February is quite a significant month for me because it marks the end of my first year of writing and daring to take that bold leap into the unknown. Which was crazy really because it was pre-global-meltdown and of course the popular belief is that you can't make a living as a writer. Or that you cannot make a good living as a writer.
Well let me tell you that's absolute rot.
To be honest I was as nervous as all hell about my decision and wracked with fears of failure. To escape this fear I spent a lot of my working life doing what I didn't love. Sad but true. Fear and the lure of lucre are a heady cocktail that can easily lead anyone off their chosen or ordained path.
The problem about doing what you don't love is that you suffer from fatigue, disillusionment, keep hitting your head against obstacles and wondering why you don't wake up with a bounce in your step on Mondays.
"Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else." - Jospeh Campbell
Although I studied Journalism at Rhodes University and spent one short year in broadcast journalism (which I loved) a side step into commerce for better pay proved a lasting career mistake.After a series of personal trials I learned that doing what I didn't love was damaging my health.
I threw my hat back in the ring in March 2008 and started writing at no cost for Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader, and must thank Matthew Buckland and Vincent Maher for giving me this break. Thought Leader offered me a platform to showcase my work, to reach a wider audience and afforded me credibility through the Mail & Guardian brand.
The big break came when I stumbled across a story that should have been headline news, but largely fell through the cracks. It was Naspers and the trail of Mugabe’s blood money which was written on gut during the day (and long into the night(, then sent off to Alec Hogg's Moneyweb. Alec has been a tough and exacting mentor, but has taught me some of the best lessons of my journalistic career. The advice that most impacted on me was his statement: "The truth is a sustainable commodity. Sensation is not." Felicity Duncan and the Moneyweb team have also taught me some really important lessons.
The Naspers/Mugabe story was such a head rush that I sought to make all other stories like that. The fact is that they are not and the best journalism is about dogged research, thoroughness and seeking truth rather than sensation. As it is with life, each new story is an experience that deserves to be approached without expectation or preconception. You can't chase the rush, you can just chase the story.
Then dreams do come true. One of my dreams was to write for an offshore title and to earn dollars or pounds. This happened in January when I started writing for Brandchannel.
During the year I have interviewed and met some incredible people. The experience that meant the most to me was when Deon Basson wrote me a note to congratulate me on the Naspers/Mugabe story, and then we spoke and subsequently met for lunch. I had long admired Basson who was South Africa's Public Interest Warrior, and was ruthless in his pursuit of the truth. Basson had a deep sense of justice and was revered by his colleagues and those who knew him. His death was a bitter blow for journalism in this country.
The one story I covered that affected me most deeply this past year, was that of the plight of the refugees following the xenophobic attacks that scarred our country last year. It also offered hope because that one post on Thought Leader got thousands of views in a matter of hours channeling relief from the likes of Pep Stores and Pick 'n Pay to aid organisations mentioned in the story.
This story filled me with a strong sense of purpose and a clear understanding of how important journalism is.
What it can do to change the world.