A special guest (Philippa Yaa de Villiers) visited one of my department’s (Department of English – University of Ghana) creative writing classes and I happened to be there (Dr. Adzei, the instructor, loves me like that, you see…I am the best student he’s ever had…ok let me stop before….lol!). Yes, so I was there and it was a great experience, as expected.

About halfway into the session, Philippa gave us a writing prompt, to add to the point she made that as writers, we must try as much as possible to not write something because it is what people want to hear or read, but to be honest, to respond naturally to everyday things, even the mundane (to paraphrase).

The prompt was

“A broken, yellow notebook…”

And this is what came out of that for me;




It was where I wrote it down;

Our first step towards a new kind of


Where you would not say it

But call me yours,

In that broken, yellow notebook.



It must remind me of where

We have come from;

Two beings carrying smithereens

Of themselves in sore hands!


Pale, pale yellow…

Reflecting how sick I have been

Of waiting for the first brick

To be put in place…



For you to call my name

And shelf the “I Love You’s”

For deeper truths


I wrote it down

On a browning page

Of that broken




“God bless you, my daughter”

 [I will come back to this]

Two other things she said that added to the thoughts I am about to share were;

“I am forced to think that a lot of good writers are individuals who have suffered a lot”


“Sometimes reading other people’s works makes you feel like you are eavesdropping on their emotions…some kind of voyeurism going on…”


And these bring me to exactly what I want to talk about. (drumroll or nah?)


 This is something I encountered on an academic level not too long ago, in an interesting online article (here), but years before, I was already a confessional kind of writer and that is something those who follow my personal blogs might already know about me. At first I thought it was selfish, and not publishable material (who wants to read about you and your experiences when people are busy writing about bad governments and racism anyway!?)But gradually I grew to understand that my experiences are not in isolation – they mirror others, they speak for others and it is all the happenings around me, not only within me, that inform my writing. But most importantly I learned that to be a confessional writer takes guts – when your readers (the entire world even) have been given access to your very soul! But most importantly, to be able to write confessionals help develop your unique voice, and gradually whatever you touch turns precious (and people notice it!)

Mind you, confessionals are not equal to the gloomy, dark, naughty stuff only. They are you, the writer, coming through all you write, no matter what you write about. The other name for Confessionals is the “I” zone. I remember when I was much younger (and I am still young) in the art of writing, I would hide behind the “third person” narrative POV and “blame it on the persona” was an inside joke in my very first creative writing kind of group I joined. But there is something about release in third person and release in first person…


It is I…it is I…it is I…not she, not he….I…I…I

Mea maxima culpa! (just felt like adding this, lol)

The art of writing, has over the years become less straitjacketed, technical or formal. It does not mean we have become lazy (too lazy to mind meter and structure and content) but we are liberated, more like! And this has made us brave enough to write us, ugly or beautiful, we write us…and that, I think, is amazing! This is also not to artists from earlier centuries were not daring, etc…they were! Vladimir Nabokov alone!

My favorite author however, who brought confessionalography to life for me, is Sylvia Plath. Ohhh Plath, Plath…I absolutely love her and her works (in fact I am so curious about her, I intend doing a longer research on her works and life, sometime).

Being “confessional” has something to do with breaking taboos, suffering, and claiming that the “self” of the poem is not “a speaker” but is actually the poet.

Now here’s to why I think every writer must venture into the ‘I’ zone…

  • Catharsis! which brings me back to my poem above. It was a welcome release mainly because that day I had a lot on my mind, mixed emotions, the need to express myself exactly how i felt, and not try to be nice or modest about it, and the prompt broke the dam! I was relieved to pen it, and I felt no shame sharing it with others present (yes I volunteered to read mine). What is the use of your skill with words if you cannot candidly express yourself?? Some of us have been through portions of hell if not the whole damned place, and a ‘voice’ cannot do the telling for us, but our own.

Emily Dickinson wrote searingly personal poems—poems in which the disclosure of self is so raw and painful you can almost feel her skin come off.

  • Self-Discovery… And this is something that may just be me, but there is something about honest writing that surprises even you. There are times I did not know how hurt or angry or happy I was till I had written, then sat back to read, a confessional or another. I always say, the writing process for me is ‘finding pieces of myself…’ with every piece. You get to know how fast you heal, your innermost desires, that guilty pleasure, your dreams, strengths, weaknesses…YOU. Allowing yourself in the ‘I’ zone once a while gets you to you, a step at a time.

  • Better storytelling. Yes, charity begins at home! If you cannot tell your story, how can you tell another’s? It makes sense, doesn’t it. When you learn to unscrew the cap of the bottle of emotions sitting in you, you can relate more to others.

It is not an easy thing to do, especially when you do not keep the stuff you write to yourself, but it is a great thing.


Write him, write her, but most importantly…

Write you! 


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