Monday, June 12, 2017

This Is A Good Time To Dream and To Plan My Spring Garden

I'm spending a lot of hours looking at our small patch of land and planning what to plant there.

The soil is lovely: dark and packed-full of nutrients. It is also well-mulched. We have also have a large boundary wall where I can plant trailing plants.

Today I spent the day going through our catches of seeds, trying to make a solid plan.

We have melon, amarath, pumkin, salad tomatoes, round tomatoes, quince, fennel, red bell peppers, gem squash, long red sweet pepper, brussell sprouts and garlic chives. I also plan to buy more seeds from the organic market nearby.

So now I'm going to go through to work out when it's time for one to plant these seeds in my climate.

My house-mate says she read somewhere that after drying the seeds, one can store them by putting them in the freezer. I'm don't know how that works, if it works, so I'll read up on it when I have time. I'm just used to harvesting what seeds I have, drying them and then replanting them when the time comes.

I'm not very keen to start putting seeds in the soil because we have not gone through the coldest night of the year yet, which means temperatures are likely to keep dropping and there will be frost, which would kill small vulnerable seedlings planted out of season. But this is a good time to plan and to dream.

A Visit To The Nua Hua Buddhist Temple

On Sunday my housemate and went on an excursion to the Nan HuaBuddhist temple in Bronhorspruit near Pretoria. 

I agreed to the excursion because I hoped that going to a place that is completely unfamiliar in terms of cultural practice and location, would inspire me to write.
The two hour trip went smoothly, thanks for waze, the handy little navigator app that my brother-in-law Ben installed for me in my phone. We were between Johannesburg and Pretoria when we saw an old couple on the side of the highway and my housemate suggested that we stop and offer them a ride if they are going our way. For a moment there, all the warning that I have received about the folly of stopping to offer strangers a ride came to my mind, but in the end I thought, "they look like an old couple, and so exhausted. How dangerous can they be?" And made my peace with our impromptu stop. 

Turned out the couple were also travelling to Bronhorspruit, which was bloody far from where we picked them up between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and they were from an overnight service at their church, hitch-hiking home.
We chatted with them on the way and they were unemployed, with the husband drawing pension and the wife relying on his support, as she did not qualify for pension.
Vistor's wing of the temple complex
We dropped them of at a garage close to the temple, and they were so grateful. Seeing how easy it was reinforced to me how little it takes to be kind to a fellow human. It didn’t cost us anything to take them along and yet to them, this was such a huge help.
I was in a positive frame of mind when we arrived at the temple. We went straight to one of the temples (the one nearest the gate) and had to be redirected to the visitor’s centre. The receptionist kindly gave us basic information about how our visit would work, gave us a brochure. She suggested a stroll around at the museum and curio shop until lunch, where the cafeteria was and how it works, and where to go to start the official tour after lunch.
Inside one of the temples

We had a lovely quiet time touring the museum, where they had an exhibition of the calligraphy of the founder. Lunch was delicious – completely plant-based, filling and flavorful, though a bit oilier than I’m used to.
After lunch, we started the tour and the guide took us to the various temples in the premises. I learnt a lot about the origin of Buddhism and its ten core precepts.

Inside the main temple from the door

We visited four temples in total, and we had to take off our shoes in order to enter them. The temples were lovely and very elaborate, with a number of Chinese treasures, yet they did not look cluttered. So peaceful.
After the tour, my housemate and I went to the coffee shop where we had cappuccinos with very delicious vegetable dumplings. I was very full and incapable of consuming the butter cookie that I’d bought with the plan of eating it with my cappuccino.

The way back was easy to navigate and restful, and I was so happy I had gone. Sadly, the trip did not spark any stories on my part, though I’m sure I will use the location in my future writing. I took photos to serve as reminders to make my settings authentic.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Saying I Quit - IWSG June Post

I have been quieter here than I meant to be, and I'm glad the question posed by the Insecure Writers' Support Group gave me a lot to say, prompting me to come post here.

There have been a lot of developments in my life. An old business associate of mine got in touch and asked me to become editor of a monthly national magazine that she founded. I had to think real hard about that, because the work would be very demanding, and restrictive of my time, but eventually I said yes, because the work fits very well with my values to help create the world I want to live in.

I can't talk too much about the work here yet,  but will probably do so in the future ad nauseam.

I moved out my sister's flat to share a cute little cottage in a Johannesburg suburb I knew of, but I hadn't spent much time there. It's very upmarket, and poor little me was feeling very lost, surrounded by mansions and security guards, and for a while, I wondered if the move was a mistake. But I decided to give myself time to settle in before giving in to buyer's remorse. Honestly, the cottage ticks all my necessities and wants: The rent is well below what I budgeted for, I like my flat-mate, we share similar values, we have a beautiful garden where she  has been growing vegetables, herbs and fruit and I'm free to add to the venture, I don't have a long commute to work and there is someone in the premises to bounce around my creative ideas. But for a second there, I was scared that it was all too good to be true.

Why I have previously quit writing

Anyhoo, to answer the June question/prompt of the Insecure Writer's Support Group: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

The answer to that is yes, I have quit writing before. I was spoilt by early success, in that, a local mainstream publisher accepted my first children's book when I was 19 years old and still at university. Then the industry changed and publishers were battling and whole imprints were scrapped. I still submitted my stories, but instead of receiving rejections on basis of my work, publishers were telling me that they were not in a position to look at new work. Accepted stories were returned, with recommendations to approach editor X at their competitor, and I did, but they also passed on the work. At that time, anti-apartheid struggle stories were well-received, and I did not have any stories that fit that mould. I was a young woman who was comparatively priviledged despite my race in South Africa, and my stories felt as dull as my life. It felt like I was hitting my head against a wall. Eventually, I decided to "grow up and get a job," and forget about writing. 

Renewed enthusiasm

It was one of the most debilitating decisions that I ever took. The job was OK, the money was very good, but I lacked an outlet for my creativity. Eventually I had to acknowledge that the stories inside my head were not going to go away. In ten years, I would still want to write and would have missed a decade of self-expression and learning. So I started scribbling in my notebooks and eventually, looked for ways to make writing my career and a part of my daily life.

My life is still boring, but I have moved from the concept of "write what you know" to "write what you want to know." So as I learn more about new subjects, I hope I pass my enthusiasm and share the knowledge with my readers. I'm not an expert on topics I write about, but an enthusiastic learner. This approach has been liberating for me and helped me to craft characters who have lived lives I never lived and done things I have never done. It has also enriched my own life choices. 

The writing industry is still tough, and there is always a Cassandra out there screeching about a forthcoming disaster in the industry. But now, I no longer expect things to be easy and am ready to face whatever challenges come my way. I do what I have to do to survive as a writer because I don't have any other choice but survival.

About Insecure Writer's Support Group

The Insecure Writer's Support Group encourages participants to share experiences about making a profit as an author, what it takes to become a successful writer, the many skills a writer needs to learn other than writing, share the experience going from hobby writer to published author (without making it a self-promotion piece), the fallacies behind writing for profit, the little known facts learned along the way, what you wished you knew when you first started writing, or marketing tips based on experience of what has worked and what hasn't.

Founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the hosts this month are JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner! 

Thank you guys for all the hard work you put in to make this group possible.


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With the exception of entries specifically credited to individual authors, the content on this blog is copyrighted by Damaria Senne and may not be reprinted without permission.