The First Diary Log in a Long Time

I started to write again daily logs a few weeks ago as an attempt to make myself write when I am not in the mood to write creatively.

It was impossible not to remember the first time I started a diary and compare. I must have been around 15 then, or a bit older, still it was fun to remember how I was then versus now. As with all of us, some things changed and some didn’t and I discovered fact that most of my demons are still here, that I hadn’t faced them.

In the middle of that something happened, I gave a voice to my demons so I decided to share.

The following is my diary log as it is in my copybook (though edited, and run-on paragraphs have been omitted):

***

The last time I started jotting daily logs I was around 15, and carried on doing so till my 20’s.

Now at 33, I can’t help but look back at how different I was at 15, how I have changed, and what are the things I have and have not accomplished.

It makes me smile to think, that although I have achieved many things, I did so differently than my 15 year-old self would have wanted and that’s actually not only OK, but for the better. I am happy that my life did not end up being a dream come true for my 15 year old self, but a happy life for my now 33 year old self.

If I had to point the greatest change to my character these last 18 years have resulted in, it would be the loss of most of my idealism, in favor of realism, empathy, leniency, and pragmatism. The area where age least affected, I suppose, would be my optimism… I still a few negative traits I thought I would have shed by now, but I haven’t. I don’t want to mention them, as they may still go away if I don’t give them any attention… like I said I am an optimist.

I learnt a few things too growing up. I know now that some things are attainable if we reach out, and I also know, that hard work does not always result in success. I learned that failure does not mean incompetency, but that an unfinished work never counts as an accomplishment. It cannot even be a good indicator of potential, only a finished work can be. An successful person does not talk about the things he/she can accomplish, only the things he/she already did.

A good discovery I have made since I was fifteen is that I have never, ever regretted following my moral compass. Every single “great opportunity” that I didn’t take, every little oversight that I did not commit, and every time I was tempted to settle for something and I didn’t, it turned out for the best. Never there has been an instant in my life that following my moral compass did not only let me keep my dignity as person but also protected me from harm.

15 year old me will be positively surprised that following my unwavering faith to what love should be has led me to loving and marrying the most wonderful and amazing person that Johnny is. In retrospect, this just amazes me.

Well that’s all fine and dandy, 15 year old me would say right about now and then ask “so are you a published writer like we always wanted to be?”

Well, about that…

I could give a “clever” answer to why I have not been able to be there yet. I could say that maybe life sometimes guides you away from what you want in life in favor for gaining experience in other areas so that I can become a better artist or writer over the long run, but the truth is, this explanation  would only serve to make myself feel better. The no-bullshit-short answer is “No, because I am a lazy coward.”

While I have been published  a few times (in a couple of magazines like Time out Beirut, and Entrepreneur, I have a children’s story on the Lamsa app, and have self-published on Amazon and the ibookstore), I am nowhere near being a successful author.

Like my 15 year old self would want, I still want be a published writer, a capable illustrator, an artist that can create engaging works of art. I also wanna be a frequent blogger to entertain often and get in touch with people. I love meeting new people and getting to know them, even though I am such an introvert that just thinking about it physically tires me.

Even though I have published blogs, and I have published small pieces of my work, still the idea that i have to give others a piece I have written terrifies me. It makes me feel exposed, and ashamed.

(You are only reading this piece because I have been “psyching” myself up for it for 5 weeks now and some of the raw material has been stricken out)

I think this is the reason that whenever I come close to finish something, I just can’t. I try and I try to hide any detail that may reflect upon myself, what I truly think and how I truly am. I edit and edit until my work becomes a total bastardization of my original idea, it becomes devoid of any depth and just blunt. In the end, I become frustrated as the work becomes so irredeemable that my only option is to start another project.

This is not the worst part, the worst part is that it’s a cycle. If I stay like this I will never publish a book, not now, not 18 years from now. If I don’t fight it, if I don’t even try, I would have not lived a fulfilled life.

I had many paths to choose all along my life, I chose to try and be a published, to be successful writer and I have a plan. I am going to be a blogger and work my way up to a successful writer. Even if every blog is a fight against my demons. I will have to face them, one day right?

(Around here I was thinking maybe I should post this on my blog, and then my demons came as expected… I wanted to face them, to fight them, so the following happened– heads up: in my mind it happened colorfully like the hybrid of the movie where Scott Pilgrim fights the exes and Epic rap battles of history, except it is not a rap battle… in fact I am the least qualified person on Earth to rap anything)

Cynthia Fights Her Demons

ROUND 1: Me VS. the Self Doubt Creature (SDC)

SDC: You are not going to post this, are you?

me: Well, I was thinking it could be entertaining for people to see me talking about my demons, right? and it’s personal, truthful and real, and hopefully grammar error free.I think they might like it.

SDC: People you know may read it

me: Yes, I know. I usually never want people to know that I am struggling with anything. I want people who know me to think of me as happy, content and hopeful all the time, because I am! but this is just a struggle they could also identify with.

SDC: You should remove it from your Facebook feed, or create a new blog without any ties to your personal social media accounts.

me: I could do that, but the whole point of sharing this in my own established blog is that it is a personal experience. It could inspire people to face their own demons in amusing ways.

SDC: Now we’re being a little full of ourselves, why anything you write can be an inspiration to anyone?

me: This is more of a hope of mine. The log could be entertaining too.

SDC: Aren’t you kind of old to be doing what you are doing right now? You have too much self doubt to have any ambitions about writing. better not embarrass yourself with any of this.

me: Why have I always felt that I was too old to do anything? I swear I remember being 4 and thinking I was too old for ballet, because I got it in my head that “you gotta be 2 to start learning ballet.”

SDC: What would Johnny say?

me:  I could ask him

SDC: THIS WHOLE THING IS STUPID, once you think about it, you will realize it. Go ahead post it and be spontaneous. You’ll regret it, the minute it gets published. All this sharing and being an “extrovert” is not who you are. Better stay true to yourself.

me: Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone

SDC: … you’re hopeless

me:  I could write other things  suppose, instead of this. I don’t have to write personal things.

SDC: Whatever, it is probably going to be boring anyway. You are not that interesting. Why do even you think you could be special enough to be interesting

***Enter the Over-excited Optimistically Fantastical Fairy(OOFF)***

OOF: OMG! OMG! OMG! If you post this conversation between you and your demons, it’s going to be HUGE! This is soooo interesting! You are going to do GREAT THINGS!!!

SDC & me: Shut up!

SDC: Who left the window open?

me: I did, I needed someone to balance you out. Hopefully one day I can be strong enough to mute you both, forever.

SDC and OFOT: You will never get rid of us

me: Probably not, it wouldn’t be human, and I think I have wasted enough time talking to myself today.

I am going to ask Johnny what he thinks of this.

End Of Round 1!!!

*************************************************

….And this is how I ended the first diary log in a long time. Giving voice to my demons gave me a visual of how my subconsciousness works, and where it blocks me. 

I asked Johnny this is how the conversation went:

– me: so I have started a diary where I talk to my demons and it is actually helping me with my self-doubt as a writer

– Johnny: Cool, you should share that on your blog, it is interesting…

So after I took the approval of my hubby, I got a new sense of self-confidence and went right away to publish it on my blog… No I am kidding, I have battled with this for 5 weeks, and if you are reading this now I won… See why I need to face my demons? I will never get anything published if I can’t publish a frigging blog.

And here’s  something to look forward for next week. Next week, I will share the next log in my new diary. It is about facing the the demon that always seems to have the upper hand on me. If you are reading this, it doesn’t mean I won a round with him, it just means I am hiding from him.  Shhhhhhhh….

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To Art Or Not To Art, To Poetry, or Not To?

Have you ever wondered if art, whether it is in the form of writing, or painting, has been taken over by narcissism?

Over lunch, yesterday, the conversation turned from why would I want to read a book on cat psychology if I don’t have a cat to the tragic life of Edgar Allan Poe, how great his poems are, and of course how amazing is “The Raven.” Then my thoughts turned darker, as the always do when discussing poetry, and I remembered all the terrible poetry books that have passed between my hands when I used to work at a major book distributor.

Having done my homework in which is the best way to publish in Lebanon, I know unlike other places in the world, self-publishing is the best way to go. Having said that, you can probably infer that without a buffer, not all self-published are going to be  great works or even OK works*. Still, on my part, I would have respect for the author of mediocre books for the mere effort he/she has put in. I know first hand writing a book is no stroll in the park.**

But then there are some self-published books that need to be stopped and their authors, the I’m-so-smug-I-don’t-realize-my-thought-diary-does-not-need-to-be-read-by-anyone-ever, be banned from ever holding a pen or typing on a keyboard.

The work of choice of the I’m-so-smug-I-don’t-realize-my-thought-diary-does-not-need-to-be-read-by-anyone-ever is usually a poetry book or a sort of thought diary, devoid of any real poetry and depth, or anything that could be mistaken for poetry and depth.

I am not talking about some saccharine poems written by a preteen. No, it’s worse, I am talking about adults mistaking narcissism for art.  One particular poetry book comes to mind by a probably otherwise the lovely lady who wrote  one-liner poems made up of 2-3 words each and self published.

No, it’s not transcendent for a poem to be made up of one line saying “my hair” or “the night.” If you expect me to read that and search for depth and meaning, then I have become the poet, not you. In fact, it’s infuriating to me because I find it condescending that you expect anyone buying this book to mistake it for poetry.

The best case scenario I am willing to entertain is the night you were prompted to write this, you were sleepy and you were holding a paper and a pen. Suddenly  the words “the night” held lots of meaning to you, and you wrote it down. I honestly respect that.

What went wrong, is that in the morning you probably told yourself while looking in the mirror, “You are brilliant Lamia (not real name), you should share your brilliance with the world; they will worship you for it.”

Let’s be honest and realistic, this is not deep, it is not poetry and it is definitely not art. You did not work on that. You have put zero effort on your part, but expect me to search for the depth you are at best implying.

Smug Thought-Diaries are similar. There is no effort to move the reader. Worst thing is, these people think they are unique, they don’t realize most people have several thoughts per day that could be worked into poetry. You are not offering anything new.

As for art in the forms of illustration, painting or drawing it is worse in the way that on the internet you get to see so much talent by struggling artists, whereas one trip to an art exhibit and you will be looking for hidden cameras and some punk to jump in and say the whole art exhibit was a joke. Because there is no way an empty canvas with two parallel black lines could cost thousands of dollars because it is art. It is not art, you insult me and the rest of the people who got into the trouble of coming to the exhibit.

Poetry, these sort of thought diaries, or art in general is supposed to move us, inspire us, break us, challenge us or at least entertain us. No matter the style of a painting, if it holds my attention for even a second, it has touched me and this is phenomenal. It is what art is made for. Even if I don’t like it, whoever made it is an artist.

When it is apparent that zero effort was put in, I can’t help, but feel offended and sad; very sad not only at the condensation, but also at wasting any resources for making any of that crap happen. Let’s be honest, as much as I love art, it is not something essential survival of humankind; there’s no need to be wasteful.

* I know the same can be said of some traditionally published works

**in Lebanon actually a stroll in the park is putting an effort, as we have very few of them and they are tiny

The Trials of a Writer

As a writer it’s not often you get those really great story ideas.A picture, a look of a passer-by, a line someone said, or something completely random has triggered something in you and bam! Congratulations you’ve just been inspired.

Words, pictures, a whole alternate universe is rushing into your head. You see the hero/heroine and the storyline clearly in your head and, God help you, you’re smitten.

These are the kind of ideas you know people will relate to; you are sure they will love the story and the characters involved. The only thing you need to do now is to jot anything that comes to your mind. It could be a summary of the plot, or some characteristics in the personality of the characters, the goals, the difficulties and the situations need to be overcome. These ideas need to be written right in the moment they are conceived while everything is still rushing. You are sure not everything is going to make sense once you are done, but you are not the writer right then, you are the reporter. And as every reporter will tell you when you are at the heart of the event you must take notes of everything, you can’t take mental notes. Mental notes can’t be trusted. Can you imagine a reporter taking mental note during a politician’s speech? Sure he/she will remember what was it all about later but the article will undoubtedly be lacking.

writing-ideas

While no one will judge a reporter taking notes during an event, I bet it would look quite odd if you saw someone stopping whatever one was doing and started feverishly taking notes in some notepad. But looking a bit loony is not what worries a writer, what worries him/her is if this great idea, this storm of thoughts, comes and goes and he/she is, in one way or another, unable to take any notes. Yes, later on the writer can remember what the idea was about, but like the reporter taking mental notes, his notes will be lacking.

I must say though, one advantage a writer has over the reporter is that after several brainstorming sessions, he/she should be able to retrieve a lot of the initial inspiration, but this is not certain. When this happens to me, sometimes it will take me a couple of brainstorming sessions to retrieve everything; other times it would take me a couple of weeks. There are a few times it took me months to remember everything. And there are a couple of ideas that for the love of everything this Earth has to offer, I can’t remember what they were about. They are just lost. Like the times you wake up from a really good dream, but you can’t remember what was about.

Anyways, I think I have proved how vital is taking notes but then there is timing to take into consideration and timing is not always on your side. Actually it rarely is when inspiration hits me. Let me illustrate:

1. The time my hands are tied.  Not literarily of course, but like when my mom and I are helping my old grandma up the stairs because there’s no elevator. While I contemplate possibly about the sorrows of life, or more realistically about the show on TV that I am missing, damn it, I get inspired. I am not going to leave my grandma alone with my mom, and of course there are a lot of stairs left and my grandma takes a whole two minutes on each step. Not because she is in pain but because she has to be told there is a step at each and every step. Then she has to think about it, agree there is a step and finally make that step. This is not by far the worst case scenario, up to half an hour later I can go write. But what about the time…

2. There is an emotional emergency. Imagine your best friend crying on your shoulder over losing her job, finding her love of her life cheating on her and her parents blame her for it. Your heart is broken over her situation. She has no self-esteem left in her. You just want to pick her up, make her believe everything is going to be alright and teach everyone who has been a jerk to her a lesson. That would make a great story. Shit! NO! I can’t be inspired right now! Inspired by true events… No! No! No! I am a terrible friend. Up to three-four hours later I go home and I feel too guilty to write about any of the writing ideas I got while consoling my friend, so I just let it go, or postpone it for years to come, when we are possibly not friends anymore. I do write about something else though, but sometimes there’s the nightmare of…

3. A Sleepy writer. Since I was sixteen, it’s been like a ritual of mine to make time to write right before it’s time to sleep. This is a great exercise for me, when the house is quiet I really get the chance to clear my head. By the time I can’t keep my eyelids open, I have jotted ideas for books, written a short story or edited the same poem I have been editing since I was sixteen. In short I’ve paid my dues to the literary world and owe nothing more.  Right then, I just want to sleep. As I close my eyelids blissfully slipping into the dream world, an awesome writing idea comes to me. I just want to scream, “Oh fate, what do you want from me?” Sometimes I do take notes before I finally fall asleep, but then wake up with pen still in hand and ink stains on my face, pillow and sheets. Joking aside, the best writing ideas come when you are writing. You can be writing anything, from a diary entry to a blog post and you will get the best ideas, but what if…

4. You get Inspired for a story while you are already getting inspired for different story. So you have been illuminated at the right time and fictional universes are getting created on your laptop. You are typing faster that you thought possible, and you are just catching up with the flow of ideas. No distractions. Life is good! Then one of the characters being formed makes a special connection with you, and it all spins out of control as you think of a beautiful side story that HAS to be told.  What do you do? You jam? You try to write both? Or ignore the latest until you have given the first your full attention? Yeah you can’t have it all.

These are few of a writer’s trials, which are kind of positive. Getting inspired at the right time is much better that those two fearful words: Writer’s Block.