Overthinking

It’s a decision, fractured
a time limit
a constricting vein in the head
it’s a bad feeling that spreads
through your stomach and up up up
it’s an angry mother
a wounded friend
a fleeting lover
an icy pen
it’s a moment turned red
a hunting ground for regret.

 

 

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For Us

Be okay
not for me
but for you
I pray
just in case
for I never know what state your future is in
you care for it so much and yet you risk it relentlessly
travelling through different layers of the Earth
boiling yourself alive
staring down foxes in the night
moving up and down mountainsides
take care of yourself, please
for you
but maybe even for me;
my future looks a little like you
and I am not so willing to risk that.

My Current Project

So, I realize that I’m not the best blogger, and I guess it’s because I’m not really used to talking about my projects publicly. Usually when I write, I keep my ideas close to my chest and work silently until I have something of substance to share. But I do want to get into the habit of documenting my process and hopefully inspire some kind of readership, so here goes nothing…

I’m currently working on a novella for my university graduation project, now tentatively titled The Safe Place. The book follows the story of Rona, a young girl who has lived her entire life in the woods. The only person she has ever had contact with is Anne, an older woman who is something like a mother or an older sister to her. Rona loves Anne deeply — more than she loves herself — so it is quite jarring when she wakes up one morning and finds that Anne is gone. All she has left behind is a note, telling Rona that she has ‘gone to the sea’ and that Rona ought to meet her there.

Rona is terrified of leaving their little clearing in the woods, but she is even more terrified of being without Anne, and so for the first time in her life she must venture out beyond the thicket of trees that encircle their cottage and venture out into the world.

The novella is separated into four chapters: The Clearing, The Woods, The Town, and The Sea. Each chapter presents its own unique challenges for Rona, and though her journey is riddled with uncertainty, one thing is for sure: she will never be the same. 

Doesn’t that sound interesting and magical and fun? I know, I think so too! Anyways, I’m planning on posting some excerpts soon, so don’t stray too far, okay?

See you soon.

Space (a short story)

My whole life I felt odd among my people. I didn’t fit. I didn’t agree with them. There came a time, even, when I was sure I hated them. This feeling got so intense that eventually I took my things and moved up north, where the rain was heavy and there was no one to argue with. All my life I thought turning my back on my people would be easy. And then he came: the man dressed in the cloud.

It was raining that day. I sat at the foot of a cave with my dress over my knees and listened to the raindrops – the stones – ringing off the mountains like music. As the song played, I saw something shifting nearby. Lines drawn in the shape of a body. It was a man, dressed entirely in a white and puffed up suit, like a cloud. He looked towards me and the face behind his glass orb washed with shock. Carefully, he raised a hand and moved it. Side to side.

I paused. I waved back.


He told me he was from Earth, and asked me if I had ever heard of it. I said no. He asked if it always rained like this. I said yes. He laughed and shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe it. He said that the rain on Earth wasn’t solid like this. It came down in droplets of water, not stones. With a gloved hand, he picked up a stray raindrop.

“Do you know what we call these stones back on Earth? Diamonds. They’re very valuable. People have killed each other over them.”

“Killed?” I asked, a little shocked. It seemed a bit excessive to kill each other over stones, whether they fell from the sky or not. But the man only nodded.

“Mm, they kill over just about anything on Earth. Sometimes I think I took this job just to get away from it all.”

These words would echo in my head in the days to come. The man stayed for three, throughout which he told me all about Earth and its people. He told me about green grass and blue sky. It sounded beautiful, and I thought about asking to go with him. But I didn’t. For some reason, I didn’t.

On the day that he was leaving, I watched as he readied his ship. He was putting his things away, and among them was a small, clear bag of raindrops. Of diamonds.

I hesitated.

They kill over just about anything on Earth.

Uneasy, I told him that I didn’t think it was a good idea to take the diamonds back with him. His people would no doubt come back for more, wouldn’t they? They may even bring violence, or war. He told me that they wouldn’t. I told him to promise me that they wouldn’t.

He couldn’t do it.

Still, he was refusing to leave without them. I reached over and tried to take them from him, but he shoved me to the ground. He told me he was sorry and, strangely enough, he looked it too. As he moved towards his ship to leave, I imagined otherworldly men fighting over the rain. I pictured my family – my mother and siblings in the south – getting caught in the crossfire. I pictured clouds forming over the villages. All laced with red.

These images were so frightening, that all at once I found myself with a leg at either side of the man’s body, gripping a rock in my strong hand. With all my force, I came down on him. I broke his glass head and I broke his real head, too.

As he bled, I sat beside his body and shivered. It began to rain again, and as the stones filled the valley with song once more, I thought: maybe it’s time to go home.  

The Goblin

In Social Ethics class we were asked to make a creative project about a social issue that mattered to us. I decided to write a short children’s book about domestic violence in Jordan, told from the point of view of a child. My hope for this book is that it will raise awareness on the issue, as well as offer solace and strength to the children living in these abusive households, despite the fact they may not yet fully understand their circumstances.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback!

 


 

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‘Good’ Writing

Today in Writing 3 we were asked to turn in a reflection of what we believed was ‘good’ writing. Our professor gave us complete freedom and told us to choose any format we liked. I went for the creative-fiction-prose approach and wrote up a scene of a mother who discovers the body of her son. Pretty dark, I know, but I wanted to test the emotional impact of the writing.

To do this, I drew up two samples. One was the scene written in a way that I felt was ‘weaker’, and one was written in a way that I felt was ‘stronger’, i.e. the way I would ideally write it. Here are the two samples:

Sample One: 

I entered the house and took note of the silence. But then again it was always this way. My son, who was always home when I arrived from work, was not one to make noise. Usually, I would walk by his room to check on him. He would greet me with a weak smile, and I would look at him and think about how much brighter his smile used to be before he was diagnosed with depression.

“Hi mama,” he’d say.

“Hi habibi,” I’d reply.

Today was no exception. I walked up to his room to check on him, but things were different. My son was not in his bed. I took in the sight of him hanging. He had taken his own life.

Sample Two

Let me tell you about the moment my son became a statistic. I walked into the house, and all was quiet. But that wasn’t odd, really. Rami made as much noise as someone who spent all day swaddled in bed scrolling through Instagram could make. Every day when I’d come back from work, I’d pop my head into his room to check up on him. He’d look up, pull out an ear bud, and try to smile in a way that was meant to fool me into thinking he was doing better. Just once I wish I could’ve fallen for it.

“Hi mama.”

“Hi habibi.”

Today, I went to check on him as always. I walked across the hall, pushed open his door, and there he was. But he wasn’t on his phone. In fact, his phone was on the side table, and his ear buds – much like Rami at that moment – dangled off the edge, hanging silently in midair.

Okay, which one hit you harder? My intention was that the second one would have the stronger impact, and I thought without a doubt that my classmates and professor would agree. But they didn’t.

I explained my reasoning for why I originally believed the second one was stronger; I gave the characters more of a personality, tried to show readers what kind of relationship the mother and son had… The grief, I believed, was in the details. But, according the class, the details served more as a distraction.

My professor said that because the first sample was so stark and mechanical, it reflected the chilling nature of the truth this woman was about to uncover in her son’s room. It reflected the general ‘wrongness’ of the atmosphere, and ultimately the simple, blunt language pierced the heart more acutely than sample two.

It’s never easy to take criticism, but having heard their thoughts, I do sort of agree with them. There are strengths in the first one that the second one could have benefited from. Perhaps it would be better to write more in the style of sample one. Or, maybe I should try to merge the two styles and apply the strengths from both?

I’m not sure yet. I’ll definitely need to think about it more.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t be afraid to place your work under other people’s microscopes. Feedback does help you grow, as a writer and as a person.  Learning to let go of your ego and listen to what others have to say is actually really humbling once you surrender to it. So bring your work to class, show it to people, and take what they have to say into serious consideration. It’s worth the risk, and you’ll probably end up discovering weaknesses in your writing that you never noticed before. (Also, nothing equates to seeing people get emotional over something you wrote, so if it does goes well, it’ll be really nice and you can feed off the validation for a while…just saying).

If you like, let me know which sample impacted you more and why. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

See you soon.

Resolutions

There’s about five or six of us enrolled in Modern English Literature. It’s such an intimate class, we don’t even take it in a lecture hall. Instead, it’s held in our professor’s office, where we scatter ourselves among her couches and prop notebooks up on our laps. Modernist literature is known for focusing on the internal mind, on the consciousness of its characters, and so maybe that’s why it feels so much like a group therapy session whenever we come together. It’s as much a study of ourselves as it is of literature, and we’ve learned a lot about each other.

So, it was no surprise when, the other day, our professor interrupted class to ask us each what our resolutions were for the upcoming year. We sat in silence for a moment, thinking, not sure what was too personal to share. And then a friend of mine spoke up.

Her resolution, she said, was to give up overthinking.

Oh, I thought, that’s a good one. And I could see a similar realization wash over the other students, as well. Perhaps it’s just uni culture, but we really are just a group of anxiety-ridden young adults. Our collective fear is something we bond over – joke about even – but we all know it isn’t always so easy to laugh about.

Our professor, who has the perceptiveness of a loving mother, took note of the faces in the room. She could see that we related to my friend, and she began to tell us about how she, too, had been an anxious student. However, with time, she had trained herself to  take things more easily. She took a moment to remind us that nothing is worth a sleepless night, that we should learn to say ‘so what?’ more often, and that, most importantly, we should never allow other professors – who have forgotten what it’s like to be young and inexperienced – to bully us into feeling inadequate.

It’s funny how we think we already know these things, that we don’t need anyone to remind us, but when you hear them after being in your head for so long, it can be like having a fog you weren’t even aware of lift suddenly. All at once, you’re aware of all the nails you’ve bitten off, lying in a heap in your lap, aware of how vigorously you’re fidgeting in your seat, of how fractured your mind is, thinking days, weeks, even years ahead. It’s good to work, to excel, but it’s also okay to not constantly be doing something.

I’m writing about this because it’s Christmas break, and for the last two days I’ve done nothing but lie around in various positions and think about all the things I should be doing. Coursework, projects, writing – even leisure reading has become a chore. I attach urgency to everything in my life, and it’s exhausting. I do think being ‘productive’ is healthy, but only when one is able.

So, yes, I do want to work and create – of course I do – but not in a way that constantly makes me feel like I’m being chased. There are no teeth yapping at my heels. I have time. I’ll get things done. And even if I don’t do as well as I want to, well then – so what?

See you soon.

Fresh Eyes

During the last two months, I strongly entertained the idea of putting aside my current project and starting something new. My characters supported this change of plans, some of them being so fed up with sitting idle that they were ready to pack up their things and join me in a different plot, a different book. I really thought I was going to do it, but not anymore.

Yes, I haven’t worked on the book in a while – I feel like I’m always saying this – but that’s okay. I realize now that what I truly needed was some proper time away from my wip. So, I let myself focus on uni. Throughout the semester, I read some amazing stuff – plays and novels and poems – both in class and on my own, which have allowed me to return to my project with fresh eyes and more insight into the craft. Reading is important, you guys. I know that sounds a little obvious, but I don’t read nearly as much as I should. I don’t think any of us do.

So, I’m feeling motivated. I’m ready to delve back into my project, to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. I’m ready to write. God knows I’ve missed it.

See you soon.