Someday When I Have The Time

Rereading one of my books on writing and time management the other day, I came across the following checklist:

– You never seem to find the time to start writing that project you’ve been dreaming about.
– You hear yourself saying, “I don’t know where the time goes.”
– You spend most of your time responding to external pressures instead of to your inner vision.
– Your whole life seems to have been “one big interruption.”
– You’ve been planning to “get started” all your life.
– You keep attending creative writing classes and do no writing on your own. 

And the list goes on. I checked true on all the points listed above, even the last one. Though I don’t attend creative classes anymore, I do find myself rereading almost all of my books on writing over and over again instead of actually writing. 

Kenneth Atchity writes:

“Talent and discipline combined together with time can make your dreams come true.” 

Talent: the abilities, power, and gifts a person is born with; a special often creative or artistic aptitude.

Discipline: control guided by obedience or training, orderly conduct.

Time: the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues: duration.
(Britannica Webster Dictionary) 

Sometimes when I hear myself say, “Someday when I have the time, I will finish the project I started decades ago,” I quickly realize my mistake and think, “No one will give me the time. If I want something so badly I will have to make the time for it.” 

It’s getting worse, this time thing. I can’t seem to be able to manage my time like I used to. I lack control. I lack discipline. What I do now on most days is procrastinate and keep postponing my projects, only to realize that life itself has a deadline, the most arbitrary deadline of all. 

Clock

John Grisham wrote:

“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 thirty 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.”

Have a great week!
 
ChK

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When Was The Last Time?

Kenneth Atchity once wrote:

“One of the first questions I ask when a writer needs help to become productive is, “When is the last time you sat and wrote? Not sat down and stared out of the window, but actually moved your hand across the page or your fingers on the keyboard.”

Countless are the times when I sat at my desk to write and didn’t and left the page to go and do some other chores, chores that were totally unnecessary. Julia Cameron associates this with fear. She says that we creative human beings are blocked because we are afraid. That’s why when the time comes for us to sit down and really start our project we panic and stall and move on to do something else.

Many are the nights that I have gone to bed, my head full of ideas of what to write the next day. Sometimes I write sentences and entire paragraphs or stories in my sleep. But come morning, instead of going directly to my page, I do anything and everything to avoid that moment.

Is it really fear then that dominates my thoughts? Is it my experience with the printed page? The fact that I haven’t seen any results yet? Do I need some kind of confirmation to go on writing? I don’t know but I know for sure that on days that I don’t write I become miserable and sulk the entire day. In the end I can do nothing but succumb to my desire to write and I become if not a better at least a happier person.

The Writer

It’s always that first step that separates the doers from the dreamers, not only in writing but everything else. The first steps we take towards our dream no matter what that dream is. And for me no one explains this better than C.V. Cavafy when he writes: 

THE FIRST STEP

The young poet Evmenis
complained one day to Theocritos:
“I’ve been writing for two years now
and I’ve composed only one idyll.
It’s my single completed work.
I see, sadly, that the ladder
of Poetry is tall, extremely tall;
And from this first step I’m standing on now
I’ll never climb any higher.”
Theocritos retorted: “Words like that
are improper, blasphemous.
Just to be on the first step
should make you happy and proud.
To have reached this point is no small achievement:
what you’ve done already is a wonderful thing.
Even this first step
is a long way above the ordinary world.
To stand on this step
you must be in your own right
a member of the city of ideas.
And it’s a hard, unusual thing
to be enrolled as a citizen of that city.
Its councils are full of legislators
no charlatan can fool.
To have reached this point is no small achievement:
what you’ve done is already a wonderful thing.”
 
ChK

     

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 290,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 12 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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I Wish For Some Peace

As I sit in my comfortable home in Montreal and watch the news of refugees and their flight from terror, I can’t help but think about when we were forced to leave Beirut in search of a safer and more stable place. 

I may have mentioned earlier that both my late husband and I were born in Lebanon to Armenian refugee parents, and we grew up there. When the civil war started we were both students, he was a sophomore in university and I was still in high school. The situation was terrible. There was danger everywhere.  

The year was 1984. Nine years into the civil war, the situation was getting worse and terror lurked in every corner. It was a time when different militias fought against each other. The capital Beirut was divided into two parts, East and West. We were married and had rented a tiny studio in West Beirut so we could be close to his workplace. I wasn’t working that year. 

Fighting escalated between the two sectors. Bombs fell around us on a daily basis. I was so paranoid that I could even hear the bombs sent our way the moment they were launched from the East. I would wake up in the middle of the night, wake my husband and we would cower in a corner of our room and wait for a bomb to fall on us or somewhere nearby.

Some nights the bombing would be so intense that we would seek refuge in the basement of the building, situated under the parking lot, with a huge gas tank in the corner. The advertising company where my husband worked at the time as a graphic artist decided to close its offices in Beirut. Who had money to spend on advertising when survival was the main priority of the people living there? We wanted to leave the country to escape the danger but didn’t have the means, since he was the only one working, and with rent and other bills and expenses to pay we couldn’t afford to travel.

I prayed and prayed for a safe way out. And soon our luck changed and my prayers were answered when the company offered to transfer him to their Dubai office. For us it was a blessing. That’s when we became refugees too, but refugees with a privilege.

Traveler

We made it out of there and Dubai became our home away from home. It was hard leaving everyone behind though. 

I remember our first Christmas in Dubai, away from our families and friends. I remember looking for a Christmas tree. The only shop that sold trees (artificial ones) and ornaments was a shop called Habitat. We didn’t have much choice in decorating the tree. I remember buying artificial Christmas flowers made of white cloth as there were no red ones, and my husband hand-painted them red so we could put them on the tree. It felt good trying to start a new life in a new place we could call home. 

Christmas has passed and New Year is just hours away, and with all the trouble around the world, with millions of people trying to flee their homes in search of a safer place, I truly understand their situation. I just pray and hope that somehow peace returns to the world so people can live with some dignity. 

Wish

As for me I can say it has been a good year even though I had some major challenges to face, and I haven’t been able to post frequently. I am not much of a fan of resolutions but this year I am up for a new challenge and a new page, a new year. And as a promise to myself I will try to be more present on my page. 

I wish for some peace and stability in the world, a happy and healthy and successful year to all, and to my fellow bloggers and writers I wish that the writing bug catches you all! 

Happy New Year!

ChK

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Literary Prizes!

“I’ve always been a fan of Canadian literature. I think it’s important that we celebrate and highlight the extraordinary achievements of our own cultures. It is a privilege and a pleasure to highlight and bring forth the magnificent achievements of Canadian literature through The Giller Prize,” said Justin Trudeau, current Prime Minister of Canada, when it was announced that he was to host the Giller Prize on November 7 2006. 

It was my first encounter with the Giller prize. It was the first time I heard about it. Before that, my favorite Canadian authors were Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, M.G. Vassanji, Alice Munro, and Mavis Gallant. I watched the ceremony on TV with awe and followed the authors, read their books and read and watched their interviews. Since then I have become a huge fan of the Giller.

This year, of the five books on the short-list, I liked Samuel Archibald’s “Arvida” the most (translated from French by Donald Winkler). I don’t know what it was but there was something in the way the author told the stories, and how they seemed so personal and hence so original, that touched me. But unfortunately my preference didn’t win. André Alexis won for his book “Fifteen Dogs.”

Trophy

I felt disappointed and somewhat angry and wished that we readers had a say in who wins. But then I remembered an anecdote about another prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, the biggest prize in France, told by Simone de Beauvoir in three letters to Nelson Algren. She wrote:

“Great literary events in Paris this week. There was the Goncourt prize- that is the most important prize for a novel in the year. The book at once becomes a best-seller; it sells 100,000 at least, which in France is much, and the author is covered with fame and money. Ten old men, a kind of “academy,” give it, and there is a terrible battle between the publishers; they bribe some of the old men, often. The jury is supposed to choose the best novel, but always chooses the worst. So it was a great amazement this year because they really picked the best, Week-end in Zuydcoote, the story of the Dunkerque battle…” (10 Décembre 1949)

“Queneau entered the Goncourt Academy, that is strange and a bit disappointing since it is such a conformist, mild, worth of nothing kind of gang, this thing. Camus, Sartre and myself always said no when asked to enter it.” (Monday, 5 Mars 1951)

“Something very funny happened today! Maybe you remember when Kreswell gave you some books back, I showed to you a piece in one of the booklets where I was mentioned and strangely compared to Pointcaré; it was called “Literature Below the Belt,” something like that, and the author was Julien Gracq. In the same piece, Gracq said how disgusting it is to give prizes to authors, and how they degrade themselves by accepting them. Well, it happened this man wrote a book this year, a dull, sophisticated novel, and the Goncourt Academy decided to give him the prize! Indeed he could not accept after all he had written about it. He gave a lot of interviews saying he would not accept the prize if he got it. But the ten members of the Goncourt Academy, and Queneau among them, said the prize had not to be accepted to be given; they give it as they choose. And indeed today they gave it to Gracq. He is really a man who never tried to get publicity, wrote one, two books which did not intend to sell well.” (Tuesday, 20 Novembre 1951)

ChK

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The World Is A Sad Place Now

The world is a sad place now.

It’s a sad week in Paris, France and in Beirut, Lebanon. Especially after what happened in Paris and in Beirut this week. So many innocent lives lost, so many others injured. My heart goes out to all the victims and their families, to all those who lost their lives or their loved ones. And the memories, oh the memories.

Ironically enough last month I started rereading Simone de Beauvoir again. I started with her letters to Nelson Algren.

“It’s so beautiful just now in Paris that it is impossible not to feel happy and to hope.” She starts the letter of the 7th October 1947.

This week I am rereading another one of her books, The Mandarins. I have this habit of writing my initials, the date, and the city where I bought the book in the top right corner of the first page of all my books. This one reads 25-August-1986 Venice.

August 1986, I had traveled with my late husband to Rome and then Venice and from there we were flying to Paris before returning to Dubai.

I remember the bookstore where I bought the book from. This tiny little place in some tiny street corner where we used to walk every morning to go to St. Mark square. There was always a line-up of young people outside, the equivalent of perhaps the line-up of Starbucks nowadays. It was a bookstore that sold English books.

At the time, The Mandarins was the only book I was missing in my library from Simone de Beauvoir’s books. I had bought and read the rest while I was a student at the American University of Beirut from Librarie du Liban across the street from the university.

We were both so excited about this trip. It wasn’t our first trip. In fact we had spent Christmas in Hong Kong and China. But it was the first in the sense that it was sort of a pilgrimage for both of us. For me I would finally visit the city where my favorite author Simone De Beauvoir lived. I would visit Café the Flore, sit at the desk where she sat and wrote. I would walk to Sorbonne and wander on St. Germain and Montparnasse. Stroll along the Seine and climb the stairs of Notre Dame.

As for my late husband, Paris meant he would visit the Louvre and Montmartre, he would see the impressionists’ exhibition and most of all he would see Picasso.

I don’t remember how we went to the Picasso National Museum that day, whether we took the metro or a cab. But I remember we were early. The museum hadn’t opened yet and we waited with a few others outside. I could feel my husband’s restlessness. Until then the only paintings of Picasso he had seen were from the many books about art and artists he had collected since his early teen years.

Just when the doors opened and they let us in he said to me, “Can you please keep an eye on me inside and see that I don’t get too feverish or become too hot or something?”

We went in there and I had to watch not only the paintings but my husband too. That’s how much he loved Picasso. Being an art lover and an artist himself, I still remember the way he watched those paintings, the way he was so caught up in them. It was all so fascinating to watch him.

Those are sweet memories. Memories give me hope and make me strong. My life is so full of so much love and beautiful memories. Because of him my life is so meaningful today.

Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of his death and I am still unable to come to terms with his loss. Not even after three years and not ever. Rest in peace my darling.

Dad-1

ChK

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Learn To Let Go!

One of my biggest problems in life has always been to let go. I constantly worry about anything and everything. I remember a time when I wasn’t this tense. Maybe because my husband was there to share and lift the burden off my shoulders. I have difficulty to just be in the moment and try to live each day as it comes.

For the past couple of years I have been trying to get out of this bad habit. I say bad because I feel that by focusing my energies on the negatives I have become a blocked creative. The moment I sit down to write, I start thinking and analyzing. I ask myself why? Why am I doing this when my first book is not selling even though people who read it love it and say it made them cry. Am I wasting my time?

Then I get paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. I leave my page and go around the house doing things like emptying drawers and tidying them again and again, rearranging my library,  mopping and washing until I am too exhausted physically to do anything other than grab a book and read. All the time feeling guilty for wandering away from my goal, my purpose and my spirit. 

Dream

There is nothing in this world that gives me more pleasure than to be home with my spirit. To work and think lost and absorbed in my moment and let go of the rest.

The philosopher Plotinus wrote:

“In our best and most effective moments, when we really ‘enter into’ our work, we leave it behind…. This is the experience of Pure Spirit when it is turned toward the One. When we reach this stage we often doubt that the experience is real because the ‘senses protest that they have seen nothing.’ Hence there is a kind of unconsciousness in the highest experiences of the Soul, though we cannot doubt them, not in the least.”

ChK

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