Too Busy Being A “Writer”

I have come across so many articles lately with titles like 15 Steps to Writing A Bestseller, 7 Steps Guide to Becoming a Writer, etc. both on the internet and in magazines. 

I don’t for a second believe that writing a novel, an article, a memoir or a play, is simply a matter of arranging words into a set formula which instantly turns one into a writer.

Will these articles turn a clueless person into a literary star in seven, or maybe fifteen, simple steps? I think not. Even though Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, claims that we are all equally creative and we are all artists, I believe that raw talent is a gift. It’s this unique voice that only belongs to you. And if in any way you are passionate about it and committed to make the most of it, then you have all it takes to create. 

Talent isn’t something anyone can teach you. No one can teach you how to write. What these articles can do perhaps is provide a little structure and guidance based on certain writing perceptions and views that have proven successful for countless authors. The same goes for writing schools and workshops. They can teach grammar, and rules on how to correctly use words to form sentences. 

There was a phase in my life when I used to be enrolled in numerous writing courses all simultaneously. I don’t do that anymore. While it’s true that these courses provide some kind of support, at the same time they unconsciously hinder the hard work of actually writing and putting words on paper.

What has helped me most, however, is reading about famous writers and learning how they have done it. Tips for improving and bits of wisdom from them gained over the course of their writing career. Tips for writing and submitting and writing again. Because they were all beginners once. 

Reading their biographies I have learned a lot about new possibilities. Sometimes I have come across a sentence or a comment that has stirred my imagination. At other times I have found their advice contradictory. For example, some say to plan or write a detailed outline of your story and characters before starting to write while others say just start writing the story.

To Write

But such differences only prove yet again that there is no “one right way” to literary success. And the one and only thing that all these writers agree on is that you must write.

I don’t remember who said that if you want to learn how to write a novel, read the classics.

I reread East Lynne by Ellen Wood this week. It was published 1860-1, and it had everything a successful novel should have even nowadays. The characters, the setting, the plot, the surprise element, the suspense and the ending. Every single character in the book changed with the story, the events moved in such a way and I found the book more readable and interesting than most of the novels published recently. (Some of which I started but unfortunately couldn’t finish because there was nothing in the story to keep me hooked and reading.)

A tutor once told me, don’t waste valuable time and energy talking about writing, studying writing, attending writers’ meetings, at the expense of actual writing. And whatever you do don’t make a habit of moving from one writer’s circle to another, from one writing course to another, too busy being a “writer” that you have no time to write. Instead read and write.
I took his advice to heart and I learned by reading and writing more than from workshops and courses. And any day spent reading and writing even for an hour is a happy day for me.

Henry Ford once said: 
“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” 

Hope you have happy days doing whatever it is you like to do!


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I’ll Get Through This

The statistics on my blog indicate that between December 2015 and March 2016 I have posted two articles per month, and from April 2016 onwards I have but one blog post each month. I find that so sad. There was a time when I used to post four to five articles a week.

My productivity has been at its lowest these past months. When friends asked what’s wrong I reply, “I can’t write. I am too stressed.” 

I have read enough stories about other writers who have stopped writing during crises. I didn’t want that to happen to me. But at the same time I was in no position to write, both physically and mentally.

Julia Cameron writes in one of her books that if you have suffered a loss like the death of a loved one you need to grieve. You need to give yourself time and space to do so.

When my husband passed away I put on a brave face. First for my kids and then for the whole world to see. If I ever felt like crying which was almost always, I did it in the privacy of my bedroom and particularly at night when they went to bed. They needed me to be strong. I needed me to be strong. So I kept reading and writing. 

A year then two more went by and when other crises hit, they affected me really badly. That’s when I couldn’t write. What’s more, when I forced myself to do so, I became angry, frustrated and blocked. So I did what I usually do when I am blocked. I cleaned my desk for the millionth time, I rearranged my library, I leafed through my files and went through my blogs. My self esteem was at its lowest and I needed to remind myself of my good times and my old writings, and I became nostalgic. I missed me, the writer, and I wanted to come home. 

I couldn’t write but I could read. I reread Julia’s books which I keep on my night-table. According to her if you are experiencing lots of stress due to a crisis the last thing you need is more pressure. You have to slow down. Allowing yourself downtime doesn’t mean giving up on writing. 

Then I started writing my morning pages. I wrote about my frustration, my sadness, my worries and my fears. I wrote about everything that came to my mind and I wrote every day. Until eventually I found myself writing again. I could feel the transformation in my heart because at some point I stopped reacting to what was going on in my life and I accepted the sad reality. To quote Julia:

“In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me.” 

And now I feel I am in transition, sort of in between phases. I am at a phase in my life where I want to leave the past behind and start a new life, build a community here in this new place where I also feel vulnerable, since I don’t have my family and circle of friends.

But as long as I have my books, my kids and my extended family abroad and I can reach out for help, I’ll get through this and keep on writing.

Have a blessed day everyone!


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Use It Don’t Cheat With It

Every time I think about my blog I get all these ideas in my head. Somehow I want to include all and write about everything. But then I hold back and hesitate. I ask myself, Will people be interested in my story? Just because I like hearing and reading about others doesn’t mean they want to know about me! What if no one will read it, then what? Does it really matter? 

It’s the same dilemma I face each time as I get pulled in two opposite directions. The first one is that I like to write down everything I feel and think. To quote Hemingway:
“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”

The second is that I try to forget my tragedy or loss and write about something else. But then how can I forget my personal tragedy when everything around me reminds me of him?

A few days ago I had to wait in some waiting room. There were lots of people in that room, and the place was really crowded. Most of them were older than me. Early in the morning before leaving the house I made this promise to myself that no matter what lay ahead of me, I’d just go and get it done with. I also promised not to be affected emotionally.

I was okay in the beginning but as I sat there waiting I couldn’t help but think about him. The many times we sat together in different waiting rooms. The things he used to tell me, like:
“Wouldn’t it be nice to grow old together? Imagine us, old and still together doing things.”

That morning I could hear his voice as clearly as if he was talking to me. I looked at the empty chair beside me and swallowed hard. Because yesterday, as well as every yesterday since March this year, and even before, I needed him most to be with me in those waiting rooms. 

When I think back now I wonder where I got the courage to face it all alone from. My children, their devotion, and the love and the support I received from my family on a daily basis even though we are miles and miles apart, surely were reasons for me to face any crisis with courage and patience. I’m so blessed to have them in my life and be surrounded with their love.

June and July were at some point the happiest months in my life because of our engagement and wedding anniversaries that have now turned into sweet memories. My children have their birthdays in June and July. It’s at times like this that I think about what Hemingway said:

“Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it- don’t cheat with it.”

So all those times that I think of writing something else I feel like I’m hiding my true feelings. So forgive me readers if I keep coming back to that same hurt, because doing otherwise would be cheating with the truth, with my truth.

Speaking of another truth, why are some people being so weird on twitter lately? Have you noticed the latest trend with some twitter followers? 


I am on twitter since 2011, @chichikir. Thankfully I have my share of followers, and those that I follow. (My general rule is to follow those who follow me.) For the last few months or so, I noticed some followers have unfollowed not just me, but unfollowed everyone. So basically they have reduced the number of people they follow to zero people.

I have people who I follow, like J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky… The truth is if you are not someone I look up to, if you are not Rowling, or Oprah, or the Dalai Lama, or the pope, to name just a few, why would I keep following you if you have stopped following me? 

I use the app to find out my unfollowers. And I automatically unfollow those accounts.

Have you come across such an event? Check it out and judge for yourself.


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What’s Wrong With Men?

While browsing on the internet I came across the following old advertisement. I say old because it was posted on the occasion of Canada Day (beginning of the month) but it still caught my eye. It was directed towards Canadian writers, specifically Romance writers. It read: 

SYTYCW (So You Think You Can Write)
Romance Writers! Give us your Great Canadian Heroes and Skip the Slush Pile!
Calling all writers! Have you ever dreamed about writing The Great Canadian Romance? Harlequin editors are on a nationwide mission to show the world what our Canadian romantic heroes are made of.

Ask yourself…
Is he Strong & Rugged?:   He could play hockey or baseball in Montreal!
Is he Refined & Sophisticated?:   He’s a Toronto billionaire with a yacht to boot.
Is he Dark & Mysterious?:   He’s a Vancouver PI with his own agenda…
Is he Charming & Sexy?:   He’s a Red Deer cowboy secretly yearning for a family.
The questions continue and the list goes on.


I know that this is Harlequin Romance we’re talking about, where the hero is this extraordinary person with all the characteristics of a superhero. My question is this:
What’s wrong with ordinary men? Just any man. Why does he have to be a billionaire or play hockey or own a yacht or a private jet? Why can’t he be just an ordinary hardworking person? A teacher, a tailor, a blue collar worker, or just any decent man as long as he has a decent job, he is honest and puts the needs of others before his?

Life is full of such men. In fact the rich and the famous represent only a minor percentage of the population. The  rest are people like us who are doing the best they can to live a normal and dignified life. They are working hard to provide for their families and loved ones, trying to make this world a better place. 

Both my parents were hardworking people. They themselves were deprived of their childhood and of a proper education since they were refugees at a very young age. My mom was not even eight years old and my dad was ten when they were displaced from their homeland Mousa Dagh in Turkey and taken to an uninhabited corner east of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. 

They lived in tents in a refugee camp, until much later when the families were moved to houses. Each house consisted of one bare room, with no proper door or window, and one small bathroom built outside. That was all they had to start a new life.

My dad had to work at the age of thirteen to support his family while my mom knitted and did needlework to support hers. With no proper education, with limited means, both worked hard to give us a childhood and an education they never had the chance to have. They taught us to live with dignity and integrity and loyalty. Loyalty to our families and loved ones, loyalty to our community.

My brothers and I didn’t have daily chores as kids. According to my mom, this was because we had to enjoy our childhood and since we would have plenty of time to work later on in life. She did all the work inside the house and sometimes even helped my father with his work. She spent hours cleaning, cooking, doing needlework, doing whatever she had to do, to create a clean and happy home for us.

Going home from school each day was a treat. Walking through the door and being surrounded by the smell of her cooking, or going to bed smelling the freshness of the bed sheets. It was like she gave her life to us and every day was spent making our lives comfortable. (Something I try to do for my kids too as much as I can though she set the bar too high.)

My dad on the other hand was up early every morning and by 6:00 a.m. he was already in his workshop, way before we went to school. And late in the evening when we had already finished with our homework and all, we would wait for him to end his work for the day so that we could have dinner together. His work was manual and he would be at it from 6:00 in the morning till 6:00 in the evening with a half hour lunch break.

I grew up watching them, idolizing them, and I in turn have tried to pass on these values to my kids. My parents are my heroes and so is my late husband, who worked his whole life for us, some years without taking any vacation time.

The biggest commitment any man can make is to his family, in my opinion. Those are the heroes I would like to write about in my novels. It all starts in the family.  As William Saroyan once wrote:

“Go out to some single person and dwell with him, within him, lovingly and utter the truth of his existence and reveal the splendor of the mere fact of his being alive, and say it in great prose, simply, show that he is of the time, of the machines and the fire and smoke, the newspapers and the noise. Do not deceive. Do not make up lies for the sake of pleasing anyone. No one need be killed in your story. Simply relate what is the great event of all history, of all time, the humble, artless truth of mere being. There is no greater theme: no one need be violent to help you with your art. There is violence. Mention of course when it is time to mention it. Mention the war. Mention all ugliness, all waste. Do even this lovingly. But emphasize the glorious truth of mere being. It is the major theme. You do not have to create a triumphant climax. The man you write of need not perform some heroic or monstrous deed in order to make your prose great. Let him do what he has always done, day in and day out, continuing to live. Let him walk and talk and think and sleep and dream and awaken and walk again and talk again and move and be alive. It is enough. There is nothing else to write about. Speak of this man, recognize his existence. Speak of man.”


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It’s Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. And for me and my kids it’s not a day like any other. It is one of those days that we just have to get through. Today is a day just for keeping on.

In his answer to a grieving person, some old man wrote the following:

“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage, and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph, or the smell of coffee. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while. All you can do is float. Stay alive. Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall, or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somewhere you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.”

We have come out. We have survived the wreckage, but the pain and heartbreak are there just like the day it happened. And with all that’s been going on in my life this past year I find myself one more time standing on a slope.

Wanting to move ahead but sometimes being held back by unexpected u-turns, I become attached to my past. I miss my old days with him, and I miss him terribly. And on days like today I have to stay faithful. 

Both my late father and my late husband were believers in their own way. Both believed in me more than I did. Faced with their faith I used to find mine. I lost them both within one year of each other. 

Now I must look for the silver lining. And at night when for some reason sleep won’t come I must consciously count my blessings. 

Tom Hanks once said:

“As long as you as an individual… can convince yourself that in order to move forward as best as you can, you have to be optimistic, you can be described as ‘one of the faithful,’ one of those people who can say, ‘Well, look, something is going to happen! Let’s just keep trying. Let’s not give up.’”

I like to believe you are both in heaven watching over us. Happy Father’s Day to you both and to all fathers who are in this world and those who have departed.



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“Get Up And Walk”

I’ve been absent from my page for some time now. Perhaps the longest time since I started my blog five years ago. That drives me crazy. This is the place that helped me get up and stand on my feet when I was at my lowest.

For almost a year now I am facing yet another challenge. Next month in June it will be exactly one year that I am trying to find my balance and I am hoping and praying that things will settle down somehow.

We human beings are so resilient. We fall, we get up, we rise, we fall again. We expect the worse, and yet when we face it, when it happens, we are shaken. But nothing prepares us for the moment of death, for that moment in time when we lose a loved one. No matter how prepared we are, the reality shakes us to the core. That feeling of loss is like nothing we have experienced before.  

When I lost my husband, I felt this emptiness inside. It is still there. I carry this mountain of sadness in my chest that I try to put aside. I will never get over his loss and the emptiness and sadness will always be there. It will not go away. Nor will it change its intensity. But I choose to put it aside whenever I can help it. 

This page, my page helps me do that. It helps me heal. It is the place where I can be myself. I don’t have to pretend. It helps me travel down the memory lane. I remember all the people I have loved and who have loved me. I remember those I’ve lost over the years. But I also remember the people who have hurt me and the ones I have hurt and I feel sorry for doing it. 

Absenting myself from my page makes me bitter, angry and resentful. And yet I hate to admit it but I have developed a certain attachment to my own comfortable misery. As if I am expecting or waiting for some kind of instant gratification to be moved and motivated to continue.


Didn’t Jesus say to the sick and the fallen, “Get up and walk,” instead of saying, “Let me help carry you,” or something. Didn’t he mean it in the way that you alone can help cure yourself? Take the first step, stand up and try. Have faith and you will rise and walk. It’s that first step that is the hardest to take.

When I first started my blog I didn’t know where I was going with it, where it would lead me, or if I would be able to continue. When I expressed my concerns to my late husband at the time, he said, “You just start, don’t think about anything else. You just take that first step and start, then all will follow.“ 

Now that he is gone, my page has helped me heal my past somehow and ease the pain. It has helped me come home to myself when I was lost and didn’t know where I was going. Thanks to my fellow writers and bloggers and readers it has given meaning to my life again when I was certain I had lost my purpose. 

John W. Gardner wrote:
“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.” 


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1.5 Million Reasons Why

Today is the 24th of April. It’s the day when all Armenians all over the world gather and march in memory of 1.5 million who died in the hands of the Turks one hundred and one years ago. 

Robert Fisk calls the mass murders committed against us, the Armenians, the first genocide of the century. He goes on to say that later on, the Germans not only learned from the Turks but mastered their methods to kill the Jews. Yet the Armenian genocide, until today, is not recognized by many countries around the world. 

President Obama didn’t use the term genocide in his speech.

George Clooney said that it’s been a long struggle to have things called by their names. He said it’s hard because we live in a complex world, but added, “One cannot deny what has happened. When someone is trying to annihilate a whole human race, culture, people, that’s genocide, there can be no other version of it.” 

While Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, said in his speech: 

“On this day, we mark the 101st commemoration of the tragic loss of life of the Armenian population during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Both the Senate of Canada and the House of Commons have adopted resolutions referring to these events as genocide. We preserve the memory of those who lost their lives, and those who suffered during this genocide and pay our deepest respects to their descendants, including those who now call Canada home.” 

My parents and grandparents come from Musa Dagh, where they put up a resistance and fought against the Turks. “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh” by Franz Werfell is their story, our story. He wrote:

“It had dawned, the fortieth day on Musa Dagh, the eighth of September, the third of famine. Today the women had not troubled to go in search of unnutritious herbs from which to concoct a bitter tea. Spring water was just as filling. All still able to stand clustered round the various well-springs – old men, mothers, girls, children. It was a queer sight. Again and again, one after another, these exhausted faces bent down to the water-jets to drink without thirst, out of hollow hands, as though to drink were an urgent duty. Many lay down flat, breathing heavily, feeling that their bodies were like some porous clay that stiffened slowly in the air. Others dreamed happily. They felt certain that now they were growing wings, that as soon as ever they liked they could spread them for a short blissful flight. Over them all lay a veil of gentle slowness. The small children were all fast asleep; the bigger ones had ceased to be noisy. That morning three old people died, and two sucklings. The mothers kept their wretched creatures pressed against empty breasts until they stiffened and became cold.”

My grandparents and great grandparents were on the mountain on that day. On this day and every day we owe our lives to all those who lost theirs.

In an interview with Elie Wiesel discussing his book “Night” based on his memories of the time he spent in a Nazi concentration camp, when all his family was killed, the interviewer asked how he was able to laugh again, to go on with his life, after seeing what he saw. Wiesel replied:

“Let me turn it around. After seeing what I saw and living in the shadow of death each day, I have six million reasons to laugh, and be happy and go forward.”


We have 1.5 million reasons to live, laugh and go forward and demand justice from the world.


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