Thursday, July 05, 2007

Telling your stories with integrity and conviction

A couple of weeks ago a photographer I’m acquainted with asked if she could take a portrait of me. “You ooze character,” she said, sounding very excited about the prospect of having in the sights of her lenses.

I have no false modesty about my looks, but I also don’t have the popular kind of looks shown in the media. Add the fact that I had chicken pox last year, and it did leave a mark, and you see someone who wouldn't consider an artist would want to capture her image as an art form.

I’m flattered by the attention and look forward to seeing the images. Perhaps they will show me something the mirror doesn’t tell me.

Anyway, the session is on Sunday and I’ve thinking about things/places/people/events that inspire artists (including writers) and why sometimes when they see good work they are tempted to copy the style.

You start to wonder if you can do something similar, if your own work is good enough to match the admired work.

The first time I saw something that I really wanted to copy was in the early 90s. The story /film was Shattered starring Tom Berenger, Greta Scacchi and Bob Hoskins. My gut response at the end of the movie was: “I wish I had written that!” Yes, I realise non-writers probably said " what a good movie" or "what wonderful acting."

Since then, I've read books and articles by a number of local and international writers I admire, watched movies and TV programmes that inspire me. And sometimes I would wonder: will I ever tell a story as well as Zakes Mda?

But as I grew confidence as a writer, I realized I didn’t have copy anyone. I shouldn’t try to copy anyone, because I have my own stories to tell, in my own way. And if those stories are done well and with conviction, readers will see their unique character and beauty, and want more of them. And what is more satisfying for a writer to bring to life stories and characters that have been inhabiting his head for years and have other people appreciate them?

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