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My Jobless Life

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September 2015

DON’T BE AFRAID OF GROWING SLOWLY

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The Harvest

I recently learnt a saying from a member of my blog family,

Be not afraid of growing slowly, only of standing still.

That’s where I am at now, I’m growing very slowly and many times a day I ask myself whether my efforts will ever give me the rewards I seek. What carries me through all these days of doubt is my garden. Gardeners are patient and persistent. We don’t give up, we keep going even when nothing appears to be happening. Especially then.

March 2015 - Finally tiny plants have appeared
The Journey Begins March 2015 – Finally tiny plants have appeared

I now think of my blogs as my little on-line gardens. I’m constantly digging, pulling out weeds, adding compost, mulching and definitely sowing seeds. I know that the quality of the crop depends entirely on soil preparation so I keep on doing what has to be done each day while getting little or no feedback. It’s ok, I know somewhere under the soil little roots are sprouting and coming to life. A gardener doesn’t get a day off and my tiny little plants ( blog posts) call for my attention daily. Even if no one else cares about them, I hear their tiny little voices.

Abundant Blooms: All the love and care makes little flowers grow
Abundant Blooms: All the love and care makes little flowers grow

I’ve committed the next 15 years to growing my own publishing company into life and I think of all the things I’m doing now as preparing the soil and selecting the crops I wish to plant. I’m in no hurry to see great things happen overnight, but I want to be prepared enough to cash in on favourable weather. What’s the use of having good rains when there’s no seed in the soil?

A Bumper Crop of the Finest Produce
A Bumper Crop of the Finest Produce

So when I get discouraged and when I feel like giving-up, I remember that my little on-line garden will only produce as long as I lavish it with care and attention. So I come back the next day and dig a little here, weed a little there, water carefully and fertilise as best I can and leave the rest to Nature and the World Wide Web

I’m positive that with each harvesting my little garden will give back more and more rewards and I in turn will give more love and care. Fifteen years is not that long, by then I should have a fully fledged farm.

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About That Side Hustle…

If were sharing a cup of tea right now, I’d start off by saying:

So, I have to make ends meet right, but the plan doesn’t always go according to plan. So what’s the alternative? A side hustle, right? NO!

First of all I know hustlers and I hate being associated with that word. Hustlers can’t be relied on, they’re only as loyal as the amount of cash they can get right now. I’m not even talking about street hustlers, many people who call themselves entrepreneurs are just running an extended, constantly refreshed hustle.  A hustle has a very short life span, so hustles need to be re-invented every day. It leaves you nothing to build on. That’s not for me.

I know that many successful people got to where they are by working a job to pay the bills and pushing their dreams forward in their spare time. I’ve done that too many times in the past to be fooled by that again. I’m just not capable of looking in two directions at the same time. For me the main thing has got to be the main thing.

I’ve been a reporter for a local newspaper, I’m freelancing/subcontracting with a professional content producer right now and I belong to a citizen journalism group. I’ve got my blogs and books and they are the main thing. My side hustles are off-shoots of the main thing and I prefer it that way even if I don’t make much money from it now.

I’ve committed the next 15 years to make this work and I will not be distracted. I’m a creative person very skilled in various crafts and I have a 16 year career as a bookkeeper behind me, so I got skills. But like I tell everyone else who keeps advising me to get a side hustle, just stand aside and watch me do this.  This right here, is The One. I don’t have a back-up plan, I don’t have an emergency parachute, I’m doing this full-force.

Getting a job on the side says to me that I don’t trust in the process, it says that I am not fully committed. It says that I’m building a quick escape into my dream. The only side hustle I’m interested in is the one that enhances the main thing. I know that if I give my writing 100% of my energy and focus, something’s going to come off it. I just know. Nobody else has to believe in me, it’s ok. I believe in myself enough for all of us.

So about that office job. No thanks, been there.

About that bookkeeping service. No, never again.

Selling jewellery part-time. I’d love to, in a different life time.

Running some organisation.  I’m to disorganised for that, sorry.

Writing a report. Writing a letter. Writing a blog post. Writing your life story. Writing anything, anywhere, anytime. I’m there.

And if we were sharing a cup of tea right now, there had better be some cake too.

I KNOW WHAT I WANT TO WRITE

I want to write about who I’d be if I wasn’t me. I want to write about what I’d see if I didn’t stand where I do. I want to write about the pain I was dumb enough to miss out on, the pleasure I was smart enough to allow myself to feel. I want to write the lives I’m not going to get a chance to live this time around. I want to write that girl, I want to explain that man, that day, that moment when they just knew.

I don’t want to write boring dialogue of the “he-said, she-said” variety. Who the hell remembers conversations verbatim, anyway? I don’t care what colour the leaves were, I don’t want to know what time of day it was. I want to know how they felt, what they thought, how it lifted them, twisted them, broke them apart, and put them back together again.

I don’t care what his mother’s name was; fuck the back-story tell me the story playing out right now. Don’t tell me how her dress swishes around. Why should I care? Get me in her head. Let me see her heart. I want to get to know her better with the turning of every page. Who the hell is this woman? Why is she bothering me with her story?

Don’t give me big words, give me true words. Don’t give me adjectives, give me life. If he’s an asshole, tell me about it. If he’s a prince, prove it. Don’t give me twists in a plot, make me feel how fucked-up the world really can be. Make me believe that a happy ending might exist for me too.

I’m your closest confidant who’d never, ever tell on you. Live in these pages you create. Breathe here, love here, dream here, believe, question and learn here. Tell the story from your heart. Tell the story for real.

I know what I want to write, Netta. Don’t stand in my way.

Planned Procrastination

Having recently written between 3 and 4 thousand words per day doing product descriptions I definitely think that hovering between writing and running away from it both helps and hurts creativity.

I wanted to write those words because at the end of it all I could say, as I already did, I’d been writing thousands of words for weeks. I wanted the badge. I wanted to have a go at it. I wanted to rush to my laptop and start banging away like a professional. But I didn’t. It didn’t turn out that way.

I also felt overwhelmed when thinking how writing 200 words would leave a minimum of 2800 to go. I didn’t know whether my writing was good enough. Would they smile and say thank you, then edit with a heavy-duty chainsaw? Would I repeat myself and make my writing stale to the reader? Would my descriptions sell anything? I avoided my laptop because I didn’t want to be confronted by all the words I wasn’t writing. I was never going to get anything done, I just knew it. I would miss the deadline and mess up everything for everyone attached to the project. But I didn’t. It didn’t turn out that way.

In the end I made the deadline and got great feedback. I made it by loafing and working hard alternately. I walk a fine line between doing and thinking about doing. The doing would be pointless without time away. The thinking would be pointless without the act.

I have decided that I have a limit of 2000 words in me per day.  Two days spent writing 3000 deserves a day of writing nothing. Days of writing nothing at all should never follow each other. Planned procrastination works.

To create is great. To prepare to create, equally so.

Thinking as a Profession

A good window to stare through
A good window to stare through

As I child I could never quite explain what I wanted to be when I got older. Nothing really seemed good enough or interesting enough, but I knew there was something I was made for. If I had to put it into adult words now, I would say I want to Think for a living.

I wanted to know everything as a child. I remember looking at the covers of the stacks and stacks of books my father owned and wishing deeply to know what was on the inside. I taught myself how to read better English than that taught at school and set off on a journey to find the things my mind was hungry for.

I don’t remember many of the books I read as I child because I don’t think I need to. Those words, those stories, those ideas, journeys, fantasies are written on the inside of my skin and I take them with me wherever I go. So when you ask me about I about a book I own I might not always be able to give you an insightful answer. But I know that if you stare deeply into my eyes you’d see a page being turned each time I blink. I become my books.

There are only two things I believe I can do well enough to make the world a better place. One is being myself and the other is to Think. Thinking requires that all other things be put aside to focus on the Mind and I believe that every society needs those who do the Thinking. Thinking doesn’t produce many tangible results, and when ideas are your end-product the shelves in the shop will remain empty. The highest payment a Thinker receives is a remark like: “I’ve never thought of it like that”, when offering a new point of view. To apprehend an idea, however old or new it might be, is the work of those who are willing to be quiet, keep still and send homing pigeons into the realm of Mind.

I don’t need much to do my work well. Give me book, a comfy seat, a pen and paper and good window to stare through and it’s another productive day at the office.

How I Created The Life of My Dreams

There are some areas of my life that remain a work in progress, but for the most part I’m living my dream. Through trail and error and a lot of reading and experimenting I have come to learn a few things that have made my journey much easier. Here is what I have learnt during my journey

Know what you want.

I know that one seems too obvious and everyone has heard that before, but it took me almost 40 years to finally admit that writing is where I belong. As soon as I did doors were flung open that I could not have entered otherwise. Knowing what you want is so powerful that I think the +- 40 years I spent fumbling about was not a waste of time but a huge boost in the right direction.

Commit to yourself first.

As a woman and a mother it is accepted that I would always put others ahead of myself, but I have learnt that the best thing I can do for those I love is to love myself first. In this context it means not shelving my dreams, plans and desires for my own life in order to make room for someone else’s. I’m a far more pleasant person to deal with when I prioritise all the things that keep me happy.

Dreams are built one brick at a time.

What has tripped me up in the past has been the idea that success should come quickly or else it might never arrive. I now realise that there is something big or small (but mostly small) that I can do every day to build my dream. Failure to do the little that is required right now is tantamount to self-sabotage.

Dream as big as you want, and then LET GO.

This is the single biggest lesson I have ever learnt. As a driven, determined, self-reliant woman I always wanted to control every step of making my life as I envision it to be. I am learning now that knowing what you want and being steadfast in that while doing what you can is all the effort you need. The quicker you can set a dream free the quicker it will materialise.

Every opportunity to doubt is an opportunity to increase in belief.

Nothing in life is all sun-shine and roses, but your private world – the world as you experience it –  is shaped by the spirit in which you act. There inevitably will be things that don’t work out and days where all efforts seem futile (yesterday was such a day for me) and doubting seems the only logical response. I have learnt that doubt is a habit like any other. It’s a habit that we cling to because we believe fear and worry are sensible. To be doubtful but take no action is just plain dumb. Yes! If you truly are concerned about something just take action instead of sitting around worrying. Acting will already remove most doubt and worry. And any successful outcome that flows from your action will increase your belief in your ability to deal with your life.

All battles are lost or won in the Mind first.

Having a strong mind just makes life so much easier. I have learnt that my Mind can only produce fruits based on what I feed it. In general I think we are much to nonchalant about what we expose our awareness to. Whether it is the right entertainment, the right people, constructive thoughts or even the right food, the mind is too precious to be negligent with. I refuse to let any random thing sully the mind I have been working on to strengthen for all these years. A strong mind allows one to choose your actions consciously, to observe yourself objectively, to experience your feelings authentically to make your decisions with certainty and conviction.

I can’t say that I have the keys to a wonderful life for everyone, but these things surely have made my life much more peaceful, satisfying and purposeful. All those I believe are core requirements for the life of one’s dreams

I’ve Given Up On Life As A Non-Writer

non writerAt this point I’ve completely given up on live as a non-writer because I am finally ready to admit that I’m anything but a non-writer.

I’m a semi-recluse who needs the whole world to leave me the hell alone, so I can think and listen to the voice inside my head telling me things I’d be better off not knowing.

I can’t feel my experiences unless I write them down. I don’t know what I know until it’s shaped into words. I can’t make sense of life unless I my eyes can tell it to my mind. I don’t know how other people know their lives while it remains unshaped and unarticulated. If I don’t write I’ll end up having conversations with myself in the mirror all day. That’ll bring the crazy-police knocking at my door. Can’t have that.

I wish it didn’t hurt so much to write. I wish that I was confident enough not to want to snatch back every word I’ve ever written and return it to that place deep inside of myself where it came from.

I say fuck, shit and hell, and take the lords name in vain when I write. I know that unless I do, I won’t be writing me. So I count on those who read what I write to not be too precious about politeness and instead be more interested in feeling what I try to convey.

I don’t know if I post too often or not, use too few words, use too many words, choose the right topic or get my point across. I don’t know whether I’m too shallow, too deep, too personal or too detached. I don’t know much I just know that I cannot stop writing. I want to go back to writing in my journal and hiding everything away from the world, but it’s too late. Writing is an illness.

I’ve given up on life as a non-writer because writing leaves me no choice. I’m learning to tone down expectation and I’m learning to throw hundreds of words at unresponsive audiences.

Unresponsive is so much better than non-existent.

My Town, A Small Town

IMG_0826 My town used to be considered a barometer for white sentiment in the old South Africa. It used to be judged as being very “verkramp”, meaning bigoted, and some of its past glory still remains. But like most other things in life the view from the outside differs from what insiders see.

Being Black/Coloured in South Africa meant that we were allocated our own little portion of each town. Even if the lines that separated one portion from another were only in the imaginations and town planning maps of those who wanted it to be that way, each portion developed its own identity over the years and my town actually refers to the portion where I live.

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What stands out about my town is the two main activities my co-habitants engage in. One is religion and the other liquor. The contradiction is lost on my fellow townsmen because it has always been this way. It’s hard for the people in my town to believe that a person could choose not to drink and still have no desire to partake in any religion. I just love the way life is so cut and dried in the minds of those I live with.

My town is a place where your character is mostly determined by what your surname is. Great for those with upstanding pedigrees, crappy for those who come from less decent stock. People assume to know the content of your character, your future prospects and your status in societal hierarchy based on what they know of your family. For some it’s hard to break free from history. For others an undeserved bump-up which they struggle to live up to.

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Like most small towns we pride ourselves on our communal spirit. We are always there for each other we say; and it’s true. “There” might be as support in your time of need, or it might be in your private business. That is after all what small towns are best known for, nosy neighbours. Oh we might donate money, or time, or effort when you need us, but we will whisper about you before you’re out of earshot. Mostly because we want you to know that you have done something scandalous and gossip-worthy.

The people of my town love pretending that they just live here, but actually belong in better towns. Everyone actually belongs in Johannesburg, the City of Gold, but by some fluke of circumstance they just can’t get the dust of this horrid little place shaken off their shoes. Having left my town, lived in Johannesburg for 13 years, and had a good life there by any standard, I think a reality check is in order.

Being known in my town is like having money in the bank when living in Jo’burg. “Small-town Famous” is a term that was coined after a visit to my town, I’m sure. The assumption that everyone wants to be known gives my fellow citizens the right to question anyone in depth. The answers of which couldn’t possibly have any relevance in their day to day life, but if you want to be well-known you have to spill your guts.

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My town has long established a way to walk, to talk, to dress, to think, where to appear and when to appear there. Everyone knows what our sentiments and opinions should be, who we should side with, what our ambitions should be and how we must go about conducting our private affairs. It might be many stipulations but the answer to all of these is the same: whatever everyone else is doing.

A burning desire of those in my town is to have a big funeral. You pay for this by attending as many funerals as you can while alive. The question: “Who will attend your funeral if you don’t support the funerals of others?” is meant to strike fear into the heart of any dissident member of my community.

Those who love this burg act as if every feather on every bird flying over the town has been placed in their custody. Sometimes this custodianship extends itself to the grocery cupboards, garden implements, toolboxes, cars, and children of fellow inhabitants. Don’t be surprised if someone you barely know comes and knocks on your door at any time of day asking to use/borrow your lawnmower, mayonnaise, child (to send on an errand) or baking trays. You have very little room to refuse. Remember, you want to build up goodwill for your funeral and not be gossiped about as being stingy. Anyone living near you has unlimited emergency rides booked in your car. Please take note and act accordingly. My neighbour asked the other day what my pottering in the garden was all about. I explained it’s a food garden where I’m growing vegetables. Her response was: “Ooh great! Now I can borrow spinach from you.” Wow!

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The part I have most difficulty with in my town is the unsolicited visit. The drop-in. The head poking through the doorway. The knock when you least want to hear one. And if you don’t answer, the people of my town start calling your name. If you still don’t respond they ask your neighbour where you are. Both the unwanted visitor and neighbour might start calling your name. All that noise to force you out of your unsociable behaviour. The rule now is, always keep the dishes washed because you never know who might come to ask/lend something. Always keep the sitting room in perfect order so you can let your guest in without shame. In fact, make sure your whole house is spic and span by 11 o’clock because anyone might drop in from then on. I can do without uninvited guests; they’re the ones who stay the longest because they have nothing better to do.

My town is a gem and a soft place to fall when the big, big world stops treating us nicely. My town is a family town because most of us stem from a few core lines going back generation before generation. My town will make a space for you even when your ancestry is foreign to us, there’s always room for one more branch on the family tree.

My town is a study in the best and worst of human nature and especially its paradoxes. My town is a concentrated dose of the whole, wide world.

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