Nobody ever died from Listening

Why listening is great for writers

Okay the title might be wrong a bit, I’m sure someone there died from listening, heard the wrong shit and then boom.

Uhmm yeah of course listening is significant for everyone, it’s such a great skill to have, a skill that most people don’t possess; it’s not necessarily a crime, however if you are a bad Listener, I can tell you that you’re missing out on quite a lot.

So, why is listening an important tool or rather skill to have? Well, as writers we have the ability to transport people from a seat to a world they’ve never been into before, I mean in a sense that’s an artists job, we live and thrive on the idea that we take people to this reality that may or may not have existed.

As a writer you have so much you go through, in one lifetime you cannot experience all the emotions needed to write all these different emotionally driven characters, I mean damn, you also have your own personality, when do you get time to party like Van Wilder if you’re always stuck at home watching Harry Potter because you think it’s a great piece of work.

So then how do you write all these eccentric characters if you can’t experience their livelihood, well the best way is to live vicariously. To listen; listen to those that have experienced all these intriguing adventures, and live vicariously; that’s basically it, just sitting across different humans and listening to all their stories.

I recently found out information about Ramadan that I didn’the know, an emotional and psychological level that people who go through it, what they feel like. It was amazing really.

Listening takes patience, it takes interest, anybody can listen but also not everyone can be a great listener. One of my favorite South African writers Kgebetli Moele known for Room 207 and Book of the dead (favorite novel) in an interview said “My stories are mostly based on the character around my community, based is really an understatement, but my community doesn’t want me sitting around them anymore, because they say “ahh you, you will write about us in those books of yours” he laughs. I was there in the interview so I know he laughed.

While he was sharing this event, I could imagine him being outcasted in laughter by community, so in turn, I laughed at that thought. These characters we write, most come from reality, people that exist, only way you can write what an arsehole is like is if you’very been around one; same goes for depressed, wild, socially aware etc. you can’t experience all these things so, it’s not to say hang around these people but listen to them when you get the chance use it.

I sit quietly around strangers at most times, just vanish while sitting among them, what I am doing most time is writing character descriptions in my head, yeah of course to the viewer I am the quiet weirdo, but bare with me, I am at work.

There are a lot of videos out there teaching you how to listen better, as stated, a really important skill to have, Celeste Headlee probably still amongst my favorite talks on listening. So as an artist, as a writer, listen a bit more, just shut up and listen, respond of course but absorb it all in.

Courting on [the] line

How do you prove to someone that you’re worth their time and you are hoping they will be worth your time too?

In anytime, a human relationship has always been difficult to create or manage. You have to think and consider all these things that might effect/affect it.

Personality? Interests? Culture? Language, People etcetera. I think it’s the first time in my life I have written the full word etcetera.

Anyway, in creating a new relationship online, whatever format it might take, is difficult. The biggest problem is, perhaps trying to figure out if the person on the other side is interested at all.

Now, I am a kinesthetic individual; every past relationship I’ve had in my life has been created through physically meeting the person. I am good at that stuff, interacting physically. I mean I have a qualification in it.

A relationship that needs to grow over the phone or text is hard; reason(s) being I can’t see the authenticity of the person on the other end. We’ve all laughed on text but not even smiling in reality, it happens.

Am I making sense?

I feel like I’m not being clear yet, perhaps I should make a personal example. I’m currently in a process of trying to build a “relationship” from an online meet. I swiped right, why? Not why am I trying to meet people online, that’s a question for another day.The question I am asking is, why did I swipe right? Well Andrew Stanton best explains it in his Tedtalk as follows

“We’ve all be there, after switching through so my channels on the TV and suddenly you stop on one, it’s already half way, but you watch because you are drawn to it…it’s by design”

Same thing as well, I found myself stopping, after countless swipes, I stopped at this image. Nothing written, just images that seemed to have a conversation with my eyes and I was curious, turns by out chance? it was the same on the other side.

So we talked, yet, here I am writing. Why am I? Well there’s this heavy feeling on me. I don’t know what emotions the person on the side is going through, if there’s any at all? There’s no way I can tell; it’s awful.

If a physical interaction has occurred I promise I’d be feeling lighter on my chest, but it’s heavy damn. My biggest problem is that I am feeling like I am doing too much? I feel that way because I don’t know yet know which route this relationship will take.. I could be busy interacting like it’s going to be a novel, but the other person only sees a short story; Could be seeing the relationship as just a movie, but the other person sees a series full of ups and downs.


So, how do I talk? It’s not as if I am getting much either; Is that perhaps a sign? or I am over thinking?

I could go online and read manipulative advice from those who have gone through it, but then it wouldn’t be me acting the way I act. So ultimately the way to go is just doing what I would do and hope for the best? Another thing that I could possibly do is ask myself’ What do I want?’

Frankly I don’t seem to have a straight answer and that’s where the issue lies; not being able to figure what exactly I want…

Damn that’s kind of scary.

What’s your advice? What has your experience been, if you’ve ever created some courtship through online “assistance”?

Why we should write our own stories

I am celebrating my 100th post.

Thank you for being here with me
In that celebration I thought I’d write about story, my story.

In this changing world our traditional knowledge seems to not be accommodated anymore. There is a wave of change, the African body is still behind, what it needs is access to knowledge. Our issue is simple, we are still trying to recover from past events, however while in recovery those who have recovered are pillaging. The African body is a sea of untapped intellect, it contains so much, including traditional history (natural knowledge passed down from generation to generation); it is the tools to access it for ourselves that we need, that we must fight for together.

In the lifetime that I have lived, my journey of discovery always leads me back to one thing; I want to have the ability to give access to knowledge to my people. I will be fully satisfied with life if all I am able to gain from it, is the fulfilment of my African people knowing more about the things of the world, and beyond. I use to listen to Les Brown and one of my favourite quotes from him are when you have to imagine yourself in your death bed and surrounding your bed are your dreams, your abilities and your talents that you were given by life and you never got to use them.

I want to live without regret. I hope to live long enough to make choices that will use all that is given to me.

So, my start begins at home.
If you read the many talks by Africans that are available online, including ones on Tedtalk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; all keep making the statement we need to tell our own stories. Why do we need to tell our own stories? Well fact 1: It seems like no one will write our stories, sometimes no one will review the stories we write, so we need to do it ourselves. Fact 2: When people write our stories they dilute them with their perspectives, that the stories no longer have the essence of us.

In this writing I want to talk about my story, I want us to have a look at where I grew up, my hometown. Inspired by an episode on Billions I too want to travel down memory lane and ask myself a series of very important questions such as: Have I escaped the hood? If I am not the one to amend (fix) the hood who will be responsible? Am I willing to go back to my home? Am I? Who am I in this hood of mine? And the blackest hood question of all which is better said in my own language (If I go back home, what would it be for?) (Ngizothi ngiyaphi mangiya ekhaya? Ngiyokwenzani)

These questions are layered with other questions that perhaps will be answered as I write so without further ado…let me start with these words

                                       "Welcome to Willowfountain"
       “A small town (location) in the city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa”

In the year 2015, I collaborated with my friend Fiddy Ngcobo to write a play titled Welcome to Gomora, the work as I consummated the idea is based on my hometown ‘Willowfountain’

It is Andrew Stanton who said “When you write, start from what you know”, and I know my community. I spend my time like my favourite writer Kgebetli Moele watching my location like a reality TV show, it unfolds and I take it all in silence, and shakeable laughter.

It’s very strange that I am having trouble right now deciding which point of view should I describe the play from. The play is based on mob/community justice, which when I grew up became an act that the community engaged in after realizing the government didn’t really much care. As Michael Jackson once said

“They don’t care about us” #WeMatter

The work, follows a priest, Pastor Nsimbi who leads the community in routing out the evil (criminals) of the town through mob justice; on the opposite side is one young man, Thabo, who is against the act of mob justice and fights for a better way to be found.

There exists a strong battle of morality within the play.

As I mentioned the work was based on my own community, and experiences in the community thus I unconsciously wrote myself in as Thabo. Which takes me back to the question, who am I in my community? To be honest, I feel like I never fitted in. I felt like an alien in the hood, I am pretty sure I made myself one through the things I did. I didn’t want to be a sheep, neither did I want to be the wolf. While everyone seemed comfortable with the life around the hood, I was visioning an international escape, I wanted out.

I told myself from a young age that if I have kids they won’t grow up in my hometown. Is my hometown really that bad? I can’t answer that clearly; it can’t be clear because some of the events and acts that happened there made me who I am today; the mentality/psyche I have was built because I grew up there. So, I wrote myself in the play as an outcast, a young man who has a certain vision but when you’re young anyone hardly listens.

Then again there was the pastor, it’s tricky because the pastor was also based on me, but let’s not be psychological, the pastor is based on pastors/ the leaders of the community; the individuals that are vicariously feeding off people’s weak mentalities.

If you’ve learned to trust everything in “God” some of us deem themselves as impenetrable and can never do no wrong; as long as what you are doing is in the name of the lord. Right?

I’ve grown up watching adult commit inhumane acts in my community but forgiven once they declared themselves to have found God/Jesus.

That’s not fair

It has never been a secret that I am not a religious person within personal reasons such as the things I have seen, the lies, the deceit and the dark side religion poses. It’s not all the people but people tend to use the idea of God/Jesus as an escape; in the work Gomora that is exactly what Pastor Nsimbi does, for his own personal revenge he uses the idea of religion to justify all his ‘evil’ acts and the community blindly follows (as most people do).

Let me be clear however, when mob justice occurred in my community it did good, it really did. For the first time I felt that my community was working together, not living in fear; however, my own morality crept in, and posed an argument.

This guides me to the next question: who is responsible in rescuing our hometowns? I certainly feel that I have a responsibility to rescue my hometown. Every time I walk in the hood I can see everything I did in it, and I envision it being better. My community knows only the surface of the world, just like the Titanic iceberg, my community is unable to see the deepness of the iceberg; they are comfortable with the surface of it and I hate it. I have however realized why it is so, its access to knowledge that blinds them, thus I feel it a responsibility of mine to pave the way forward, to open their eyes to the iceberg.

I don’t want to leave it to anyone else.

Sometimes the mistake people make is they hope that someone else will be the hero, like naah it’s not my responsibility, it’s not necessarily mine either, but I want to.

There continues to be layers that are explored in Gomora. People will follow those who lead, but it’s not always blind following, everyone is hurting differently, the hood is filled with so many devastating stories, full of untapped hope. That as Les Brown said, I wonder how many people lie in their death beds and are being yelled at by their dreams, abilities and talents for not living a worthy life.

I write myself in my stories because I am part of the story.

There are many scenes that I loved in this work that explore the human social mentality; again based on experiences I have had in reality. For example, the opening scene sees a young man Mfundo who is about to be burned by the community have his mother rush in to save him. She pleads for her son not to be killed; she pleads he rather be sent to jail. In an outburst of revolt, the community yells ‘No to that act’, speaking about the uselessness of the system; that he will be released in no time. In this scene it’s two things that I hoped we could highlight 1). The lack of trust people has for the police/government, 2). It is admirable, and motherly love but I have always wondered how is it that parents defend their criminal kids? I hated it in the hood seeing a parent crying for their child not to be killed after they have been murdering innocent people and stealing from them for years, but she kept silence. Isn’t that really messed up?

I could break down the script to its basic foundation, what I am highlighting are the elements and the intellect that make up the script; It wasn’t perfect but it was showing human interaction, questioning morality and most importantly trying to heal broken ideas.

It comes back full circle to, is it really possible for one person to change the views of many? It seems it is possible; we are seeing it right now throughout the world, but we know that it is only that way after a huge sacrifice has been made, either loss of life or loss of self. For people to change their minds and open their eyes in the play an innocent person had to die. Again, everything is by design, in that death it was me stating that I will choose death rather than watch my people suffer in a loop that makes them inhumane and not grow. That in my death I hope my people can see the vision I had for them

The work (play) tends to also deal with choices; the choices we make, and how those choice can define what happens to us later. We are human, we sometimes make terrible choices. I have made some terribly decisions in my life, I have those I regret and honestly those that I don’t, however in both circumstance those decisions made me better.

One such scene in the play is Thabo and Marabi (a location gangster); these young men are so far apart yet so similar at the same time. Their lives are separated by circumstances and choices. We can argue that there are certain circumstances that lead you to be a certain way, but ultimately it is a choice, a decision that you make to choose which path is your salvation. Thabo and Marabi both went to school together, both ended up with no parents in their lives.


Thabo chose education to be his salvation, while Marabi chooses crime.
In the work Thabo saves Marabi from death by mob, later on Marabi tries to kill him/Thembile, indirectly he succeeds. There was an unscripted dialogue that occurred in the work that spoke so much in how choice made these two characters different.

Marabi: “Thabo, you went to school, you are intelligent, you have means to live; I only know means to survive, and this is how I do it” again the dialogue was in vernack.

You have to appreciate it when actors can blend reality and performance.

In the time line that I am in right now, I don’t necessarily believe that education is the key to everything better, that’s a messed-up mentality to have, and my people have been brain washed into that belief, and we are dying because of it, and we don’t even see it.
Access to knowledge is the key, yes, education has taken me quite far I admit that, I am in a foreign country as I type this because I have a degree, but access to knowledge rains above it.

Without trying to overwrite which I clearly have .There is an important element in the play that I was giggling when it was implemented. I believe we, as people have an understanding of what is right and what is wrong; there is this thing called conscious that tells us when we are fucking up. Clearly in this day and age some people need to speak to their conscious.

In Welcome to Gomora, we had this character Spikili who could only be seen by Pastor Nsimbi, I mean it’s a play between him being the only person who can see spirits (God), a man who has lost his mind, and/or a man who is battling with his conscious. You see, a lot of unconscious thought went into writing the work that no one will ever realise, except us the writers.
As Pastor Nsimbi does the deeds of killing evil, his conscious, a former friend of his Spikili tells him that it is wrong, that what he is doing is not written in any religious verse. Do view a clip of this scene on my YouTube channel JC Zondi. It is only at the end when it is useless that Nsimbi finally listens to his conscious.

What does this say? Although emotionally and psychologically scarred; We are thinkers, we know exactly what acts will cause what reactions, we are not fools; we have the ability to understand what the results of our actions will be.

This writing is mashed up into a lot of things, my thoughts perhaps ended up going wild, I know, however it is simply me trying to make you the reader understand that change sometimes needs to start singular before it goes plural, and it maybe not in your life that the effect of change will occur, maybe in your death. Your ideas are important, if not to anyone they are important to you, so if you can, write them down.

We need to start writing our own stories, we need to start telling our stories, not just the bad ones, but the good ones too, the memories that build us. I am on a long journey, I am yet to see the end; I got an idea of how my end will be and like the man in the film Big Fish, I am excited for it. So you, whoever you may be, look at the world, if it is too big look closer; you have the capability to change what’s not right around you and the responsibility to praise that which is going great.

Take your pen and begin to write.