How A Writing Course Stopped Me Writing

A few years ago I put down A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and felt bereft. I couldn’t eat or concentrate on my pre-Hosseini hobbies for days. Eventually, my mind came out of its stupor and began to imagine its own stories again. One day it wasn’t a short story I had in mind; it would be my first novel. I grabbed my laptop and began typing the scene furiously. I had it. My first chapter. I had wanted to be a published author since I was a little girl but every piece of fiction that I had written or envisaged was never any longer than two sides of paper. I was in my early thirties and I finally began realising my once forgotten dream.

I hadn’t written in over fifteen years at this point. It was time for a refresher of sorts. I found a ‘Towards A Novel’ course in the City Lit Institute in Central London. A week-long course full of promise. I booked the course and booked a week off work. I was excited and couldn’t wait to get started. On reflection, perhaps that was my mistake – being too eager. I hadn’t been in a literature class since High school so I found myself absorbing every pointer as though it was the only way to succeed.

My first chapter got re-worked during that week and was presented to the class on the final day. I received good feedback, but something didn’t sit right with me. The chapter stayed in my laptop for a long time after that; gathering virtual dust.

It took a few years before I picked it up again and almost 11 months later, I had written a novel.

I worked with a wonderful editor to go through my novel and learnt a lot. But I didn’t agree with all of her suggestions (and she was cool with that). I had grown better at listening to my own voice, but I wasn’t quite there yet so my novel went back into hiding.

The plan is to sit with it again. I’d love to re-work it as I have grown as a person and a writer since I last worked on it (and continue to grow). This time, I’ll be doing it alone.

My advice:

Don’t stifle your voice by trying to imitate others or follow instructions. Let the natural narrator in you tell the story.

What Role Models Are Made Of

My dad arrived in the UK as a teen. He’d have loved to have gone to school but he had to work to support his family in Bangladesh. Whatever moderate amount of English he speaks now has been picked up through his career in a grocery store and a never ending string of restaurants. Needless to say, my dad can’t write in English (only his version of shorthand when taking down curry orders – see image, aww!). Continue reading What Role Models Are Made Of

The Notebook

Ooh, what a great idea for a story/poem!
I’m too busy to write it down now…
But my idea is SO good, I’ll definitely remember it later…

If you’re a writer or entrepreneur or a human being with a creative mind, you’ll have experienced the above at some point, right? It’s so frustrating when that great idea gets lost in a dark corner of your mind, never to return no matter how hard you wince and rub your forehead – aarrrgghhh!

Having learnt the hard way – I keep various notebooks scattered around the house, in my handbags, in the car and my phone never leaves my side. Now I drop what I’m doing and write/type the idea straight away – unless I’m holding someone’s baby, that is!

Take action against that faulty memory and be ready when the next creative idea creeps up on you: litter your life with notebooks.

 © Rabia Bashir 18th Jan 2014

Dear Diary

Dear Diary

My friend gave me a beautiful notebook – around the time I started to seriously write my novel. It turned into a ‘diary’ for my novel…. some days I wrote what was going on personally or why I hadn’t written in my novel since the last time…

But every time I sat to write, I wrote the minimum of:
– date
– words written that day
– total word count so far Continue reading Dear Diary

God Is Everywhere

I’ve always imagined Allah (swt – the Exalted) as a huge figure up beyond the clouds somewhere – a shift in my perspective happened this morning.

I was recalling a very touching scene from an Iranian movie ‘The Colour of Paradise’ I watched last night. Mohammed, a blind boy, had said:

Our teacher says that God loves the blind more because they can’t see…but I told him, if it was so, He would not make us blind so that we can’t see Him. He answered, “God is not visible. He is everywhere. You can feel him. You see him through your fingertips.”

Now I reach out everywhere for God till the day my hands touch Him and tell Him everything, even the secrets in my heart.

The scene was memorable and keeps repeating in my head. The philosophy (albeit, an English translation) was thought provoking and developed my understanding of how God may be. For me, this explanation goes a long way to explain why Allah (swt) uses the pronoun ‘we’ a lot in the Qur’an, as opposed to ‘I’.

If Allah (swt) was to be EVERYWHERE in order to watch over EVERYTHING, as is my understanding, then imagining Allah’s presence as many particles rather than a whole being makes more sense. I know it’s not in our human capacity to grapple with the image of God, but wondering about Him comes naturally doesn’t it? I wait for a time when I no longer guess what form Allah (swt) exists in – a time beyond this fleeting life.

© Rabia Bashir 24th November 2013 All Rights Reserved

Image: Scene from ‘The Colour of Paradise’ written & directed by Majid Majidi

Piecing Together Our Past

I’m visiting my family in the UK and was looking through some old photo albums stored in my bedroom. I came across a sepia toned photograph of my mum smiling as she happily held me – a three day old baby – in her arms.

I must have seen this picture a handful of times in the past but today was different. For the first time, I noticed how young she looks. And seeing the happiness in her face as she looked down at her baby – me – filled me with warmth. I carefully pulled back the plastic covering, peeled the photo off the sticky page and took it downstairs to the kitchen. Once there, I grinned, hugged my mum and showed her the picture. I’ve always known I was born on a Saturday morning by caesarean section but I got to hear a little more today as mum nestled into the nook of my arm and recalled her first birthing experience. Continue reading Piecing Together Our Past

Divine Intervention

Sceptics can scoff but here’s another experience that makes me think – wow, there is a God and I’m being looked after…

My phone goes on silent but is set on a daily alarm to wake me up for fajar (dawn) prayer. I’m holidaying in London for a few days and completely forgot that the clocks went back last night. I fell asleep quite late only to wake up a few hours later of my own accord – no alarm. I checked my phone; it was 5am. I’ve got another hour till prayers, I thought but then noticed a notification from my ‘Athan’ app that fajr prayer was at 4.55am. I lay there a little disorientated and confused. Had I been praying an hour late every day since I arrived in the UK? Then it dawned on me and I smiled saying Alhamdhulillah (Praise & thanks to God) as I sat up in bed. However He did it, I was woken up at the right hour to perform my prayer with my husband.

It made me believe that no matter how much we rely on ourselves and our technology to get things done, divine intervention underpins everything.

© Rabia Bashir 27th October 2013 All Rights Reserved

Beware of the Bubble Breachers

Soon after settling into an expat existence in Riyadh, I began to make a number of new friends. One of them, Fia, was giving some survival advice to a new mutual friend who had not long ago arrived in the Kingdom.

“Put your protective bubble on before you leave the house,” she said to Becky.  I nodded in agreement. Continue reading Beware of the Bubble Breachers