Don’t Let Life Pass You By

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It’s easy to get lost in the folds of everyday. The countdown to the weekend seems to rule our lives. It’s a vicious cycle that blurs together days and weeks and months, until you forget how old you are on your birthday, and you no longer want to celebrate.

To-do lists are endless highways, as though life were a road trip, and you stay up all night just to get to where you want to be, and by day you’re too exhausted to enjoy the views. Attempts to workout or eat right or quit that habit or say the right words or commit to that perfect routine seem to follow you like a recurring daydream (or nightmare). Then you wake up one morning and realize six months have gone by (or worse — years), and you still haven’t taken the steps to accomplish all that your heart wants to do. Your passions are hanging on a hook behind your bedroom door. I’ll get to it tomorrow, you say as you make your usual exit, walk down the path of your usual routine. Because first things first: bills need to be paid, and your boss is expecting you to be somewhere on time — on their behalf.

And all the while your dog is getting older as he waits for you on the couch each day. You are getting older. The days continue to dissolve and you continue to put off calling up that friend or family member whom you haven’t seen in ages. You don’t remember what you did last weekend because every weekend looks the same, and it doesn’t matter anyway. You seem to be constantly saving for something and constantly broke. Not because you don’t have money, but because you’re worried that like time, you’ll never get back what you spend, so you tuck it away hoping something worthwhile will come along, something that will give you a good return on investment. And you’re constantly searching for that one thing that’s certain. Because better safe than sorry, right?

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I remember having what was probably my very first moment of clarity. I was sitting at the dining room table eating alone, looking across the room to the wall that held a round-faced clock. I remember staring at the second hand, focusing every thread of my being on its incessant ticking, its endless quest to move forward, to keep going. And for some reason, I remember feeling an immense sadness at the sudden, stark awareness that seconds were falling away from me. Falling away as I sat there on that table with a spoon in my hand, into a place I could never visit. It was the first time I realized that time is irretrievable.

We all have things that we want to do and things that we must do — sometimes those things align, sometimes they conflict. But no matter where those things fit in your life, I’ve learned that it’s important to prioritize what makes your heart catch fire. To do what makes you feel alive. Too many of us walk around drugged by coffee and obligations — utterly subdued into mindless routines that undo the threads of the heart by night and numb the passions of the soul by day.

Until you wake up and your skin is stale, and the pages of the novel you’d never written are sitting on your bedside table, yellowed by years of neglect. And your boss doesn’t exist in your life anymore, and you don’t remember how old you are, and it doesn’t matter anyway. Suddenly your life’s priorities involve getting to the bathroom before you let yourself go, and making your doctor’s appointments on time (they’re very busy so it’s important to be on time) because those shiny-eyed doctors with their sympathetic nods hold the answers to elongating your life (at least that’s what your mind has you believe) — though you’re unsure what you would do with your time if you did live longer. Because by that point, your best years are gone anyway (at least that’s what your mind has you believe). And dreams are for sissies anyway. Dreams are for street musicians and artist hippies and young inventors and college students who think they can change the world. Who are you to dream? Who are you?

Writers Need Other Writers

Quill_and_InkI’m a writer, an aspiring fiction author, an occasional poet, a fairly new blogger, and I don’t know many others like me. I’m talking about others who share my passion for putting words together and watching them come alive. Not necessarily accomplished authors, but regular people in everyday circles who, like me, feel as desperately about writing as I do. Who understand the strange, torturous, tantalizing magnetism of the writing life.

The writing life is a struggle against the self — against silence or too much noise. One aspect that I struggle with most is self-discipline: sticking to a writing routine. Ideas are never a problem. Putting them to paper and not giving up on them once I’ve doused them with ink, that’s when I need the most encouragement. I’m fortunate to have a significant other whose support and faith in my writing never falters when I’m wading in self-doubt, but only writers truly understand the writing frames of mind — the writing life.

I went to grad school for creative writing, to really hone my craft and give myself a chance to evolve as a writer, which I did. When graduation day arrived, my heart was swollen with hope and excitement and motivation and readiness to go out there and be the writer I know I can be. Not only did the program I was in validate the fact that yes, I could sit at the writing table with other writers, it also helped me beyond measure in the accountability department. Structure and deadlines are what I need to keep me from slacking.

But as the years passed (I graduated in 2011), I began to realize that my grad program had provided me with something even more valuable: a community of writers, of other people on the same squiggly path as me. quote-Mary-Gordon-it-was-actually-a-womens-writing-group-181318_1People with whom I could learn from and grow… and connect. I missed the writing workshops.

I think no matter what your field, no matter what your passion, you need to surround yourself with people who are on your similar journey. It’s not vital to your success, but it helps. Writing especially is such a solitary activity, and although our characters keep us company and our obsession with our writing topics distract us from loneliness, sometimes you just need someone to talk to about your progress or lack-thereof. Someone who understands the craft to give you feedback with a writer’s eye. I think this is especially important for aspiring authors like myself, who yes, write for themselves, but who also dream of their work being read one day, and dare I say, enjoyed. (More on this dream later.) Mentors are important no matter what your pursuit, but I’m more so talking about a community that can help you thrive. Communities provide context and nourishment.

Something interesting happened to me last year. I had finished a short story draft and was feeling rather ecstatic about it. But I needed a reader… I needed… feedback. I don’t have any writer friends, as I mentioned, but I do have reader friends. So I called the one friend I thought could give me the best critical feedback because we both share a similar appreciation for good language and literature.

I gave her my awkward little infant of a story and waited. When she finally responded, it was so interesting to see the kind of feedback she had given. I realized she had basically written a literary analysis on my story — which was wonderful to read! — but it didn’t give me specific feedback I could use to improve my draft. It certainly gave me insight into how a reader would perceive my story, which was enlightening, but there’s an art to reading as a writer — to giving feedback as writer, which I hadn’t realized completely until that moment. That’s not to say I won’t ask this friend to be my reader again; the experience simply gave me some interesting perspective.

2692992498_0889df0aeeWriters need other writers.

Whether it’s an online community (WordPress bloggers, you are amazing!) or a writer’s workshop or writer’s group or just one single writing friend — writers need other writers.

We need each other because only we can understand one another. Only we can give the craft-specific feedback that non-writers aren’t as apt in giving. We need each other because writing is hard, and sometimes (a lot of times) we need to commiserate — or celebrate! — with someone who understands. We need each other because we can encourage each other in ways non-writers can’t.

Writers, after all, inspire other writers. That’s why I’m a writer to begin with. I fell in love very early on with reading, with the written words of writers. And when you have a writer friend in your life, or a group of writers, the mere fact that they’re writing is encouraging to you because you don’t want to be left behind. Their writing becomes inspiration for you to write. Their writing tells you… hey, you’re a writer too… so get to writing.

Also last year, my aunt connected me with a writer friend of hers on Facebook. She said hey, this  person is a writer too, and she blogs, so I thought you two should add each other because you seem to have a lot in common. So through that virtual introduction we became virtual friends. And every time I saw this new virtual writer friend of mine share her latest blog post, it lit a flame — a small flame — but a flame, to my fingers. It inspired me to see another writer, just like me, writing. Every time she shared a new post it put up a mirror to my own journey as a writer.

Now, I know that comparison is the thief of joy. I know that the writing world is overwhelmingly competitive, that reading a peer’s marvelous work can make your confidence cripple, that jealousy is a very real thing in writing circles (there’s a whole chapter on jealousy in Anne Lamott’s wonderful book Bird by Bird), but I also know that it takes tough skin to survive the writing life, and that only great writing can inspire great writing. And hey, as ugly as it can be, jealousy is a part of life, not the end of it.

I suppose this post was inspired by the fact that I recently made a writing friend. We’ve been getting together to share each other’s works-in-progress, and holding one another accountable as a result. We both struggle with self-discipline, we’re both desperately in love with writing, and we both just needed another writer in our lives to gently nudge us with encouragement and inspiration to not give up on our many drafts.

When I gave my writer friend the same story I had given my reader friend, she said something so simple that I wanted to get up and hug her (but that would have been weird because, I mean, our friendship is still new). I have a vision to expand this story of mine into a longer work, so as we discussed where and how I could revise my draft, she said: don’t revise what you have, just keep writing; write what comes next. Don’t write backward, write forward.

That has really stuck with me because as all writers know, the mere thought of tackling a revision project can be paralyzing. better-writer-graphic-560x724

But just keep writing, is what she told me. Because as a writer, she knows the struggle well. She knows that the number one rule to succeeding as a writer is to just keep writing. I have plenty of those just keep writing quotes plastered around my room and on my computer’s desktop. But the fact that it came from her, another writer, somehow made all the difference to me. Somehow fueled me with the motivation and courage that… she’s a writer, she knows… and if she can do it, I can do it too.

There are many things we need as writers. Coffee. Good conversations. Overheard conversations. Snacks. Long walks. Long nights. Plenty of books and reading time. No interruptions. Readers. The perfect writing nook or desk or pocket book. Sharpened pencils. A favorite pen. Every writer needs something different.

But for me, other writers, it seems, are what have been missing in my writing life; other writers, I’ve found, add much fuel to my writing fire. Joining WordPress and following other writer’s blogs has given me so much inspiration, as well as a platform and community.

So thank you for being a part of my journey, WordPress bloggers! You have truly helped me become better and more accountable to my blog and to my commitment to the writing life. Do you have any writer friends? Does it help you to have a writing community? Do you wish you had one? Or do you disagree with this notion? And how do you feel about receiving feedback from writers vs. non-writers?

And while I’m on the topic of community and inspiring one another, I highly recommend this fantastic blog as a resource for aspiring authors.

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5 Reasons I signed up for a TRIATHLON

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I signed up for a sprint triathlon recently! .5 miles (.8k) swimming | 13 miles (20k) biking | 3.1 miles (5k) running.

While I consider myself a fairly athletic person, my relationship with working out ebbs and flows depending on the season, and I’ve never before done anything like a triathlon (I ran a 5k two years ago but that’s about it). I’m just your average person with a gym membership who sometimes goes and sometimes doesn’t.

I don’t dislike working out. When I’m in the zone and on a roll, I actually enjoy it. Working out does wonders for my mental health and stress levels. I love how light and strong it makes my body feel. But like many people, I struggle with self-discipline. So…

Despite my self-doubts and am-I-crazy’s, I decided to give myself the ultimate physical and mental challenge of training for and competing in my first-ever sprint triathlon… and here are my 5 reasons why:

1. To reconnect with my inner athlete

I was a competitive swimmer from ages 5 through 14. I loved to swim (still do!) and was great at it too (still am!). In addition to competing with other teams within my city, I got to travel with my team to neighboring cities to compete when we made Nationals. So it was serious business, but always so much fun.

Those years made an impact on me. And though I lost touch with the pool as I moved on through life and into adulthood, being in a pool always filled me with nostalgia. And the amazing muscle memory in my arms and legs whenever I did swim always reminded me that my inner swimmer had never left me. Athleticism… it’s in me. And I sort of miss it. I want to relive the thrill of the race, a race that involves swimming.

2. To practice turning my thoughts into actions

7dcdc6d27bfca5eba2bca65827f5b4a6In my About page, I say that I’m a thinker trying to be more of a doer and that’s exactly true. My tendency to over-think has impacted many aspects of my life and is actually one of the reasons I started my blog—I needed to turn my thinking about starting a blog into actually doing it (even if I didn’t know what I was doing).

On that same note, instead of thinking about how I can be more of a doer, I decided to fling myself into a doer arena, one that will require fierce commitment and training.

By training for this triathlon, I am practicing setting a goal—a tangible, straight-forward, challenging, but attainable goal—and seeing it through to the end. Seeing it through until it is done, instead of just thinking and daydreaming about it.

I hope this experience of doing—of practicing dedication and persistence—will inspire and teach me to spread this energy into other aspects of my life. Because let’s face it, only doers get things done. It’s work ethic—not just talent—that takes you places. Thinkers linger, and I’m tired of watching from the sidelines with all my mental notes. I need this certificate of completion to prove that a life of doing is possible for me. I have my mind set on plenty of things… I just need to practice the action part.

3. My strange phobia of indoor pools

I don’t remember how or when it started (and I certainly don’t know why), but I’ve always felt uneasy about swimming in indoor pools. Does ANYONE out there feel me?

Back in my swimming days we swam in outdoor pools. The bright yellow sun, the dry heat, it was all so perfect. I could see through the water. There was no dimness, no murky, chlorine-filled smell, no stuffy enclosed feeling. There was just light.

What makes me uneasy is the dark water: the lack of natural light, the inability to see clearly through the water, the shadowy dimness ahead of me as I’m swimming, and my insanely active imagination (think creatures of the deep coming out of the murkiness). It’s stuff of kids’ nightmares; it’s nonsense and silly, but it’s how I feel, and it can be crippling.

It’s worse when it’s just me in the pool. I feel “safer” when there are others around, when I feel presence with me in the water. Many times I’ve even cut my swimming short if I see that everyone in the pool has left. Maybe I had a traumatic experience in an indoor pool that I’ve suppressed? Maybe I should blame it all on my  dramatic imagination?

I’ve learned to tolerate swimming in indoor pools over the years, but it continues to be an issue for me. Training for a triathlon is forcing me to face this strange fear and unlikely discomfort head-on.

4. To prove to myself that I can (because I can)

Self-doubt will be the death of me if I don’t kill it first. I don’t consider 34e3dfa6d33dd57c8b182655cb94175bmyself particularly low on confidence—I have my moments like any person—but it seems that I hoard massive amounts of self-doubt whenever I face a personal challenge. Whenever I face… myself, really. And it’s debilitating. And probably connected to my tendency to over-think things.

So I’m training for this triathlon to kill the voices of self-doubt, and to celebrate and appreciate my body, its strength, its potential, and its abilities. And the essence of Yes I can.

5. An ode to my 20s

I turned 29 recently. It’s a bittersweet number this 29. Filled with hope and excitement for a new decade on the horizon, it’s also the almost-end of a pretty intense chapter.

And so I thought, what better way to end the turbulent, exciting, eventful, thrilling, unforgettable years of my 20s than to conquer myself—mind and body—by way of a triathlon challenge? The ultimate cherry on top! first-inspirational-running-quotes-wallpaper

This triathlon will be a celebration of all the wonderful and life-changing years that have shaped me over this decade. The friendships I’ve made, the love that I’ve found, the hardships I’ve survived, and all that I’ve accomplished, learned, and seen and felt and explored throughout my 20s. Because triathlon training requires patience, commitment, sacrifice, pain, determination, will power, confidence, strength, endurance… I could go on… and all of these things I have tackled in my 20s, and will no doubt continue to.

But when I’m standing at the cusp of my 30th birthday, I would love to look back at my triathlon experience and be able to say: if I made it through a triathlon—and the roller-coaster decade of my 20s—I can make it through almost anything.


So have you ever competed in a triathlon? If you have, what were your reasons for signing up? And do you have any tips for me? I would love to know!

My triathlon date is June 14. Wish me luck. 🙂

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Review: ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath

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This book has been on my shelf for years. I’d never known what it was about, but I knew it was the only novel written by famed poet Sylvia Plath, therefore I knew I had to read it. I’m a fan of Plath’s poetry, though you don’t have to be to enjoy this book (I use the word enjoy lightly).

This book is in one word insightful. Sharp, personal, and emotionally charged— her poetry leaves an impression on you in its willingness to be vulnerable, and this book is no different. If you’re familiar with Plath, you know that her poetry strikes a raw chord because she wrote from a deep and painful place in the heart and mind. She suffered from depression for many years before ending her life at the age of 30, leaving two children, a boy and a girl, behind.

Though a work of fiction, The Bell Jar, like Plath’s poetry, is considered autobiographical because of its deeply personal perspective on life behind the veil of depression. The central themes in the novel, I found out later, parallel those in Plath’s early life. In fact, she is said to have referred to The Bell Jar as “an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past.” As a writer, I truly connect with the desire to purge your pain through writing, or at least, to seek to understand it.

But The Bell Jar is not outward with its purpose. It doesn’t come out and say, hey, this is what depression is about! This is what it feels like! Nor is this book explicitly about Plath herself. It doesn’t seek pity. It does, however, whether you’ve suffered from depression or not, challenge you. It most certainly makes you question— whether it’s Esther, the protagonist, her reasons for doing, thinking, and saying the things that she does— or yourself, and your own deepest, darkest human moments.

The first-person narrative, brutally honest and morbidly critical, grips you immediately. And I could see as I read why 19 year-old Esther Greenwood has been compared to The Catcher in the Rye’s 16 year-old Holden Caulfield. I won’t go into an in-depth comparison, but I will say that like Holden, Esther is not immediately likable. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of her and her seemingly judgmental observations at first. She raised my eyebrow many times, especially in the beginning as I was just getting to know her, and only until I read further did I realize that her perspective was muddied by something else…

“A summer calm laid its soothing hand over everything, like death.” Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

This book is about perception. About disconnectedness and alienation, with very subtle threads of hope. The tone is never melodramatic; poignant in its straight-forwardness, in its matter-of-fact attitude towards death, it drips with despair but not obviously. Written by a poet, the prose is unsurprisingly fluid and the figurative language is wonderful and plenty. Plath was a word smith indeed. The way she so easily weaved tender and difficult emotions into a needle’s eye was a pleasure to study!

The Bell Jar is a vivid, intelligent, and disturbing portrait of a determined, witty young woman whose perception of herself and the world around her is blurred by something she can’t quite place. It gives voice to an uncomfortable subject, a human experience that, especially at the time of its publication in 1963, was not widely and openly talked about— let alone from a woman’s perspective.

In fact, Plath didn’t want the novel published in the U.S. for fear that it would cause pain to those close to her (many of the characters were apparently inspired by people in her own life). So it was published first in London (where she lived at the time) under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, and not released in the U.S. until 1972.

I think Plath intrigues us because she was a mind too heavy for herself, too deep for her own good. And the Why in her life’s off-course, tragic end, and the bleeding words she left behind, haunt us.

In a way, this book— a fleeting peek into a mind off kilter — sheds some light, though it doesn’t promise to answer any questions. What it does do, however, just as it did when it was first published, is spark conversation and foster awareness around mental health.

Have you read The Bell Jar?

Lies are Exhausting

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“Lies are exhausting,” said the heart.

“But some things mustn’t be said,” said the brain. “Sometimes the truth does more harm than good. What’s more important to you? Truth or peace?”

“Can’t the two co-exist? Doesn’t truth seek justice?”

“The truth seeks nothing but itself,” said the brain. “The truth is selfish, if you ask me. It wants the spotlight. It wants to be heard. And it has a right to be, but in reality, whether or not the truth is uttered, the truth still is, regardless.”

“But the truth must be sought, must be proven, must be shared, must be lived,” said the heart. “It mustn’t be suppressed.”

“The truth is never suppressed,” said the brain. “The truth just is. People choose their own truths and choose their own lies. People are free to choose. And each choice comes with sacrifice. That’s when one must prioritize.”

“But lies are exhausting,” said the heart. “And you yourself can’t even keep up. Each time a lie is uttered, another must be made to cover it up. Must we lie? Doesn’t the truth set you free?”

“The truth only unburdens the liar,” said the brain. “It’s impossible to appease everyone. The truth is uncomfortable and it stings. Once uttered, it merely becomes a burden to someone else.”

“But the truth is not a burden! Lies are the burden! Lies wrap me in shadows,” said the heart. “Lies choke my breath. Lies are exhausting. Lies make a fool of everyone. The truth is the truth—it simply is, as you said—and so it must be. It’s a lesson for the ears that don’t want to hear it. The truth is inevitable. It doesn’t go away.”

“The truth!” said the brain. “Don’t you see it’s all relative? One person’s truth is another person’s lie! What is the truth if everyone chooses to believe what they will, to see what they want to see?”

“Even so,” said the heart. “Lies are exhausting. They bring me no joy.”

Animals and Compassion

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Cruelty to animals is the epitome of evil to me. Cruelty to ANY being, in general, young or adult, is of course evil. But animals… they have always, since I was young, occupied a special place in my heart. (I decided against veterinarian school after I realized it involved science… and blood. Long live my liberal arts brain.)

Even after surviving a dog attack as a child, I have always loved animals. Especially dogs, funnily enough. I have always felt that animals embody the essence of innocence and of oneness with nature; they represent to me the natural balance of energy. They are untainted by vanity and ill-intention, undisturbed by ambition, pride, and desire. They just are. They only react. Their wants are tied only to survival.

Recently, I somehow came across a disgusting video of two men maliciously driving over a dog, killing him. Unfortunately, there isn’t much animal advocacy or protection of animal “rights” in the Arab world, where this happened, where animals are not often viewed through a compassionate lens. It’s not that people there hate animals or intently seek to harm them—many are working to change public perception and laws on the treatment of animals (I’ve lived in the Arab world almost all my life). It’s just that pets are not a cultural norm there, so the opportunities for people to experience animals, to interact with them, learn about them, and value and connect with them on a personal level, is close to zero. It’s lack of exposure and education around the treatment and nature of animals, not lack of heart. (Of course, like anywhere, there are bad apples… really bad apples.)

So when I read this follow-up article today on these cruel men being charged for their inhumane actions, I was surprised but elated… and filled with hope. This is a big deal for a country like Saudi Arabia, where this incident took place (and where I happened to live for many years). I’m so glad they’ve acknowledged this disturbing, ignorant behavior as evil—that they actually hunted down the culprits! I hope education around compassion for animals continues in that region and everywhere else around the world.

C2I’m not writing this post to draw gasps over this dog’s fate, criticize ignorance, or spark debates about going vegan. Rather, to simply draw attention to the fact that as fully capable human beings, we have the power and responsibility to be kind and gentle to all beings who cannot speak for themselves, both humans and animals alike. Compassion is what separates us from evil. It’s what makes us human.

Compassion is necessary for life, love, and goodness to thrive.

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Being Present in Everything You Do

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It’s been three months and life without a microwave surprisingly hasn’t been that bad. (This wasn’t some kind of personal experiment, I just haven’t gotten around to buying one since I moved.) The process of reheating food in such a conscientious way forces you to slow down and contemplate what you are about to eat. The effort becomes a ritual of patience, anticipation, and appreciation, as the aroma tickles your nose and entices your appetite. It reminds you to reflect on those daily mindless things we do in the bubble of instant gratification. In other words, it reminds you to turn off auto-pilot and live life intentionally. Not by dumping your microwave… but by being present in everything you do.

Review: ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde

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I’ve been wanting to read Oscar Wilde for some time, and though he’s mostly famous for his plays, I chose to start with his only novel, published in 1891. The premise of The Picture of Dorian Gray intrigued me, especially because its Victorian audience had deemed it immoral, criticizing its decadence and allusions. It didn’t take much to offend such an audience, mind you; the Victorian era was proper in every sense of the word—concerned with ranks and high morals, and above all else, appearances.

This is a story about obsession, orchestrated by art, pleasures, and vanity. Wilde explores society’s obsession with beauty and eternal youth, exposing the ugliness that sprouts within when one is poisoned by ego and influence. A cautionary tale of sorts, it condemns those who over-think and inject meaning into things that just are—as Wilde was a big proponent of the aestheticism movement. The purpose of art is called to question and serves as the book’s main theme.

(I find it ironic that through a work of art—this book—Wilde sought to prove his philosophy that art’s only real purpose is to be beautiful. And even more ironic is that Wilde fell from his post as celebrated writer and playwright—convicted of acts of indecency— not long after this book was published… but I digress.)

“It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.” Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a Gothic, psychological thriller set in Victorian London. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?! The grand aristocratic homes, the dimly lit streets peppered with horse carriages, the rain trickling down windows as dinners are enjoyed indoors… all these elements paint the novel’s setting, and Wilde is careful with his details, focusing on the psychological state of the main character, Dorian Gray.

Although the action builds rather slowly, the third-person narrative (sometimes interrupted by the author speaking directly to us) drives the book with full force, culminating with a bold and powerful climax that I must admit, I didn’t see coming.

The pages are filled with rich philosophical debates and witty dialogue, but the moral decline of Dorian Gray, who I only sometimes pitied, remains the central focus, with each exchange and internal monologue reflecting his impressionable character. The story begins with his being a “beautiful”, innocent, oblivious young man, untainted by cynicism. Indeed, ignorance is truly bliss for Dorian Gray in the beginning. Living life in carefree luxury (with way too much time on his hands!), his growing ambitions, vanity, and curiosities gradually tumble him into “grayness” and misery, and I found it interesting that his name is always used in full throughout the book—rarely if ever is he referred to as simply Dorian, or Gray, perhaps to emphasize that his entire being is corrupt, not just his actions.

There were times I did chuckle at the dramatic undertones, especially in relation to the way the characters spoke, but their word choices and phrases only emphasized the time and place of the novel, which I enjoyed thoroughly.

As a writer, one thing I appreciated about this book was the minimal number of characters. I admired how Wilde used each supporting character very specifically to aid in Dorian Gray’s trajectory, thus plunging us head-first into the inner turmoil of his desperate protagonist. It was fun to observe because it reminded me that novels needn’t have numerous characters with long story-lines in order to be interesting, poignant, or complex. (Thanks, Mr. Wilde!) 

And the ending to me was perfect… a true, natural conclusion very much in line with the ominous tone that carries the book, so that we’re finally left with a clear “picture” of Dorian Gray.

So if you’re in the mood for a quick-read classic, pick up this book and indulge yourself. 😉 Or have you read it already? What did you think?

Working, Sleeping, Writing: A Writer’s Rant

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Here’s my problem, and I’ve been analyzing it for some time: I write best at night.

It’s 1:01 am right now and here I am writing. It may not be very good writing, but I’m writing and that’s what matters.

I need to write.

That’s why I’ve been cranky. That’s why I’ve been feeling hopeless. That’s why my blog’s been dry. I haven’t been writing on a regular schedule because I write best at night.

So write at night! What’s the issue?

The issue is that I can’t afford to be an insomniac writer anymore. I used to stay up into deep hours, my brain on fire for as long as my fingers and eyes could keep up, sometimes until dawn.

But jarring adulthood has thrust me into the arena of full-time employment—the arena of bus and car and train commutes, where every morning I’m surrounded by fellow worker bees clutching their coffee cups with drowsy faces, eyes still puffy from sleep that hasn’t worn off yet.

I am now the rush hour traffic.

And when I come home at night, I’m tired of the computer screen. I’m tired of the sitting. I’m tired of the to-do list that won’t detach from my hip. I’m just tired and I want to unwrap my brain from its knots, and I don’t feel like writing just yet.

I walk my dog. Make my dinner. Eat my dinner. Do the chores.  (Wow, imagine if I had kids. Hats off to all the mom writers out there.) And by the time I recenter myself and open up my laptop, it’s 10 pm and my bed starts whispering… tick tock… the time for sleep is near… and I don’t want to sleep—not yet—so I rebel: I type away, I type and I type till I look up and see the time and it laughs in my face and says something like don’t you have to wake up in four hours?

So when am I supposed to write if I write best at night?

As an insomniac, I hated the night. It was lonely, maddening, a time of hallucination, but also—and I didn’t realize it then—a peak time for my creativity. At night I can zoom into my words, my world, my brain, uninterrupted, because I need silence when I write. The night is my writing cocoon.

But my lifestyle doesn’t allow for this nocturnal love story anymore.

Rusty clock swirl

And I’ve tried to be an “early bird”, and you know, mornings aren’t so bad; they’re pleasant, actually. They too have their element of peace and quiet. I love coffee. I love tea. I love breakfast and brunch. I love sunlight—I love windows flooded with sunlight.

But mornings are just not me. Mornings make me want to be outside and breathe the air and get active—not sit down to confinement.

Writing is discipline. Half the work is just getting yourself in the chair—holding yourself hostage to the task. The other half is to not hate yourself as you write so you can keep on writing. Suppress that voice of the oppressor, as Anne Lamott said—the perfectionist in your ear that snickers at your ugly first draft.

So that’s my problem, fellow bloggers. And this is not an excuse to not write regularly. I need to reprogram myself somehow.

How do you do it? How do you harness that discipline and hold yourself accountable to a writing schedule? It’s not that I have to force myself to write—I’m just struggling to find a time frame that works for me.

What kind of writer are you?

writing-life

An insomniac writer?

A morning writer?

A between-house-chores writer?

A stay-home-on-the-weekends to write writer?

A writer by full-time employment?

A writer who types away secretly at work and minimizes the document when someone walks by?

A writer with multiples jobs who still manages to write, thereby shrinking me to a sorry, whiny bucket of excuses?

Under what conditions do you write best and how do you set yourself up for success?

What struggles do you face when it comes to carving out your writing time?

And do you have any advice for me?

I need to get some sleep.

Masks

imagesCA9D5L4MEveryday we wake up, get ready and dressed, maybe eat some breakfast, and before we head out the door, we pick up our masks and our keys and we go.

We step out of our homes, shielded, and sometimes, armed with coffee, and sometimes, clinging to old pains or grudges. But we feel prepared. Our cell phones are charged and we have our plans for the day.

The world is jagged, demanding, and unpredictable. Anything can come flying our way at any moment. Birds poop recklessly from the sky. Umbrella edges threaten to poke our eyes out. No city is too small for coincidence. And then of course, there’s the weather, and small talk, and gossip, and bullies.

Masks are for protection, sometimes for survival. Shards of words bounce off our masks as we go about our day, and the ones that stick we clean off later with a sponge—when no one’s looking.

Masks remind us that some things are better left unsaid. That nothing at all is what it seems. Masks reassure us that there’s a time and a place for everything.

Masks are filters; not all people will recognize our true value or appreciate what we have to offer, so we only show what we want to show, depending on who is worthy.

But sometimes, masks shield us from what we need. Shield us from those who are worthy. They can shut people out, render us fearful or paranoid, and relationships that were or could have been disintegrate… because we become too attached, too dependent on our masks. We come to prefer them until we forget why we wear them, and who we are without them.

We sometimes forget to take them off at night.

Until our masks dissolve into our skins, slowly, night after night, day after day, infusing into our fibers, discoloring our cells, disfiguring our memories, so that one morning when we wake up, our faces are fixed into the shape that the world wants us to be, and we become nothing but diluted versions of ourselves, fooled into thinking we are safer this way, more attractive, more likeable.