Purpose

I spent the first 21 years and 9 months of my life trying to find my talent or a productive ability of some sorts. From graphic design to crafting, I found myself switching between smaller versions of activities my peers were exceptionally good at. But me? I’d never been the best at anything besides being a self-righteous little crap.

I remember the first piece of creative writing that I’d given to someone; I remember how easily the words tumbled down onto my keyboard and how much fun I had. It was a short piece, and a really bad one. It received a good reaction from the recipient, although I don’t think it was anything more than half-empty flattery.

For long after that, I didn’t write. It never particularly appealed to me, not when my friends were out there climbing up higher with their own work. What’s a bland hobby like writing compared to that? Anyone can string together a couple of words, right?

Writing is an art, and art is expression. That, friends, I was exceptionally bad at, always expressing too much or too little and overall just wrong. I think I still am a mess for no reason; no one’s ever forced me to grow so emotionally illiterate. I wouldn’t say I started to write to express things I otherwise couldn’t, but maybe it’s that creative energy that was building up and needed an outlet. I wanted something to be good at, something to work to improve; a fling to the future that I needed to compare my improvement to. I needed a craft, an art, as disrespectful as I’d been towards it. I pride myself in being a woman in STEM, and frankly, possibly because I am conceited and horrible, found other fields including the arts.. not as necessary.

But we crave it, don’t we? The luxury of art and beauty that comes after fulfilling all of your basic needs for survival. Maybe there is a truth that lies behind John Keating’s quote, “And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

(I’ve never seen that movie, just so you know. But I’ve grown to recognize the worth of the other half of the statement, although I’d only thoroughly believed in the first.)

I suppose my first naive conviction that my writing was good as soon as I started regularly practicing it was a blessing. But I don’t write for money, I don’t think I’ve even considered it until this very moment, and am not planning to. That’s not to undermine the efforts of people who do write for money, since my reason to write is a far more selfish thing. “Write for yourself,” some might say, but I’ve done enough for myself. There was a post on social media that said something along the lines of “when I’ve spent six hours baking a cake, I’d want people to eat it” to describe the creative process. I understand the importance of receiving an indication of people having spent time appreciating your work. I won’t write exclusively for myself, because I’ve done enough, watched shows and read books aimlessly, wallowed away in hobbies that produced nothing tangible (not directly, at least), or in ones whose products I was too embarrassed to share. It’s about time I put this out there for the world to see.

I write for attention. I write because I want people to read my work, to appreciate it; I write for feedback, to have people tell me that they relate, or that my writing’s put them on edge, or that it’s eased something in them, or dragged them through harder times. Maybe it’s a far-fetched hope of mine, but I really hope that one day, people will seek my writing to get their minds off of the harsher realities of their lives; maybe my writing is a little defiance, an insignificant effort to add a touch of beauty to this world.

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nonexistent reads

The preteen me, on average, probably finished more books a year than the adult me does. I suppose it is a similar issue some others face, growing up an avid reader then managing to grow out of it. Books by Jacqueline Wilson were my favorite, because there was something so real about them, and although they were meant for a younger audience, they never completely treated their readers like kids. My life as an Arab child was far different from all of the main characters’ of Wilson’s books, but they still were so human, and I remember feeling that she didn’t really shy away from exploring the complexity of emotions and presenting them to children.

I grew, and the number of books I read on a yearly basis took a nosedive (let’s keep comics out of this now, shall we?) I only remember really enjoying murder mysteries during my teenage years, and even those I read very, very few of.

I grew, and tried to get back into reading. My cousin, (shoutout: theyoungdeer) a very, very active reader, especially compared to yours truly, has been lending me all of her favorite picks, and I enjoyed a number of them. But I still haven’t found a book that I’d give 5/5, and I wonder if I ever will.

For the most part, I try to stay away from the angry, all-caps reviews on Goodreads beforehand because I’d rather develop my own opinion (which eventually becomes that angry, all-caps review). I’m thoroughly disappointed by too many new releases, and although I struggle with plots and don’t even consider myself a writer in the first place, I’ve been finding most of my reads mundane and butchered and unworthy of the praise that I find on the back of their covers. Call me a pretentious prick, I deserve it.

But the books I love are very particular, I want them to unravel, to build up and then ease down, to entangle every word put into them and grow complex, then wrap up and conclude like a gift; I like uncomfortably real characters and complicated plots and simple, beautiful writing that flows and takes the reader along. I miss having a book that I don’t want to put down.

and her ongoing crisis

I’ve been using the term “quarter-life crisis” to sum up all of the confusion tumbling around my life. It had manifested itself in huge white-rimmed glasses, but I changed out of those into clear acrylic frames last week. They’re gorgeous and I love them, and I’ve been asking everyone to praise them. I don’t care what they really think.

But my crisis is a bigger one, although I’m at a stable phase. I am incredibly grateful, but it feels stagnant, and really, it’s no one’s fault if it’s not my own.

I think it’s called activation energy, the push you need to do something out of your routine. Reaching out, doing something new, and you don’t ever feel like doing it, but you have to force yourself. It’s that initial leap that’s hard, but I’m not taking it.

I can’t get myself to take it. I am so terribly demotivated, so I’m just sitting with panic building up inside me, watching as my life languidly passes by. I can’t get myself to take it because although I know what I want, I don’t know how to get it. The path branches into too many, and I am crippled by the fear of taking the wrong one and wasting my time and my effort, but what if the wrong one is the comfort I’m sitting in now? Maybe I have been pushing myself, but not hard enough, considering that there are half-done applications sitting around for weeks waiting to be sent. “They’re not good enough,” I tell myself, but will they ever be good enough? Will they just become good enough if I’ve got no drive to improve them? It seems to be a form of procrastination, a foreign concept to someone who tends to worry months ahead. But it’s a destructive one, procrastinating goals that do not have a deadline, milestones in your life that you want to achieve, but that aren’t scheduled out for you.

And I’ve been comparing myself to others, people of my age and younger. It really is a horrible thing to do to yourself, a reflection of a deeper problem and non-existent self-confidence. It does nothing to your motivation; if anything, it just demotivates you further. Your life is your own timeline, Maryam, and the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself. I know it, but the dread comes in waves, and sometimes you can’t help but take a step back and look at the time you could’ve put elsewhere. But I’ve taken it upon myself never to regret anything. I believe that everything does happen for a reason, and that there is a silver lining in it all, even the time that you might think you’ve wasted.

Am I sad? Maybe. It feels like a combination of sadness and indifference that laces my mornings. If any, it’s that blunt kind of pain, that mundane joyless laughter. I do feel bad for it, because I believe that I’ve got no right to be sad. The feeling of guilt that comes with being sad is wired in me, I guess, and I don’t really know whether that’s a healthy coping mechanism (probably not). I feel alone, too, and vulnerable when I talk about it, even when I’ve done so many times in this blog. There’s a lot that that comes down to, as I’ve said in other posts, but I’m just not willing to change to anything but the better anymore, and I’m tired of considering whether my ‘better’ will be catered by others. Take it or leave it. It’ll heal.

So this is a resolution (if anyone’s still reading this? Hello?). I’ll try my best and keep faith. I’ll do it.

(update: The applications were sent!)

ties worn by time

I’m missing a bond, but I don’t really know whether I miss the person I had that bond with. She’s grown into someone I’m not compatible with, and I’ve done the same. Faulting her for it seems unfair, but there’s pain that lingers after severing ties that you can’t seem to build with anyone else.

I feel it more keenly than I would like to admit, especially considering that I’ve always been that indifferent one. She was only a friend, but it was odd how well we got along, how we’d the same sense of humour, peculiar as it was, and how we connected one level deeper than how we both usually did.

That friendship didn’t vanish into thin air, but we both watched it dissolve and fray. I tried to save it, and maybe, so did she. We’re no more than two distant people now, who go months and months on end without hearing of each other.

I’ve tried putting it into words several times, but I’d always been too worried about wronging her. Please read this unbiased, we both had our shares of being the bigger person and not. I’m still nervous about it, and there are so many things I want to say but I don’t even know if I want to put this up. But it happens, people do change, they grow, and they show you pieces of themselves that you might not like, and they could grow distant then connect to others, and as long as there’s no one who stays behind wallowing away in bitterness, it should be okay.

It still saddens me, though, and I wonder if it does the same to her. Perhaps not, but who am I to say. I’ve reconnected to many other friends, but I feel so severely secondary to all of them, and while they’re precious to me, it seems like that bond was a one-time thing.

I know I’m a pretty difficult person to get along with; I’m harsh and stubborn, I don’t have a redeeming quality that would make others want to befriend me, and I’ve got too much pride for anyone’s good. I think I also blame it on age, this inability to become something a bit more than “just another friend,” and there’s no bitterness in me, but it seeps in at times, some exhausted form of being tired of myself, too much to change. I don’t want to change, there’s no bitterness in me.

The life and writing update you don’t really need

Hello!

So my family’s gone abroad for a vacation, and I decided to stay home. In a community where you’re expected to live with your parents until you’re married, that quiet is more daunting than I thought it would be. Home’s generally quiet anyway, and although I’m not explicitly lonely, it feels like this kind of change gives way to some unnecessary thoughts to barge in.

Work has been overwhelming, and I cannot believe that when I’m finally (legally) able to take a couple of weeks off, I can’t find the right time to do it until the end of APRIL. Yes, I am on the verge of tears.

(Emphasis on verge, since today’s payday)

But writing has been going well, although I don’t know how my pace slowed down this much compared to when I was writing my first little novella (undisclosed, that was cringy as heck ughh). I really need to think up a new title for Constellations if I want to extend it.

I wrote a character introduction piece for my sea witch who isn’t actually a sea witch, she’s just that well informed. There’s something about writing people of color that can serve as my main motivation to write.

(Yes, I am a person of color too, but the people I write are often from other races. There’s so much to learn when you research that, even if you’re not sticking to our real life cultures when you’re writing up your own world)

I think I’m gonna post that under character intro and a flower prompt series I’ve been thinking of doing, one that includes the meanings of flowers or what they signify.

Heck yeah, science people don’t play.

Thoughts on Constellations a thousand friends

To the thousand followers of this blog, and to everyone who took the time to comment or like, thank you! I hope my pieces, short and chopped as they are, continue to provide some value or inspiration to you.

Now, I’ve never been a fantasy gal (nervously looks back to obscene amounts of true crime content). I guess starting one shocked me into writing Constellations after a writing block that lasted too long. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a shot and let me know what you think about the Woodwose, about the story, and/or about Constance. I’ve considered expanding into an online novella if people showed interest in it, but still a bit reluctant.

I found myself exploring the Woodwose and his past, and Constance with her adventure and the world they live in, and the creatures in it. Hey, this might actually grow into a series of novellas, not just one, if I magically gain the commitment that beats how worn out I get by writing up 1500 words (and a beta-reader, I must magically gain a beta-reader). And yes, “Constellations” is only a placeholder title that I decided on before self-doubt managed to seep in and toss the story in the trash.

I’ve also been trying to find good online short stories, things to draw inspiration from (and to force myself to read outside my typical genres). If you’ve written one, feel free to post a link to the full story, a chapter, or an excerpt. Anything is fine as long as it isn’t NSFW.

Thank you all for the thoughts and encouragement again. I’ll be looking forward to receiving your feedback!

Downs and downs

I’ve been in a complete writing slump.

With both my magazine column and my story, I’ve only been drawing blanks.

The words won’t flow, and I’m starting to think that I could be the least creative person on this planet. And to make matters worse, I’ve been unable to even look at my own writing, trashing ideas, notes, and my self-confidence every time I open a draft.

As for my column, I decided to go with a more scientific topic, which will give me less space to be cringy. Did you know that 2021-2030 has been named the Ocean Science decade by the UN? The little nerd inside me is ecstatic.

But my story, well. I hate it. Not the concept of it (it’s a piece of sea fiction with a strong female lead. Wait, I just noticed the ocean theme overlap), but where I’m going with my plot (spoiler: nowhere)

And yes, the setting is difficult to write and needs an awful lot of research (and the consumption of even more nautical fiction, yay!) but friends, what even is storytelling? The number of dead-ends and their discouragement companions that I’ve met over the past several months is sad.

I tried storytelling guides and plot-building tools, but I’m still struggling. And sometimes, it’s better to receive a direct point of view. I know that writers face this, and the more experienced ones have overcome plenty of times.

So, let me know how you break your way out of a writing block that feels like it isn’t planning on leaving anytime soon. Please?