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Writer to watch

Writer to watch: Zalika Reid-Benta

GG-winner George Elliott Clarke wrote a winter tale for us. He also recommended Zalika Reid-Benta as a writer to watch. Read what Zalika has to say about what inspires her to write.

"Zalika Reid-Benta is prophecy to be fulfilled. She has grown up within the context of an immigrant Caribbean community thrusting firm roots into Canadian soil, and she is attuned to all the nuances of that transplantation, the difficulties of maintaining connections to soul and spirit in a cold climate and in a society that did not (and still does not) welcome immigrants de couleur with open arms. She follows in the giant footsteps of Austin Clarke and Dany Laferriere, Dionne Brand and Marie-Claire Agnant, in trying to make literary sense of a sometimes forbidding society and thorny landscape."

- George Elliott Clarke



Writer's block. Awesomeness. Inadequacy. 
by Zalika Reid-Benta

It's been two weeks since you've come up with a story idea. It's a character piece, a work of fiction more concerned with internal struggle than plot. Fourteen days have gone by and they have all been utterly devoid of creativity or innovation. 

But suddenly, inspiration hits.Today is the day you begin your first 50 pages. 

You lock yourself in your study and start writing and writing until you've worked yourself into a rhythm, almost a trance. You are so completely engaged in the world you have created, in the characters you have imagined, in the city or village or town you have constructed, that the physical world around you completely melts away. It's not that you're in the story, you're at one with it; you're in conversation with your work, so much so that you're not quite sure if you're writing it or if it's writing itself.

You are basking in your solitude. 

At 3 a.m. you decide to call it a night, even though you are nowhere near tired. You leave your study anyway, and you go to bed feeling, in one word, awesome. 

The next morning, it's gone.

That sense of accomplishment and delicious satisfaction, that pleasure that engulfed you with every word you typed. It's all gone, only to be replaced with a profound sense of inadequacy. Those words you wrote? Generic. That idea you had? Uninspired. You are not original. 

Only one thought occupies your mind and that is to delete everything you wrote, to forget your idea, forget your characters and the relationships that formed amongst them. Writing isn't for you, you're done with it, after all, it was just hobby. Move on to something else. 

Except...

Whenever you find yourself in a quiet moment, you can't help but write a paragraph in your head, mulling over which words to use, where to put a period or a semi-colon. When you're on the street or the bus or in a restaurant, you can't help but make mental notes of the conversations around you because so many of those discussions would make excellent dialogue. 

Basically, no matter how hard you try, you just can't stop writing, whether it's on paper or in your head, it's a part of you. If you could, you would stop the masochistic cycle of writer's block-awesomeness-inadequacy and back again. But it's not up to you. 

You just have to keep going. 
***


Zalika Reid-Benta is a fourth year undergraduate at the University of Toronto where she is completing an Honours BA in English and Cinema Studies and a minor in Caribbean Studies. Born and raised in Toronto, she has wanted to be a writer since she was three years old and continues to hone and refine her skills through workshops, courses and through reading and writing on her own time.

Photo credit / George Elliott Clarke: Thomas King



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