Ronald B. Tobias wrote:

“Ideas are like the wind; they have force, they have energy, but they rarely have much shape.”
Needless to say that as writers we are aware of the major elements of storytelling: plot, character, style, idea, mood or emotional effect. Of the different theme patterns, none affects us more than the idea. It makes us think.


As authors, we flourish on ideas, new and old. But we can’t force our readers to think in a certain way. We can only make them think about or contemplate our ideas. And if we can convince them to like our ideas through the unique way we present them, then we have succeeded and that’s what makes us stand out and be different.

Yesterday I finished the book I was reading. It was a book by one of the contemporary writers that I love to read. He writes crime fiction, kind of Sherlock Holmes type stories. I love his style, the way he writes about the dark side of human beings, the way he explores the connection between unrestrained desire and agonizing violence. The way he surprises his readers with his ideas. (Sorry I won’t give his name nor the name of the book, because as I said I love the way he writes.) 

But in this book of his, the theme, the idea behind the story was so not believable, even for a dreamer like me. At some point in the book the writer was so present in the story that I thought of just leaving it. But then his words and sentences kept me on till the end. 

There’s a famous story about a French impressionist painter and a famous French symbolist poet that I find interesting and would like to share with you.
“You writers have it easy,” mocked the painter. “All you need is a few ideas and a pen. Now, painting is hard. Every brushstroke is one-of-a-kind, not like words- they’re always the same.”
“If it’s so easy, why don’t you write some poems?” challenged the poet.
“All right, I will.” The painter accepted the challenge, and steamed off to his studio to write his great poems.
Several weeks went by before the poet bumped into the painter at their favorite watering hole. From the painter’s sheepish grin, the poet guessed things weren’t going well for his friend.
“Written any good poems lately?” the poet teased.
“I don’t understand it,” confessed the painter, still puzzled by his aborted attempt to write poetry. “I had good ideas. They just wouldn’t turn out right on paper.”
“That’s because you don’t start with ideas,” the poet smiled knowingly. “You begin with words.” 


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The Squirrel And I

Are you an optimist? Do you have a positive attitude towards life? Well I do, most of the time. In fact I am not only an optimist but an idealist too. I don’t say this with pride. No. An optimistic idealist is a crazy thing to be. I have always been the victim of my own optimism. I like to believe that people are not bad or cruel or evil but circumstances force them to do evil deeds and to behave badly.

I had such a terrible experience the other day. One thing led to another and towards the end it became too much even for me to take. At the end of the day I sat down and thought if I were to count the number of times I was disappointed on that day, from the time I was up till the time I went to sleep, if I were to mark a tally for each instance, I would need more than a few post-its to complete the task.

For the past three months now we have been having a really bad time with our landlady. We have been in the same house for eight years. Our previous landlord was such a good hearted person, respectful of our needs for peace and quiet, it was as if we were part of his family. It all changed when he moved out in May and the new tenants moved in.

Sometimes I even think that the only reason she rented out the apartment below was to give us trouble. For they are not home most nights and when they are, the music, the shouting, screaming, yelling, swearing, cursing and crying and banging on the walls keeps us awake. After what she made us go through I have started to believe that there really are bad people around. And the reason they exist is to make life unbearable to others, to us.

The night before last Sunday had been another sleepless night. I was in my car waiting for my kids. I was lost in my thoughts, trying to figure out the meaning of all of this, thinking how we can get away from the situation before any harm came to my family.

I noticed a squirrel on the hood of my car. It walked across from the right side and came and stopped right in front of me and stared at me. At first I was startled. The way it was looking at me was beyond anything I had experienced before. It kept staring at me as if trying to tell me something. And the sight of it right there facing me was so beautiful that some passers by stood for a moment to watch. We sat looking at each other there for some time before it walked away. And I smiled.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph Waldo Emerson



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No One To Blame!

“Listen to the little voice in your head that tells you a particular contract is bad news. Trust your instinct to know when the situation is impossible or the person you are working with is unethical in some way.”

I have no clue who the author of this quote is. Somehow I have forgotten to jot it down in my notebook. My  guess is it’s from one of my Writer’s Digest magazines.

Faith: confidence, trust, reliance, assurance, conviction.

I believe that everyone has an inner dream as I also believe that some of us have more courage to admit what it is. But only few of us have the faith required to work on making that dream come true.  

I think every dream, every activity or project in this life requires faith. Faith not in some supernatural or magical force. No. Faith in ourself. Faith in our ability to do things and do them well.  

Sometimes, however, no matter what we do we feel we are stuck in the same situation. No matter how hard we try to realize our dreams we end up running into stumbling blocks. Whether it is the job we want so badly or the perfect dwelling. We try and try and work hard only to realize we can’t change anything. 

So we start to wonder if there is something or someone influencing the process. In our mind we go over every step we have taken until that point. We have done everything in our power, from pursuing an education to getting a job. We have worked our ass off and yet nothing changes, or so we think anyway. We start praying for a miracle knowing very well that it is not coming.


I believe there is no such thing as luck in this life. But there’s something called an inner voice, a feeling, a vibe that we get from some people and certain situations. Sometimes we get a good feeling, a positive vibe, but at other times we feel like we should just turn our back and walk away.

I had that feeling when I first met our new landlord. I didn’t know what it was that I felt. But something didn’t seem right. I wish I had paid attention. That’s why I cannot say I am not lucky. Because there is no such thing as luck. Only an inner voice in our head or our heart. 

Erica Jong wrote:
“Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.”


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Living Life Backwards

I belong to the group of people who love books. Nothing brings me as much joy as receiving a book as a gift. Believe it or not, not even diamonds. That’s right, not even diamonds.
I love stationery, I love office supplies. Legal pads, notebooks of any kind, paper, lined or plain white. I love them, I want them, I need them. I like to shop for them, buy them, smell them, rearrange them, use them and make lists for more. I like pens and pencils, mechanical pencils, fountain pens, specially those that fill from the bottle, and ink bottles. My late husband, may he rest in peace, knew this.


Maybe I am crazy. That’s what my colleagues and friends used to think anyway. They used to think I needed help, and that I should see a therapist. Crazy! Except my late husband. Being the artist that he was, not only did he believe in me but he also understood me so very well. I didn’t have to ask for anything or say anything, somehow he knew. He was the only one to get me a pen, a special edition pen, on our wedding anniversaries and make me crazy happy.

And now when I am overwhelmed with grief and feeling down I go to a stationery or a bookstore. Roam around and try to smell and touch and look and feel everything around me. That’s where I feel comfortable most, that’s where I feel I am in my element as I feel him with me and somehow everything seems to be different. Somehow life and the world seem to be better.

Margaret Young wrote:

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want and so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”


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My Heart Aches

This week we are saddened by the death of Robin Williams. A great loss for all of us and specially his family. My heart and prayers go out to them. It is so hard to lose a loved one. The pain is so strong and with the passing of each day you realize you will never see him again, nor hear his voice. The line separating life and death is so thin and once a loved one crosses it the agony that follows is as if you’re being stabbed in the heart time and time again.

Then you become aware of how vulnerable we each are. How important family is. How important it is to be loved and have people around you who support you. Even on days when you want to be left alone but they won’t let you, because they care too much about you. You realize how lucky and blessed you are to have them in your life.

There was a time in my life when I was so busy working that I hardly had time to relax and enjoy what I already had, and so was my husband. It was only after he was taken from us that I understood how mistaken we were about everything.

The world we live in has become so materialistic and competitive, that most of us have lost our true self. Thrice in my lifetime I have changed cities and countries and even continents. Each time I have left behind many possessions and belongings with so much regret. Because I had to. 

Thinking back I ask myself, did I really need all that? My heart aches when I think of how hard it was for me, for us to work and acquire all that and then leave it behind and go through the same thing yet again, this time in another city, in another country.

My heart aches to see people killed and displaced. Homes destroyed beyond repair. My heart aches to witness children, teenagers, and innocent people lose their lives for reasons beyond my comprehension. My heart aches to see militias doing the unimaginable to women and young girls in the name of God or Allah. My heart aches to hear of children being abused and assaulted by people they trust most. There is no God who supports abuse, killing, rape and other atrocities. 

How can we live in this madness and be part of this world and not despair? 

Rest in peace Robin Williams. You will always be remembered for the laughter you brought in our lives regardless of your own pain.



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I Figured I could Make Time

For quite some time now I have not been able to create. I haven’t been able to work on any new writing project other than my blog. It’s not that I don’t want to or that I have run out of ideas. No. See , I have all these characters and stories running around endlessly in my head. But I haven’t been able to put them down on paper. In other words, I haven’t been able to actually sit at my desk and write. And that makes me angry and frustrated all the time. 

Three months ago I cleaned and tidied a corner in my bedroom which I would like to call my writing corner, just so I have a definite place to go to every day to write. I figured I will start with little tasks. One page at a time, and follow John Grisham’s advice and take each day as it comes.

“I had no time to write- zero time. But I figured I could make time if I could carve out little segments. I knew it would be a slow process, but I didn’t care because I was in no hurry. I learned two very valuable lessons in doing that. One, you can’t get in a hurry. Two, write every day if you want to see your novel completed. My goal was to write a page a day. Some days I could only find 30 minutes, some days two hours. Sometimes I would write five or six pages, sometimes just one. But writing every single day is of utmost importance. Especially if like most beginning writers, you have another full-time job.” 

I was so happy and looking forward to my new beginning when the landlord decided to renovate the building. Before I knew it workers were banging on my wall, the wall against which I had my desk, taking down the bricks. 

I tried to stay calm and figure out how to continue with my plan. On the first day I put on my earphones and sat at my desk. But the noise was so strong. In fact the entire house shook from the banging.


I changed my place, went to the sitting room but to no avail. After a while it all became too much to bear. I thought of going to the library or a coffee shop to work. But then I was afraid to leave the house in case something went wrong and the entire house got destroyed. How silly of me to think that I could have really prevented that.

Today there are no more workers working on the house. No more banging on the walls. The house looks much nicer from the outside. But the feeling and the taste I am left with after all those days of not being able to write, as Simone de Beauvoir put it:

“A day without writing tastes of ashes.” 


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I Wish I Had Listened!

“The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning, with the first small scary step.” Julia Cameron 

After a lifetime of teaching and traveling and spending most of my life away from the country where I was born, where I still have my circle of family and friends and support, I have but a few regrets. I have regrets in both my personal and professional lives. 

On a personal note I regret having spent my life away from my loved ones, away from the people whose company I not only enjoyed but needed most. That was a choice we (my late husband and I) made, to escape the civil war in Lebanon. What better choice did we have then when as newlyweds we spent most nights in the basement turned shelter of our building praying to stay alive.

On a professional level, sometimes when I travel down memory lane I feel that I shouldn’t have wasted my years going to university. I had a dream then. I still do. I wanted to create. I wanted to write. I wanted to spend my time listening, seeing, observing, connecting to people. I wanted to spend my time searching for something, I didn’t know what. The only knowledge of life I had was from the many books I read.

Julia Cameron writes:

“Creative people are dramatic, and we use negative drama to scare ourselves out of our creativity with this notion of wholesale and often destructive change. Fantasizing about pursuing art full-time, we fail to pursue it part-time or at all.” 

To become a full-time writer, since at the time I hadn’t seen enough, done enough, experienced enough relationships, and accumulated enough special knowledge and facts to fill my pages, I thought I needed help. I thought I lacked the practical training and professional techniques I needed to get it all down on paper and put it across to the toughest of all readers. If only I had listened to my heart instead of my head.

Edward Abbey wrote:

“I don’t think a college degree is necessary to become a good writer. I’m not even certain it’s an advantage. College probably won’t hurt you- if you don’t take it too seriously. But far more important, I believe, is broad general experience: living as active a life as possible, meeting all ranks of people, plenty of travel. Trying your hand at various kinds of work, keeping your eyes, ears and mind open, remembering what you observe, reading plenty of good books, and writing every day – simply writing.”



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