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Wordsetc Journal

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How I Write – A Writer’s Journey by Dahlma Llanos Figueroa

I write first and foremost because the stories I grew up reading bore no resemblance to my world.

I was born into a world of stories full of colour, warmth, tragedy and humour. I was born into a world of music and intuitive knowing. But when I went to school, I was told that reason and logic were the only acceptable ways of knowing. Emotions clouded reality. Definitions had to be exact, measurable, black and white, no in-betweens. Keep it simple, I was told.

But I was not simple. I was a black Puerto Rican female in a world that insisted that I be one or the other and valued neither one. That made no sense to me. And so I began to write my world, my way.

I write first and foremost because the stories I grew up reading in school bore no resemblance to the world of my family and my community. Those stories did not tell about the lines in my grandmother’s face or the smell on my abuelo’s skin when he came home from the cane fields. Nowhere did I see my family’s many shades of brown complexions or the sound of my mother’s voice when she called me mamita. I write because those images will not allow me to be silent.

I began writing as a teenager and have been filling journals since. I poured all my adolescent angst and romanticised notions of the world onto paper. When I graduated from university I had the desire to write but I also knew myself enough to know that I had nothing to write about, not yet.

I had lots of colours in my head. I had lots of pieces of dreams. But I knew that there was a whole world out there that I knew nothing about. I hadn’t explored enough, hadn’t given or received enough. In short, I hadn’t lived enough. So I began teaching and, consciously or not, I began observing the world around me, asking questions, forming opinions, collecting stories. I found stories everywhere — my students, colleagues, family members, the newspaper, the turbulent times — were all fountains of information, dreams, aspirations, fears. I travelled extensively and found that travelling and exploring the way other people live, always gave me a new perspective on my own life.

This period was probably the most nourishing for me as an artist. I fed my creative hunger on everyone and every event in my life. I had achievements and losses in my life. I had joys and tragedies. And all of it ended up on paper in one form or another. It took me years but eventually, I looked around and thought —now I have something to say.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Matome</a>
    October 16th, 2008 @12:22 #

    Emotionally moving,honestly speaking I see myself in your shoes,nice post Phakama.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    October 16th, 2008 @13:01 #

    Phakama will be chatting to Nancy Richards on SAfm today at 1h30 - tune in! 104 - 107fm.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    October 16th, 2008 @14:10 #

    If that's a taste of Wordsetc, I'm subscribing NOW!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Phakama</a>
    October 22nd, 2008 @16:00 #

    Thanks Helen

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Phakama</a>
    October 22nd, 2008 @16:02 #

    One more thing, as of today, Wordsetc is now available at Apartheid Museum in Ormonde, south of Joburg. The museum opens from Tuesday to Sunday. The museum is worth a visit.


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