and read to ensure that I have followed up, will follow up, on the notes contained therein.

You know, it is funny. I come to the arts, the arts of writing, of the visual, of music at this stage of my life always having wanted, passionately, to do what I am doing now.

I come into the arts world fully fledged or close to it, some polishing required and drop right in the middle of it. How can this be? Because all that I have ever done, all those playwriting classes, those journalism classes where I have been told, “you have an eye for story, for the headline,” this from a leading writer for the Guardian, this was years ago at the University of the Witwatersrand, “Malcolm, I would pay you to attend my classes. You have what I try to teach my students,”  at the same place by a professor o journalism at Rhodes University where he was visiting from. To be told by an artist with whom I took a life drawing class in San Antonio when I was visiting my brother there in 1977, as he looked at a life drawing I had just produced, “That line is beautiful.” No higher praise can be got from a teacher of art, of life drawing.

I say all this not to boast. Why should I? Such behaviour I find obnoxious in others why would I not find it so in myself. I guess I tell it to tell my story. Of how it is that I am now doing what I am doing. And come out of the blue to do it.

OK, my writing smacks of the prolix, of the stumbles, inelegant expressions, of repetitions, of redundancies, of spelling errors occassionaly, of words inappropriatenes in their use. Of never using 2 words where 20 will do. Of making a point too heavily. Of being didactic, horror upon horrors. The learning writer makes mistakes, I have them all. But, as in most things in life, we learn by doing. We make mistakes. One is too many with knowledge aforehand, two mistakes too many not good, beyond that, you are destined to lead a life where you always do that, are incapable of learning, are blind to what you need to do: pay attention. No detail too small.

So here we are on the threshold of a new life; or have already begun: beginning life again as if I were twenty, when first time round I got off on the wrong foot and have up yesterday, or the day before, or a year go. And now am turning round.

The transformation.

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 6 August, 2017


Filed under: Arts, Current Events, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, politics, songs, stories

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