On Booze and Being a Writer

Lord Bryon said that “Man being reasonable must get drunk; The best of life is but intoxication”. The regulars at clubs as well as authors seem to concur, so maybe I lost some memo along the way. Literature is peppered with heavy drinkers. From the Fitzgeralds to the quieter, lonelier drinkers like Charles Bukowski, there has always been a need to intoxicate in order to create. Is it because, as Lord Bryon would have us think, that truth and the best is only attainable when drunk? Being uninhibited and less self-critical sounds wonderful to me. Having some grand confidence and believing my laptop will be the birthplace of the next South African novel is not too shabby either. Should I pick out my poison of choice now? Two glasses, please.

So, what is it about the writing community and booze. Having read a few articles on the subject I think I have found the truth. Then again I was perfectly sober when writing this so can I be trusted? Writers write for an invisible audience. We create without really knowing who for, and that makes us anxious. We become self-critical and in questioning our talent, we land up questioning a lot more. We curse the human condition and never believe that anything we write will be good enough for the ghosts. Alcohol is that quick fix, it makes us little arrogant creatures that can scale that wall, hook up with Timothy’s brother or prove that there is no human endeavor we cannot overcome. But, I am not convinced that ghosts are the answer.

Do writers drink because they are so conscious of the human condition that to be away from it, distanced by a foul breath and a hangover makes writing about it easier? Do we have to ‘forget’ in order to write and in that forgetting find ourselves? I recently took a course on writing for children and what took me by surprise the most was the notion that the modern writer is a lawyer, a doctor, a kindergarten teacher with time on her hands. The idea of what ‘a writer’ is is morphing and with it are their drinking habits. I am not suggesting that there are not drunken authors, just that what an author ‘ought’ to be like is changing. Writers can be people who write for 2h a night and then cook and finish their statistics work before bed. Too often do we paint this somewhat glamorized picture in our heads about what it means to be an ‘artist’. We imagine that we, like Hemingway, we must be tortured and drunk in order to write. That the apartment in Paris and the empty gin bottles are welcomed signs of greatness. That in being drunk we are ‘most free’ and what we write will be most fine. I have never written drunk, and there is nothing about the looseness that comes with the state that I enjoy. I am a writer of notebooks, of keeping the margins clean and my water bottle full. Call me prudish but I don’t think that drink is the answer; I think reading is. By reading, we engage with others troubles, their small hopes, and their voice. We can find ourselves in the pages of other books or write ourselves into ones. Drinking may make us more confident, more self-assured but does it make us more talented. I don’t think it does. Confidence should not be in the bottle for if we look hard enough we can find that our confidence is sprinkled across the literature that came before us.

Blackberryphilia (2010)… pt.3

previously…

Me: Hey
[beep]: (chewing) Hey.
Me: Eh, it’s Coin. I’m so effing stressed. Calisto’s dead, like remember in Jennifer’s Body where Chip said his mum was catatonic like a  zombie-mannequin-robot statue? Like that dead and what’s weird is that when he does come round, this really disturbing icon that’s not even in the manual shows.
[beep]: (chewing) uh…

Effing [beep]! Why’s he always chewing when he’s on the phone? And anyway, doesn’t “catatonic like a zombie mannequin robot statue” kinda sorta explain what’s happened? Argh! What an idiot!

Me: So, like, I was…

I took sip of the screw-driver and explained what happened – well, not exactly what happened, just the parts that [beep] needed to know – he’s the last person that needs to know that I have a mini-meltdown over a dumb-ass smartphone.
Me: What do you think it is? Do I like need a new battery or is it like totally kaput? Which would be like a real disaster because I have work and stuff and  I won’t have time to get a new phone or battery and I’m gonna miss all that stuff that I’m gonna miss.
[beep]: (laughs, almost chokes then continues chewing) FOMO much, Coinizzle? OK? Sounds like you just have to wipe the gold bits on the battery and your phone with one of those cotton buds and Bob’s your uncle.

Me: Are you serious? I hope you’re not like practical-joking me like on Modern Family.

[beep]: Nah, but it usually does the trick.

Me: OK, hold the line.

I hurried to the bathroom and looked in the mirror cabinet for cotton buds. There was one left. I took it out and dismantled Calisto and wiped the metal bits with
the cotton bud and tried switching the phone on.

Holy crap! If this works, I’m giving up alcohol for like two months, starting today.

Me: Well, I just did that and it’s rebooting, all right.

[beep]:(chewing) Sweet

Me: Anyway, while I wait, [beep], why are you always chewing? It’s kinda disturbing and creepy.

[beep]: To keep my blood sugar levels up.

DOH!

Me: Oh…

[beep]:(chewing)

Me: Anyway, looks like it’s working all right. Thanks.

[beep]: Aite, later.

Me: Co-

He hung up! That bum-rush! Can I still call him a bum-rush if he’s got low blood sugar? Anyway, LED light flashing red? I’m gonna need a drink.

– end –

 

In Celebration of Women

Mother, wife, career-driven, call me multi-faceted. Gone are the days when we were confined, defined. Today I have the freedom to decide or not to decide. Today I have the freedom to choose or not to choose. Hi my name is Twenty First Century Woman and I am dimensional. This is a tribute and I am here to salute. Salute to the home-makers, care-givers, nurturers with opinions. To those mothers with diplomas and degrees, yet make those hearty home-made meals. Salute to those faithful wives who do not need help get to the top. Salute to the mothers killing it, non-stop. It is the twenty-first century, so why do I have to choose between the two? Educated, self-sufficient and independent don’t have to make me a male-bashing feminist or a lesbian.

My name is Twenty First Century Woman and I have the right to maternity leave. In the world I will lead, I will achieve and then go home and breastfeed. My name is Twenty First Century Woman and possess the ability provide, but I still want a man at home as my partner and the father of my child. A home with a king and queen, rather than a home with a king and his sub-human being.

My name is Twenty First Century Woman I believe in love, in family and even marriage, but don’t make me choose. I can be a mother, wife and a talented, passionate big-dreaming human too.

Blackberryphilia (2010)… pt. 2

catch up here

Manual, manual, manual! Where are you? Ooh, The Diaries of Jane Somers – been looking for you, must read ’em again. Doris Lessing was too advanced! Geez, it’s cold! It wouldn’t be if… yeah! Oh wow, thought I returned that, oh well! Okay, why am I here? Oh, the manual! Ouch! Stupid thumbtacks. The box, I see it! Manual, okay… Let’s see. Battery. Troubleshooting. Mother effer! For. Crying. Out. Loud. The damn icon thingamajig’s not in this stupid manual. Why create and icon and not put it in the book? Who does that? Wait, the people at RIM, that’s who! Or… maybe Calisto made it up, after all it is kinda haunted! It changes my alarm tone weekly, when it arrived it already somehow summoned *cough, cough*’s contact details, so it can be true! I think I’ll give *cough, cough* a ring when this is all over. Damn piece of crap! You’re pretty useless, you know! Yes, this phone is crap, people go on about how awesome it is to own one but they hardly tell you about all the glitches! ARGH!

I tried the whole routine again, anyway. Hope is a funny thing. Perhaps I was insane? Dismantle, shake, charge. Nothing. I stormed out of the study and banged the door. I stood in the middle of the lounge – someone had left the TV on mute. In the light it emitted, I found a glass of red wine on the coffee table and took a sip. It tasted bad. So I scratched my bum.

Okay… Calisto, maybe you’re not stupid. Maybe I should cry and everything will be better – works that way in those chick-flicks! What? Cry over a cell-phone, all alone?! Hey, that rhymes, maybe I should be a rapper after all! Ugh, that so Bridget Jones. Where’s the vodka? This wine is off! Maybe I should have another cigarette? Stuff it! All I need is music, the music on my memory card then I’ll be able to sleep. Maybe –

I walked to the kitchen, located the vodka then measured out three shots and poured them in a high-ball glass and gulped down a bit from the bottle before adding some orange juice to the glass. I read the label on the bottle and put it down then headed to the lounge. I rummaged through the objects on the coffee table and found a Nokia 1200. It was on.

Ah! A nice screwed up screw driver will do. Too damn cold to go smoke outside. Let’s see what’s on TV. Was that a phone? Oh holy cow! A phone! Wait, whose phone? Does it matter, it’s a phone! Doesn’t look like it has a mem-card slot, though. Damnit! But it’s a phone and it’s on! Maybe I should call [beep], he always knows what to do.

Now, being one of those that insist on memorising people’s contact details before storing them on any device in case I found myself in in a situationas the one I was currently in, unfortunately for me [beep]’s number was never memorised and so, I stood there trying to come up with a formula to remember his number. The fact that I could just take my SIM card out the phone and put insert it in this other phone had escaped me, completely. I scrolled through the contact list of the curious1200 and lo! and behold, [beep]’s number.

Joy.

 

… to be concluded.

 

Blackberryphilia (2010)… pt. 1

 

It was only after thirty seconds that I realised I may have lost Calisto for good. I don’t know why this came to mind because the darn device took a good twenty-one and a half minutes for it to reboot; but in those thirty seconds as I held the power button down, I remembered the day it fell in a bodily fluid drenched toilet bowl and I felt very much like Mark Renton for fishing it out without retching – Calisto was a survivor! I got out of bed , lit a smoke and paced around thinking of how far I’d come with Calisto.

Fuck! I need to get this damn excuse of a smart-phone working again. Fast! I mean how can it just die when I was in the middle of four conversations on BBM, five on WhatsApp? Ok, I need to tweet, I need to check Facebook. I need to see what’s on tumblr, fluffy’s back. I need to be busy doing nothing on this phone! Or, maybe I could read? Oh. Hell. No. Why read when there’s the internet? If anyone finds out I thought, I’m dead. DAMN IT! I just need this thing to be on already!

I went back to bed and tried resuscitating the phone but it looked dead and sad like one of those model phones in the display at the shops: no flashing LED. I removed the back cover, pulled out the battery SIM card and memory card, put them back in and tried charging it. Nothing, just a battery icon with a red cross over it.

Fooking hell! What the hell does that mean? Do I even have voice-mail? I don’t think so. Of all the days for this thing to go all suicidal on me! Why? This. Is. The. End. Of. ME. That call is coming in, I can feel it.

I felt like throwing it against the wall and watch it shatter but I figured that doing so would put me in a bigger predicament than I already was – plus the phone had survived being driven over by a car, so thinking of smashing it was pointless. I threw it on the pillow, the pulled the covers over my head and started thinking about the one whose call was imminent. I reached for Calisto and tried it again. Reboot.

Reboot is a good sign! Phew! At least! I swear, Calisto, I won’t complain when you take long to reboot after I’ve upgraded or downlaoded an app. Oh, and I will upgrade the OS. Oh shit! The OS! Am I like supposed to upgrade it? What for? It slows everything down and isn’t it like a personal choice like when there’s Windows 7 and I still prefer XP? Oh for crying out loud! The damn thing went off mid-reboot! Don’t these things come with manuals? The manual… ha ha! Suck on that. Calisto, we’re gonna be all right, baby!

I jumped out of bed – or rather thought of jumping out of bed – instead I rolled to the other side and tumbled off the bed, collected Calisto, hysterically dismantled all the dismantle-able bits, re-assembled it, put it in the charger and hoped it switched on desperate that I wouldn’t have to leave my warm bed and the room in search of a manual I last saw the day I took my phone out the box. Nothing. Not even that stupid icon. I opened the door and trod to the study.

 

… to be continued.

 

BERLIN (Melville, JHB)

berlin_barNo, not the place where JFK proudly proclaimed he was a jelly doughnut (remember his “Ich bin ein Berliner!” speech?), the other place that was on 7th street Melville, cramped right between Stripes on 7th and The Loft.

The blue, white and red sign enticingly glowing, welcoming you with promise that you had found the right bar. During the day, it was emptier than most European churches – those that aren’t yet turned into museums – and at night, especially Thursdays and Sundays , it got so full that most of the party happened outside this establishment – because it was small and cramped up and sweaty – but not the old fried onion kind of smell. These nights were wittily named Detox Thursdays and Sundays. Where a couple of slogans like “Sunday is the new Friday”  and “retox is the new detox” came about and put shame to all other phuza Thursday’s around the country

It was young, vibrant, fresh *but aren’t all bars in Jo’burg like that? – Try* and the only place that played a bloody good range of hip-hop– which appealed to some house heads and hip-hop enthusiasts alike, drinks were cheaper than most places around Melville and they even sold Cheas-Naks ( cheesier than Nik-Naks, IMO, which reminds me, when was the last time a person had those?) You’d know who was there by just looking at the windows but nevertheless you were guaranteed a great time;unless one of your mate’s prospects, or even yours, was not present).

…and to imagine that I fell in love with the place on a lark; this one Sunday night (2008) after convincing people with cars that the braai we were attending was dying down and that Melville 7th street was a better place to continue celebrating the end of examinations!

The interesting thing about this establishment was that after a while, one realised that the same “creative” types – and some others – frequent the place, creating a myriad of attractive yet dysfunctional relationships of any kind, a kind of non-septic cesspool – that’s what drew one there. The thing is, after a while, one becomes highly acquainted with the order of the DJ’s and their playlists – with the DJ adding a couple of new songs here and there – so the music became excessive and the reason why one continued to frequent the place was because of the people, yes, people. Human beings are social creatures and that just makes us all so curious, which makes us ponder and wonder about the next person’s life, especially when you see them all. The. Time. It’s in our DNA. Therefore, I did understand why one would be so drawn to such a state of affairs, it made for a piquant life :

– Who is doing whom now?

– Who is cheating on whom and with whom?

– Would there be any confrontations?

– Who was going to act crazy or out of character?

– Were there going to be any drunken brawls?

– And the classic, who was going to get themselves banned that night.

The post-detox chill session would then take place at some friends apartment where people had been pre-drinking earlier and the conversation would mostly comprise of everyones notes on the latter questions, laugh a bit, drink some more and patiently wait for the next detox night!

It was a way of life.

It was fun.

It was a distraction from the reality that is life but like all distractions,  it’s legacy still lives on but now there’s Kitchener’s (and Braam).

– Ava

Chat with Coin

Short background about yourself.

Bookworm.

 

What were you like at school?

I was a nerd through and through – although I didn’t like going to school per se. Insane affinity for mathematics. Diligent, highly inquisitive although I abhorred the construct of “school”. On Wednesdays, Gabsie and I had mini-Saturday – where we’d go to Hatfield to chill and that’s when we discovered absinthe.

 

Since You write in English, were you good at it?

Yes, but me being me I thought since we’re in an English medium school wasn’t it prerequisite to be an A student in English? No? Ok… But I never thought much of my English until like grade 10 when I’d add a extra A4 3 Quire 288 page hard cover book to my stationery list, which I reserved for writing short stories, scribbles, conversations, bad poetry and the like then when I was done with a piece, I’d give a friend to read – away from me, or I get all weird and nervous, especially when they started crying at the sad parts. That’s when I thought that perhaps I should give this writing thing a go.

Mind you, writing was never on my list of things “to be”- I wanted to be an actuary or a housewife. My dad is an author, so when he used to read my English essays he’d smirk and say “it’s genetic”, I’d vehemently deny ever being one. Guess Bieber was right when he sang “never say never”

 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

A SALA (South African Literature Award) and some others? *grins*

 

Which writers inspire you and why?

Doris Lessing, I discovered her books when I was thirteen and going through a “diaries/journal of” phase and was bored with the young adults section of the public library, so I went to the adult section and “Diaries of Jane Somers” caught my attention, only to discover it was fiction (doh) but there was something about Jane, Kate (The Summer Before The Dark) and Anna (The Golden Notebook) that intrigued me. As Lisa Allardice put it, “she helped change the way women are perceived and perceive themselves”

My dad, for choosing to write in Sesotho and like during apartheid when many people would be like “why even bother, it’s not like Sesotho books are the best selling”, but he carried on with the same passion and drive.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m ghost-writing a teen novel series, think high school, peer pressure, girls – can’t say much about that yet and my second book, “The Nights I Can’t Remember and The Friends I Won’t Forget” about friendship dynamics, the secrets that keep us together and those that would tear us apart all in good ol’ Jo’burg.

 

Why do you write? Like, what made you sit down and actually start writing?

Apart from being bored at school, I write because there are stories in me that feel the need to be told. That and I always seem to find myself in a situation where people end up confiding in me some interesting tales and incidents that inspire me. Sometimes, I feel there’s a sticker on my forehead that says “I’m here to listen”, sometimes I’m not in the mood to listen and I can’t be rude and be like “uhm, not today” but it’s really like in what the author in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” says “People think the writer’s imagination is always at work, that he’s constantly inventing an endless supply of incidents and episodes; that he simply dreams up his stories out of thin air. In point of fact, the opposite is true. Once the public knows you’re a writer, they bring the characters and events to you. And as long as you maintain your ability to look, and to carefully listen, these stories will continue to…seek you out, uh, over your lifetime. To him, who has often told the tales of others, many tales will be told.”

 

Do you write on typewriter, pc, dictate or by hand?

By hand, and three drafts before I think it’s remotely perfect. Dunno, there’s something cathartic about it but I know I’m due for wrist tendon repair surgery because of this.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

*phew* I guess day-to-day situations? I’d be sitting somewhere and think “wouldn’t it be interesting if…” and if I’m sitting with someone, I’d run the idea by them, so most of my friends think I’m psycho.

Yeah, so, my ideas follow the phrase “wouldn’t it be interesting if?”

 

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Most probably, actually sitting down to write, which is why I’m so glad my tv blew up… but the internet and tumblr, especially tumblr.

 

Do you get writer’s block? How do you get through it?

Yes, I do and when that happens I grab a pen and paper and do some free association writing.

 

Do you read much? If so, who are your favourite authors?

I do. Mostly Doris Lessing, Jean-Paul Sartre. Bret Easton Ellis, Kgebetli Moele. Chuck Palahnuik, Niq Mhlongo, Roald Dahl and Veronique Tadjo

 

Which celebrated person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?

Doris Lessing, because her books gave me that push to write and Billy Corgan.

 

Favourite book?

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

 

Favourite film?

The Royal Tenenbaums by Wes Anderson

The Secret Garden by Agnieszka Holland

 

Favourite song?

1979 – Smashing Pumpkins

 

You can read all her words HERE

Chat with Thabie

Short background about yourself.

I was born on the 15th of January 1994 in Mafikeng (North West), spent my first two years of life in Pretoria. In 1997,     we moved to the City of Roses, Bloemfontein, and I have been living there ever since. I went to Eunice Primary and      High School then successfully matriculated at St. Michael’s School for Girls. 

 

 What were you like at school?

I was a quiet person mostly withdrawn never liked big crowds even though the school I went to, Eunice, was a big    school. I would feel uncomfortable due to the size of the classes. Luckily, in grade 10 I went to a very small Anglican  school St. Michael’s. I was the type to spoke when spoken too and stood firm in what I believed in. 

 

Were you a loner, so to speak?

Yes, I was actually a loner most of the time I preferred being alone. My best friend – since grade two – says that I was reserved and quiet, that I had strong values and views I stood by. She said I could be very silly at times and loved to laugh even when things weren’t so great, a very guarded person,  a fighter that was hopeful about the future.

 

Since you write in English, were you good at it?

At first no, I wasn’t good in English, my Afrikaans was more fluent. Attending English medium schools for 12 years helped me to be more fluent in English, now the tables have turned I am more fluent in English than I am in Afrikaans. I even write better in English than in Afrikaans.

 

Have you written anything in Afrikaans?

No, not really I haven’t written an entire poem or a short story in Afrikaans however, I would add an Afrikaans sentence in a poem or even a stanza but I have never written an entire piece in Afrikaans.

 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I would like to use my writing skills and pursue a career in print media.

At the moment I am working towards a diploma in Journalism and hopefully in the near future I will be a journalist specialising in investigative reporting on print media. I would also like to publish an anthology of poems and a novel.

 

So, you write both fiction and non-fiction? Which do you prefer? Why?

I enjoy writing both I have no preference over the other.

 

Which writers inspire you? Why?

My favourite South African authors are:

  • Lebogang Mashile
  • Zakes Mda
  • Professor Pitika Ntuli
  • Malika Ndlovu
  • Phillippa Yaa De Villiers

 Overseas authors I like are:

  • Robin Sharma
  • Erica James
  • Jodi Picoult

The reason I look up to these authors is their excellency in writing and how humble they are especially when they are greatly renounced and well known. At times they inspire the work I do as well.

 

Would you say your writing is similar to theirs?

No, I wouldn’t say that my work is similar to theirs, they just serve as an inspiration to me.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

I am trying to publish my anthology of poems.

I am also trying to complete my qualification in journalism.

 

How much longer ’till you complete your studies?

I have a year left in completing my studies.

 

Why do you write? As in what made you sit down and actually start writing?

The experiences one went through in life. Attending an all girls school for 12 years was never easy, the writing started by jotting down my thoughts and experiences. 

 

What was not easy about attending an all girl’s school?

The difficult part of being in an all girls school are the cliques that are formed over the years which may result to bullying if a certain individual or individuals that don’t “fit in” a specific clique.

Girls in general tend to be offish with each other due to the competitive spirit girls posses that may also lead to bullying.

 

Do you write on typewriter, dictate or by hand?

I prefer old school I depict on hand.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

I get my ideas from life experiences, other peoples experiences and life itself.

 

What is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest most challenging thing about writing especially as an upcoming is getting recognition for your work; as well as getting people to understand your perspective and not misinterpret the work that one has written.

 

Does that happen a lot, the part where people misinterpret or misunderstand your work? Why do you think that happens?

It does happen that people misinterpret my work especially when it comes to poetry. Poetry consists of metaphors and similies due to that, some consider poetry as vague because it isn’t written in straight forward language; a lot of imagery is used, therefore it is bound that a reader will misinterpret a poem. A primary example can be of Shakespeare’s poetry,for many decades his work has been circulating within schools and tertiary institutions. Students, lecturers and teachers try to interpret Shakespeare’s work as close as possible to its original meaning because it is only Shakespeare that knows what was going on in his head and what exactly inspired him when he was writing those poems and he is the only one who knows the exact meaning behind his poetry.

 

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get through it?

I believe that every writer experiences a writers block, the way I overcome a writers block is I just leave my work there incomplete until inspiration hits me again.

 

Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?

I read but I would love to read more and more. Apart from poetry I love reading Novels written by Jodi Picoult, Erica James and Robin Sharma.

 

Favourite books?

  • Tumble Turn by Natalie du Toit
  • Capitalist Nigger by Chika Onyeani
  • The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

 

Favourite film?

Dairy of A Mad Black Woman by Tyler Perry

 

Favourite song?

  • Soldier by Erykah Badu
  • Everything is everything by Lauryn Hill

–end–

You can read all of her work  HERE