Hi everyone. Apologies for yet another late letter. It's Ramadan and I've been busy, just trying to take it a bit easy on this stuff. This letter is nothing crazy. Something of a personal manifesto on writing that I am praying I could adhere to, to the best of my ability. I hope you all are well, and healthy and rested. Thanks for being here, yet again. And if it's your first time, welcome to my mind haha. Thanks for being here.
Here it goes --
An old professor of mine gave me a lasting piece of advice once as she was editing and critiquing my very first manuscript. The manuscript, (which I am presently working on), contained various stories and essays on personal relationships -- from platonic, fleeting and dissipating ones, to intimate, long term, and deeply personal connections. The advice she gave me, at the time, was in regards to the fact that I tended to hold back a lot of information, things that could drive these stories home and really provide the characters and the audience a real place to live and exist. And what she said was this --
"Writers are awful: We don't only share our secrets, we share others'. Who would ever want to be friends with a writer! We cannot be trusted! But, it's what we do, and it's what writing requires of us: to divulge the intimate portions of our lives. Strangely enough, when we do, we find out that our secrets are not only ours; others have them too, and when we share them, we build a community of people who can recognize one another & recognize in the sense of re-thinking our own lives."
Since she told me this, I have tried to accept the fact that this is true, and doing so was fairly easy.
The difficult part, however, has been trying to implement it in my life and my work. Even with this newsletter, that a rather absurd amount of people are receiving and reading every week, I find myself withholding lots of information that otherwise would serve in maybe truly benefitting someone who may be dealing with the same things I am dealing with. I can say that slowly but surely I feel like I am growing more comfortable with telling truths I find necessary to tell as how they are received is often greatly reassuring. But where I am conflicted though, is when the focus is not on me, but the people around me. I have SO MANY interesting friends and acquaintances, that I am so thankful to be surrounded by and have access to. But as a writer, being amongst absolute characters and alternating individuals with an endless array of backgrounds and quirks and differences, and being exposed to these incredible stories from them, arises a question of trust and ethics that I presently continue to struggle with.
For example, for this letter, I thought I would layout and summarize a few of the more interesting conversations I have had over the past two weeks with people I have met and/or come across. Not for the sake of sharing these conversations, of course, as I prefer to keep them between myself and those people, but instead, to expound upon and provide new perspectives on those things which were discussed. What I have noticed is that people in general, at least as far as I know, are very comfortable opening up to me. I often have conversations with people I have only just met, so intimate and divulging that one would imagine we had known each other for years. People open their hearts fairly quickly, mainly because I try to always provide a space for that to happen, and maybe because I also do the same, (with some people it works more than others, but it happens nonetheless). And I realize there is a deep trust and responsibility that comes with that. So, if I start to relay these stories that belong to others to the public, and on top of that provide my thoughts on their actions and beliefs that may be in opposition to my own, people can easily feel violated and even betrayed. It's like they entrusted me with a secret, as my professor put it, and the first thing I did was not tell a friend or two, but instead tell it on a mountain.
What sucks the most about all of this is that, this is how my mind inherently works. Deep down I know my openness to the world is not purely empathetic and giving, it is very selfish in many ways as well. Everything creative I do primarily stems from conversations. Stories, dates, discussions, brainstorms, meetings, etc. And I guess it has just slowly taken time for me to accept that. I'm not completely open hearted just because I want to live amidst extraordinary lifestyles but because my art depends on it as much as I enjoy the rush. So maybe this letter serves somewhat as a warning and cautionary tale. I can't hide all these secrets forever. One day they're going to come out, and I'm just going to have to kindly ask whoever they belong to, to give them up for the greater good of humanity. People need the truth, and people need varying perspectives, and writing, whether fiction or not, is filled with truths that many would prefer had gone unspoken, and I am only learning this more and more every day.
So, if I write about you, beautify you, monstrify you, critique your viewpoints, maybe even bash your beliefs, I hope you will forgive me. The role that people play is just so big in art and writing, and all this wonderful art wouldn't exist without someone revealing their own secrets or another's. It's a sacrifice that more often than not is for greater good.
Now with that said, consider this my testimony, as I hope to use this letter as some form of self-accountability. To no longer hold back and say what I really feel, and put out the work that I truly want to.
This is all for now, but I'll be writing... insha'Allah.
Essay Collection to Come:
While on the topic of this manuscript/essay collection I am working on, which I hope to release by the end of this year, insha'Allah, I will share a rather personal essay from the collection. (Mind you, it was written in 2019.)
For those who are interested in reading it, here is a direct link --
And here are a few photographs from the project as it is a hybrid work of writing and photography:
No film or literature reviews this week, unfortunately. Hopefully next week!
That's all from me for this one. Thank you for reading. And please feel free to reply to these emails if you feel inclined to. I'll be here.