Sometimes all it takes for you to affirm who you are, is to see a glimpse of yourself in someone else.

Two weekends ago I had exactly that opportunity when my friend Arame and I spent the afternoon interacting with some writers, poets and painters at the beautiful Goree Island- including Goree Institute cofounder, distinguished writer, painter and South African poet Breyten Breytenbach, renowned Tunisian painter Emna Zghal, acclaimed NYU professor, author of “Joe the Engineer”, and poet Chuck Wachtel, Coordinating Editor of the Piroque Institute and Imagine Africa Cultural Fellow Adam Weidwitsch, as well as up and coming Senegalese poet and author of “Les Raisins du Baobab” Ibrahima Amadou Niang. During our time there we discussed a lot of things – the act of writing, the different styles and forms, how to draw inspiration, what it means to be a writer, the question of who forms/tells history, the act of documentation and preservation of art and history, etc. I felt swept away to a distant land where time and space disappeared and the beauty of the moment was all that existed.

Creative Writing Workshop at Goree Island, Senegal

Along the way, we started talking about the difference between writing poetry versus prose. This is where the moment of “affirmation” happened. We all agreed that while prose was essentially a statement of our individual or common thoughts, impressions, experiences and so on, poetry is born of a different place altogether, and sometimes not even from the vestiges of our minds. It’s inspiration in its purest form and it usually takes a hold of you unknowingly. You can easily miss the moment, but when you do chance upon it and let it spill forth, you feel very fulfilled and sometimes emotionally, mentally and even physically drained. It reminded me of Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk on Creative Genius (embedded below) and realizing that I shared the same indescribable experience of being inspired or writing poetry with individuals with decades of writing experience on me, made me smile. I thought, “I AM a writer.” Aside the affirmation, it enabled me to go within myself and untangle my mind from the writer’s block I’d been going through for a number of days.

Sometimes all it takes to affirm who you are is to see a glimpse of yourself in someone else.

Some time before this encounter at Goree I’d told myself I would dedicate myself to the art of writing this year. Like magic, the number of writing-related opportunities I have come across – or maybe become more aware of – have multiplied. As Osho would say, “Be- don’t become”.  So, I guess going with that and my own experience, I’ll say this: whatever it is you consider yourself to be or want to experience, go after it. Even if you don’t know where to start, start somewhere. Someway, somehow, you will find yourself exactly where/who you need to be, and the opportunities will unfold themselves so long as you stay true to your vision and remain patient and committed. May each of us find the courage to always pursue what it is we love or are unabashedly fascinated by, and may we encounter numerous individuals to constantly inspire us along the way! Peace + Love!

Young, African, and Passionate (Writers)!
Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) TED Talk