A pink taxi

A pink taxi

March 26, 2011

How I Began to Write

I don't call myself a writer. I am an appreciator or a commentator, not even a journalist. I did manage to write masters' and Phd dissertation but that is academic work. I never took creative writing as taught in the American universities.

I can write comfortably in the two out of four languages that I speak. I can write in English or French interchangeably. The way my father writes in Arabic or English or Atiq Rahimi writes novels in Farsi or French. I believe Nabokov did the same in Russian and English.

Who remembers his elementary school essays? Write about your dream house, if you were on a desert island, imagine the year 2000. I remember dreaming of rooms full of Monets, placing my high school crush on the desert island with me and imagining a year 2000 that isn't a far cry from super-modern Dubai.

At the age of 12, I imagined myself as the Arab Anne Frank and I composed a little novel entitled "12-13", whose manuscript is lost today, somewhere between photos and memorabilia.
When I went to boarding school my mom recommended I write a diary and fountain pen in hand, I held a diary past boarding school, into graduate school, till I met my future husband. The day I met him, I abandoned my diary. I had perhaps found myself at last.

When I changed educational systems, shifting from French to English, I was told that writing differed in the two cultural paradigms. I had to move away from elaborate and long paragraphs to simple and concise paragraphs. At Smith College, we were lucky to have "writing assistants". These talented teacher assistants accepted our papers for corrections. They didn't correct spelling or factual mistakes but rather wording, sentence structure and composition. I would drop my paper off with at least 4 correctors and take in all their input. During my three years there, I worked on my writing, except for the papers that counted for my major which were written in Spanish!

I believe writers are readers. The more you read the better your writing. I also believe that the more you write the better it becomes. You develop a style. A writer needs that unique style that would propel his work to the level of art. The style is usually innate because the poetry or lack of is within him or her, the mind twists, the creativity, the imagination...the capacity to synthetize experience into words.


1 comment:

  1. The first thing a child faces at an Arab school is how to write "Insha'a" or composition.The first hurdle one faces at an English school is how to master a Precis which is basically the art of making a long story short.Finally,the first problem you face in American universities is how to regularly write papers,to be followed by a thesis at graduate level,and a dissertation at a post graduate level.
    One of my children wanted to major in creative writing and I changed history by convincing her that as a woman she needed to have a profession,so she ended up as a retired lawyer.My other child wanted to do comparative literature at Columbia with the best Arab writer of his days,the late Edward Said.She ended up as home maker with a rusted PhD in International law and Diplomacy.
    Playing God while trying to guide your children's future in what profession to follow,is high risk.I hope the result has been high reward.