Letting Go and Writing What You are Comfortable With

Illustrator South Africa

Somewhere between being a child and an adult my writing got stifled. I don’t know whether it was all those articles I had to produce for clients, amazing books I read by other people or finding out that other writers always have these epic, deep, character building, thoughts and I just had a few mushrooms and bug-spray, but somewhere, some time, at some point, things took a wrong turn. I keep looking at books that have whole worlds created by authors and thought ‘I can do that.’ I looked at stories with epic endings and thought ‘I can write that.’ I looked at characters that blossomed and changed and thought ‘I have that.’ And it was true, I did have it. But I never finished it. I wrote out story plots with twists and turns, worlds with pink candy floss for trees and orange bumble bees. I even tried my hand at limericks and prose. But did I finish it? Nope.

Well that’s not entirely true, I did finish one here, another there. I then got excited that I had finally completed it and would email it off to publishers. Slowly over months I would get emails dribbling in sort of saying it needs more work. By this stage I wasn’t interested in it any more. The truth was, these stories were not my favourite. Within a month of completing the few I did, I realised I didn’t actually like them much myself. Sure there was a paragraph here, and a chapter there that brought me joy, but the story line just didn’t feel right.

So here we are in 2016. I am surrounded by children’s books. I always thought I would be writing them, but it seems I am illustrating them instead. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to join her writing group and give it another go. I was so happy. For years I’ve been trying to get a writing group together, but for reasons I can’t express here, they have never materialised. My writing group currently consists of two others – Michelle, who is writing a book that sounds amazing (no spoilers here! Go to Michelle’s blog if you want a sneak peak) and Kerri, who is a published poet and is currently working on a tale that might surprise you.

What am I working on? Well, I finished a story. Sent it out. Realised I didn’t like it. Then tried to write a serious African tale, which I failed at from sheer boredom (it was too serious!). I had an identity crisis for a week. This was followed by a revelation. What if, I just didn’t try to be something I’m not. What if I just let go? What if I forgot about those epic tales and just wrote about a couple of kids and their grandparents. I have a few unique memories to draw from. I can be ridiculous and funny. How about I just run with it?

Enid Blyton often wrote tales that didn’t really go anywhere (remember the Faraway tree? They went up, some drama happened, they come down). Pippi Longstockings  by Astrid Lindgren, were all completely self-contained chapters. There was no growth there, no twist, no odd world filled with sock-stealing trolls (OK – maybe in the Faraway tree, but I’m making a point here).  Would the publishing industry all of a sudden drop in horror if I wrote for the humour of it?

I think not. I hope not. If it does, well… I guess, sorry in advance, but you’ll have to be a pretty fickle industry to drop because of one author.

It is therefore, with great delight that I give you an extract of my tale. I’m at about a third of the way writing it, at 5000 words. Please note that the extract below is unedited, so please keep your grammar Nazi’s corgi’s under control.

Oh, and a little context – Basie, short for Sebastion, is a bulldog. Along with Angus. The rest are humans.

Extract from Chapter 3:

We eventually parked at Surfers Corner. Basie leapt from the car and ran up and down the beach, spraying sand at the people suntanning.  They would then perch on elbows, to see where the sand had come from. Angus, forever the duo with Basie, came up behind and shook his entire body. The famous bulldog loose jowls would let rip and flare, releasing an endless supply of sticky dog drool, that twanged better than any cheese on a pizza in the whole of Italy.  The women screamed, the men shrieked, as they got splattered and drenched from Angus. Eventually he would become static again, moving onto the next victim for his earth-quake shake attack.

Grandma marked her spot with a flamboyant towel. I shielded my eyes from the intense colours that shone in the sun. I looked over to my brother, who in the ultimate cool moment, dropped his sunglasses down on his nose, providing not only instant protection, but instead attitude. He gave me a smile and placed his towel next to grandmas. She then plonked her basket and untied her wrap dress, revealing a swirl of bright oranges, black and white. She looked like the baby of a blue whale and clownfish. She yanked out of her bag a plastic bag, decorated in matching flowers. I quickly realised it wasn’t a bag, as she tugged the thing onto her head with a snap and revealed it to be an old-fashioned swimming cap.

She then took out a pair of stylish goggles and placed them on, as she waddled down the beach to the water. Once the initial shock had worn off, I all of a sudden realised the potential embarrassment of my grandma in the ocean would cause, when I turned and saw two girls completely deep in a blush as their own grandma was also waddling to the beach with a similar outfit on, but in turquoise. They caught me watching them, and I shrugged in sympathy.

My brother didn’t seem to mind at all the spectacular sight grandma was. He had bound down to the beach and submerged in the water next to her. I quickly joined in.

Angus and Basie, now completely exhausted from terrifying everyone on the beach, sunk onto our towels in pure happiness and were a sleep within seconds. Grandma bobbed in the shallows. Her tummy acting as a buoy, as her toes poked out of the water. She was completely relaxed, floating like driftwood. My brother and I tried with complete failure to reach the same posture as grandma. As tried, we looked around and discovered other grannies had all floated around us in the current. We were completely surrounded by buoyant grannies of all shapes and sizes. It felt like we were surrounded by passive, dozing jellyfish. Eventually we gave up trying to float and swam to the slightly deeper area. Soon we were body boarding in the waves. The salt and gritty sand filling every cavity of my body, from my belly button to my ears. The waves knocked us and carried us, as we laughed and squealed in it’s motion.

Eventually grandma had docked on the beach and woke up from the jolt of land hitting her. It seemed she had drifted off with the rhythm of the sea and had a small nap. She got up, gave herself a little shake and wandered up to the towels. By the time we reached her, she had gotten her purse out. She snapped off her swimming cap. Her hair sprang into action after being refined for so long, creating a hue of curls and frizz around her round face. She grabbed our hands and we all made our way to the line of shops at the beach’s edge.


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