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.

On Being a Writer

I used to be hesitant when referring to myself as a writer because, let’s face it, from what we see around people are giving themselves that honor if they as much as created a page on facebook where they post personal reflections. People, this is horrible, just unimaginable, and I can’t for the life let myself fall under that category.

To call yourself a writer, it’s not enough to write one book and then sit back and relax, watching people praise your book and your language (don’t believe everything they say by the way, be critical). To be a writer you need continuity. You know you’re  a writer when you step out on a nice night and you think this could be a great setting for  a scene, some scene, in some vague book you’re planning to write, or not. Or when you start dealing with people as characters. You see, this could be both good and bad. You become sensitive to the small things, that’s why if you’re emotionally involved with a writer, then God help you, they will manipulate you trying to shape your role in your life and to squeeze all the drama they can get out of you, which could be quite exciting by the way, because your life will turn into one of these TV drama series where there’s always something going on. Now it could be a fun series, it could be a comedy or it could be  a tragedy, that depends on the author.

So, it’s really not that simple to earn the title of a writer, it has to be in your blood. You also know you’re a writer when being busy with a writing project will indulge you completely that nothing else in the life outside matters. You don’t want to meet people, you don’t want to go to parties, you just need to stay home, cuddle up with a laptop and type the heck out of yourself. And it’s not that easy, it could feel like a burden, like you’re going to slice into your veins and let yourself bleed out, as someone once eloquently put it. But if you’re a writer you will know that this is one of the most rewarding things in the word.

But please, don’t go around telling people you’re a writer just because you wrote something like: The roses in my eyes yearn for the pickles in your nose. I beg you. It’s more of a brotherly advice actually, because if you start calling yourself a writer too soon people might be disappointed in you very early and would not risk wasting their time reading anything by you when you become a real writer.

So take it easy on the titles. A writer never stops growing, and you would be surprise how much you would learn and how much your style and your language could change over time that you would not bear to read the things you wrote when you first thought you were a writer.

A Writer’s Schizophrenia

There’s no way I’m writing about this, it’s basically unwritable

It’s tempting, could be a good idea

Well it might not be a great idea but I don’t care, I want to get it out of my system

I’m so excited!

Ugh, I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t go through with this

This is awesome, I’m a genius

Who’s gonna read this junk?

This might be a good thrill

I’m probably gonna be grilled but it doesn’t matter

I don’t want to do anything else but to sit down and write this

Now what?

This is even better than I thought it would be

I want to cry

 

 

 

The Five Stages of Writing

Contrary to how it may sometimes look, writing is really no picnic. I mean, it could be a picnic once you get started and just go with the flow of words and thoughts, but the road to that point could be quite bumpy. Sometimes it seems like a wild adventure, sometimes it’s like a war of attrition. In short, writing could be heavy, a weary business, but the thing is: it’s worth it, whether it pays off or not., because it always pays off in some way.

The way I see it, writing consists of several stages before, during and after.

 

1- Provocation: It’s that moment of anger, enthusiasm, excited curiosity or any other emotion that boils inside you wanting to erupt and pour out on paper. You can only guess where it will lead or how far it will go but you better seize that moment because it has a tendency to fade away with time and in that case the story will end before it even begins.

2- Hesitation: To write or not to write, that’s not even a question! But as with everything else the mind starts playing those dirty games where it find any excuse imaginable to hinder you and keep you from writing. “Nobody will read it”, “It will probably suck”, “I don’t have much to say about that” and so on of this nonsense, and that’s exactly what it is: pure nonsense. Just go ahead and write it, and if you don’t like it you know where to find the recycle bin.

3- Starting: That’s the hardest part of all: to actually start writing. It’s hard because you often feel like you don’t know how to start, hence comes the saying “it’s the start that usually stops most people”. This is where you need some tough love. Force yourself to sit down and write, you’ll be amazed how it unfolds.

4- Second guessing: This is where you start asking yourself questions like: “Did I get it right?”  “Is it worth reading?” “Is it plausible enough?” “Does it read good?” Some of these questions are valid because they help you improve on what you wrote, while some are nothing but a big nuisance, just ignore them.

5- Euphoria: The great feeling of almost inexplicable joy and liberation when you’re done. It could put you in a trance-like state or make you want to go and hug somebody. It also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a burst of exploding energy.

 

Happy writing!