Writing In a Visual World

I have a confession to make: It has been increasingly hard to write recently. Long gone are the days when I used to write a new blog post every other day, and if I’m not writing online I’m writing offline, creating characters and events, thinking about them all day, mentally developing what would soon be a published novel in one case, a discarded one in another, and finally an unfinished one as I got stuck in the dreaded, bleak territory of Writer’s Block.

Now while some people might describe that as such, I’m still adamant in my refusal of that concept, which I’ve always believed to be a lazy excuse with the subtitle: “I really don’t feel like writing so stop asking”. For me, I always thought writing is the technique, if you have the ideas then all you have to do is to sit down and write. If you’re having any kind of block, then it’s probably the scarcity of ideas or the lack of desire to write them down.

But since I’ve been stuck in limbo for so long, I’ve been exploring the reasons behind that lack of productivity. Naturally, there are some personal reasons, but it’s not the only thing that makes me cringe inside with guilt and self-disappointment when I think of all the things I want to be writing and I’m not.

But I think I’m getting somewhere. A few days ago a friend of mine was commenting on the extravagant decorations on the streets in celebrations of Ramadan. A festival of lights and colors, it’s clearly getting more lavish every year. My response was that it’s keeping up with the world. Everything is becoming more visual, as if we’re trying to make up for all the things we’re missing year after year. Admittedly, Ramadan had a more spiritual and warmer atmosphere back in the day before technology invaded our life, and this goes for all other holidays from Eid to Christmas, so now we need these things to remind us of all the joys and meaning of these much cherished holidays. It’s a visual world, and we need more visual attractions every day to be able to snag our eyes.

That made me think of something else which can perhaps put what I’m trying to say into perspective: Photo essays. Not a day goes by without coming across a number of links leading to websites about someone or something with more pictures than words. And I must admit, most of the times I go over the pictures while skimming quickly through the text, or dropping it altogether. As I thought of that it hit me: It’s become increasingly hard to write, because it’s become increasingly hard to read.

Of course, I’m not talking about your usual to-read list. Books still offer a safe, comfortable haven away from the flashy world of social media. But when I’m scrolling down my timeline, I don’t often have much patience to read all the articles I come across. I suppose this is the idea in the back of my head when I don’t feel the motivation to write long articles like this one, because although I always made a conscious effort not to care whether anyone would read, apparently that still counts in my book, that’s why if I have something to say I feel it’s more efficient to post it on Facebook, where limits on how long a status can be are something of the past now, and you can ramble on as much as you want, or can.

And it’s not only about blogging. Even when I think about all the new novels coming out, I can’t help but think whether they’ll add something new or of value to the literature we already have and which we still have to catch up on. Of course I’d like to write another novel, but will it be good enough? Is it going to be worth the time spent writing it or reading it, or am I going to be one of the dozens who burden the shelves of libraries with wasted ink and paper?

Ever since I published my first novel, and the last one so far for that matter, I’ve been having that nagging feeling that I should be working on something else. I even don’t feel it’s quite right when people call me a writer because I know I’m not fulfilling a major perquisite to earn that title: Continuity.

That nagging feeling abated while I was writing a later novel which, after finishing the first draft, I decided to discard. I then tamed the feeling for a while when I published an e-book where I put my English short stories together. Later on, I started working on something which I have mixed feelings about now, but while the feeling still won’t go away, it has become easier to live with.

For me, writing is a not a luxury, it’s a need. I am my best self when I write. And I want to write elaborately, whether it’s going to be read or not, not just sum up a few thoughts within a 140-charater limit. I want to write stories, series, rants and Arabic rhyming prose. I don’t care whether I’ll write another novel or be published again, after all one online article could reach 10-times more people than a book might sometimes. I want to write because I want to leave something of me in this world, as ideas can only die if you take them with you to the grave.

A picture could say a thousand words indeed, but you can keep it; give me the words and I’ll paint my own thousand pictures.

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