A dream that wasn't mine; behind the writing of my debut book
Black Racist Bitch: How Social Media Reveals South Africa's Unfinished Work on Race will be released in September 2023
Writing a book was never a dream of mine. This is because I don't have romantic ideas of what long-form writing entails. It's hard work- emotionally, physically and mentally. Long-form writing is no kiddies' party. It's gruelling, time-consuming, laborious...and yet here I am. Writing to announce that I have written a full-length non-fiction book! Moreover, I am pretty pleased with myself! *Cue false modesty*
"Which book/s have you written?" became the top follow-up to the "What do you do?" question once I started introducing myself as a writer in 2020. Prior to then, I was not aware that society placed a writer's value on whether they have published at least one book that is available to the general audience.
So, I buckled to societal expectations as well as pressure and set about manifesting a book deal. When I got onto social media, particularly TikTok, I told anyone willing to listen that I would be getting a book deal. A few months later, with a less-than-impressive social media following, I was offered a book deal by one of the country's leading publishers.
"Writing for a general audience is easier than academic writing"
This was a lie my publisher told me at the very beginning of my two-year writing process. I listened and nodded but I knew that 50k words would not be "easier" for me. 50k words was more than double the length of my Master's thesis that was also to be completed in just over a year-I've written plenty about the damage that did to my mental health. I can now say that academia did help me learn to push through those 'writing blues' periods when you feel like you have nothing left to give whilst simultaneously believing that what you have given is a hot pile of smelly garbage. I have mentioned that writing isn't that fun, right?
I missed every deadline there was to miss. Got extensions until there was no longer talk of extensions, just the possibility of having to re-pitch the book instead of more allowance.
Life happens when you write a book. There's money that still needs to be made because, you know, this writing game has a lot of space for growth when it comes to pay. There are also other responsibilities that need to be attended to. In my case, this involved death, illness, sorrow and struggling to keep up with capitalist practices that aren't there to serve me.
Like every single depiction of writers I saw on television from Arabella ( Michaela Coel) in I May Destroy You and Maya Denise (Golden Brookes) in Girlfriends to Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) in Lie to Me, I too, fit the stereotype of avoidant writer dodging their publisher. I'm okay not being special in this regard.
Emails went unanswered to the point that I began avoiding my phone. Unopened messages accumulated. After my birthday this year, I was afraid to change my WhatsApp profile picture. When I did, my publisher reminded me why I was hesitant to make known that my phone was in use. She sent her umpteenth message within five minutes of the picture change.
Now that all is said and done, I'm finished writing and can focus on other things. I am glad to have succumbed to societal pressure that allowed me a great opportunity to challenge myself. I thought I wouldn't write again for a long time to come but I already have an idea of what book I would like to write next. It may be time to try my hand at fiction writing....or get a doctorate. I may as well, I've been writing dissertations' worth of work as it is anyway.