When life is chaotic,
Flying across continents to give a lecture,
Moving back home after living abroad for 5 years,
Finding new schools, friends, re-visiting old friends, understanding yourself,
Writing takes two ways…. either a whirlpool of ideas and overflowing notebooks, or a complete stop! Talk about notebooks, we come to the ultimate challenge of deciphering notes-code
I am often asked the question: How do you come up with the book’s idea?
And my response is a habit that I formed back in my first year of university. Note-keeping.
This habit was nurtured by friends and family who keep on gifting me more and more notebooks. Butterfly ones, leather ones, fancy ones, and my personal favorite is pocket sized notebooks. Although A5 notebooks are what I have been investing in for the past 3 years now, nothing beats a pocket sized notebook that fits perfectly in my purse.
This is how it goes, the smell of a swimming pool, the color of a friend’s gem-stoned ring, a butterfly standing on my 6 year old’s hand...form major thought-provoking, idea-stirring book themes. The downside to this situation, is collecting numerous ideas, and having a tangled up yarn ball of ideas!
Come to decipher the notes, and be able to make sense of it all I have found to be time-consuming. Some of the ideas, were in my head but I didn’t write it as a whole. Therefore, my 2015 way of note-keeping is subject based. Work-related, Parenting-related, Children’s stories, so on and so forth.
So my pocket sized one in my bag, would have the original fresh ideas, and they are plotted. Once I reach home, and I see I am still pondering on that idea, I would jot it down in the designated notebook. Be it an advert for a parenting class, or a meeting that I need to prepare to. My pocket-note book is the mastermind, code book for all the rest.
What’s your way of catching your thread of thoughts?
Reem Al Gurg
Artwork by Fadwa Al Qasem
I like to guess people’s stories and their backgrounds. How they got here? Do they live here? Have they suffered? Are they happy? Why is that boy sad? Or is it just his look? Is that couple fighting or are they so used to each other they don’t need to talk? It’s a world of possibilities.
As a graduate of humanities and social sciences from Zayed University, a lot of my university studies included observation of people and social settings. In my psychology courses we learned about reading body language in order to understand others’ psyche. In another course we were asked to choose a public spot and show up for a few hours every day and observe people and social happenings for a period of time. These were my favorite projects and they subconsciously fed and tamed an existing desire and love for people-watching. I can say it made me learn to observe people better and make my analysis deeper. On the other hand, it fed my need as a writer. It gave me a base where I can be inspired by my surroundings, and then make my own analysis and my own creation. It helped me imagine, something I never thought I could do.
So when I decided that a career in the humanities would be put on hold, I turned to writing. And what a decision that was! I didn’t know where to start, what should a write about, who were my audience, etc. Until I participated in my first “Made in UAE” project with Rainer Wekwerth by UAEBBY and Geothe Institue during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in 2013. From that day onwards I had the proper tools to embark on my journey with writing. And it stared with a novel —pending— and a blog. Soon after that I joined the newly found group of dynamic female writers, my Hunna Ladies. And the rest is history.
With the proper tools I began writing, and I realized that my writing is very character oriented. The most important element I have in my stories are the people, and it is because I see them. My characters are as real to me as the old lady holding her husband’s hand beside me in the elevator. My characters are as real as the boy having a tantrum at a Starbucks’ line. My characters are as real as the couple trying to hide their red, rage filled faces. My characters are real because they are inspired by reality and they tell real stories. And I owe all my inspiration to my people-watching.
So if you are a writer —even if you’re not— go ahead and do it. Bring along a novel and have a latte somewhere public. Keep your ears ready and let your mind go wild. Keep a notebook nearby to record your findings. Because someone out there has a story, and their story could be you next inspiration. Sometimes you might get to even initiate conversation with those strangers, and they might love it. Maybe they’ll even let you take a photograph. Maybe they will tell you their story. Or maybe they’ll think you’re weird and call security on you. Either way, you got fed something that you can use in your next character. Something you took from reality, and hid in a book.
Artwork by Fadwa Al Qasem
Hunna Blog, a peek into the pages of our notebooks and our minds. Not a literacy area rather a jungle of thoughts.