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’?
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.
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.
Writing doesn’t always come easy; regardless of how talented you are. It might be a strained muscle or voices muffled under the weight of life. Recently I’ve been chasing after the first word; the end of the string. I want to pull at the first word and then tug the whole novel back towards me chapter by chapter. But do you know how hard it is to find the right string once you’ve let it go?
Sometimes we forget we’ve been holding our inspiration for too long, and we let it go. We let it slip from between our tips.
Where did it go? It’s not there any longer.
Suddenly you’re not connected anymore, and all you could think about is:
It’s a key in the sea now. I won’t find it again.
Should you give up. No. So how do you get it back?
Other people are paper thin. They have no depth, no original thoughts, and no spirit. Basically, they are just moving dummies, but you are the only Pinokio; The only one who is more than timber. Yet, you’re stuck dealing with trees for the rest of your life. Isn’t it sad? Isn’t it frustrating to live inside your mind? There is so much you deserve because you are ‘special’.
It is disappointing, like everything human, to be self-centered as a whole and as a specie. We each think we are the sun of our galaxy, and everyone else orbits us; except everyone believes so inwardly. I’m an astrophysicist, but can we all be “the center”? The things is, we live with a sense of grandeur and entitlement, because each of us truly believes that even though we all exist, only he/she is real.
But, we all are just as real.
The homeless man you tossed a coin at this morning, he’s as real as you. Hilter? Real. Miley Cyrus? Yup. The weird kid in class? Just as real.
I’m not saying all minds were created equal; minds, in the sense of intellect, are only a variable in the equation of a human. But I know for sure none of us is the one, but we are all capable of originality and “philosophical” thinking (however you want to define it).
In other words, step outside your mind. And, if you are so dogged on being special, then do something special, instead of just feeling like you deserve the title.
This is it; the most important moment of your life:
You’re ahead of the rat race. One inch away from the finish line. Your chest aches and your breath is shallow and stabbing. The other rats behind envy you, you could feel it through your back; the waves of their jealousy pushing you forward. The eyes of loved ones too belong also in the background, watching as your gaze solely rests on the ribbon.
The fiber is torn by your momentum, and your hands are in the air. You double over, and breathe as deep as you could making up for lost air. When you straighten up, you look back, and the audience is gone. There is an instant of confusion, wondering why the colors are dim and the cheering is silenced.
Your in a zone of white, grey, or whatever color lays in the back of your mind in your sleep; The inside of your lids. The questions are overwhelming, but there is a clarity in their hustle. Was it even a race?
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?
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.