Because You Can’t

I have mentioned earlier that I lived in Dubai for a while with my late husband. Dubai is perhaps the most cosmopolitan city that I have lived in. People who come to work and live in Dubai come for a limited time. They stay as long as their employment permits them to. But for us and many others like us who escaped the civil war that ravaged our country, Dubai sort of became our home away from home.

During those early years, in the mid 1980s, Dubai wasn’t what it is today. There was only one shopping mall and a small bookstore that had less books than I had in my library. Of course the Dubai Arts Centre was there with its lending library as I mentioned in my previous post.

We had our circle of friends whom we socialized with during weekends over dinner. And we often met new ones and took them into our circle.

Around the time that I participated in the Writers Workshop, we met a couple who had just come to Dubai. Once over dinner at our place my friend asked how my workshop was going. Excited, I started talking about the writing that I had to do for the class and all, when our “new friend” cut in saying that she also could write, and do a better job of it. She started saying that when she was in school she wrote a paper and her teacher blah blah blah…


Needless to say I spent the rest of the evening thinking of the mistake I made. To quote Ann Beattie:

“But by way of advice? What can I say- don’t make mistakes? Hardly likely. Don’t let people persuade you to talk away your material, and don’t let them persuade themselves that you are only another version of them. People who do not write will tell you that they haven’t gotten around to it because they know they can do it. It can be done tomorrow. Any time. The are just about to get to it- that the thing comes naturally to all of us, that thing we’ve all done all through school. The books they could write, their plots based on something that happened to them, that are more exciting than le Carré’s. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I’ll see you tomorrow.
They are not writing because they can. You are writing because you can’t.”


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