On Writability: Why I write

You know that guest post I mentioned a couple of weeks ago? Well, it’s finally up! Check it out here. If you’re a writer, I’d love to know the reasons why YOU write, so please do leave a comment.

Also, the header image my sister drew for Cake & Cows‘s first birthday is back – and finally incorporated in a free WordPress theme that doesn’t trigger my OCPDness all that much.

Happy Friday, everyone! :)

The end of April seems to be fortuitous

It’s not very often that Facebook inspires me in a positive way, but it did this morning when I decided to click on that “On This Day” link in the sidebar just ’cause.

For today, I was reminded that on this day one year ago, my first ever article was published (Well, technically it was published on the 27th – but by the time people saw it, the 27 had turned into a 28).

366 days ago, I wasn’t sure if I could be a writer.

Today, I feel as if all my life experiences (and indecisive planning) were leading me up to this revelation: I am a writer and always have been one.

That’s a cause for celebration, right? I’ll take some chocolate cake, please and thank you.

There’s more though. I can’t help but think there’s something auspicious about this day in particular. Because this morning, I received another notification that had me jumping for joy.

About a week ago, I learned that a blog I’ve been following was holding a guest post contest. Of course, Mr. Rafia, who discovered the vlogger behind this blog during one of his late-night Let’s-Bother-My-Wife-While-She’s-Reading YouTube sessions, told me to enter. I was like, “Yeah, yeah, what is the likelihood of me getting selected?” But Mr. Rafia, if you know him, is quite the persistent fellow. So I entered just to get him to shut up.

Well, guest what? I was selected! My blog entry will be posted on May 12th. I’m excited, but also a bit nervous. This could potentially draw in more readers… or not. It might have absolutely no effect at all. But I see my entry (and having it selected) as a mini-milestone and affirmation that I must continue to write.

Perhaps that idea that suddenly came to me while sitting on the loo this past week has promise to turn into a book after all!

I know I read too much into signs, but I can’t help but think: “Where will I find myself next year around this time?”

Hopefully, I’ll still be writing.

P.S. If you’re a writer, I’d recommend you follow Ava Jae’s blog Writability. She has a charmingly quirky personality and her vlogs are succinct, engaging, and informative for newbies like myself wanting to break into the world of fiction writing.

Waiting for my muse

I’m relatively new to the world of writing. Though I’ve been blogging since 2003 and have always felt an affinity for writing over, say, public speaking, I only started feeling like a writer last year.

I no longer introduce myself as an aspiring writer. But I do hesitate to tell people that I even do write. I know the first thing they’ll ask is: “Oh yeah? So, what have you written?” I could point to the numerous articles I’ve written for various online publications and even my short story. But until I’ve written a book that’s on its way to be published, the term “writer” feels hollow, fraudulent even.

For one, I don’t make a living off of my writing – although funnily enough for work today, I did write a letter of recommendation on behalf of someone.

I “know” that one doesn’t have to be a prolific novelist to be considered a writer; but in the world that we live in, it’s the only example we see.

That, or being a journalist.

I do not want to be a journalist (I know that now)

What I want to do is write my own stories.

But I’m having difficulty actually writing them.

I thought I would do what I do best – or, naturally, rather – and write a memoir. Luckily, as I’ve learned, you don’t have to be a celebrity to write one. I received encouragement from a couple of writing instructors that neither my age (I just turned 30 in February) nor a lack of truly shocking experiences (I have not fought in any wars nor am I a poverty-stricken cancer survivor) should serve as a deterrent. I still have a story tell: my story that no one else can tell.

For one, I spent most of my childhood and adolescence being the “fat kid” and then lost over 100 pounds when I was 22. I’ve more or less maintained this weight loss since then, which, believe me, is NOT easy.

I am the daughter of immigrants and a Muslim woman living in a post-9/11 America.

I come from a traditional family where I assumed the only way I would get married was if it was an arranged marriage. But I ended up marrying a man I met on the internet — and my family was totally okay with it.

I know that any story can be an interesting story, as long as it is written well.

But there are darker moments in my life I just cannot share. It wasn’t until I started writing my memoir – I’m about 7,000 or so words in – that I realized this. To write an honest and genuine memoir, I would have to share stories that I know loved ones won’t appreciate being shared with potentially the rest of the world.

Feeling stuck and mulling over what to do, I decided that I would give fiction another attempt. I guess you can say finally having my short story published has given me the courage to do something I told myself I do not have a mind for. But given the writing I do most naturally, I know I can’t create a world that is completely alien to me. I still want to weave my life into this book – I want it to be a fictional tale inspired by my life.

But where do I begin?

Just this week, I’ve started jotting down thoughts that could potentially turn into something. But every idea I have thus far come up with just plain sucks. It’s too cliche. It’s not literary enough. It’s too YA.

I’ve started following writer websites left and right and have even turned to watching vlogs! I’ve never done this before.

Still. Nothing.

Is this common? Is this a rite of passage I must endure? Or is the lack of any real ideas a sign that I should just continue with this blog and be happy with what I have? Am I being too ambitious? Am I being too hard on myself?

Oh, future Muse, wherever you are (if you do exist), please make yourself known soon. Please and thank you!

Happy Birthday to Cake & Cows! A blog CAN actually make dreams come true

Though I am physically feeling unwell, today is a happy day otherwise*. And since I can’t really do anything else and don’t really take naps, I figured I’d blog.

Today marks the day that Cake & Cows first graced the blogosphere with its presence. Quite like myself, Cake & Cows was the child I could not have foreseen (or planned for), and yet brings me such joy that I can’t imagine my life without it.

happy-cow-day-2

I want to, again, thank you, my readers – some of whom have become my friends – for giving me the encouragement to not put this blog on hiatus and eventually delete it, as I did with my previous blogs. As I said before, even if this blog had no readership, I’d still write. In fact, my journal would probably be filled by now. There’s a certain joy however that comes from knowing that what you’ve written will be read. To learn that my blog has actually made people laugh and reflect? It’s like my dreams of being a comedienne and philosopher have come true! I’m like Steve Martin Heidegger.

As a token of appreciation, I’ll give you one more thing to read ;) You know that short story I wrote that I alluded to months ago? It’s finally been published by Blue Minaret! I got the email yesterday. In the midst of pain, it was just the thing I needed. So if you’re interested, please read my story “The Family Stories We Tell Ourselves.” If it’s not already clear, this is my first short story, but I welcome constructive criticism nonetheless. Who knows, maybe I can write fiction? But if I can’t, let me know; it’s better that we nip it in the bud.

Also yesterday, I got a call from Simon & Shuster!

No, it wasn’t to say they wanted to publish my-yet-to-be-completed memoir. A girl can dream though! I had signed up for a free self-publishing guide I stumbled upon. Apparently, they are very serious about helping authors self-publish. The publishing consultant and I talked about my motivations for writing and a bit about my memoir. She’ll be checking in on my progress every 6 weeks until I am ready to publish. Wow. While we were talking, publishing actually felt like a reality. If that’s the case, I better get to writing! She recommended at least 20-30 minutes each day. I was really encouraged by this talk. If you’re an aspiring author like myself, check this link out. And when you get that unknown call and actually happen to pick up that day because you’re not feeling your usual paranoid and/or asocial self and then hear “Simon & Shuster,” it’ll be the greatest thing you’ve heard all day. You can tell people “I got a call from Simon & Shuster” and provide no further context :) Sounds pretty awesome, eh?

It’s kind of weird how all these things converged together around the same time. Of course, I’m always reading into signs that could just be coincidence. But I don’t know if it is. My blog reaches a milestone that no other blog of mine has, the short story that I thought would never see the light of day is actually published, I get encouragement to continue with my memoir from SIMON & SHUSTER! Sorry, I’m still reveling in the fact that someone from Simon & Shuster called me!

Feeling like a true-blue writer might actually be the best treat I could get for this special day – but I’ll take the cake, too ;)

*It’s also my dad’s birthday today. One could argue that if it weren’t for him (and my mom… and God), none of this blog stuff would have even been possible, because, like, I wouldn’t exist.

Oh yeah, happy new year! ;)

I must say that reducing my social media “presence” (I can’t think of a better word – it really felt like I was hovering and not really a part of it) has been so freeing.

The irony is not lost on me however that many people who will read this (paragraph) will chance upon it through Cake & Cows’s Facebook page (but if I am aware of the irony, is it still ironic?). I considered deleting it because “I don’t like being a hypocrite” (future blog post… if I ever get around to it). But given that I am a writer, I do want to be read. Otherwise, my journal would be the only place my thoughts are transcribed.

It’s a tension I’ve struggled with for many years and one which has not been resolved.
But regardless of whether it’s resolved or not, I no longer feel the need to write “bloggy” topics anymore. What do I mean by that? Posts that always have a neat ending. Posts on topics people expect to read. Sure I’ll most likely do those from time to time, but my last unfiltered post felt so good to write. It took me back to 2003, when the few people who read my blog were people that knew me through my words only. There’s something beautiful about that.

I don’t mean to say that I want to project a false image of who I am. I’ve never been dishonest, but I can’t say I’ve been fully honest either. So many times I’ve had this urge to blog, but decided it wouldn’t make for a “good” blog topic, because it would make reference to something most people wouldn’t get or would find boring. Well, you know what? Screw that! Being able to be myself is why I latched onto blogging in the beginning and why I picked it up again last year. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t wish to “be myself” at the expense of another person’s privacy, which I have never done by the way, but I am so over being damn PC. Maybe it’s because it’s a new year, or because I’ll be turning 30 in less than a month, or because I currently feel like the Phantom of the Opera. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t really matter. If I want to write about the mundane everyday things of my life, like how I’m currently suffering through an outbreak of perioral detmatitis and how it’s making me hate my life right now (hence the reference to the Phantom earlier), I’m going to. If no one reads it, fine. I’ve been there before and it’s not the end of the word. I’ve never gone viral and I’m completely okay with it. That’s not why I started writing in the first place!

I’ve been reading a lot lately and one thing I’ve gleaned is that each writer brings with him/her a unique voice. If I filter myself to be some cookie-cutter, I’ll never be satisfied and perhaps those of you who do take the time to read my stuff (which I appreciate more than you can imagine) would be missing out on the full range of what I can offer. Is that confidence? Well, I need it, so I’m keeping it! ;)

If 2017 is the year Rafia gets back to her roots of being her unabashed self, then that’s the best resolution, albeit unconscious, I would have made for myself in years, if not ever.

Haha, so this post ended up being a disclaimer, but that’s fine. Hopefully it’s a beginning of something new and more raw.