I have been told by a very loyal Goll Gappay reader several times to do a post on writing – why I do it, why it is important, and what’s my process. The reason I was very reluctant to write this post is because I thought it would be presumptuous. Who needs my opinions when there are real writers out there whose words on these topics actually matter? Do I think I have more to add to the ongoing conversation about writing and the writing life? Me? When I don’t even have a consistent writing routine? Then I realized that even this line of thought, all on its own, was impertinent. What gives me the audacity to even ask the questions I have listed above, to even compare myself to real writers? My thoughts became more and more convoluted and self-critical, and I stayed far, far away from this post.
I want to circle back to it, a rather abrupt development, because today I opened up the first draft of a story I wrote several weeks ago. I decided to get started on the second draft. I tabled it long enough that upon reopening it, I was able to slash weaknesses and modify the plot, whereas when I first wrote it, I couldn’t even dream of making any changes. This was how I had conceived the details of the story, the mechanics, the characters, and this is exactly how it would unfold on paper. Before getting started on this rampage of editing that is quickly shaping up the second draft of my story, the working title of which is “Alone in Each Other’s Company,” I was completely lost. I had no idea how to approach it, where to start, what to do. It wasn’t until I was in the thick of it, and I mean knee deep in the story, in the middle of the characters' conflict and walking all over their emotional space, that the writing happened. The writing did itself. It’s ironic, you see. I waited for weeks for something to come to me, crawl on deft spidery legs and climb up my arm, send my fingers into a flurry of motion over the keyboard, but it wasn’t until I actually made myself get back into the story, back into the act of writing, that the writing actually happened.
I experienced a similar incident a few days ago. I have had a pretty dry spell. The last poem I wrote was in October. It’s hard for me to absorb this, but yes, three months ago was the last time I was able to write a poem. I was waiting. Waiting for something, anything to appear. Waiting for the muse to start whispering to me. Waiting for a word, a phrase, an image, anything, dammit. There was only white noise. This has happened a few times before and will continue to happen, I expect. Whenever I go through something like this I tell myself, “This is it.” I convince myself that I am not a writer (of any level) - I have done all the writing I had in me and am all dried-up now. I fall into a depressive state characterized by general moroseness and bad temperament. So, I don’t know what made me sit down with the intention to write a poem – any poem – a few days ago. I sat and stared at the blank screen for a few minutes. The cursor blinked and blinked and blinked. Then I wrote a line. Then I wrote five stanzas. Then I had a draft. And a second draft. And a third. Then I sent the poem out into the world.
I learned some things over the last few days, things I had already known to various degrees of certainty, but never acknowledged. I may not be a successful writer in terms of the number of sales I have made, but I am a writer. I am a writer deep in my bones. I am a writer because. Just because. There is so much promise in that word. Because. It’s a heavy word, pregnant with possibilities, a carrier of reasons and excuses and qualifiers and justifications and arguments and declarations. Because. I could never not be a writer. I was a writer when I was born , I was a writer when I was eight years old and I wrote my first poem, I was a writer when my father said, “Here is my eldest daughter. She is a writer. And isn’t she beautiful.” He said it so often and with such conviction that I believed him with all my heart back then. And then I forgot. It’s a journey, you see, winding up and down through known and unknown lands. You fall. You lose hope. But you get up again. You are used to the life of a wanderer. It could be no other way. You must keep wandering, and finding and reaffirming yourself in the process. So I am doing just that.
I am more myself when I write. I am pleasant and mild-tempered when I write. I am happy when I write. It pervades every aspect of my life and relationships. I need to write – to feel completely like myself. If I don't write, I stop recognizing who I am. I lose a part of my identity. Who are you? I am Noor. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am my father's daughter and so I am a writer. I live so I am a writer. I am a writer because. Just because.
I also learned that I cannot sit and wait for inspiration to come to me. It’s fickle. I have to go and grab it by the neck, wring some sense into it or caress it into submission, and carry it back to my desk. It’s a rigid beast, but surprisingly compliant with the slightest effort. I’ve got it by the neck now. And I am not letting go.
Photos by Rebecca McCue