Slice of life: Writing is painful but it heals

Lethabo Mailula is an LLM candidate and gender activist working at the University of Pretoria (Oupa Nkosi)

Lethabo Mailula is an LLM candidate and gender activist working at the University of Pretoria (Oupa Nkosi)

At the launch of red cotton and feeling and ugly by Impepho Press, I realised how comforting it is to push your traumas away and have them exist in the periphery of your life. 

I realised how confronting your traumas, through a device such as writing, actually makes them tangible. That idea seemed like a daunting re-traumatisation of myself.

Um yeah, I suppose at that moment, being in the African Flavour bookstore with the authors, I saw how it can initially present itself as a re-traumatisation. But sharing such words and sharing such traumas in a communal space — where those people share or might be sympathetic to what you have experienced — might be a healing experience.

It’s sort of like attending to a wound that has been festering under a Band-Aid. And writing would be touching this wound. It leads to the healing of the wound. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Writing as healing forces you to articulate feelings that exist subconsciously. It simultaneously creates an element of escapism, because you can allocate the traumas and experiences to a fictional character, which creates a safety buffer through anonymity. The exercise is paradoxical as it forces healing while simultaneously creating a safe space if the writer is not ready to own the story. Writing as a healing exercise also holds a space for ownership and self-actualisation. Writing does a looooot!

Being there, I realised that writing as a device is a necessary roughness. It’s a necessary painful process that you have to undergo in order to heal. I will be attending to my wounds.Lethabo Mailula (24), an LLM candidate and gender activist working at the University of Pretoria, as told
to Zaza Hlalethwa

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