A year in the life

Usually when I disappear from people’s lives, social media and basically no one hears much from me, it’s because I am either overwhelmed and need to recover, or I have fallen into depression -again – and need to wallow. That’s how it’s always been. The people that know me well know this about me. They let me be for a while, until my disappearance lasts too long and they intervene. Bless!

I want to say that this is the old me, but I am a bit too scared to jinx it. So let’s just say that I used to do that for those reasons. Not anymore though. I haven’t posted to my blog in a while, not because I haven’t been writing, but because I’ve been too focused on all the projects I’ve got. All my energy and writing mojo goes into my book.

Nanowrimo is nearly over and most of you – those that read my blog and follow it are from the writers online scene thanks for following me btw – know how it could take its toll on you. My emotions are up and down every single day. On top of that, I am running my small business and working on three major projects. I don’t even have time to think about what to write for this blog.

Looking at my last post, I see that it was posted almost two months ago. My instinct is to beat myself up about it and feel shameful that I’ve let this go. But what would be the point. Other than make myself feel bad. Instead, I sat down to write this post.

I feel like I am slightly freaking out because I’ve been on an amazing writing streak. I am writing everyday and it’s been a breeze mostly. The idea just come to me and I show up everyday to let them come through me. I fear losing that. That fear is paralyzing me. But it’s part of it. Part of this journey. And that’s ok. Usually that would send me into a spiral, and maybe I am growing up, or I don’t want to waste my time falling into anymore spirals, but I don’t want to let fear control me.

I know a lot of people experience those feelings and I spent many years trying to find the answer, the cure. I don’t know if I found it, but I know that I choose to move forward. To get right back up every time I fall. I’ve fallen a lot this past year, but you wouldn’t know it because I almost always got right back up. Is this the right way? God only knows. All I know is that I’ve come so far with so many things, especially writing. I can always count on that.

I am thankful for November. I am thankful for Nanowrimo. I am thankful for writing. And I am thankful I get to do what I love every day.

PS: yes the title of this post is from Gilmore Girls comeback show. Which I am currently watching in the background. I just feel like I’ve been in the making, for over a year now, and things are coming together. It’s a little incredible how much has changed in just one year.

Blank Pages – A Procrastination Story

I turned on my computer and put on my noise cancelling headphones. I pulled out a notepad from the drawer that needs to be reorganized because I can’t find anything in there anymore. I grab for a pen. Realizing that it’s a green pen, I put it back and mindlessly search for my favorite pen. Meanwhile, I try to find the perfect playlist to write to. I spend the next 15 minutes listening to different playlist, unable to find what I am looking for, I decide that silence is probably going to work. I can’t focus on the writing if the music is not right. Especially when I am writing something new. A new blog. A new chapter. A brand new story.

Where’s my blue pen? I stare at the blank page, watching the curser blink aggressively. I can’t work like this. I need to find my blue pen. After I look everywhere for it, I remember that the last time I saw it was two nights ago. It was in my purse. I think. Maybe it fell somewhere? The car. I grabbed my keys and headed to the car. Sweat trickled down my forehead and the pen was no where to be found. Just as I was about to give up, I looked under the passenger seat and there it was. Right! Mom had to use it the other day.

I get back to my desk and I write the date and time on the top right corner of the page. Title. I don’t know. Let’s leave the title for later. I want to write about procrastination. I haven’t written a blog in a while. I’ve been getting distracted with all the other projects I’ve got going on. Maybe I can put down my first experience with procrastination and why I believe it’s the worst affliction ever. Growl! I am hungry. I better get something to eat before I start writing. I’d hate to interrupt the muse when she’s here.

The fridge is absolutely sickening. I can’t eat anything in there. I guess I’ll just make some ramen noodles. It’s quick and easy and I can’t be bothered to cook anything right now. I need to get back to writing. I’ve already wasted 2 hours and the page is still empty. Ok, ok. I’ll quickly eat and then I’ll start writing.

Twenty minutes later, I am back at my desk and the page on my computer is still empty. I swear, this cursor is mocking me. I jot some things down on the notepad but I make a mistake. I search for a white-out pen but I get distracted by how messy my drawer actually is. I pull it out and throw its contents on the floor next to me. OMG I remember that day at the park. I had so much fun with the sisters. Why don’t we go on picnics anymore. We look so happy in this photograph. I wish for more days like these in my life. I grab my notepad and start a to-do list. The first task is, spend more time with my sisters. Task number 2, write the damn post Reem! I slide all the junk on the floor back into the drawer. I’ll organize it after I write this post.

I know what I want to write about. I wrote down all my thoughts and main points. I put the headphones back on, get comfortable in my chair and move the keyboard closer to me. I am comfortable. Ok. Curser blinks. My mind is blank. I grab the pen and write “write a blog post about how much I hate blank pages”. I put the pen down. I stare at the screen. What makes you think that you can even do this Reem! 

My fingers finally move. Hit backspace. Delete that word. God, this doesn’t make any sense. What am I even trying to write here. Ok, just keep writing. Remember what you learned from Nanowrimo. Brain dump only. Don’t edit. You can do this. You quit your job to focus on this. No pressure or anything, but, don’t forget it. Isn’t Nanowrimo coming up? I need to outline my next book so I don’t get distracted next month. This time around, I have to make this book happen. Which reminds me, I still haven’t edited my first book.

Hours later, after taking every chance I could to step away from my desk and do anything but write, I finally have a page filled with words. Some of them are readable. Most of them make absolutely no sense. I hate everything I wrote and I ought to stop this ridiculousness. Who leaves their job to pursue a career as an artist and writer. Only a madWOman, that’s who. I wish I was better at this. I wish I didn’t get so easily distracted. I think I need to get tested. Maybe I have ADHD. My phone rings and I answer. I almost never answer phone calls. That’s how much I needed a break from the conversation I was having with my self.

After the phone call, I come back to my desk and I google, procrastination. I read a few blogs and articles and then I read what I wrote. I delete half of it, and rewrite the rest. I add some new sentences and then rearrange the whole thing. I give it a final read. Wow, this is actually good. Not bad Reem.

I wrote a blog post. I fought procrastination. It wasn’t easy. In fact, the mental battle I had was pretty brutal. For the whole day, I was fighting against myself to create something from nothing. For the rest of my life, this is what I have to do, every single day. I look back at everything I’ve done to date, my old job, the old blogs I ran, the previous micro-businesses I’d started and gave up on, and I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew that – that life wasn’t for me. That mean voice was loud then. That mean voice is always here and loud. But now, the mean voice goes away when I am in the zone. When I write, draw or create something, I reach a state of peace. I lose myself. I lose track of time and feel elated. It’s a magical feeling that I only get when I am creating. That feeling, is worth the battle I have to fight every single day.

Some days, the voice wins. Other days, I get too distracted and procrastination wins. But then there are days, glorious joyous days, where I win. It’s worth it.

Here’s a funnier version of this from the Tv Show Mike & Molly. 

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A Review – Kino Cafe @ Kinokuniya

If there’s anywhere out there that has to be on the list of “best cafes to write/read/work at”, this would be it. Kino Cafe is located in Dubai’s largest bookstore, Kinokuniya at Dubai Mall. This place is one of my favorite places to go to when I want to write. Everyone is so quite and consumed by the book, notebook or laptop in front of them. I rarely see more than one person on a table. And if there happens to be a group or a couple, they’re mostly there to study or have a business meeting. I love it. I always feel so inspired to work when I go there.

The food style is very Japanese/Asian which means, amazing kinds of tea, not just the green variety. I love to order their iced green tea. So refreshing. It’s like green tea galore at this cafe. Their food is just OK. But I normally don’t care much about eating when I am writing. My goal at kino cafe is always to write, which is unlike going to a place for breakfast and wanting to both start my day with a delicious meal and then be able to write comfortably and effectively.

The cafe is so bright but super small. They have a silent room at the end of the cafe if you need an extra quiet space. Each chair in that room, has a socket and a table for your laptops. No one dares talk in there. They have some sockets on the workstations too, but I hate sitting at the workstations. They’re not comfortable and small and the last thing I need is to rub elbows with some random dude while I am trying to focus.  I take up a booth, which is supposed to be for four people. I always feel like a douchebag when I do that, but it’s the only way I feel I can write and the place is rarely busy so I am not making trouble.

There’s a huge glass wall on one end of the cafe, normally, that would be appealing because of the brightness coming in from the sun. But this is Dubai and we have two seasons, summer and a barely cold spring. Sometimes it’s winter, but that’s kinda rare. Also, the summer lasts about 8 months. I exaggerate to prove a point. Basically most of the year, the place feels like a sauna. I am not saying the place needs to be cold, but the temperature needs to be slightly cooler at this cafe. When you have an open space with a lot of glass, you need to factor in the temperature coming in from the outside. This has happened almost every time I went there.

Another annoying feature is their wifi. It’s very good once you’re connected, but the password expires every hour. I expect this from other places, but this is literally a work cafe. People are expected to sit at the cafe to read and chill and browse the internet. It’s located in a bookstore for god’s sake. That is the main function of a cafe that is inside a bookstore. So it doesn’t make sense to me that they use this system. I feel like wifi shouldn’t even be an issue in this day and age. I really hated having to ask for a password every hour, one for my phone and another for my laptop. The last time I was at the cafe, I was there for 5 hours. I definitely didn’t appreciate the looks I got from the waiters every hour. Extremely annoying.

Parking is a non-issue. The best parking for you if you don’t want to walk all around the mall is the fashion parking of Dubai Mall. It’s the closest to Kinokuniya. If you happen to park on the other side, the cinema parking, then you can take a shortcut through the foodcourt.

All in all, despite the temperature and the crappy wifi system, I’d say this is my favorite place to write. The iced green tea always helps. And I tend to do my research at home to avoid wifi issues.

Here’s the rating for this place based on my criteria.

Coffee – 6/10

Comfort 7/10

Food  5/10

Wifi 3/10

Music 6/10

Atmosphere 10/10

Parking 10/10

Disclaimer: I am not part of Kino Cafe or Kinokuniya nor was I paid to write this review. This is purely a way for me to review and document the best restaurants and cafes in The U.A.E. for individuals who want to write and enjoy good coffee. If their food is good, that’s a plus.

Bateel Gourmet – A Review

I never thought about reviewing Bateel for my ‘work friendly cafe reviews’ series. It’s not really known for that and It’s been around for ages. It didn’t occur to me. I happen to be in Town Center Jumairah early this week, to visit PaperLane; the crafts store I like to get all my scrapbooking papers from. I was there early, and hungry, and there was Bateel. It was meant to be.

It’s a very nice restaurant, especially for breakfast. And they have the most robust and strong coffee. They like to pair it with a piece of date. I hear the combination is delicious. I am not a date person so I’ll leave you to judge that on your own. They also make arabic coffee, but I’ve never been a fan of that so I have no clue if it’s good. Honestly, when it comes to things that are normally homemade, I almost never go for it at a restaurant. Arabic coffee is a homemade staple at practically every home in the gulf region. But, who knows, maybe Bateel’s is actually good.  Continue reading →

A State of Comatose – Post Nanowrimo

Part of me knew that something like this would happen. That I would shut down after the words marathon my brain had – not willingly – participated in. I had never spent more than a few days writing in a row, let alone an entire month. It was a binge-like behavior. I was binge-writing and coming down from that high was a little depressing, I am not going to lie. It has felt like there weren’t any more words to write, as if my brain had run out of words.

I’ve mentioned this on my blog a few times before, but I’ve never actually written more than 10k words a year. This includes my diary, the myriad of blogs I’ve kept over the years, and any type of personal and recreational writing. For work, I would write nearly 40k words a year. Writing has always been a means to an end, despite the passion I have for it. Continue reading →

I win I win I win

What!??? I did?

HELLZ YEA I did. 50 thousand words. 50k.

My draft is not even done yet, I still need at least 20k words to wrap up the story, but that doesn’t matter. I made a promise to myself, and I kept it. I completed NaNoWriMo, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I am very proud of myself, and everyone who participated this year.

Yay Us. YAY US!!!!!!

I Write, Therefore I am

Looking back at the amount of journals I kept over the years – not necessarily keeping them filled and fed – and the number of blogs I started – again, not truly committing to them – and how many notes I have on my iPhone and even the old blackberry, notes about my feelings, emotions or experiences, all written down for posterity and a little bit of therapy, and finally, the folder I have on my computer that is called [My Writing], which is filled with word documents of things I wrote. I honestly don’t know how I can look at all of that, and still question my vocation as a writer, and natural attraction to write it all down – do I need someone to stamp it across my forehead in order for me to believe it? Continue reading →

An Effort in Descriptive Writing

In an effort to expand my horizons, get myself out of the house and force myself to get inspired and notice my surroundings, I took a trip to the beach.

I actively saw what I saw, I wiggled my ears so as to test it’s hearing abilities. That’s silly, don’t do it, you’ll look stupid. Or maybe do it, who cares if you look stupid. I tried to identify what I inhaled. I gripped the steering wheel tightly, focusing on the heat coming through and the smooth texture.

I thought about all the missed opportunities, all the things I saw, smelled, heard, touched and felt. Things that are now forgotten.

I arrived at my destination. I paid attention to how I parked the car. How people look when they are driving and finally spot the parking they want. I couldn’t help but imagine a jungle where the survival is for the fittest and fastest. I pushed the thought of the reckless drivers out of my mind, that’s not a pretty picture.

I took a seat at a cafe on the strip across from the beach. I wasn’t dressed for the beach and thought it best to sit back and watch.

As soon as I ordered an iced frappe, which is pretty for a very cold coffee, I noticed the man occupying the table next to mine. Alone. Why is it that men who dine alone seem more charming than a man dining with company? Does his solo status elude to his actual status? He just seemed so interesting to me. He picked up his phone and I imagined his secretary on the other end, confirming his schedule for the rest of the day. After his call, he looked into the same direction, the beach. Was he trying to notice his surroundings too? I really wanted to know what he was thinking. I couldn’t help but watch him watch people as they went about their days.

In my peripheral, I noticed the leaves fall and I celebrated internally, for noticing this happen, and for the welcome suggestion of an upcoming winter. Out here, it still felt like a cool summer. Autumn was merely a suggestion and winter was just around the corner. Winter here feels like a very cold spring; perfection.

Tall trees surrounded the cafe, I looked up to admire them. Practically yellowing where the sun light hit them, and vivid dark green were those in the protection of the shade. I need to find out what kind of trees they are. Their leaves were tiny, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before. I probably just didn’t notice.

The (big umbrellas) – I don’t know what they are called, they covered the tables that were out of the shade – hung free, hoisted to the ground by weights. It wasn’t windy but they swayed from side to side as if dancing to Adele’s song “Hello”. I mouthed the words and caught myself swaying too.

I sipped from the sweaty glass and frowned when it wasn’t cold anymore. The ice had completely melted and I was barely half way through. Serves me right for noticing my surrounding instead of the drink infront of me.

I wondered about every one that was out on the beach at 11 AM on a Tuesday. I didn’t have anywhere to be, that justifies why I am here. Could it be? all those people are jobless too? That didn’t sit well with me. Surely some of them are tourists, some set their own schedules and some work shifts. Maybe that explains it. Regardless, it felt naughty, like ditching school or calling in sick.

Finally, I noticed that descriptive writing is hard, but it’s so much fun trying to paint a picture with words like a painter or an artist, I’ve never been happier about being a writer and an artist. I feel proud and lucky that I can do what I love, spending a morning sipping a cold frappe at a cafe overlooking the beach at 11AM on a Tuesday.

Immerse yourself – It’ll keep you going

If someone asked me a year ago, Reem, can you imagine ever writing a novel? I would’ve said no. Despite of the fact that I wrote a bunch of stories from the ages 9 to 13. Short stories mostly, but stories nonetheless. Other memories I have are of me cooking plastic food for my parents in a toy oven, presenting it in plates and expecting them to pay for it. Two things I was sure of growing up, although not entirely during the lost years; 1) I love cooking and possessed the entrepreneurial bug, 2) I had a wild imagination and loved imagining stories and writing.

Of course, the only valid career choice was business related. And so, I went to business school, specializing in tourism. I went to work. I did great, for a while. And then I was miserable. I’ve just summarized nearly 10 years of my life in 3 short sentences. What I am getting at is, that I never saw myself ever pursuing writing as a career. Even now, that I am actively writing. My family doesn’t really know, because I haven’t explained it yet. My friends don’t know either. A few close people know. The world – whoever reads my blog – knows. 

When I decided to write a novel, specifically, participate in NaNoWriMo, I became very aware of my apparent shortcomings. I started wishing I studied literature, at the least, taken a creative writing class. I scoured the internet for tips and tricks, the tabs piled up on my screen as I fell down the rabbit hole and the headaches started.

What kind of music should I listen to when I am writing, I asked google. What’s the best way to say “she walked really fast because she was very angry”, and yes, that is literally a sentence captured from the novel I am currently writing. It’s a place-holder, or so I tell myself. I found a number of books that are supposedly useful for aspiring writers. Aspiring. HA! Another word I hate about describing myself. A word I used to use. I now say, writer, aspiring to be published. I also looked up movies about writers or fiction, I figured that they would somehow help me focus or spark an idea or two. I did most of this prior to NaNoWriMo, as part of the prep I suppose.

On the 31st of October, I watched Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson’s “Stranger than Fiction”. I thought it was brilliant, and it didn’t inspire me. It depressed me a little. Because it was so good and imaginative. How will I ever make something this good? I can’t. Queue depression and self loathing. Ugh, us writers can be very annoying. Jeez. Somehow I got over myself, and on day 1, I wrote.

Day 2 came around, and I wrote. it was tough, I procrastinated, and I watched “Love Actually”. Not exactly a movie about writers, although, there’s a writer in the movie. Anyway, skip this one. It did nothing for me – writing wise that is. I used to love this movie, I’d watched it a few times before. I managed to write despite of the lack of motivation and inspiration.

Day 3, 4 and 5 are a blur. I didn’t write much, because everything I wrote was garbage. I was also in the middle of reading “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. You see, that’s another thing I’ve been doing lately to help in my writing. I’ve been reading a lot more. I would now randomly pick up a book from my (To Be Read) list and kind of force myself to read it. For research, I’d tell myself. The book was good, but long, and sad. I sobbed when it ended. Rejoiced when I found out that it was being turned into a movie, and then sobbed some more. I was mostly sobbing because I imagined watching the movie in the cinema, and I felt that I would burst into tears when that thing happened by the end of the story. But part me of was sobbing because I barely wrote anything for NaNoWriMo, no, for my novel, and my word count was suffering. The chart on the Nano homepage was mocking me. Thankfully, on day 5, I discovered word sprints and virtual write ins and writing buddies. The sobbing helped it seemed, to get the juices flowing, pun intended. Day 5 gave me my word count, and then some, making it possible for me to take day 6 off and most of day 7 off too. Most importantly, day 5 gave me actual content I was proud of.

You see, all this, simply means that I have survived week 1 of Nano. All it took was for me to completely immerse myself in writing. All my senses are attuned to my surroundings, focused to help me write this novel. Gosh, it would be a shame not to finish it. A damn shame. It’s hard to be excited about something that is this hard, time consuming and also emotionally draining.

PS: Other movies I’ve seen that helped me write and gave me motivation are: (Under the Tuscan Sun – Julie & Julia – Midnight in Paris – Eat Pray Love). There are other movies on my to-watch list as well.  I just realized that I’ve watched 7 movies in about 5 to 6 days. Read 1 book and started two others. I’d rather do this for research than the alternative. Multiple tabs on safari truly depress me.

PPS: The featured image is an alley of the streets of Stockholm, on a clear cold night, in October of 2014 (one of my many travels).

Happy Writing to all the NaNos out there or anyone crazy enough to do this thing.

Molly tries to write

I am so obsessed with this scene.

s1 s2 s3 s4 s5 s6 s7 s8s s9 s10 s11 s12

Just your typical writing process