We Should Write

Sometime during my earlier days whenever I bought a different colored ink for my fountain pen the first thing I would do is start doodling on a blank page. I would just write anything and everything on the page. Things that would not make sense at all to anyone and not even to me. I would go on like this for as long as the ink lasted in my pen. As Arthur Hailey writes:

“I never just sit and think; I do it by making notes because you doodle naturally. The first ideas are always very naïve, and I always destroy them because I never want anyone to read them.”

I too would tear the pages fearing that someone would read them. I wouldn’t even read them myself.

Afterwards however, I would feel guilty and blame myself for wasting my time instead of working on my story or novel. Usually the things I wrote about would be what upset and bothered me at that particular time. It could be something personal or a general idea or concept that I may have come across somehow.

“I start with a concept that outrages me, something that bothers the hell out of me. I think arresting fiction is written out of a sense of outrage. I try to find something with an underpinning of reality. I generally go back over recent history looking for a situation where the events have a conceivable official explanation but where the solution might be other than it is purposed to be.” Robert Ludlum

After all the years I just wish I had kept those pages somehow, somewhere instead of destroying them. I don’t even know if I would have ever used them or if they were any good. All I know is that writing those pages have helped me a lot and led the way to this day.

To use Julia Cameron’s words:

“We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance.

We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul. We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in. 

write

We should write, above all, because we are writers, whether we call ourselves that or not.” 

ChK

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I Write In My Head

For the past thirty plus years I have developed the habit of waking up as early as 5 a.m. Sometimes I am up before my alarm rings. I have always been a light sleeper but lately three to four hours of sleep is a good night for me. It all started when I was too busy working and taking care of my children and the house.

See I am a dreamer, I always have been. And at the end of a very busy day at school and at home I often would feel frustrated and angry for not finding or making time for myself to read or write. So I would wake up one hour before everyone else and have my coffee in peace and read. And at night after I would put the kids to bed, I would sit at my desk to write until I would be too tired to stay awake.

Night

I realize now that I work better under pressure. Since now that I have all the time, in fact too much free time, for myself I can’t seem to be able to produce much. Either I am lazy or I suffer from chronic procrastination, if there is such a thing. I keep postponing what I have to do. Here’s how Budd Schulberg described it:

“First, I clean my typewriter. Then I go through my shelves and return all borrowed books. Then I play with my three children. Then, if it’s warm, I go for a swim. Then I find some friends to have a drink with. By then, it’s time to clean the typewriter again.”

But then there were all those successful writers who had weird writing habits that worked for them.

The late Maya Angelou kept a hotel room where she wrote. She asked not to be disturbed and she always had a Bible and a bottle of sherry.

When George M. Cohan needed a script he bought a train ticket and spent the entire trip writing. He could dash off 140 pages between New York and Chicago.

John Cheever would put on his one suit and take the elevator to a windowless basement storage room in his New York apartment house. “I hung my suit on a hanger and would write until nightfall. Then I dressed and returned to our apartment. I wrote many of my stories in boxer shorts.” He told a reporter in an interview.

“I only write when I am inspired. And I see to it that I am inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.” wrote Peter R. de Vries

Isaac Asimov rose at 6 a.m. and wrote until 10 p.m. He wrote over 500 books during his career.

Philip Roth on the other hand, claims it can take as long as six months to produce what he considers an acceptable page.

Asked by a journalist during an interview, “Where’s the best place to write?” Dorothy Parker joked, “In your head.”

If it’s any consolation at least I do that. I write in my head.

ChK

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I Wish I Could Tell You

A year and eleven months have passed since the death of my husband. It still hurts the same way it did on the day it happened. The other night I saw him in my dream and I was so happy that he was back, but then I realized he was never going to come back and that hurt.

What hurts most is to see all his artwork all over the living room. Paintings that he didn’t have the chance to exhibit. His last unfinished one still standing on his easel in a corner. And I remember a long time ago when I first introduced him to my family and my uncle said, “You know artists don’t have money, don’t you.”

Exhibition-1

How can I not know when I had dreams of my own that I had to put aside for a while and work to earn a living? We had no internet at that time, nor much contact with the outside world. We had never heard of globalization or anything else for that matter. My only contact with the outside world was through books and magazines. And I remember reading:

“Most beginners think that writing is a quick ticket to some kind of celebrity status, to broads and talk shows. Those with that shallow motivation can forget it. Here’s how it goes. Take a person 25 years old. If that person has not read a minimum of three books a week since he was 10 years old, or 2,340 books – comic books not counted – and if he or she is not willing to commit one million words to paper – ten medium long novels – without much hope of even selling one word, in the process of learning this trade, then forger it. And if he or she can be discouraged by anyone in this world from continuing to write, write – write, then forget it.” John D. MacDonald

“I wish I could tell you that in our great land of occasional prosperity, the vital writer can always find an immediate market. But I cannot tell you that. I cannot say anything different from what I would have said in Grub Street 200 years ago. The man who has a real ideal of great writing, and has to live by it, will have to tighten up his belt and move into a garret or perhaps into a tent in the wilderness. But I can promise you the old, enduring satisfaction of being able to keep your own self-respect and integrity of spirit; also the affection of the few readers who will be gathered to you little by little.” Upton Sinclair

I wish I could tell you things are different from when you left my darling, things concerning your paintings or my writings. But I can’t. Maybe someday! I haven’t lost hope, at least not yet.

May you rest in peace.

ChK

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Keep Making Magic

In November 1929 Thornton Wilder said:

“Life is made up of such a conglomerate concoction of everything that nothing really good or nothing really bad comes the way of most of us. Consequently, it is up to the average person (the author) to make for himself a life out of life.”

On this thanksgiving day I would like to express my gratitude for all the things, the good and the bad, that life has thrown in my way. I am grateful for my kids for they are the lights of my life. I am grateful for my family, my mom, my brothers and their families, my aunts Mary and Lucy and uncles who although miles away have endlessly showered me with their love and support throughout my years and especially during my hardest times when I lost my husband.

I am also grateful for all the writers and bloggers who have enriched my life with their stories and writings and enabled me to make for myself my own world and my own life out of life. James Michener once said:

“For me the criterion for a good novel is that the author has created a total world in which his people move credibly. And the books that do this I prize. The Idiot, for example, and Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Twain’s Huck Finn, which I like very much; these are fine examples. The novel is just a little cosmos and we’re prepared to accept it, it’s just a real world. This is a great accomplishment. I’m not good at writing the well-rounded English novel. I don’t care about that. I get around it by spending so much time creating that world that I get thousands of letters from people who say how totally immersed they were in the world and how sorry they were to have it end. That works for me.”

That works for me too and so does the magic. The magic all those poets and writers and story tellers bring into my life through their words. To quote John Steinbeck:

“If there is magic in story writing, and I am convinced that there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to the another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that make a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”

Shehrazade

May you keep enriching our lives with your magic.

ChK

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All The Little Voices

Julia Cameron writes:

“As creative beings, we need silence.” 

I seem to have zoned out of my life lately. I don’t feel comfortable anywhere and most of the time there’s so much going on in my head that getting started on the simplest task becomes sort of an ordeal for me. To be able to create I need to silence all the little voices in my head and concentrate on the moment, the now. To use Julia’s words:

“When we are not current with ourselves, we tune out our lives and our environments.” 

The best thing about Julia for me is that she makes me feel good about myself no matter what. Every time I read her book or even her Facebook status I am overwhelmed with this feeling of well being. Especially now that my husband who was my “believing eye” is not here anymore. On some days when I feel sort of numb and stare at the blank page and can’t produce I seek Julia’s words to keep me from falling apart and giving up on my dreams. To quote her once more: 

“Patience teaches us the rewards on the other side of failure. It is patient faith, not instant inspiration, that shows up at the page, the easel, the piano.”

Patient faith!  

Perhaps the most encouraging story which I am sure most of you are familiar with is told by Alex Hailey: 

“Ornately framed on my wall are two cans of sardines and eighteen cents. In 1960, I was living in a one-room apartment in Greenwich village, New York. I was literally hanging on by my fingernails, trying to make it as a magazine writer. I was selling just enough to keep going from week to week, sometimes from day to day. In my little cupboard, I had those two cans of sardines that were all I had to eat in the world. And I had eighteen cents in my pocket. That’s not the same eighteen cents by the way. I spent the original eighteen cents on a cabbage for dinner that night. I remember thinking at the time, there’s nowhere to go but up. And I put the two cans of sardines in a sack and put it away. Whenever I would move because I didn’t have the rent money, I would always take the sack with me. Six or seven years later I sold my first motion picture rights. That’s when I had those two cans of sardines and that eighteen cents framed.”

Coins

“No matter where I go, it will always be displayed as a reminder of the most significant lesson in the world- that when you’re pursuing a creative goal, you must hang in there. You must have faith. You must believe.” 

ChK 

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“It Was A Big Mistake”

On this cold Monday morning, I find it hard to concentrate on writing something that will be impersonal and less subjective. The reason is that we didn’t have a calm weekend, and Sunday was especially turbulent. We had a full day of loud music and banging and shouting from the woman downstairs that continued well through the night. To top it all she rang our doorbell multiple times late at night just to annoy us because we ignored all that was going on around us. 

We went out a couple of times during the day and evening just to get away from all that noise. And when at home we kept to our business. But I guess all that noise was a bit too much for my nerves. So here I am trying to think of something to write when all I can do is remember how awful yesterday was. So to put things right and start my week on a positive note here are some inspirational quotes or comments from successful writers that I was reading early in the morning that I would like to share with you.

“A writer has got to be a cynic. You’ve got to look at life clearly. No rose-colored glasses. The human race is not very admirable. It was a big mistake of God’s. …I think I appeal to readers because there’s nothing false or hypocritical in what I write. And they recognize themselves, they recognize their fears. And they know what bastards they are.” Taylor Caldwell

“If you write a hundred short stories and they’re all bad, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You fail only if you stop writing. I’ve written about 2,000 short stories; I’ve only published about 300 and I feel I’m still learning. Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as a writer.” Ray Bradbury

“I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell interesting story entertainingly. But there is another reason: From the beginning I have adhered to a policy of ordinary business honesty that was installed in me by my father. My first stories were the best stories that I could write, and every story that I have written since has been the very best story that I could write. I have felt that it was a duty to those people who bought my books that I should give them the very best within me. I have no illusions as to the literary value of what I did give them, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I gave them the best that my ability permitted.” Edgar Rice Burroughs

“Every person you meet- and everything you do in life- is an opportunity to learn something. That’s important to all of us, but most of all to a writer because as a writer you can use anything. There is not a person in the world who does not love to talk about himself and his job; who does not deem himself fascinating; who cannot tell you hours’ worth of stories about the exciting life of an insurance agent, real-estate broker, garbage collector or preschool teacher. And they are all right. All people are interesting, and this is particularly true if you are writing a story about insurance, real estate, trash or day-care center. From those people you will get information, and from their information you get verisimilitude, and verisimilitude is what makes fiction work. I never even got aboard a nuclear sub until The Hunt for Red October was in final editing. On the other hand, I have talked with a lot of people who are or were in this line of work.” Tom Clancy

“It is not enough merely to love literature, if one wishes to spend one’s life as a writer. It is a dangerous undertaking on the most primitive level. For, it seems to me, the act of writing with serious intent involves enormous personal risk. It entails the ongoing courage for self-discovery. It means one will walk forever on the tightrope, with each new step presenting the possibility of learning a truth about oneself that is too terrible to bear.” Harlan Ellison

UniqueStyle

Have a great week finding your way!

ChK

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What Do You Do?

The other day I read an article online that scared the hell out of me. It relayed a threat by ISIS that concerned the region where my family and friends live in Lebanon. When I sent the link to my cousin and asked if there was any truth in it he replied in the negative and advised me not to believe everything I hear or read.

Sounds good right? How can I, when I have lived in Lebanon during the civil war? During those days, most of the time whatever people talked about happened. The capital Beirut was divided into two parts East and West. Each side had its militia fighting the other side. 

We were living in the West, close to where my late husband worked at the time, since on most days the roads connecting the two sides would be closed due to heavy fighting or bombing by militias. On days when my neighbors or my aunt who lived in the East would call and say to get my shelter bag ready because there would be bombing that night we would just prepare ourselves for a night of hellish nightmare. But then we knew where the bombs came from.

Thirty or so years have passed and I personally think that the situation is worse now. The entire region is under fire. What’s worse is that the enemy (no more your fellow civilian) is stronger and more vicious than ever. 

I ask myself why? Of course there is no answer and if there is one I don’t think I would understand it anyway. Politics changes in that part of the world so rapidly that within days you could find yourself on the wrong side of the road.

How do you stay safe then? What do you do? Do you depend on your luck? Perhaps there is no such thing as luck. Or perhaps you run out of it the moment you fall into the hands of those gunmen.

The Lost I 
A few seconds and the gunman was leaning through the car window, his kalashnikov almost touching Samer’s face, his black hound pounding and barking ferociously.
“Your identification,” he yelled. He had long black hair tied up in a ponytail. His face was not shaven. He was wearing baggy trousers in khaki and a khaki shirt. In his made- up uniform, he barely looked sixteen.
Samer took his passport from the inside pocket of his jacket and calmly handed it to the teenage gunman. The teenager held it open in his hand for a brief moment, looked at the picture and threw it back inside the car through the open window. Then trembling with rage he opened the car door and shouted.
“Get out!”
Samer, his manner still calm, stepped out. The dog jumped up but the teenage gunman grabbed the leather strap on the animal’s neck and forced it on the ground. Then, with the wooden part of his kalashnikov, he gave Samer a blow on his head and ordered him to put his hands up and walk ahead of him.
Samer, hands on his head, walked away in front of the teenage-gunman. Nayla watched the teenage-gunman kick Samer on his back and lead him up a narrow passageway between what seemed to be two deserted houses with green wooden windows and a half fallen roof. 
Samer never looked back.

lost i
 
“War is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death. It represents the total failure of the human spirit.” Robert Fisk

ChK

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