Let's die trying.

I’ve been struggling to update regularly lately, because, oh, so many things. Life.

But there is one main reason. And I have Damaria to blame. I think this post is appropriate considering it was Women’s Day recently. Here is a true story of one woman who inspired another.

You see, I have never really allowed myself to have dreams, because I was always terrified of failure. I thought I would save myself the pain by not having any expectations of life.

Which is idiotic, but my excuse is that life has been brutal at times, so I try to ease the way.


The closest thing I have ever had to a dream is to write a book, specifically a novel, a deep and literary novel that will either set the world alight, or, more likely, be utterly ignored until long after I am dead.

The thing is, words don’t come easy to me. My real talent is as a reader. And like many readers, I wish I could write something as amazing as the books I read. Sadly being a good reader does not mean that you have a way with words.

I would never have actually admitted to having this fantasy in a million years because saying it out loud would be setting it up for failure.

Now I’m 30 and I don’t give a crap any more. Failure is not so scary. You get used to it.

Last year, Damaria wrote this innocuous post about Lauren Beukes, who is a very talented South African writer.

I commented: I loved Moxyland. It was just so cool. I get the feeling Lauren must be supercool. I could never write a cool book :)

To which Damaria replied: let’s die trying.

Just three little words, right, but for some reason they had a huge effect on me. That is so not my attitude or way of thinking. If I try and I suck and I decide that I have no talent, well, then I will give up, because some people are talented and can write and some cannot and so if I cannot I shouldn’t waste my time.

But those little words burned away in my head. Why not? Why not die trying? Everyone says that it takes years of practice to find your writing voice and learn the craft. So why not keep at it and see what comes from it?

So, after my final writing class early in 2010, I tried to carry on the story I had, into a novel. I tried to learn how to have a writing habit.

It was a bitch. I am useless at coming up with ideas. Eventually I stopped worrying about ideas and tried writing like a slave, just putting down whatever word followed next. It was a slog, but I figured I would go back and put ideas and decent writing in later.  Every single day that I wrote, my brain said the following:

“This is so incredibly shit. Please can you tell me why you bother doing this? Even your gran would hate this.”

And every day I had to say “don’t care don’t care don’t care!!!!!” And keep writing. Every day I nearly gave up.

It was bloody hard.

I got to 60 000 words before I realised that I had absolutely no idea what story I was actually trying to tell. Yes it was utter shit, because I was trying to say everything I had ever thought of. It had no thread, no cohesion, no direction. Which is fine to realise, but it doesn’t mean I have any idea how to produce any of those things.

So I abandoned that story and tried another one.

I got to 60 000 words (notice a theme) and then realised that the story had no depth whatsoever and as much as it was closer to what I wanted to write about, it was incredibly dull.

So I ditched it. And am currently trying another story.

I’m hoping that one day and hundreds of thousands of words later, something decent will come out. It has gotten easier.The nasty voice is much quieter now because I seem to have convinced it that the first draft is allowed to be laughably bad and that no one should ever see it but me. Also it is a bit easier to actually sit down and write every day. The habit is slowly forming. I will just have to think of it as my new hobby.

And I really am prepared to die trying. I  don’t mind if nothing comes of this at all, if I never get to publish a novel, because I kept trying, and that is something.

Thanks Damaria! I hope I didn’t embarrass you but I can’t really describe the effect that your comment had on me.

So if I don’t post as often as I used to, it is because this blog is no longer my main verbiage outlet.  I’m probably slogging away at my “story”, trying not to quit and delete everything.

But mostly secretly surfing the internet for “research purposes”.


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tamara
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 07:50:06

    Possibly one of my best posts on your blog ever.

    And thanks for the inspiration. You and Damaria. I look forward to reading your book one day.


  2. Damaria Senne
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 08:07:22

    Po, I cannot tell you how happy I am that our discussion had such a huge impact on you. When I first read this post, I was shocked, I laughed, I cried a bit ( and let me tell you, that doesn’t happen often), then I decided to go make myself a cup of Rooibos tea, so I could relax on my sofa and let your words settle in my heart for a while .

    It’s such a wonderful feeling to know my blogging has a positive impact on people! And somehow, this post inspired me too. THANK YOU!


  3. Theresa Kruger
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 08:45:27

    Po, I feel the same way. You are braver than I am in the fact that you actually did something about it. Keep it up and I’m looking forward to reading your masterpiece.


  4. Po
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 11:02:00

    Tamara: thanks! It kind of terrifies me to have written it though. Like the minute I have put it into words it is doomed. It feels better to fail in secret, you know?

    Damaria: you cried! Nooo, I didn’t mean to make you cry! But good cry, I hope. It’s true though, you never know where the source of inspiration is going to come from that will kick you in the butt or change your perspective. Amazing how powerful blogging is :)

    Theresa: that is very sweet! However I fear it will never be more than a lot of pages with lots of words on them. But ja, am slowly surrendering to the fact that that is ok. What about you, do you want to write too?


  5. Damaria Senne
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 11:28:23

    @Po – it was a good cry:-) It’s just that 60 000 words is a lot of writing, a lot of days spent working, and realising that 3 little words can do that…. It’s good.


  6. T
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 13:42:38

    I think those three words from Damaria are going to end up causing a chain reaction of…well, trying. ;)

    So happy for you Pozles! And I’m sure you’ll get there sooner than you think. You are your worst critic after all.

    Also if you want another project to push the limits – http://www.scriptfrenzy.org/ – starts in April


  7. tiah
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 15:55:05

    Quit tossing out your first drafts. They are supposed to be shit. Pick them back up, cut out all the crap that doesn’t belong, find your theme, add the depth, then fill in all the blanks. Then you have a shitty second draft. Take a pen, cut out all the rubbish words, highlight every place that needs a thesaurus, and try to make sure your character has the same name in each chapter. Now you have wee, which is nicer than shit. Show the wee to somebody you trust. Tell them to do their worst. Try not to weep when they give it back so ‘tracked changed’ you can hardly see a word still in black. Work your way through it.

    Rinse and repeat.

    I assure you Lauren Beukes didn’t write those bloody great reads on round one.


  8. Po
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 17:14:51

    Damaria: 60 000 WAS a lot, I think that was what prompted this post from me. I was proud of writing that many words x 2, even if they are no-good words. At least I stuck at it :)

    T: oooh scripts, now that is something that I really can’t do! I think a lot of novice writers try to write more script like than novel like, as if a camera is seeing the world, but I can’t even do that! I would however love to read other people’s scripts… nudge nudge wink wink.

    Tiah: I still have all my mass wordage. But I think it would be good to get some distance from both of them. Maybe after a while I can come back to them and see what I was trying to say, but now all I see is a tangled mess!

    I truly hope I can get to the wee stage some day!


  9. pureslab
    Mar 11, 2011 @ 01:28:49

    When we are children we draw (and write) for the joy of drawing (or writing). Then as we grow up we gain expectation and all of a sudden we can’t draw unless we produce results. And so we stop. And we loose the joy of creating. This is something that I have been thinking about for a while now. It is all about working on letting go the expectation and regaining the joy. So you go girl.


  10. Po
    Mar 13, 2011 @ 22:05:54

    that is so true. I like that atitude. I like to draw sometimes, always have, and my family sometimes say things like “oh you should do something with that”, but I just laugh at them, drawing for me is a pleasure that I have no aptitude for, and if I put pressure on myself to draw well it would lose the appeal immediately. Some things we should do just for fun. The writing is different though, I never wrote for fun much. I need to try and write just for fun.


  11. Pamela Moeng
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 11:56:18

    Hey, Po

    You go girl! I’m so glad the comment spurred you to action because your repeating my friend’s words has pinched my conscience. Why the hey don’t we die trying? It’s better than to die inert, doing nothing! Can’t wait to read your book, so get a move on and keep typing. :-)




  12. Helen
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 06:28:33

    Let’s die trying… that’s awesome! I think I may need to write that in giant letters and stick it over my desk!


  13. Vanessa
    May 05, 2011 @ 12:10:02

    I am so afraid of failure so your post really hit a nerve. Well done for trying. And even more than that, well done for being brave enough to admit to yourself what you really want. I don’t think I am there yet.


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