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  • Writer's pictureNeema Komba

A novel beginning!

Updated: Apr 2

Happy 2023 in February!!!

2022 ended on the highest of notes for me. On November 24, 2022, I was announced as one of the winners of the Miles Morland Foundation Writing Scholarship for African writers. I am the first Tanzanian writer to get this scholarship (ballin' like Abdulrazak Gurnah's distant relative :D ) (see the list of winners here). So, starting in June this year, I get to write my very first novel!

I should have written something about this when I first got the news, but I didn’t know where to begin. How would you feel if someone handed you your dream? I had no words for the mix of euphoria, shock, and panic I felt after I heard the news. First, I was too excited to write a coherent reaction (definitely one of the happiest days of my life). Then I was terrified (I have never written a novel before, what if I fail, cue the imposter syndrome). Then I was numb. Then I got busy (trying to get done with all my projects before I start writing the novel). But somewhere between the frenetic December and January filled with unfinished projects and the sober February of steadier routines, I feel more at ease about the upcoming project.

Most challenging projects feel impossible at the beginning. A blank page. A new mountain before a hike. A difficult class. New challenges inevitably make us anxious. Even though I am not one to shy away from a challenge, I have always had first-day jitters. These days, as I take on bigger challenges, my first-day jitters have only grown bigger. First-day quakes?

Last November, I started leading a research project that felt completely out of my league. In the beginning, I doubted that my experience, knowledge, and skills would be enough to deliver what I promised. I have never experienced the kind of anxiety this project brought! Every time we were close to a deadline, I came close to a full-blown panic attack. I needed a mantra of affirmations and a strong dose of music to calm myself down and find encouragement. I can do this! I’ve got this! Oh God, help me! I prayed. I silenced all the insecure voices in my head and took control of my thoughts. I don’t need to accept every thought my brain produces as some fact of life. Some of them (like, this is impossible, or you are not good enough) are completely useless. #DeleteThem. And as these things go, you take the first step, write the first line which turns to a page, then two, and before you know it, you complete the once impossible task like the pro that you are!

As I think about the novel (and my thesis) writing ahead of me, I must take the optimistic route. This novel project, like all the other seemingly impossible projects before it, will begin, nervously and chaotic at first, and in the messy process, I will find my footing and I will write something good, like the pro that I am.

Wish me luck!

I hope your 2023 is filled with optimism and many triumphs! #ByeImposterSyndrome

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