Lilith White

Interview with Lilith White
 

Age 56
 

South African - living Gauteng,

 

SOUTH AFRICA

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions Lilith. Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I was born and grew up in South Africa. My childhood was pretty privileged and idyllic. Unfortunately it was during the apartheid era so not everybody was enjoying this land of ‘milk and honey’ as much as I was. As a child, I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as the Black Liberation Movement. We had a live-in maid who I loved, and a Malawian gardener who had travelled very long distance to find work in South Africa. He was living in worse poverty in his own country. I remember hiding him under my bed when the cops came around looking for illegals to deport.

 

Present day South Africa faces many challenges but at least everybody has the freedom to choose their own path without barriers, restrictions or without immediate odds stacked up against them, purely because they arrived on this planet with a certain colour skin. South Africa is now multi-lingual, multi faceted, and everybody gets to choose their friends and lovers without restriction or judgement. 

Photo © Katie-Jade Barber

Were there things growing up that still influence your writing now?

I think the biggest influence in my growing up years, was my brother, who is six years older than me. An American family moved in two houses away from us and my brother, age sixteen, became friends with Jim, the cool hippie dude with long hair and tattered clothes. My family had never come across a real, live hippie before, and my brother started acting ‘strangely;’ fading his jeans in chlorine, burning incense to mask the pungent smell of pot and to disguise the smoke billowing out from underneath his bedroom door. ‘Underground’ music like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and The Doors also began to surface in our home. His new anti-establishment views impacted greatly on my broader world view, from the tender age of ten, when I was introduced  to protest songs, Woodstock, concepts of free love, psychedelic, drug induced lyrics and ‘gloopy’ larva lamps.

 

When my brother was conscripted into the army, when I was fourteen, I spent many hours, in his room listening to his vinyl, angry at the society who had stolen my brother away from me. I began questioning everything from petty school detentions, to wearing grey, school skirts below the knee, to the concrete jungle of a world they were creating out there.

Photo © Katie-Jade Barber

Did you have a love of words back then?

I was a bookworm as a child. I devoured books from The Water Babies by Rudyard Kipling to Enid Blyton’s, Secret Seven to Anna Sewell’s, Black Beauty. As I grew older, I was very impacted by song lyrics and stand out lines from movies. I have so many lines from old songs or from movies, that will forever be etched into my mind – “All we need is love”- John Lennon, “She comes in colours everywhere…just like a rainbow,” Rolling Stones, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” Janis Joplin…oh, there are just so many!

 

My all time, stand out move lines are from 21 Grams – Sean Penn turns to the lead actress, Naomi Watts, and says; “Do you know how many things have to come together for two people to meet?” He then quotes these lines from the poem by the Venezuelan Poet, Eugenio Montejo; “The earth turned to bring us closer. It turned on itself and inside us to bring us together in this dream.’

 

Words impact on me all the time. I can still replay detailed conversations  - in my mind - from years gone by. Written words are powerful beyond measure; emotive, enthralling, mesmerising, awakening… they can be tongue-in-cheek to highlight the ridiculousness of our perceptions and help us laugh at ourselves, create a satirical moment out of something that would otherwise be too close to home and serious… they can shock us, anger us, calm us and help us escape from our own lives and perceptions. I will always aspire to write words that stir something in others, without platitudes – being moved isn’t always about the comfortable, rosy aspects of life.

Photo © Katie-Jade Barber

Did you go to University?

I was planning on studying drama at university. I realised, last minute, that it was a very bad idea. I had to be honest with myself.  I didn’t cope well with routine, structure and I had a serious aversion to studying. Studying for the finals of my last year at school is a perfect example of this. I had my biology book open with a note pad next to me and, to escape from the mundane boredom, I began writing a fantasy story. I didn’t take it very seriously at the time; I thought of it purely as a diversion from the mundane, but I ended up getting really into it and continued writing it for the first year after school. This was a clear indication of where my purpose in life was heading. Unfortunately I never finished it but I still have it in a box somewhere and one day will finish it for my grand children.

 

Is writing your full-time job?

Writing is my full-time profession, hobby and my passion all rolled into one. It is difficult to transform this into a well paid job, so I do other things on the side like painting and I teach English to students of other languages.

 

Tell me about your very first writing engagement.

I had the very first article I wrote and submitted, published in the parenting section of Femina Magazine in the 80's. It was entitled, Unlocking Creativity. The focus was on how important creativity is to a young child’s development. Unfortunately my husband died shortly after this and I became more of a closet writer. As a single mother of two young children, my resources were often run dry or at breaking point. I never stopped writing, but it was largely more about expressing my own inner grief and struggle. My outlook on life changed when all my picket-fence dreams were destroyed. My focus shifted on to more core issues; like how to overcome adversity and how to cushion your children from emotional damage. Fortunately they have both turned into amazingly, well-balanced, adults with a tremendous amount of EQ.

What do you most love to write about?

I think I am mostly inspired by exploring the depths of the human spirit – what compels people to search for deeper meaning, the processes of overcoming adversity and pain, how the human heart experiences connection, the capacity we have for compassion and forgiveness, and our desire to love and be loved in return.

 

I am also fascinated by what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in the realm of the super sensible – what lies beyond the obvious, surface reality of what we believe to be true from our belief systems and social conditioning – things like quantum physics; how our perception of reality impacts our so-called actual reality, what other energies have an influence over our lives and I am one hundred percent certain there is an afterlife. Anybody who has read my book, The Other Side of My Reflection, will understand why I have a thirst to delve deeper. I really experienced, first-hand, some incredibly bizarre, spiritually awakening events.

What is the process of transforming that initial moment of inspiration, or idea, into actual words on paper?

Since around age thirteen, I have never really stopped writing, whether it was a love poem about some boy who had just dumped me, or in my journal, or even the short love story I wrote, as a young teenager which I submitted to Jackie magazine, naively thinking it was phenomenally good. Most of my writing develops organically and just seems to flow out of me. I guess it always begins with some type of creation in the psyche, but I have mostly been unaware of this. For me, the initial stages of my writing, is not an intellectual process. My fantasy story is a good example of this. I was being rebellious and wrote the cliché line, “Once upon a time…” The next minute, there was a creature whose roots had grown so long and so deep that they strangled the core of the earth and the world, as we knew it, came to an end and I was re-writing creation, without humans. Sometimes it surprises even me!

The Other Side of My Reflection was a bit different because I had some concept about what I wanted to share; the challenges and the grief of being a widow at twenty-seven, looking for a second chance at love and having to raise my two children on my own. Initially I thought it would be inspiring for others to read about how I coped with adversity, yet soon after I started writing it, my journey took a completely different turn. I didn’t yet know that my own life and the afterlife were inextricably bound together – that I would be given irrevocable proof of life after death, and would be thrown into some mystical events that would change my perception of reality forever. This all came about during the time I was writing the book and then past events, that I perhaps would never have included, came up for me that I felt compelled to include. So in a sense, this book seemed to have a mind of its own, almost as if it was a separate entity from me.

Something I learned from writing The Other Side of my Reflection was that the first writing of any book, is purely, what I call; the bones of the book. It’s just the first phase. I realised if I wanted my writing to stand out from the pack, I needed to go back, with my readers in mind, to add fleshy bits with blood flowing through its veins. I also write with a certain amount of grit and in-your-face honesty to challenge my own and others perceptions. I think many authors release their books prematurely, when it is still at the skeleton stage and their writing never reaches its full potential.

If people ask my advice, I always suggest they write the first draft of any book for themselves, from the heart without judgement or a perception of what they think other people want to hear; perfecting, editing and analysing can come later. I used to make the mistake of trying to perfect it as I went along and invariably had lots of unfinished manuscripts gathering dust. When I approached the first draft of my book, as if it was a safe and private space to explore every angle, it became so much easier to write freely.

Name your THREE most favourite books and why.

These three books are not necessarily the best books I have ever read but they are certainly the three books that left their mark on me...

 

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the content of this book, but what I do remember is being astounded by her writing style and her ability to be one hundred percent authentic with herself; bravely unashamed, blatant, unedited, courageously candid - telling it like it is with no consciousness of moral infringements or restricting herself to what she imagines other people would like to hear. Her writing had a close to the bone, cringe factor that gave other woman writers of this era, permission to set their shadow selves free and tell it like it is. This book appealed to the rebel in me and greatly influenced my writing style.

 

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield – this book had very little literary value but it was spiritually ground breaking for its era. James Redfield found a way of sharing his philosophies about how energy influences every area of our lives, by weaving his theories into an intriguing fiction. Even though he is far from the best fiction writer I’ve ever read, this book will always stand out for me as a forerunner in delivering some pretty ‘out there’ concepts to a mainstream audience, including myself, at the time.

 

My life and my journey would not have been the same, had it not been for a gift given to me, after my husband’s suicide, of Louise L. Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. In later years, many inspirational writers who preceded her, delved more deeply into these metaphysical philosophies, yet to this day the simplicity of Louise Hay’s message is the only one that still resonates with me. I think it has to do with her purity of intention and her unwavering faith in her philosophy. Louise Hay crossed over in 2107 at the age of 90. I have no doubt she has been given wings and has been promoted to a real angel!

Lastly... what does writing mean to you and what impact do you want your writing to have on your readers?

Writing is just part of who I am. I don’t think of it as separate from myself. If I had been born with something in my hand, I have no doubt it would have been a pen. I don’t write for general acceptance, accolades or recognition; I write more to question popular beliefs, general comfort zones or limitations. I don’t have time for superficial niceties or watered down versions of the way I express myself. There are enough authors in the positive thinking and inspirational genres, who are contributing to healing the world.

 

I think people just want to be accepted for who they are, with all their warts and flaws. I hope my authenticity and honesty gives my readers permission to allow themselves to indulge in and accept their own humanness. I am particularly aware of the creative, literary aspect of my writing and always strive to deliver fascinating descriptive text with a touch of tongue-in-cheek cynicism woven into it. Most importantly, I want my readers to chill out with a great read and escape into its pages. So far, according to my readers, I have achieved that. An author never tires of hearing the old cliché; “I didn’t get anything done today because I couldn’t put your book down!” When I hear that, it puts an awesome huge grin on my face. I will write until I can write no more!

Thanks so much Lilith, and thank you for your wonderful contributions to EMPOWERMENT. Don't stop writing!

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