How I got writing (in a serious publishing way)

Let’s begin by setting the scene. I was supposed to complete my Master's degree in 2016 but I was way behind on my thesis and had to take another semester. I didn’t have to be on Campus (I went to the University of Cape Town in South Africa) I moved back home to Zimbabwe. I cannot describe how disappointed in myself I was at this turn of events. In 2014 I graduated Cum Laude and now I couldn’t even finish my thesis on time?? In retrospect, I can see that I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I just ran out of steam.


Fast forward to 2018, I have my Master’s and now it’s time for a fancy job and lots of money and all that good stuff, right? I’m the child that people have expectations for, I’m good at school and I’m well-spoken and polite. I’ve always been so sure that I’d do something impressive, something spectacular and worthwhile. But finding a job in the field I studied wasn’t so easy (unemployment in Zimbabwe is extremely high), and it can be very difficult for a Zimbabwean to get a job abroad (we’ve flooded the international job market lol).


I floundered. I felt lost and confused. I read the descriptions for these jobs and I was suddenly unsure. Is this what I want to do? Is this what the past SEVEN YEARS led up to? Then I thought, maybe I want to back to school. Maybe I could be an academic? But then where would I study? My parents weren’t going to pay for any more school for me (we don’t have college loans in Zim the way you do in other countries). My Master’s grades weren’t good enough for a scholarship. What else?


And then, of course, the people I went to university with were FLOURISHING and people (I felt) were looking at me all confused and I’m also confused and I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do. I was a mess.


I started teaching English online to make money, mostly Japanese students. I was good at it and taught 9-5 pretty much and had tons of regular students. This job ended up working well for me, the whole making my own schedule thing, but at the time I started, it was only supposed to be a stop-gap.


I used to write a lot in high school, mostly making up fantastical stories about the people (boys) in our school. I always thought I could write a novel, that once I finished school, had the job, the house, the husband and all that stuff then I’d have time for it. It was a distant, future thing. I don’t know why I thought this. I think a part of me thought that I need to earn my way into being a person who writes a book. I know that sounds a little confusing. Like, why would this random girl from Zimbabwe get a book deal? Looking back I think I believed people like me didn’t do things like that so I might as well put it out of my mind.


I didn’t write creatively throughout university and I really wish I had. A little piece of advice from me: don’t push your dreams off to the distance, do it now even if it’s just a little.


So, in March or so 2018 I was teaching English and having a quarter-life crisis when I got an idea for a fantasy novel. It doesn’t go away and I keep thinking about it until I just HAVE to write it. So, one day I take the afternoon off from teaching and begin. And I loved it so much. I woke up early to write, wrote when I didn’t have a class, wrote when I finished teaching. The finished product was far from perfect but pretty good for a first attempt. I might go back to it someday.


I gave it to my mum and I think she just read it to humour me (my mum is great like that) but she was surprised to find that it was kinda good. Now, I must say that my mother is not the false compliment type of mum. She’s awesome but she’s not gonna tell you something is good when it’s not. So, I was pretty pleased with myself.


But I was still set on going the office job route or perhaps going back to school. I started querying that first book and began another. I enjoyed the second one even more and still didn’t acknowledge to myself that I had found my thing and wanted to be a writer. Not as a side gig or a maybe one day thing but as the main thing.


I want to spend most of my days writing and I want to earn a good living from it. I basically only admitted it to myself (and to my mum) toward the end of 2019. That’s when I officially decided to give it a real try. I articulated to myself that writing was my main thing and I was happy teaching English until I managed it. I officially accepted that, though I didn’t want to be an online tutor for the rest of my life, it was the right job for me to have while I was trying to be a published writer. Because of the time difference between Japan and Zimbabwe, peak teaching times were in the afternoon and about 10 pm so I could write all morning and in the evenings.


Strangely enough when I officially made that decision things finally started to happen and I started to get some traction.