Thank you Carmen Botman for your insightful thoughts regarding the world of writing.
Ramblings and Reflections of an (unpublished) Writer
I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. For anyone who hasn’t been there, it’s a beautiful place. Well, in the warmer months, at least. During winter you won’t get anything more than rain and wind and the occasional snow on the mountain tops.
But in summer, it’s a city renewed. You get to do all the outdoor things like going to the beach or climbing the mountains or just enjoying a meal outside without the fear of being drenched or frozen to death. It’s also the time when you get to see artists working on their crafts. They are always interesting characters to watch, whether it be the painters producing portraits or landscapes in their beautiful colours, or the musicians playing their different instruments with passion, or the writers sitting quietly in the corners of coffee shops with massive cups of steaming brew and A4 notepads, frantically scribbling away. One thing they all have in common is that they are intriguing to watch. My dad calls them ‘eccentric.’ And somehow that sort of lifestyle – the artists’ life – has always appealed to me.
But of course, like my parents (rightly) told me when I was nearing the end of high school and told them that I wanted to be a writer, is that I would probably struggle to make a living as one. I was encouraged to go to University and study for a respectable degree. They said that I could always write in my spare time. Looking at the tough market out there, and especially in South Africa, I understand what they had meant.
Fast forward seventeen years. I’ve earned my respectable degree which has allowed me to live in other countries and travel a bit of the world, for which I will always be grateful for. And lo and behold, I’m still writing madly.
The thing is that I am now at that awkward phase. I feel sort of like the geeky teenager with the braces in a world of adult writers, not really sure where I fit in yet.
I still work for the occupation I’ve been trained for during the day in the corporate world. I write at night (when I’m not too exhausted) and in any other spare time I can find and I have completed my first full-length novel in a series, along with a number of other shorter pieces and poems. The thing is, I haven’t been published yet, either independently or traditionally. It’s a strange, conflicting feeling I have when I think about self-publishing, because I grew up in a time when we visited the library religiously to take out books – paper books published by traditional publishers. So a big part of me is still emotionally attached to actual paper books.
I’m sure this scenario is not uniquely mine, but I am now in a place in my life where I am considering myself more and more to be a writer rather than the Occupational Therapist that I had studied to become. But, am I really a writer if I haven’t been published yet? And if I publish independently, has my work really been validated? Do I really need a third party to authenticate my novel and say ‘I now proclaim thee an official a writer’ for me to actually be considered a writer by fellow writers and readers? Do I need the approval of other writers? Certainly I would need the approval of readers, wouldn’t I? I mean, they’re the ones who buy the books.
These are all tough questions that I battle with daily. When someone asks me, “So what do you do?,” I so much want to say “I’m a writer,” and then proceed to tell them all the things that I have already written and projects still in the making. But I timidly answer “I’m an OT,” (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an OT!) because I know that the very next question will be, “So what have you published?” And I would look like a complete idiot if I say “nothing,” wouldn’t I? I cringe when people who have discovered that I do indeed write refer to it as ‘a nice hobby,’ because to me it’s so much more than that. It’s my life!
So I suppose I need to decide what is going to be the best for me. A big part of me still desperately wants to be traditionally published, but I imagine that I’m going to have to move with the times and may have to consider self-publishing, should things not pan out. And maybe one day I’ll be able to boldly state, with absolute confidence, that I am a writer, when someone enquires of my occupation. And perhaps one day I’ll be one of those intriguing people, sitting in parks and cafes and coffee shops in Cape Town, honing my craft.
Carmen Botman is a writer from South Africa. Born and raised in Cape Town for most of her life, she now resides in Gauteng with her husband and two Labradors. She writes fantasy/fiction novels for the older teen and young adult. She is a member of the dynamic Pretoria Writers Group and a Nanowrimo participant. Some of her work can be found on Wattpad for free. She is in the process of getting her first book of The Ternion Series published.
You can connect with Carmen on: