I don’t mean to be cynical, in fact I don’t want to be. But I also hate the plasticky feeling of the empty affirmations I have been doing to stay afloat. I am talented, I am smart, I am loved, all of them do not seem to do much for me when my immediate needs are financial and existential. I am home because I left a job that was not working for my mental health, now tell me why I am still in a rut. When I quit, I promised myself only one month of job hunting and utilization of my time: exercise, write, study online. I am doing all of that, also as a way to ward off the uncertainty of everything. Fear worms itself into my ear with questions, what if the job takes longer to come, what if I gain instead of lose weight, what if I get crippled by anxiety and never come out on top?

I am also trying to give sober Phodiso a chance and that is proving to be more challenging. I am usually able to get on with what needs to be done a little better after a glass of wine and looking back, that is how I have been getting through everything even the smallest of tasks like cleaning the house. When I look at myself on the mirror, little silver roots are beginning to spread on my tummy and I know that they are new, not unwarranted, only about to get worse if I don’t stop over drinking. But that is hard. I feel like the typical alcoholic who says, I can stop whenever I want, but when I try, I only survive a day, two at most, then the next day I return home with a box of wine. Today though, I feel present, of course every task feels boring, my morning exam, exercising, my phone. But this sobriety is also a tiny shoot of newness which I want to guard like a precious, fragile baby on which I want to revel. I know it is hard but I will try.


I recently got on an online residency program to help me focus on my writing in community. I wish it were in person, somewhere in a forest near a river or ocean. Just writing this I can already feel my shoulders relax and my lungs take a deep refreshing breath. Something about greenery and water says ‘life’ even to the imagination. I know going away would definitely be an escape for me but don’t we all need a little bit of a break to go get things in perspective and work on a goal? When I got into the program, I wanted to work on my manuscript, Family Time, which has so far been rejected twice. It has been a month and I have not touched it, instead, I am writing silly poems and attempting prompts from our artists’ meet. Thus, I feel insecure about the work because something about your work being rejected—especially one you had so much faith in—just dims something in you.

It doesn’t help that I cannot remember the last time I received an acceptance mail even for the small submissions I make. There is a crippling fear infiltrating whatever writing I am attempting, suggesting that perhaps everything I have published was mere luck, a personal preference of an editor somewhere in a low-lit room finding my work relatable with some remote part of their lives. I know this is not true, I am familiar with this kind of doubt but I still feel a little stuck. In an attempt to kick myself out of limbo last year, feeling rather despondent that all my time seemed to have gone into planning my husband and I’s wedding, I put my head down and penned a collection of poems influenced by… you guessed it, our wedding process! In the collection, I explore traditions around Setswana wedding proceedings, preparation and marriage counselling, together with my personal dealings with coming into my womanhood. I felt pretty confident about the work and so submitted it for the Sillerman First Book Prize. Of recent, I have been thinking perhaps that the manuscript is too local for such a prize which has made me sad. Sad that my best work thus far feels subpar, that nothing came of all that time when I solely focused on dress fittings, centre pieces and wedding logistics. I know it is what it is, that I have to let go of this thing of conferring my value to what competition my work wins, and I will try. It is just that today is just one of those days where I am unsure about everything.

In any case I am home because of unemployment, off my usual routine, so I guess I could make this my own residency of sorts. I am reading really amazing memoirs, The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, Hunger by Roxanne Gay, and How to Say Babylon by Safiya Sinclair. I resonate with all their stories, loosely, the former is about a troubled romantic relationship, Hunger is about living in a big body and the sexual assault that informed the decisions that caused the author to arrive at the body she has, and the latter is about being raised by a strictly Rastafarian father. I appreciate the different styles in which the books are written and will try the fragmented way of writing chapters that Machado and Gay employs. Reading widely gives me permission to try different styles of writing that I see and even try out my own quirky styles which I find liberating. Before these three, I was reading, When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar which is a novel in verse about three orphans raised by an uncle abroad. I think the books that move me most do so because I can relate to some core part of them, in Asghar’s book more because of the relationships between the sisters which turned my gaze inward to mine and my sister. How we grew to tell inside jokes, know each other’s emotional states by micro inflections in body language and tone of voice. That feeling of it being two of us against the world even when the subject on the table is as minor as who broke our mother’s vase.

I intend to read books that challenge me but also interest me this year. Books that give me permission to imagine the world around me beautiful and ugly and sad and full of impossible joy. Although all I can do with myself to not lose my mind is read and write, writing often demands I be alone, the result of which is such palpable loneliness leading to really long periods of sadness. Finding balance between productive creativity and human connection is an art I am still learning the brush strokes of.


One of my aims this year is to write about subjects I hardly tackle. I have written enough about my lovingly disappointing father, my erratic mental health, and that one relationship that wrecked me silly in my twenties. No matter how hard I try, there seems to be this thread of longing for my father throughout my work. Perhaps because my work is influenced greatly by my personal life makes me feel a little like a fraud, like I am not that serious a writer. I do get commissioned work my way which is always great because the money is good (when it is) but in my own time, I write about my own life. I intend to write eco poems, to challenge myself with brand communication (for their different subjects which I can use as prompts) and whatever else to exercise my writing muscle. I am still trying to find my niche but I also feel like maybe it is ok to do this and that, to be interested in poetry and flash fiction and creative nonfiction and not just a particular genre. It would be nice to also collaborate with different writers and perform with live bands and just do wild things. I say wild to mean what I am not used to, what I usually feel I cannot do, and what gives me the lump-in-my-throat kind of anxiety to prove it. This because nothing memorable in my work has ever been easy let alone been handed down to me on a silver platter.

When I received an email from the revered Kwame Dawes to submit my chapbook for consideration to the African Poetry Book Fund, I worried that I would squander the opportunity by submitting subpar work. I thought of asking to submit the following year, I emailed my mentor (who is yet to know who she is) in the UK on some, “I am shaking in my boots ma’am,” to which she responded, “No shaking. This invitation means you are doing something right and someone has noticed.” Needless to say, I submitted and my chapbook is now published. When I got invited to perform at the president’s inauguration, that Ms Imposter Syndrome did not let me rest. All week of rehearsals I kept thinking, what if I forget my lines, what if my poem is not accepted? What if I embarrass myself and fall onstage (I have been known to fall at very wrong times in the presence of very important people, case in point: our wedding, twice!) But my time came to perform and I did really great. And then there was that time where I won the national poetry award, that other time when I got invited to Switzerland to perform at the Botswana Embassy opening, once again before the president, and I did not miss a line, or a step. I bring all these moments up to remind myself that I have a story to tell, I have the talent to tell it, and there is reward in sticking the course. So, help me God.














Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash