How to know if you have writing talent when writing in a foreign language?

I’ve grown up learning English as a second language, but in a system where my first language was hardly ever taught. In fact, I’d say I know more about the rules of the English language than the rules of Arabic. It is only natural that the narrator’s voice in my thought is in English. Still, I’m not a native; so how do I know if I have the talent?
The answer can’t be good grades in writing classes. Good spelling and (somewhat) sound grammar were enough for an A. After all, the teachers were not looking for ‘it’. They were not building writers. They were building students who might eventually use English on daily basis at work, or watch an movie without subtitles every once in a while. My writing did not need inspiration since technical correctness was the criteria.
The answer can’t be reviews from my friends. I can jot down 500 words nonsense, and they’ll just admire it because very few people write in my culture. Prolificacy shocks them. Awe strikes them just by the length of my writing. If they struggled with writing assignments, then someone who writes with their own free will must be talented.
Aside from my culture, can the answer be how much I love to write? I love to write therefore I’m talented? I love to sing in the shower, but my voice would destroy lives. Another strike…
I googled my question, but in every forum it ends up in a debate about skill vs talent. I already know my skill is lacking. It’s something I’m willing to work on. But I do believe in talent, or an innate capacity towards growing. Some people are born with higher IQs, some people with characteristics that allow them to be better public speakers. Of course a person can learn to perform better on a test or use better body language in a presentation, but they might still lack ’it’.
So how do I know if I have the writing ‘it’?

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Ops. I broke myself?

I know what broke the writer inside of me; I stopped living in my own world. Just a few months ago, I had a universe standing inside my mind. It’s a God like feeling, but it’s the farthest it can be from narcism; I was never the centre of it nor the puppeteer. I merely could see everything that was happening. On second thoughts, I was a peeping-tom; sneaking looks at my characters even at their most intimate moments. The world was rich, and changing. Everyday I had a new character, in a different setting, who was passionate about a cause which a character was just rallying against the day before. It was the soundtrack of my life. I could spend days alone just listening to it; boredom was a foreign concept to me.
Then, life happened. I’m not going to say it was bad events that distracted me. Some were good like love, some were bad like anxiety. Some writers can use these events to inspire them; but not me. I failed. Perhaps I was never a “writer”, but just an “imaginer”. The soundtrack paused, or rather it was dubbed with the sounds of my own my reality. It wasn’t bad at first. I didn’t even notice few weeks-if not months- that I hadn’t thought of any new stories. I felt guilty, but then I decided to embrace my new life. I was never a fighter; I always swam with the current regardless of my better sense. Nine months later, I had a minute to myself, but I couldn’t stand the silence in my head.
Silence.
Silence.
Silence.
No sound is louder than silence. It’s piercing. I’d become addicted to my busy life, and somehow I forgot to maintain the VCR in my mind. I spent days trying to come up with one creative thought, but I couldn’t. The VCR was rusted, out of date, and I couldn’t afford to upgrade it.
So here I am now, different. I’m not sure which was better. The old me or the new me. I never liked the old one much, and I’m not liking the new one either. I wish I could have the best parts of each, but I’m not sure it goes that way. I hope I can write again. I miss my characters.

How can anyone ever be happy again after realizing this?

Today, I watched a shared video on Facebook. You might’ve seen it before. It’s called “This is water”. Basically it’s a speech by David Foster Wallace. 

It was so life-changing; the kind of writing that makes you feel so small as an aspiring writer. Everything, every word, was put together in a way I would never be able to pull off, and the ideas were so clear and coherent and down right personal. The kind of writing that feels as if it is just talking to you, and you alone. 

Anyway, I was so jealous, but I had new glasses to see and question the world through. It induced a sudden moment of absolute awareness of everything (and, No, I didn’t pop any drugs!)

Five minutes later, I look up the author. He committed suicide in 2008 because of depression. My brain couldn’t function anymore. I’m sure I blew a fuse, because it is so hard living and know that the person who wrote that speech was so depressed, he took his own life. How can anyone ever be happy again after realizing this?

 

Decide to live.

If you let go of everything now.

Decide to live.

If up to this point, you’ve been dead; just a bag of many wants.

If nothing you’ve done so far matters; all the pain and the grudges you hold are nothing. You have been no one.

If you will be defined by what you will do in the next second, and the next, and the next. 

Who will you be? 

Raise or fold?

Isn’t “now” terrifying? Standing here in the midst of life, and thinking “that’s it?”.

This is the best moment of your life, and it’s mediocre at best. The thing is: you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing. The timesheet is punched in, and you’re hunched down over a document. On the 30th, dollars are transferred in your account. Hunger never grazed you, but are you happy? If five years from tomorrow was a copy of today, would you still put in the effort to breathe?

You pay a high price for security. You fantasize about it too, don’t you? Throwing it all away.

The heck with safe.

How about you chase your dreams with a craved in stomach? How about you never sleep warm again? Without a security blanket, you’d have  to succeed because your life depends on it, you think.

But there in the dark, even deeper inside of you than the self destructive fantasy, a voice of reason speaks to you; you’re not one in a million, you’re one of a million. Isn’t it terrifying? Now is not good enough, but it’s all you could ever risk to be.

Which would it be: Raise or fold?

Snippet from “Teacup Rebel” and an update

The black-hole of editing and rewriting had sucked me back in. For some reason I stopped at chapter 11, and decided to go back and re-write a couple of earlier chapters. I’m suck at 45,500 words! 

This is the opening of the novel, right before the first chapter. I wrote it a couple of years ago. If you have any thoughts, please let me know. 

 

Coal black eyes gazed out of the window onto the gleaming city lights. As the breeze gusted against his pale flesh, his lips parted in a supple smile. Looking from the summit onto the small buildings far beneath; he felt gigantic for the first time in his life.

Suddenly, huge hands pulled the curtains shut; stripping away his freedom. He backed away from the closed window, and could only see steal. Rods of cold metal caged him inside. Realization set on him.

Tatsuo turned around and glared in resentment at the aloof interior of the pet shop he had spent his life trapped inside. Dozens of his kind enslaved in cages and stacked over the shelves. They were smaller than a child’s Barbie; tiny in size and frail, yet so similar to humans in appearance.

Like his kind, he had a petite body and an ‘insignificant’ soul. Why would he matter? He was a forlorn Chibi.

The real giants, humans, were the ones in command of his life. He would starve if the Chibi store owner didn’t feed him. He would be mauled if he ever tried to break out; Escaping was out of the question if he didn’t want to face the same end his mother had suffered.

He shivered as a cat peeked at him from outside the cage. The feline bared its fangs, forcing him to crawl into one corner. His heart hitched; face tainting in a hue of red. He was vulnerable and exposed.

That was when something snapped inside of him. He had had enough fear. He would not feel puny and helpless again. Unfaltering, he decided that someday he would take the world by a storm.

‘One day’, he swore, ‘Chibis will get their revenge.’

Finding inspiration to write through demanding times

We’ve all been through it. Bad days, bad weeks, bad years. Those times when it’s hard to get out of bed, and when even breathing feels like a chore. It’s not one day at a time; it’s one breath at a time. It’s scouring in yourself just to keep your lungs from giving out.

So you come back home, and you’ve already waited two hours in traffic, fought with a friend, and had an incident with your boss. Now, you have to sit and write. Writing is a release for you, but so much is going on with your life, you can’t handle your characters’ problems as well. That’s the thing about writing; you have to be willing to put yourself in you character’s shoes, and exposing parts of yourself that might be draining.

What now? You’re in front of the keyboard and your mind is blank. You are anxious; and the fact that your can’t conjure the writer inside of you is rubbing salt on your wounds.

Now, I don’t have a solution. Some times it takes over me as well, but here is what I do, and sometimes it works. Try it and let me know if it works for you to;

1-    Put all anger into one thing that you can control (and that one ‘thing’ can’t be a human). For instance, fix something or toss out all the old food in your fridge Seek release.

2-    Set up worry times- with caution. You can’t go around feeling bad for yourself all day long. Set up one hour a day where you can hate your life as much as you want, complain about it to yourself and mope. When the timer is done, get up and refuse to think about it again for the rest of the day. Tell yourself, ‘I fed the beast for today, but I will not let it eat me whole’. (FYI, this might backfire.)

3-    Choose to be unrealistic. How happy were you as a five year old who thought he could be a president? Believe that your book is going to rival Harry Potter. The only cost we pay for hope is disappointment. The cost for not having hopes and dreams thought is losing your flavor and your soul. I don’t know which is worse, but personally, I’d take disappointment anyway.

4-    Cheer up your friend. We are great at telling others why they should be happy, but we suck when it comes to telling ourselves. So once you are done, write down all the cases you made her/him, and read them out loud. Or you could just write a blog post like this one!

5-    Indulge: Read a book from cover to cover, go to a spa, watch a horrible movie and make fun of it. I think you deserve that thing you wanted to buy for two years but thought it was over priced! Sadly, don’t go over board- you won’t be happy eating ramen noodles for three months because you spent your food money.

Lastly, life just sucks. But ride out the bad times. Don’t let the tide drown you. Your arms will get stronger and the waves won’t be able to pull you down. You have it in you to be something extraordinary.