The elements of writing

In an interview, the celebrated writer Christopher Hitchens once made an interesting addition to the famous saying, “everyone has a book inside them”. His addition – and I’ll quote his entire phrase – was as follows, “everyone has a book inside them, which is exactly [where], it should in most cases, remain”. I refer to his rather cynical remark here because its humour masks a truth that applies to life in general, which is the value of perseverance during hardship. Should yours happen to be the book that others believe is best kept inside and yet you are moved by a compulsion to write that will not let you go, the following elements of writing might come in handy no matter what anyone else says about you.

In my observation, writing is a combination of three very subjective elements. I say subjective because the success of any writing depends on so many factors – timing, connections, location, world events and the context they cast on each person’s life- that cannot be predicted in advance. How then, can you increase your chances of connecting with an audience or readership? For starters, you need to write. Facing an empty page can be very daunting because of the pressure to write something great. Element one is Habit. Develop a habit of writing your thoughts routinely at the same time each day. Julia Cameron in her book the “Artist’s Way” calls this “morning pages”, random outpouring of whatever comes to your mind until you fill 3 pages every morning before you start your day.

After following through with the morning pages, I realised that the second element of writing develops out of a self awareness that comes from pouring your thoughts onto the pages over months and years and this element is called Voice. A good example of Voice is the author, John Grisham whose “name has become synonymous with the modern legal thriller*”. It is not a surprise then that John Grisham had the habit of writing in his spare time while he worked as a lawyer in Southaven, Mississippi and served in the state’s House of Representatives from 1983 to 1990. The Law and politics are his voice that he shares through his stories

Another demonstration of voice is Tracy Chapman. If you follow ‘the man’ in her songs you will identify him as being down and out, a dreamer and most often abusive and self destructive and yet she always demonstrates a great love for him. Could this be a mirror of our own societies where women are most likely to be abused or assaulted by a partner? She is a great social commentator and her music cuts across cultures because of its simple truths. Maybe she just practices her anthropology through her beautiful music, watch her video for the song “Fast car” released in 1988.

The final element to writing is Craft. Whatever you want to write – articles, blogs, books, songs, plays, screenplays, reports etc – will have rules and prescribed formats and language within which you will have to work. The rules and formats are there to guide your creativity and not to stifle it. For example to write words meant to be spoken like a play or screenplay, you will need to learn how each format uses words or else you might find challenges when your actors are not able to act out your words in the ways you intended.

Your voice will develop as you practice writing out of habit and it will in turn determine your choice of writing format and style. We can’t all be John Grisham or Tracy Chapman and should not try to be.

Till the next time,


You and me multiplied

This year, I will celebrate Heritage Day, 24 September, with a great sense of appreciation. My descendants are a mix of four countries and a story of people on the move in constant search of a better existence. The stability I experience today feels strange and this Heritage Day is a reminder of the price that was paid for the life I have and the life I dream and work for.

When I think of the struggles of my grandmother or my mother, I see smart women whose lives were mostly about survival and putting out fires, who learnt to smile through the storms of life and to find joy from day to day.

My dilemma after being in one city for 11 years of my adult life is what to do with the stability in my life after so many years of strife. I am slowly walking into my potential with inspired hope. Awake to the fact that I do not have to live a life of survival, I embrace the challenge to explore and exploit my talents and it really is fun. The truth is that I am not the only one facing this challenge. Young people are achieving financial and career success in their twenties and thirties that previous generations achieved only in their forties and fifties. The curious question will be: What is next after you achieve great success so young?

In my opinion, the answer lies deep within us because God placed the answers as seeds of potential. In my own life I see the challenge as not how to make more money but how to maximise myself and do more things with excellence.

A look at my own talents makes me wonder if we are a generation of split personalities juggling multiple careers? It certainly seems to me that whereas successful careers in previous generations were like great trees with strong roots and imposing natures, successful careers in my generation will be like beautiful Persian gardens that are paradises of sustainability and pleasure – multi-talented and multidimensional.

I love making and performing music, I love writing songs, I love writing for different formats,  I love cooking and entertaining, I love designing living spaces and human settlements, I love restoring furniture, I love preventative health, I love publishing books, I love designing theatre shows, I love starting and growing a business, I love advising and coaching leaders, I love working with numbers, I love drawing, I love producing content and creating enabling environments for talented people, I love working with people.

I am also good at these things to the point of being capable of building a career from each one. So what shall I do you ask? Plant a tree?…. No thanks, I will create a garden no matter how long it takes me.

Till the next time,

Learning never stops

WorkspaceWhen I think about my music and the future, I naturally feel optimistic and believe that my music will travel the world and reach millions of people. After all, isn’t this the ‘rock-n-roll’ dream – have hit records and live in ease?

I was once in a business situation presenting a proposal which included a performance. As soon as my performance was done and the applause died down, one of the people in attendance asked me why a gifted singer like me was bothering with proposals with the implication that all I needed was to be taking it easy.

I believe that my talent is a resource and I am its guardian. God placed huge deposits of talent that are meant to uplift my life and make the world around me a better place. When I think of talent that resulted in great work by the likes of Steve Jobs, Myles Munroe, The Wright brothers, Nelson Mandela, Beyoncé, I am inspired to give my best. However, there is a gap between talent and great work filled with the right people, knowledge, capital and time – it motivates my desire to keep learning and improving my odds for success.

I was 25 years old when I dropped out of University and I didn’t believe I would go back to school. This was partly because I believed and still do that you do not need to be enrolled in school to learn. I have bought lots of books and taught myself everything from playing the guitar, reading music to understanding the workings of the music industry and I’ve made big discoveries in the process.

But something has also happened since I was 25. I have grown older and realised that my needs have evolved with age. The self-centred 25 year old I needed to be to pursue my dreams has given way to a person who cherishes the communal nature of dreams. Running a company whose future will depend on being able to make other people’s dreams come true calls for skills that I can only learn in a professional setting and it is with this in mind that I gladly applied and enrolled for the ACCA qualification that leads to becoming a professional accountant.

Having considered many options including going to complete my degree, I have about a year left, I realised that accounting knowledge and not statistics is what my business needs most from me. Finance is such an integral part of any business and more so one that has dozens of projects running at the same time. Though the time management is still a challenge and I am still getting into the work-study rhythm, I love every part of it. I suppose one learns better when they have a reason to and my reason is that whatever life brings, I am happiest when I am learning something.

Till the next time,

The face of Faith

If faith had a face, what would it look like? I believe that every creature on earth, great and small wants more life. In the animal kingdom, more life represents survival – the ability to successfully continue the species in an ever-changing environment. For me, more life is the ability to live out today with what I need, a few wants and the confidence that no dream is beyond my reach as long as I want to make the world better. The face of faith is therefore action that fulfils my life today and brings out the future from within me.

To understand the future it is best to explore the past and note that history is nothing more than the actions of men and women yesterday. Each day’s activity becomes a part of history. If history is made by our actions, then the future too must be made from our actions and must come from within us. We therefore do not move towards our future but create it from within and paint it onto the canvas of history with our actions.

Faith therefore walks towards a non-existent future and brings it about with every step – much like walking on water and forming a bridge with each forward step. That bridge will stay there as a testament of your work for generations to come. Faith looks within and believes the future it sees. What do you see when you look at your talents? Do you see for yourself a new world? Most people put their trust in their education when education is just a tool. Putting your faith in education is like a chef saying he can’t cook without his pots and knives. Yes having quality tools is great, the real asset of a master chef however, is his or her mind and it doesn’t matter where you put them, they will be able to achieve a great result.

Faith is believing that you can make the life you desire. That life is inside you and that life is embroidered with your talent. On 14 November 2013, I will launch my book “Where to Now?” with a show at Joburg Theatre’s “The Fringe” and realise my dream of becoming a singer and songwriter, author and Producer in a space of six years. I will realise another dream when I go on my Talent Tour to high schools and community groups sharing the message of talent and changing our world by taking small individual steps that can be pooled together.

I believed that my dream could come true regardless of what the odds were and I believe that your dream can come true too but you will need to believe it, act on it, and walk in faith.

Till the next time,

Written words can shape your destiny

I was 12 years old when I got my first book. It was a blue Good News Bible with illustrations and my mother had a note inscribed in the front cover. The note was a verse that opened up the contents of this magical world to me. I read the verse, Proverbs 10:1 (A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother) and the verses around it and I fell in love with the Proverbs; I fell in love with words. I loved my Bible and read it until it was all torn up and unattractive.

I have had many books since then but none of them have been dearer to me than my first Bible. I can borrow the theme of the 2013 National Book Week and call that old bible the “Book of my life”. It laid the foundation for my love of books which opened me up to the power of written words.

I have found through books like Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s way that words can heal. When my dream of becoming a songwriter was just a tiny seed, her words encouraged me to explore early morning writing. Nothing specific, just unanticipated ramblings which she calls ‘morning pages’ and I have done them on and off since 2007. They have helped me to deal with pain and my own fear of success and have helped me build the creative confidence I needed to learn the craft of songwriting which forms the basis of my career. Those lessons are a major part of The Talent Tour to high school learners who are at the dawn of their careers.

I encourage keeping a journal for a season of life when things seem unsure. How else will you be able to keep track of your navigation through and out of the low times? Who knows, that journal might just become your idea bank when things are moving forward and you need a steady supply of ideas to implement.

Till the next time,

Where to now? The Journey continues

In the winter of 2013, twentieth May to be exact, I took delivery of 3000 copies of my first book “Where to now?” and it was a wonderful moment. As I drove to meet the couriers at the warehouse, I wondered what the book would look like and how the next few months would unfold. When I finally held the first copies I was humbled by the memory of the process that had brought this magical moment about. Every decision about each aspect of the book was a learning experience. I brought the books home and the pride and joy on my wife Otae’s face was even more wonderful; we had done it. The new author and his project editor – a moment I will always cherish.

Winter is now giving way to the spring with exciting plans in the works. Anticipating the book is different from actually holding it. I watch people respond to the book and I become even more eager to take its message to the world. The past two months have seen a great development in my work life as we plan for the book’s launch with a live concert on 14 November 2013 at The Fringe, Joburg theatre.

The book has developed an even stronger partnership with Otae who is now working with me at our company ES Capital Partners on a full time basis. Watching her develop our marketing strategy, I am left amazed at how brilliant she is. With a good ear for music, she helped me produce the first single “Lie lie lie” which is the first song in the print version of the book and the seventh in the ebook version and we are now planning the first album.

Before that though, I’ll be promoting the book’s message about building your life on talent at a local school or youth group on The Talent Tour.

Till the next time,