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’?


Novel update

So, even though I had the momentum going for a couple of months, I haven’t been writing the last two. I keep trying to get back to Teacup Rebel, but it can’t get past typos, grammar, and plot holes even to power through the first draft. 

So far, I’m only writing two or three days per week max, and rarely ever hit the 1000 words mark. Very disappointing. 

Hopefully, I will be able to show more commitment from now on. I need to get more serious. 

So, anyone else having this problem?


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.’

The pros and cons of an overly supportive friend

Isn’t it just swell to have friend who is supportive, and not a meat-ball sub (you know, ‘cause food can’t judge). They are a rare breed, the rarest of all, but we all have that one friend who thinks (or tells us) we are super-duper awesome, talented, blessed from God humans. You know who I’m talking about; that colorfully encouraging angel with a brain that produces more dopamine than the rest of us, (the Grinch). So here is the good, the bad, and the ugly about those fluffy muffins.

Good- You always have a fan in a world where everyone wants to *poop* on your confidence.

Bad- They don’t want to hurt your feelings, and thus they don’t make great critics (Not that all critics are cruel). Basically, they’re your mom. They’ll never tell you something you did sucked because they don’t want to break your spirit. We all need to be told  “this sucks, work on it” sometimes; it’s one of the ways we learn to do things better.

Good- It is easy to find inspiration because of their ambiance. I have a friend that lifts me up when I’m down (Thanks Nabs), and suddenly I can write again.

Bad- When the sun is dark, don’t you think it’s night? I mean, imagine if that friend is depressed, don’t you feel like all the hope in humanity is lost? Maybe? Sometimes we get accustomed to seeing people in certain roles, and it’s a shock to our system when we see them in another. It’s basically like learning your father was not a superhero when you turned five.

Anyway, you should be glad you have a friend like him/her. Good or bad, you’re lucky!

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.

I’m a sheep (writing class assignment)

This is a short class assignment I wrote a few months back. I was feeling pretty down about my writing today (and in particular about Teacup Rebel), so I was digging through old stuff I wrote and trying to see how I could improve. So, If you have any constructive criticism, don’t hesitate.


“I’m becoming a sheep and a stereotype of the mob mentality. Yesterday I gave up my name for a number, and my feet for hooves. In my herd, I am defined as the one with slightly bushier coat of wool and the portly belly. My distinctions have upset my fellow stock, so I’m cutting down on my grass consumption and getting a trim; I would hate to stick out. From now on, indefinite articles go perfectly before my name.
My newfound identity makes me proud. As one of the group, the wise elders have let me on the secret of a tried and tested tactic of survival. They called it “Do what everyone does, because thinkers makes others uncomfortable”. I admire that way of life and dedication, for even the great bisons do it. Just last week I saw an entire herd follow each other off a cliff with such grace in compliance.
Sometimes I miss who I used to be. I was an Iberian Lynx, one of the four hundred in existence. My fur was one-off with brown, beige, black, and many other shades. And my face served as an inspiration for writers and fashion designers. Still, everyone used to look at me and point with their hooves, and it made me wish I could belong. I always felt like a PS3 in a box of legos. I might have been something spectacular; but it could never fit in. It is easier now.
In a few minutes, the elders will chant, “Embrace the mundane” and I will baa right after them in a rite of passage. I will live like the rest never using “I” before “think”. I will bury whatever originality I have left, and never be exceptional again. When my kids are born, they are going to bleat with the rest and get herded by a dog. I believe this is the best and only choice for them. It is, right?”


Time management tips to for busy writers



I’ve been overwhelmed lately trying to balance writing, studying for the JLPT in December, working full time, and having a social life… etc. Since cloning is not an option outside Sci Fi novels, I’ve to work out a schedule that accommodates all the things I need/ want to do, and occasionally make sacrifices.

Anyhow, I’ve found some useful tips online and thought of sharing them with you. Enjoy!

1)      Michelle V. Rafter suggests in her post that you,

 a.     Turn off distractions (don’t watch TV while writing or BBm friends. And under no consequence can you peek at Facebook! Facebook will suck your soul- I might be exaggerating).

b.      Use a timer (My personal tip: don’t peek at the timer, so you don’t get yourself out of the zone).

3)      Another blog suggests that you should write before your day begins. This way you won’t be exhausted by the time you get to writing and start dabbling nonsense like me.

4)      My personal tips

a.       Don’t work in 20 projects at the same time. You won’t get anywhere with any of them.

b.      If you have an idea for the next scene but you don’t have time, note it down so you could start with it the next day. This way, you won’t have to waste 15 minutes the next day coming up with an idea.

c.      Prevent burn out: Writing 5000 words a day feels like a great accomplishment. You start calculating in your mind how fast you could finish your novel if your write 5000 words every day. Ain’t gonna happen! Unless you have nothing to do but write (and you wouldn’t be reading this post if you were), you will not be able to sustain it for a long time.

d.     Take advantage of every moment (Aka. write in the bathroom, at the bus stop, in line… etc.)