Wednesday, 20 May 2015

View from the Top

There are people who have lived in Cape Town for years and never been up Table Mountain. They know it is there, they may even look at it daily, they will marvel at it's beauty and recommend it to tourists, but they have never seen the view from the top. 

Perhaps they are afraid of heights? Maybe they can't afford the cable car? Possibly they are too unfit to hike up? Or they may not see the value in the experience?

The thing is though, once they do go up, once they open themselves to that experience and alter their changes everything.

I recently had a 'view from the top' experience when I attended a writers circle for the first time. 

I certainly had recommended them to others, I understood the principles of how they functioned and thought I appreciated their value, but I had never pushed past my fear, found the time or made the effort to attend. 

Let us just say that I have now altered my perspective, and it has changed everything. 

As someone that enjoys writing and finds it quite an easy task, it is tempting to become comfortable and arrogant about the quality of my work. I'm ashamed to admit that when I shared my piece I really wasn't expecting much criticism or challenge. The piece in question was extracted from my PhD thesis and is in preparation for journal publication, so I had put this piece through many drafts and it had already passed muster with my supervisors and a panel of examiners. 

I was confident - the writing was good. 

I was wrong - the writing could be so much much better. The writing can always be better. 

I was overwhelmed at the enormous amount of valuable feedback I received that afternoon. The shift in perspective, the fresh eyes on my work, the insightful questions and the thoughtful comments - you just can't buy the kind of interrogation for your work. To have a group of people sit together and read and discuss your ideas, sentences, structure and story...I'm totally hooked. 

I have since reworked my piece based on that feedback and it is so much better, so much stronger - how did I not see that I had put the focus in the wrong place? Why didn't I realise that the story was missing? 

Yes, it is scary to open yourself to that level of criticism, to be vulnerable with your work, but if you do, if you can put on your big-girl pants and push past the fear, it will be so worth the reward. 

UCT Science Writer's Circle
Every Monday from 14:00 - 15:30 in the MCB tea room. 
Contact Karis at for more information. 

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