By Shenaaz Msusa
“The next word is DITCH; I repeat ditch,” announced the teacher loudly and clearly during our dictation test.
At the end of the “easy” paper we proceeded to swap tests and mark each other’s work. The teacher repeated the words, with the correct spelling this time. Excitement built up inside me as I remembered spelling all the words that far correctly. But suddenly a burst of laughter exploded behind me.
“Ma’am, someone spelt BITCH and not DITCH,” shouted a learner, while her fellow mates gasped for breath. The entire class laughed, while ma’am shook her head at the stupidity, looking directly at me. It was humiliating.
This happened in late high school; I loved reading and writing but still I could not differentiate between D and B. My spelling was clearly a joke, and as for grammar, what grammar? It was the end of the road for me.
Before that incident (which happened to be the cherry on top), I wrote day in, day out. I wrote stories, plays and articles. My imagination would burst with colourful ideas.
I only had one problem, spelling, that would ruin the entire story. I spent a few years in high school trying to perfect my spelling. I practiced constantly but for some odd reason it was never enough; I received the same results over and over again from my English teacher.
All my enthusiasm, hard work and ambition landed me a 60%, if I was lucky (speak of discouraging!).
I never saw myself as a writer, so I pursued a career in Sports and Movement. Despite that, I still wrote, just for myself of course. I received no criticism. No editing. But where was the growth?
This year it all changed. I’ve waited five years for it to hit me, my big HELLO moment.
Earlier this year I wrote a love story; it had this amazing twist to it (mind blowing I would say). Something inside me whispered: “Hey, why not share it with a few of your book-loving friends and see what happens”. So after much contemplation, I shut the door of negative thought and started forwarding my work. I went to bed thinking, “Shenaaz, you shouldn’t have”.
I woke up that morning to an endless stream of messages. Some read, “OMG! I love it”. Or “This should be in a magazine or something”, “It’s perfect! Change nothing.”
But the message that most caught my attention was: “It is OK. Nice twist. You describe things really well but it needs some work…”.
I found myself crawling back into the cave before I could finish reading the rest of the text, which read, “Continue writing, continue practicing. Not everyone is going to love your style but what matters is that it’s you, so keep it like that. I LOVE THAT IT’S JUST YOU.”
It all came together at that moment: all this time I had kept my work to myself, I lost the opportunity to learn more, to improve because of some person in my past’s perspective on my spelling errors, forgetting that practice will enhance that. All I have to do is continue doing ME because that’s what makes the story authentic.
So I continued.
I took my story, worked on it and submitted it. And now here I am submitting once again with the words ‘continue writing, just do you’ in mind. There is no way of growing, learning or improving hidden work.
My writing journey has been one bumpy road, but I have taken the wheel and I embark on this journey with high hopes.
I love writing, so I continue.
About the Author
Born and raised in South African, Shenaaz Msusa is the daughter of a Malawian author, following in her father’s footsteps. Shenaaz is currently a 3rd year biokinetics student at the University of Johannesburg. She is passionate about writing and spends her free time turning her imagination into words. An up-and-coming author, she believes that one day she will write a book that will become a best seller and inspire many young writers that it’s possible to write, despite the struggles, language disabilities and so forth.
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