I’m really excited about this second podcast episode! I had so much fun recording it for you, and I hope you love it too.
So, we’re talking about what drives me when it comes to writing, but let’s keep the conversation going! What drives you to chase your passion pursuit? Please let me know in the comments. 🙂
Links mentioned in this episode:
Also, just a reminder that my Patreon family will receive a bonus episode every month! Find out more here.
Okay, in case you can’t listen to the podcast, here’s the text version:
Hello, and welcome to Book Talk with Yolandie.
This is the place where we’ll chat about my books, discuss my writing process, and many other bookish topics.
Last time we spoke about what I write—which is the first question people ask when they learn I’m a writer. Very often this is followed by a why. Why do I write gaslamp fantasy? Why do I not write children’s stories, or romances, or insert genre here?
But the deeper souls out there want to know more. Why do I write in general? What drives me to do it?
And this one isn’t so easy to answer, but I’ll have a crack at it in this episode.
Now, I didn’t always want to be a writer. I’m not like those people who are like ‘oh I just always knew.’ I didn’t. As a very small kid, I wanted what all kids want: actress, singer, astronaut. The actress thing stuck for a while, though nobody knows how this major introvert would’ve pulled that one off. I mean, if two people are looking at me at the same time, I already feel uncomfortable. Imagine having to be funny or sad in front of an entire camera crew, director, and co. Definitely not my calling!
Then I went through this phase of unholy obsession with Steven Spielberg, a thing amplified during the years I watched Dawson’s Creek, and all I wanted was to make the movies. The idea of becoming a director really drove me, and I don’t even know how many screenplays I wrote. I had my friends read the lines with fake accents during ‘rehearsals’. Because, you know, we were making a movie.
We never did, though. I don’t honestly think we stood a chance. I grew up in South Africa in a time when the film industry hadn’t yet discovered the place.
And sure, the times have changed. These days, there are many international success stories straight out of South Africa, which is amazing. A lot of movies and series end up being made there, because the film crews are skilled, the land is versatile, and the fees don’t compare with what they pay to make movies in the US.
The point of all of this rambling is writing wasn’t my dream, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t always writing. Between scripts, random stories, and poems, I had notebooks full of writing pursuits.
I don’t do poetry these days, but I even received a few awards back then. One of my language teachers actually encouraged me to consider journalism because of it. Looking back, I wish I’d listened. I might have discovered my biggest passion sooner.
But you know, teenagers know everything and because I couldn’t have my way out there directing dream, I went with the second choice—art. Specifically, graphic design. Out of all my interests, it was the safest. The one that would pay the bills. Growing up in a developing country, you always take the safest bet, right?
I’ve learned that this is a mind-set thing. Like, the colonial background dictates not tooting your own horn, that not reaching too high will help us avoid disappointment, and that the safer option is the better option. I’m an adult now (don’t tell anyone I said that) and I still struggle to see beyond these restrictions. I’ve recently read a few informative books that have said things along the same lines, so maybe this is a fun little side-tangent that deserves to be explored in future blog posts.
But okay, the point is I went with the safe option and studied graphic design. Only to find I wanted something else, but I had no idea what something else was.
I’ve blogged a lot about how I rediscovered writing, but I’ll recap quickly in case there’s someone who hasn’t heard this story yet.
I was pretty depressed during my first few years as a freelance designer. I mean, the depression still comes and goes, you know? It’s one of those annoying constants in my life. But at that stage the reason was simple. I hadn’t found the joy I’d been looking for in graphic design and art had turned into something I loved one day and barely tolerated the next. For me, graphic design had too many rules and restrictions, and again, introvert. Clients can be *ahem* difficult sometimes.
So my wonderful bestie Liani—who, by the way, is such a talented photographer and artist, and I’ll link to her creative endeavours in the description—but she suggested I do a makeup artistry course so I could help out with her growing business. Just to do something different, right? To pull me out of the hole of doom and gloom and force me outside the house. Me and my hermit phases.
Anyway, Liani ended up doing a refresher makeup course with me, and while we bonded we made people feel pretty. And I fell in love. Makeup inspired me in a way nothing else had been able to in a very long time. The way people lit up once they saw their reflections was a different kind of drug, and it fed my soul. The irony is my introvertedness didn’t disappear, but I don’t know, working on someone’s face is different than working on their web design or logos. You have the power to accentuate their most beautiful traits and help them feel confident again. It’s a beautiful thing.
And sure, the beauty industry can be a really ugly place, but those moments of connecting with other humans were really special to me.
So much for a quick recap, right? I did this makeup course, and during the process we had to think of fun stage makeup looks for our final exam. So I trolled the interwebs for inspiration for this look and came across a few amazing beauty blogs. The way Kandee Johnson and Lisa Eldridge, among others, wrote and vlogged about makeup inspired me some more, and I figured I could do that too.
And so starteth the time of dreams. My first blog was called The Bloomin’ Couch, inspired by Eliza Doolittle. The idea was to create an informal safe zone, a place where people could kick off their shoes, get comfy with a cuppa, and just relax. I ran this blog for five or so years, posting every weekday, during which time I realised I loved writing.
Like, I LOVED writing. I couldn’t wait to create content for the blog, but the photos and makeup soon became secondary to the act of writing. And I was inspired to take this passion over to novels.
I freely admit that my first three novels are seriously horrible. I fell into the noob trap of publishing them without having them edited, and for that I’m deeply sorry. They’ve been unpublished for years, and I hope to revamp them one day, but no amount of exposition or grammatical nightmarishness could ever reduce what those books mean to me.
They helped me find myself. They taught me who I am. Because I am Yolandie, and I am a writer. I cannot begin to explain to you the adrenaline rush I get from typing words. Even while scripting this episode, I got tears in my eyes and my heartbeat ran away.
I find joy in the way my keyboard sounds like a tiny heartbeat when I type away. Sometimes I feel dead inside, but the cursor jumps across the screen and resembles a lifelike state in ways I can’t always match. When I’m anxious, the act of pressing the keys soothes me. I might not have the drive to get anything done, but five minutes of typing is the physical proof that I did do something. I made something, and one line of dialogue is often the only inspiration I need to keep going. Basically, I’m like a two-year-old with a pacifier around my keyboard.
And I sound like a total geek because that’s what I am, but I’m not making any of this up! These tiny things are meaningless to other people, but this is what makes writing the most fulfilling time pursuit out there for me.
And of course I don’t mean this passion of mine diminishes how I feel about my family and friends. They do bring me copious amounts of joy, and my daughter is the cutest thing on the planet, and my husband is my best friend and we have buckets of fun together. They mean everything to me.
But my essence isn’t defined by only being a wife or mother, a sister or a friend. There’s more to me than that. I’ve written about this too, but if you want to apply labels to who and what I am, you’re going to need a stack of post-it notes!
I find it hilarious how some people rush to assume I don’t love my kid as much as I love writing. Like, no Karen, the fact that I adore writing doesn’t mean I can’t love other things. Motherhood doesn’t demand of us to exist solely to feed our offspring and give up all of the other stuff that brings us joy.
In fact, in many ways I think it means we have to chase our exterior, non-familial passions even harder, so our kids can see it’s okay for them to chase their dreams. Also, you know, our kids will move out of the house one day, and we’re going to need something to keep us going once they’re gone. Just putting that thought out there.
There’s this saying about making a living out of a thing you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s really cute, but it’s untrue. I don’t want to generalise, so this is based on personal experience, but talk to people who created a business out of their passions or found a job in that line, and the majority of them will say it sucked the joy right out of the thing. Sure, some will still love the thing, but deadlines and screaming customers can be massive passion killers.
And again, this is personal experience. The minute I had to rely on art to generate an income, it became work and it frustrated me.
For example, at the moment, most of my art-making pursuits happen digitally. And it’s cute and I still have a sense of accomplishment once the project is complete, but the act of drawing doesn’t spark joy. It doesn’t make me feel horrible either, but it falls in this weird neutral zone. On the off occasion that I watercolour something, the joy is still there, and now I’m afraid to accept watercolour commissions, because I don’t want to lose what little joy I have left.
I think this is because the work dictates the content. Before, I could draw or paint whatever the hell I felt like making. Now, the customer provides the specs, and what I create is based on what they want. Or the stickers I create are based on trends or requests, and is rarely something I choose to make for the heck of it.
And this isn’t me complaining, that’s not my intent at all. I just want to try and illustrate (see what I did there) that turning a passion-pursuit into a job equals work. Most people will be forced to give up at least some of the freedom they enjoyed when the thing was a hobby, and now work longer hours, see more clients, or work to different specs than before. These are the facts.
Having said all of that, there are exceptions. And again, I have personal experience.
In the eleven years I’ve been blogging and writing, I’ve never once felt like the writing was work. Depression came and went (and came back again) and sometimes I felt despondent because of external factors. Sometimes I couldn’t find the right words the story needed, or the events in the story drained my emotional well all the way to the bottom, but one truth remains.
The writing makes me happy. Writing has never felt like work. It has never felt like anything except a recharge for my soul.
People have often asked me if I want to gain fame and renown from my books, and I really don’t. If I didn’t have to earn an income, I wouldn’t worry about selling my books at all, and I swear I’m not even making that up. I’d be really happy to leave my stories in a dark corner of the internet and let their niche find them. And even while I’d love to make enough money from my writing to give up the art business completely, I still don’t crave the fame and renown. All I want is to write the stories in my head and heart.
So, to answer that question—why do I write?
Because I can’t not. Because I feel like half a person when I’m unable to do it. Because it helps me see the world in a more tolerant and empathetic way. Because it helps me deal with trauma and heartache in ways therapy hasn’t compared. Because I am Yolandie, and I am a writer.
It’s that simple. And maybe that complicated.
So, please chat to me about your passions, and what drives you to chase them? I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, folks.
Thank you for listening to Book Talk with Yolandie! If you’d like to connect, I’m on Facebook and Instagram, and you can also find me on my website, www.yolandiehorak.com.
The music is River Meditation by Jason Shaw.