The writing process can be quite tricky. Writing about it isn’t any easier. You often hear writers say things like “I have not written any new in quite some time” or simply “I have been having a dry spell, and I don’t know how long it will last”.
Writing about this dry-spell may offer a diagnosis on why the cogs in your brains aren’t tuning.
Having deadlines to meet during the MA made me question the existence of the writer’s block or dry-spells. Because whether I liked or not, wanted or not, I had to produce new work every month or so, so I was writing regularly. While the quality of the work is disputable, I wrote 6 new poems every tutorial.But now that deadlines are no longer threatening with me a whip, I am finding it difficult to write poetry again.
Could this “writer’s block” be natural and necessary part of the writing process?
I believe it is. And here’s why:
1-Not writing is painful. And allowing yourself the time and space to feel that pain of not being able to write is important to remind you why you write in the first place. A dry-spell makes you long for rain. Makes you appreciate it, look forward to it. And when it pours down, it always feels refreshing, healing, and promising.
2-Recharaging your creativity. The past two years were hectic. But by the end of the MA programme, I felt I had given everything I got. I consumed all my energy, knowledge, and experiences. Now when I think about writing, I feel like I no longer have any new ideas as if my data is erased and my mind is a blank slate. This creates a chance to recharge. I firmly believe in “when you aren’t writing, you should be reading”. Creative practitioners stress on how important it is to read the works of other creative practitioners. I write poetry, but I read everything. New perspectives, smart usage of language, energizing imaginations do exist in all forms of literature. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to expose yourself to all these resources that would enrich your creativity. Keeping an open mind while reading is a key to becoming a better writer.
3-You don’t feel what you write is valuable. Of the two reasons I have mentioned this is the most destructive and most deliberate.Sometimes it’s not a writer’s block that’s keeping you from writing but it’s doubt and fear of rejection. The other two “phases” of not writing may eventually result with new writings. But this feeling of failure may kill your effort in its cradle.
Seeing your effort going down the drain makes you question if you are any good. Failing to see that your writing is taking you anywhere beyond a few likes on Instagram makes you wonder, what’s the point?
I try to remind myself that if I don’t write, no one cares. I’m the one at loss. And if I write, still no one cares but I end up doing something I truly love and care about.
For now I am letting these doubts consume me. I always see the danger in overconfidence rather than in the lack of it. My poems reflect the progression I make in life. I might be a mediocre poet for now but if I stop writing I may never know what I can become. This thought keeps me going even when I have just received the most recent rejection letter.
I enjoy writing about writing, because it helps me recapture the ups and downs of the writing process itself. And as I mentioned it’s like running a diagnosis on why you aren’t writing.
For the Women
For the women who think
I’m too dark
my hair is too tangled
I’m too tall, too short
too round, too flat
I forgive you.
For the women who pity me
because I’m alive
but my womb is always vacant
because I’m a mother
but all my children are females
I forgive you.
For the women who shame me
because I’m putting a ring on it
I’m not putting a ring on it
I took off the ring
I don’t want to put a ring on it
I forgive you.
For the women who mock me
because I wear my face
with or without hiding my acnes, birthmarks, burns
because I wear what I want
without being ashamed, weak, or sorry
I forgive you.
For the women who condemn me
because I slap back, talk back, fight back
cook, clean, drive, ride, fly, protest
read, write, design, travel, study, love
I forgive you.
I submitted my two-year MA project, a collection of poems and a reflective essay, last week. As I saw these 3-bound copies of my brainchildren being shipped away, I thought that this should bring me a lot of relieve. However, it was an anti-climatic moment and these are the reasons:
1-You think you are not ready even when you ARE ready.
I went through the project word by word. I sent it to some good friends, and they went through it word by word. I made sure my husband and I edited and refined it as best as we could. But when I looked at the final product, I thought it wasn’t ready or maybe I wasn’t ready to let it go. Sending the project means that I won’t get change anything anymore and that’s very scary.
2-You think it’s a pile of mediocre nonsense that sounded me better in your head.
The poems that I submitted were written over the course of the past two years. And while writing these poems, I felt that some were fine pieces.However, when I got the collection together, I couldn’t help myself not to think that it’s all just mediocre pieces of poetry. But for now I can’t do anything about it, and this adds to the anxiety.
3-You can’t stand to look at it without shuddering. I cringe at the thought of reading any of my submitted work, as I am really scared of finding any mistakes. I get butterflies in my stomach feeling every time I think of the changes I made in the last few days.
4- You feel bad about feeling bad. There are more important things in life and being consumed by your creative woes isn’t one of them.
5-You wait anxiously for the results. You get anxious about what follows.
Receiving the results will mark the real triumph or the miserable failure, but till then one has to figure out what to do. And this makes you wonder should you start looking for a job, or plan your next academic adventure or even take some time off. You wonder if you will continue writing. You wonder how well you’d do without your tutor guiding you. You wonder if you’ll get better or you’ll keep receiving these nasty rejection letters. You just do a lot of anxious wondering.
She plans her protest
tucks a handkerchief in her satchel
she writes slogans and fold them like flags
she wears that dappled jeans shirt
she never liked and will never again
she checks on her voice;
the one she’s been storing it in a jar
she makes sure no one suspects anything
mother worries too much; forgot her voice in the jar
father sides with gargoyles, till he became one
brother thinks only men go to square and become martyrs
sister thinks it’s not too late to find a husband
she closes the door behind her
knowing her jaw might get broken
by men like her father and brother
her bones might sleep in a dirty cell
guarded by women like sister and mother
she broke the jar and let her voice out
echoing across every square
her the sound of other jars
This is the video of a poem I performed last November for Words And Strings event here in Doha, Qatar.
This is the second time I perform at a poetry event. I am overcoming the anxiety of performing in front of audience. I hope next performance will be better.
I am a poetry writer. I find it very difficult to say that I am a poet. After all I’ve never published a collection of poems. My poems haven’t appeared in famous poetry magazines or websites. The word poet for me is like buying your child size 5 while they are still 3. They will grow into it.
I am a poetry writer. I’m currently writing poems for my assignments. But I wrote my first poem in 2003 and since then I have not stopped. I’m not planning on stopping. When the deadlines stop, I hope I will still sit and write, or try to write.
I am a poetry writer. Sometimes I feel like I arrived to the party late. All the guests have left, all the food was served, and all the decorations were removed. They say that poetry is dead art. And sometimes it does feel frustrating that of all writings, I write the least popular, the least prestigious, and the least profitable. I sometimes do wish I wrote computer programs instead. But then I come to read a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye or watch Suheir Hammad performing one of her poems. I feel that something so powerful, poignant, and so moving can’t be dead. It fills me with this urge to write and write more, to think of what magic tricks words could perform, what messages it could deliver. I know that writing poetry probably won’t take me places. It is not the next big thing for me. But I know it’s THE thing for me.
I am a poetry writer. Sometimes I feel that I wasn’t even invited to the party, but I crashed it anyway. English isn’t my first language. My mother tongue is Arabic.
But my poems chose their own, English. I have loved English since I was 10. I learned it through English songs. Maybe that’s why my poems are in English. But this makes me want to place emphasis that my poems are in English, but they aren’t English. They are everything that I am; Muslim, Palestinian woman of color. This may make people take my poetry less seriously. But I have no interest writing poems like Wordsworth or even T.S Eliot. My poems are like my fingerprints. They distinguish me. They define me.
I am a poetry writer.
And I will keep writing poems; Crappy ones, mediocre ones, excellent ones.
I will probably keep writing poems that will be only published on my personal Facebook page.
I will probably keep writing poems that I only read and like.
I will probably keep writing poems that make me feel that I never want to write again.
I will probably keep writing poems just for the sake of it.
Once you have your kid your priorities do change. But your ambitions don’t. Pregnant and mother students at university days were common to see. And to my then-ignorant mind, I would wonder why would she bother to bring her baby to the lecture? Why would she continue her studies if her children take most of her time? Like I said I was VERY ignorant and stupid. Now that I am student and a mother I understand that society tells you that you either have this or that. But with support you do both and you should have the choice to choose one or both.
I thought of writing this post, because many think that women study to fill time till they get married or have children. While I had my child after I finished my bachelor degree, part of me have always wanted to study further. Having a child changed how I could do it, but haven’t prevented me from doing it.
At first, I didn’t know what I wanted to study. But once I figured it out, I started looking for options. Master’s in Creative Writing isn’t available in Qatar, and I couldn’t travel to enroll in universities abroad. Luckily I found university that offered Creative Writing degree via correspondence. And it has been very fulfilling.
If you are a mother and a student, here’s some stuff I learned from my ongoing experience:
1-Your ambition if not fulfilled will affect your happiness and that will make you an unhappy mother: the first year I had my daughter I was very confused where I fit in my life as a mother. I loved the idea that I was a mother, but it was taking all of my time. This made me ask the question: “without motherhood, what am I?” I know some people would say being a mother is enough. And it could be true.
However, this wasn’t the case for me. I have always wanted to study further. And I have always loved writing poems. I am still seeking to define myself outside the motherhood cloak. Studying gives me a deep sense of fulfillment. It makes me feel better about myself and this reflects on my parenting.
2-Brace yourself, it’s challenging: parenting on it’s own is very challenging and sometimes very stressful.
When I started my degree, my daughter was less than two years old. That meant that during the day I couldn’t get any reading or writing done. My options were few: waking up early, staying up late or just waiting till the weekend to go to the library.
Being a student and a mother make you look for ways to find time to do your work. Sometimes you fail miserably. Sometime you feel too tired to be up at night or too sleepy to wake up early. I only started having more time when my daughter started going to the nursery when she became 2 and half. But I can guarantee you that the time you spend studying could be like going to spa. The pressure to get things done doesn’t make you procrastinate or slack. There’s more discipline and more seriousness in your pursuit.
3-You do it for yourself and for your family: apart from continuing your studies because you want to (which is great), you do it for your family.
The work market is a fierce and merciless place. If you aren’t well equipped, it will be difficult to find a job. Unfortunately, as a stay-home mom, when they look at your CV; they will see all the years you haven’t been working. They won’t see that you were nourishing and taking care of another human life.
So in that time that you don’t participate in the work-market, you are building your CV and achieving a dream. One can never predict the future; investing in one’s future and education is good planning.
4-You choose: bachelor degree is often considered the thing we do after school. But MA is the thing you do, because you want to. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter when you choose to go back to studying. Whether one year into motherhood or after all of your kids moved on with their lives, what really matters is that you choose to do it when you feel you are ready.
5-Don’t listen to the naysayers: you will hear people undermining your effort by saying, “what’s the point?” or worse “it’s a waste of money”.
It’s sad that to some, education is just a pastime. You should rather surround yourself with people who will give you their support and encouragement. One of the best moments I shared with my husband is the moment I knew I was accepted in the program.
If you are already a mother and student, good luck and keep your chin up.
If you are thinking about it, go for it sis!
If you have already done it, congrats, you inspire us! (and send me some advice).