I never know what to say around people who think they know what’s best for me. On one hand, I want to say “fuck off, I’m living my life best way I know how”, on the other hand, I don’t want to risk being shunned. Well, I don’t really care, but one must keep the image intact. God forbid anyone sees you at anything less than your 100%.
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.
I keep going back to this memory anytime I am about to do something new. I am siting in class, chatting with my friends, and everyone is talking about a dream they have. Someone says they want to run their own company one day, and another one talks about how incredible and rewarding it would be if they could simply travel the world and experience the nomadic life. I nodded, oohed and aahed along with the rest of the amazed looks. When it was time for me to chime in, I said something about wanting to have a comic strip published in the newspaper. And then I said that I wanted to write a cute fun comic book, and it’s going to be based on our daily lives. Everyone looked at me with eyes wide open, filled with excitement. Someone said, OH MY GOD, LET’S DO THAT!! It would be so much fun. Continue reading →
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 →
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.
I’ve been writing since I was a kid. It’s a natural thing for me. Something that I do because that’s how my brain works. If I ever needed to work something out or was stressed out, writing about it would give me some kind of a resolution. I didn’t exactly keep a journal, but I’ve written about the best and worst experiences of my 29 years.