The Agony and Gains of Writing

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Frederick Philander

LAST Tuesday I had the honour and privilege to share my inner feelings and personal experiences on creative writing with the public and students at the Polytechnic of Namibia.

I was one of 15 Namibian writers to have been invited by the library of that esteemed tertiary education institution. And the response to the programme was overwhelming an indication that people are hungry to write and get to know more about writing, something very positive for the future of literature in this country.

I explained to a very active and participatory audience that I am essentially a socio-political conscious writer, writing about the seamier side of life, something that started about 40 years ago under apartheid in a small rural Karoo town.

With 20 plays to my credit over the years, written from two reference worlds, South Africa and Namibia, I am a very fortunate word artist who has been acting as the eyes and ears of the community for ages.

My playwriting crafts and skills have come in very handy as a dialogue writer moving into the novel writing genre – a natural added dimension in my writing career spanning four decades. I know of writers having a hard time mastering the art of dialogue writing in writing prose.

I further explained that writing sometimes can be a very frustrating and lonely activity. If one is at least not disciplined, one should not try one’s hand at this challenging, but sometimes very satisfying craft. I have been writing for the past four decades for at least three hours every night in the wee hours of the morning, the time I am the most creative with the family out of the way, sleeping.

I suppose every writer has his or her own style.

My style is to identify a problem (social or political) and put characters into the problem to see how they resolve the issue at hand. In most cases this approach has worked positively in all the genres I have been involved with theatre writing, short story writing and film writing.

What I have learned over the years is not to fall in love with my own writings. This can be catastrophic for the creative process. A worthy and serious writer needs to subject his works throughout to self-criticism. Then only will such writers improve in what they do best – writing.

My advice to the would-be writers present at the talk was to be fearless and honest in the writing process. With this in mind any writer can achieve a fair amount of success. Maybe one day you will always be flattered in this way by literature experts such as professor Andries Oliphant at the University of South Africa.

“Philander’s stage works belong to the African writers’ category of the ‘hopes and impediments’ of African writers such as Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Ngugi wa Mirii, Adam Small, Athol Fugard, Mbongeni Ngema and Zakes Mda.”

At the talk I also suggested the establishment of an independent publishing house by writers themselves to bring about a much-needed literature revolution in Namibia.

Until next time, keep on writing.

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