My favourite singer once told an interviewer that he started singing at the age of four. He said that by the time he was eight, all he wanted to be was a musician. He now has more hits than he remembers and more awards than he can count. I sometimes wish my writing journey was that tidy.
I don’t remember having any special skills at the age of four. To be honest, life before my sixth birthday is a blur. My biggest dream then was to live in one of the mud pies I had become an expert at making. I only upgraded my ambitions a few years later when I wanted to be a lawyer. That dream and many others lasted as long as a mud pie left in the rain.
In the midst of all my short-lived daydreams I realised there was something I enjoyed doing more than thinking about what I would become. That thing was reading. Reading took me into the operating room where the world’s first heart transplant took place. It took me into the lives and minds of prisoners who were fighting for the freedom of torn nations, into rooms were papers were signed to let slaves free, into battlefields and dens of thieves.
Reading allowed me to be at the door when men and women who had been in exile finally came home. I remember every tear that touched the cheeks of wives who waited patiently for their husbands to return. The magic and power of words allowed me to feel every emotion and be present in every moment.
Books awakened a strong desire in me to create the same magic for someone else, to tell stories that help and heal and teach and inspire other people. This gave birth to my righting journey.
Discovering the power of words was a journey in itself. I paid attention to different writing styles and writers. Writing book reviews felt like an instant vacation. I started rewriting greetings cards and poetry, then short stories and songs. I entered every writing contest and spelling bee that I could. I won books, tea sets, vouchers, dinnerware and trophies for my efforts. My mom displayed them proudly. So when the time came for me to choose a career I saw no need to go for assessment tests. I knew all I wanted to do was create magic with words and keep giving my mother the pretty things she liked.
I was accepted into an advertising college after high school and studied Copywriting. My young mind was full of ideas and writing that I wanted to share. The corridors where filled with big dreamers with starry eyes.
By my second year those eyes had turned baggy. Half of my classmates didn’t make it to graduation night. Even I had days when I thought I couldn’t do it, days that sucked the hope out of my childhood dreams. But my graduation day came, and I received a prize for best radio ad of the year. The next day was the icing on the cake. I was offered a job at the agency I had been an intern for, so what was supposed to be my last day on my job became my first. I was officially a Copywriter.
Nothing they taught me at college prepared me for the rollercoaster that came with my job title. The deadlines were tighter than spanx and ‘lunchtime’ was a swear word. If you didn’t have a thick skin suggestions were made to get one fast. I became addicted to the rush. I was home. I conceptualised and wrote TV and radio ads. I wrote newspaper and magazine ads, newsletters and invitations to people I didn’t know to places I didn’t go. I wrote long and short copy, one-liners and brochures. I named top hotels, bars, companies and brands. I was part of teams that broke advertising records and Broke. Every. Writing. Rule. All for the sake of persuading people to buy things they don’t need and couldn’t afford.
So after five years of this frantic and exciting rollercoaster ride I paused to reflect. I realised that although I had written a gazillion ads, there were still a gazillion more things to write. Things like songs, movies, plays, books, poetry and documentaries. The list was endless, and after soaking up knowledge and experience I knew it was time for my next writing adventure. I realised that advertising was not a destination but a detour. So in my quest for change I smiled and waved at an amazing journey that taught me so much about people and patience and showed me things about myself.
I will always be grateful for getting the chance to live a big part of my dream. I’m sure the next one will lead me to yet another one. The journey of being a writer never stops and the magic never ends. Someday I will finish penning down all my adventures in the hope of encouraging writers to keep writing and sharing their stories whenever they can. We all have a story and we all learn something from one another.
My favourite singer and I may not have the same story to tell but our journeys have a lot in common. We both found something we love and spent hours doing without noticing time. We both wanted to spend our lives doing what we felt was part of who we are. We persevered and followed through.
I may not have a cabinet full of awards but I’m pretty sure that I could write songs for my friend that could break music records and make history. Now that would propel both our journeys onto another level.
About the Author:
Nkaela Mocumi is the winner of our September 2014 My Writing Journey Competition.