Mount Nyangani

One of the reasons my novel is set in Zimbabwe is because it means I can write about my home. I have an excuse to linger, to breathe in the potent smell that is Africa and walk with the animals. This morning I traveled through Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands, where Cecil Rhodes loved to go, and where I went often as a child. It is a place shrouded in ancient wisdom and spirits of long ago.

There is a mountain there called ‘Mount Nyangani’ known as the mountain that swallows people. Tourists and locals have vanished in the mists which surround it, and never been seen again. In local tradition it is said to be inhabited by powerful ancestral spirits, and has long been feared by the people of the region.

In Chigona Mountain, Nyasha Manyika travels with some freedom fighters through this wild terrain, sleeping beneath the starlit sky.

A Turning Point

The last few weeks have seen a huge breakthrough for me as a writer. Ever since I can remember, holding a pen and putting words onto paper has held a certain kind of magic for me. But it’s only in the last year or so that I have decided to attempt fiction writing. At the beginning of 2016 I started a YA novel, which, over the course of the year evolved into something quite different in my head. However I was still getting very stuck with putting the story onto paper. It never seemed to flow, and it was just plain difficult to write. I had moments when I wondered if I was doing the right thing in continuing. Then about a month ago I wrote a short story that was completely different from anything I had ever written before, and what happened as a result was that I finally realised I was struggling with my writing because I was stuck in MY story. I was stuck in the experiences, memories and patterns that I believed were who I was. Once I saw this, and I have a very unlikely ghost to thank for this (more on him in the future) an incredible sense of freedom washed over me. It was like I had freed my imagination and my mind to take unknown paths and discover uncharted lands. I realised I can choose to explore, instead of sticking with what I know. Writing my own story again and again in different disguises held nothing but heaviness and sadness. Once I saw that I was free. Now, writing can be an exciting adventure. It is amazing how just a slight shift in perception and understanding can have a profound effect.

Onwards and Upwards

 

onwards-and-upwardsToday I was fortunate enough to hear four professional writers discuss their journeys. Whilst their overall message was one I already know – write, write, just do it – it was comforting to know I am not alone in my pursuit of a dream.

I think when one first starts to take one’s writing seriously, and turns down the road marked ‘professional writer’ one is tempted to look to others for the formula. After all, we live in the age of instant gratification, do we not?

We seek the technique, the exercise, the routine, that will lead us to our dream.

But as the master Steven King said in his book ‘On Writing,’ ‘in order to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot, and write a lot.’

Writing is, in a way, the entertaining of one’s own form of insanity. Who deliberately creates and dwells in worlds which do not exist? Yet as writers we have no choice, for if we do not write we experience a form of death.

So what do we do if we wish to make writing a profession? I cannot answer for everyone but for me I know it means I must simply continue. I must continue without attachment to whether or not anyone ever likes or reads my work. I must carry on without concern about it making money.

To be a writer, is to write. Hour upon hour. Early mornings and late nights become a way of life. A habit. Scene upon scene is written, and often many are discarded. Yet none of it is wasted. We are the weavers of worlds and the dreamers of dreams. We are the artists, the creators and the seers.

Never give up, never stop, but never expect the journey to be easy.

In the space where wisdom speaks

My mind quietens as I sit by the lake and gaze into the water. The gentle ripples dance a slow and sensual dance, sparkling in the sunlight.

A pair of swans swim slowly by, their necks arched, reminding me of the fairy tale ‘The Wild swans’ by Hans Christian Anderson I read as a child.

Slowly I sink deeper into stillness, falling beyond the illusions of personal thinking which usually fill my mind.

I become aware of warmth in my heart, an expanding connection to the essence of life. As I surrender to the experience, I realise all separation has evaporated, as it is simply another illusion that has had me bound for lifetimes.

In this perfect space where I am one with creation, there is something else. A presence; an invitation.

For this is the space where wisdom speaks.

Answers to the questions of mankind can be heard in this space, so long as the personal mind remains silent.

All attachments fall away, and everything I could possibly want is here, now. No need to grasp, chase or seek. It’s all here! It always has been; I simply did not see.

But now I do.

I see that all my worries and troubles exist only in my personal thinking. This world we live in is abundant, beautiful, and offers everything we could possibly want, if live from hearts, not our heads.

Oh to remain in this space for eternity – is it possible? I believe so.

As I read in one of Marianne’s Williamson’s books:

‘A primary goal of the spiritual life is to learn to quiet the mind through prayer and meditation, through spiritual practice, so that we can hear what in both Judaism and Christianity, is called the small, still voice within.’

So often we can be mislead into believing that guidance comes loudly. But it comes softly. It cannot be forced and stress, tension and over thinking drown it. By practicing mindfulness and detaching from personal thought, we give the small still voice space to become known to us. If we listen, we will receive moment to moment guidance on the path we are meant to follow.

The challenge is surrendering and listening. It is learning to dance the dance between the spiritual world, and the human experience.