In third grade, a substitute teacher told us to write a story about a shark. Mine was about a misunderstood grayish-blue shark with protruding teeth and beady eyes. He swam in circles and loved lollipops. Later that day she read us her favorite story- mine. As the quiet child with average marks I was pretty much ignored except when it came to my writing. I dreamed of the day when I would be a writer sitting in coffee shops filling up pages in my notebooks for my next great novel. That is the incredible sweetness of childhood though, your future is a question marked mystery and anything you want could conceivably be yours.
Over the years I’ve written articles and monthly columns, and these days occasional freelance on and off. But its mostly off. Writing is an integral part of my identity, but if that’s really true, then why do I do so little of it?
Seven years ago I worked at a bookstore and ran into the company’s book buyer. The topic of writing came up. He asked me what I wrote. Ethnic literature. He didn’t hesitate: “Aisha, Write it. Send it. Now. Eastern Lit is going to explode onto the literary scene” Monica Ali, Jhumpa Lahiri and a host of others have proven him right. I won’t pretend I could be like Monica or Jhumpa but why didn’t I even try? Probably because writing is hard. Its boring. Its thankless. There are a million distractions and no guaruntees. I could use law school as my excuse but it’s a cop out and I know it.
Then I heard the gorgeous new Damien Rice CD. What struck me most about his music was the passion with which he sings. How could I learn to channel that same energy? And that’s when it hit me. Damien writes from his heart, not for radio play or top ten charts. His lyrics are uninhibited. Me? As soon as I begin typing I’m filled with hesitation. Will this be printable? What will critics think? The truth is I am my own worst critic and my critique is cruel.
I don’t want to look back at these thoughts years from now mourning what could have been. I’m going to start writing a little each day. Even if its terrible. Even if its boring. I’m not going to think about publishers or critics. I just want to write from my heart and to know at the end of the day that at least I tried. I will try to tame the fear.
“Keep walking. Though there’s no place to get to. Don’t try to see through the distances. That’s not for human beings. Move within but don’t move the way that fear makes you move” Rumi