Sounds very poetic, does it not?
I think it does; did you agree with me?
Anyway, that’s neither nor there.
The philosophy is deceptively simple. Yet powerful enough to start a series of fascinating personal changes that eventually cause these ripple effects that travel vibrantly from the centre of the ocean — your centre, your core, in a way — right to the shore (to other people, to the world at large).
The philosophy: Read. Unchain yourself.
And, if I am honest, that’s exactly what has happened to me. I was once awkwardly ignorant about myself, the world and my writing; I then read a lot and eventually started seeing an improvement in how I wrote, the emotional impact I had text-chatting with different people on a once insanely popular and the now defunct social media platform, MXit, and then a few years later, WhatsApp, and eventually, I saw improvements in how I spoke.
I was becoming a new person. In many more ways than one.
To switch things up, I decided when I was in high school, around Grade 12, that I was to begin reading out loud all newspapers and magazines my father bought.
I became an even newer person. I grew more eloquent and (snobbishly) comfortable and happy.
Ahhh. And now, I am reminded of my English classes at school. I used to enjoy writing essays — they were the only instrument that allowed me to write with complete abandon. I recall being told, corrected, by my teacher that I ought to cut back on my indulgent use of commas. And that I should not start sentences with the word ‘And’. Or, ‘But’. (I was tempted to reply, “But, ma’am, that is unfair I feel”.)
It now occurs to me that then, in a restricted school system that cared only for marking off and grading students than harness their abilities, I was never going to succeed at school, in English, if I continued writing like I was writing to a friend.
My writing is friendly. Occasionally, there’s a joke tossed in there as well. My tone is personal. I fail to be stern and serious when I begin weaving words, then sentences, then paragraphs and then, entire stories, together.
I have always said that when someone reads my work, I want them to feel as if I am sitting just across, having coffee with them.
With my writing, when I am thinking, I want you be a part of that with me. I let you read that I am thinking — formulating. I show you the process of my finding words and then piecing them together. I think I can liken it very much to witnessing a Nelson Makamo art piece being painted, or, a Gerrard Sekoto. Or, further afield, a Jean-Michel Basquiat.
If you’ll allow me to demonstrate; I permit you to hear me think of what I am to say next to you …
I, uh … find it fascinating a thing to do when writing. Because, I feel … that … uhmmm, stories need to be, I would say … more real. Instead of us wanting … how can I phrase it? Aha! Wanting to always bend over backwards to appear perfect, we need to be more open and present when telling stories. And redefine eloquence and make it …. make it mainstream, okay even, to be a thinker and speaker at the same time. In real time.
You are free to guess the region of the marks I received in essay writing in high school.
Anyway, two years after graduating from high school, I went to college. A media school that was supposed to teach me all things (eloquent) communication. But I am just not entirely convinced that I got that there.
I often openly admit that I learned so much more from my three years running my blog site (and reading widely) than I ever learned during my two-and-a-half years at college.
Boston Media House, it was / is called, was partly awesome in that it became an impetus to sharpen my writing and speaking abilities. This is how: in high school, I passed English well. Because, township-y education and its levels suck big time! (You spend years thinking you are the best when you are not even close to that stage. You swim about arrogantly, wiggling your tail, your fins, being a big fish in a small pond.)
Ha ha ha! And writing just as I was writing in high school returned back a bunch of failed assignments there. I was confused. I am good at writing, so why am I failing so much? I would think to myself. Also, speaking and being a part of diverse conversations that were happening there was difficult — nerve wrecking even. So, my intelligence was shelved that way.
Just as it was in high school. *whispers delicately an open secret* I was annoyingly shy and because of this, I held myself back from a lot of things, activities and extra murals, that could have thrust me in interesting spaces.
No use wailing over spilt milk, though.
Fast forward to today. Because today is essential, in that it holds the foundation for my tomorrow. Hence I am taking what I have just told you, unpacking it and learning from those experiences, so that I become a livewire of a writer and speaker.
Tomorrow, I am going to be among the best.
Fast forward, though, to today, first.
To the devastating eloquence I now spew, and paint on pages digital and physical.
For that eloquence, I can thankfully write that …
Reading has unveiled a new world, enlightened me a lot about myself, the world and my writing, and by extension, my speaking / storytelling sensibilities.
I am reminded of a conversation I recently had with a friend about learning to speak well and I shared with him a few silly things I did to become eloquent:
I have always said that: English, although a bit difficult at first (like most languages), it is a beautiful language. Enjoyable. Fun.
Do you speak the language often? ( I asked him, almost rhetorically.)
So, for me, I learnt the hard way because I live ekasi — in a township — where people look at you funny when you try and initiate a conversation with them in English — I was called a snob by some. Anyway, I found it better to have soliloquies. So, the thoughts you think silently when alone? I said them out loud instead and that craziness gave me an opportunity to work on words and phrases I found hard to pronounce. It taught me about how I should pace myself when talking, so as not to run out of breath and not formulate / utter my sentences crisply.
And, then another way is to read newspapers and magazines out loud. That worked wonders for me when I was starting to up my speaking game.
So, how does that look in point (or, hashtag) form?
Even if it means speaking to yourself
# BE CRAZY
Be weird enough to record yourself talking, go through those audio recordings with a fine tooth comb.
# DON’T BE NORMAL. PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS AND TECHNIQUE
Breathing, pace, accent, word choice, the emotional impact of your words.
Raise the bar for yourself.
# RELAX YOUR PEN
Write like you are writing to a close friend.
# WAX LYRICAL AND TALK FREELY
Speak nonchalantly; allow the words to slip out of your mouth effortlessly. Don’t say them, per se, but, allow them to say themselves.
Does that even make sense? I recently found that it works wonders for me.
# READ VORACIOUSLY
Read anything you can get your hands on.
# START A BLOG SITE, OR, A YOUTUBE CHANNEL
A blog, as I have come to learn, will push you to develop discipline and the creative muscle to write something new every single day. You will improve yourself at using words through writing. (When you decide to document and tell (your) stories, you will spend a lot of time with language. And thus, become better at it.)
And, when you are more into speaking than writing, Vlogging (blogging through video stories) is a wonderful way to collect knowledge and store it (which also has the potential to be shared, spread widely, and help more people). Of course, the awesome result is that you get incrementally better at expressing yourself — and you build a portfolio / body of work — every single time you play around and film your stories.
Reading, it can be honestly added, has advanced me. Unchained me, if you will.