Did I tell you…?

Did I tell you that I started reading Imam Ghazali? The depth and breadth of his books is astonishing. I feel stupid for not having “discovered” him before, though it’s quite silly to think of me as having “discovered” his writing.

Anyway, here’s the first book of his I took in my hands:

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The others, I got as ebooks from Amazon.

If you are a “small details” person, or a “big picture” person, Ghazali has both for you. The scope of his work will draw you in and the force of the contents will shake you up. That is, if you take kindly to being shaken up, otherwise you won’t be able to take it and will put the book away. This is serious spiritual stuff, not feel-good Facebook fluff.

You can check out sections of his works on ghazali.org. Go ahead. I suggest starting with “Deliverance from Error”, his autobiographical account of his own journey from skeptical doubt to certain conviction.

What more can I say? It’s time to shut down the keyboard and open up the book. I will update you about my reading progress soon!

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In you and I there’s a whole new land (Opening the Cabinet # 2)

In the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, there’s a section called “Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities” with a bunch of questions, all of which I am determined to answer. The first one was “Where do you get your inspiration?” The second one is:

What sort of things do you fill your head with?

I’m a big believer in “you are what you eat”, especially when it comes to the type of media I consume. That means I fill my head with good stuff. The problem is, there are so many neurons firing away in there that it takes more than just taking in good media to get them trained to think positively. I have to act on what I read/watch/listen to, in order for it to have a lasting effect.

Which brings us to the point of actually answering the question. I fill my head with a good dose of Muslim women writers, funny stuff, Islamic lectures and blogs. I confess that before, it used to be a good dose of any novel that I judged badgeto be “clean”, with a bit of non fiction thrown in, and the random reading of an Islamic text translated into English. I am steering myself towards buying South Asian or Muslim or women writers, and if it’s a South Asian Muslim woman writer who writes Islamic stuff, I am the ultimate fangirl. In the sense that I still have to purchase Sadaf Farooqi‘s books, while I follow her blog and tweets and even managed to end up in a Whatsapp group with her in it (I didn’t know at the time of asking to join the group that she was in it. Hidden bonus. Achievement unlocked!) I ended up getting books by Na’ima B Robert, Umm Zakkiyah, and Yasmin Mogahed first. This post shall serve to drive me on to order Sadaf’s stuff and become a true fangirl.

The next question is more related to reading, so I will save the details (yes, there’s more!) for then.

The doodling damsel draws directly

I made my latest display picture myself on the app Autodesk Sketchbook and edited it in the app Pixlr. The drawing shows a niqabi girl resting on a table with her phone and handbag beside her, with bookshelves in the background. It represents any tired college student going “heads down” in the library, but it also represents all the times I actually did that as a college student.11754251_10207585811192270_4231970042924882547_n

I used to sketch drawings of my friends in school. Then I stopped. Now, in the long search for Islamic photos and drawings to use for Wattpad book covers, I found a lot of good material, but not as much depth and breadth as I would like. You know what they say, if you can’t find what you want, make it yourself. I revisited my old doodling habit and started making doodles again, only this time they were of faceless hijabis and niqabis. I have fun making them and spreading them around on the Internet. If you come across them, feel free to use them as your own display pictures (or in your Wattpad books). In fact, I’ll direct you to them.

You can find them here:

 

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/iqrawrites/free-to-use-muslimislamic-iconscoversbanners/

Weheartit: http://weheartit.com/iqraasad/collections/97478571-free-to-use-muslim-islamic-icons-banners-covers

Now, I’m off, for it is time to doodle some more.

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#TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter

#TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter is trending on Twitter.IMG_0858

My favorites are:

*So what’s your real job then?

*I’m so jealous! Being a writer is so easy! I’d love to be able to make stuff up all day and get paid for it.

*You should write a book about me.

*But what do you actually do all day?

*You’re STILL writing that book?

*Can you help me with this? It’s not like you’re doing anything important.

*So glad you’ve found an outlet to deal with your issues.

And so on and so forth.

What’s your top thing not to say to a writer?

Readwrites: your procrastination is my “novel research”

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That’s basically what the name of this site means. Iqra=”read”, so “readwrites”. “Iqra” is my name so of course what I really mean is “I write”.

The funny thing is that I’m moving between reading and writing like a ping pong ball being bounced on a table between two players who definitely don’t want the ball to fall on their side. Writing a novel seems easy enough, just sit down and start writing until you stop. That is, unless you get sidetracked by, let’s say, a book on writing. Then you want to read a well written book, you know, just to see an example of good work. Of course, what actually happens is that you get discouraged by reading excellent writing. “I can never pull that off”, you say, tossing everything aside and opening the black hole of the Internet: Facebook.

Once you travel through the black hole and get thrown out on the other side, you realize that you have some non-novel writing to do. So you do it. After which you have no more energy to write, so you start watching a video instead.

The good thing is that nowadays I’m listening to the Leadership workshop by Nouman Ali Khan. It’s relevant. Come to think of it, everything is relevant. Like the author Bob Mayer says, living life gives you material for your novel. That means all procrastination is actually novel research work.

When push comes to shove, what I really need is to stop addressing the intangible “you” and talk about myself. While living life instead of actually writing and posting #amwriting tweets is all fine and dandy, that novel isn’t going to write itself. So why am I writing this blog post instead? I put this into the “exercising my writing muscles” category.

After I’ve exercised my writing muscles, read about writing, and listened about leadership, it’s time to…live life. Yup, actual novel writing time is not here yet. Hey, I do have 1800 words down (unedited), which I really should stop bragging about on the Women Writers, Women’s Books Facebook group, and not just because there are published authors there.

How about a goal to write at least 1000 words until next Friday’s blog post? Let’s see.

Opening up my cabinet of curiosities

I finally took the plunge and registered my dot com domain name (previously I had a wordpress.com address). I was spurred on by the book “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon. I was further inspired to take the questions from the section of Show Your Work “Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities” and to answer the questions here, one at a time.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I get my inspiration from people and their work. Sure, there are times when I get the random idea out of nowhere, but I think that’s just the works I’ve read going through my subconscious and popping into my consciousness after being filtered through my perception.

In a broader sense, I get my inspiration from Pinterest, where I have a private board for story ideas. I pin photos and artwork that makes me think of characters, places or concepts. I get inspiration from my quotes collections, whether written out by hand or saved in MS Word documents that have stood the test of several computer transfers. (Credit goes to Dropbox for that, really.)

In the olden times (before I had an internet connection in the house), I had a Word document called “Iqra’s Mail” that contained everything from actual email to snippets of interestingness, samples of nothingness and everything in between. That “Iqra’s Mail” document is the parent of all my inspirational quote, art and website collections.

I get my inspiration from life. They say write what you know, some say write what you like (that’s Austin Kleon again), I like to do a bit of both. Write what you know of what you like, what you like of what you know, and any other combination you can cook in your mind.

Live, write; write, live. Both occupations feed off each other. That’s inspiration.

A writerly milestone

I won third place in my age category in the first Commonwealth Essay Competition I participated in. I was 14. I won 120 pounds, and my parents made me buy a gold necklace with it. (I would have splurged on random stuff if left to my own devices). It was a great milestone for me and after that, since 2006, I started writing for local magazines. Now, I’ve sent in an entry for the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Let’s see what happens. The results will be announced at the end of May 2015.

Here’s what the judges had to say about my 2004 essay:

Nearly all the essays in the book review category were complimentary. This splendid diatribe made one think that we have a future critic in the making–authors beware! There is nothing to recommend, it seems, in this unfortunate book and we are told of its failings in well-chosen words. Even the description of the plot is used to demonstrate shortcomings. It is hard not to become convinced by the essay writer’s scorn and disappointment. That said, Iqra has a lightness of touch and an underlying wit which allow her to write such a devastating critique and get away with it!

Here’s my winning essay:

Topic: “What book have you either liked or disliked? Why did you like or dislike it?”

It was the summer vacation and monotony was driving me mad. So, I hit the bookstores, scouring the shelves for some series new to me, or the works of any writer which I had not read. Good fiction is soothing for a mind lethargic with boredom. A friend who was passionate about the “Goosebumps” series recommended a book to me. It was “Let’s Get Invisible!” by R. L. Stine.

After reading the book this became apparent: I did not see eye to eye with the friend who had recommended the novel to me. It was not according to my taste; too bland and frivolous to be delightful. It did not possess the charisma which many books had; the charm which made me read them repeatedly.

The plot revolves around Max, the protagonist and narrator of the story. He and his friends discover a magic mirror in the attic, and they soon find out that there is more to it than meets the eye. It is capable of granting temporary invisibility to whoever uses it correctly. The children play with it, but whoever stays invisible for a long period of time is drawn into the mirror and held captive there, and his reflection replaces him in the corporeal world. In the end, the imprisoned children are released when the mirror is broken, and the reflections go with it.

Now you might be wondering that what was so disagreeable about the book that it served as an impetus for me to write this essay. There are many reasons why I do not rate it amongst the treasured books of my collection.

The first thing I must point out about the novel is that it is supposed to be frightening. I singled it out from the other “Goosebumps” books because I wanted to see if there were other ways to scare people other than with monsters, devilry, carnage and the suchlike. The storyline is far from bloodcurdling. I read the book expecting to be scared afresh with every turn of the page. Instead, I was left waiting for something to happen. The plot tends to abate rather than arouse interest. It is the kind of book one can gladly stash under the

bed and forget. There is nothing horrifying or alarming in “Let’s Get Invisible!”, unless one tries to count the innumerable false alarms that mark the end of almost every chapter. As an example, say: a boy crosses a room enveloped in absolute darkness, and something howls…and it turns out to be his idiotic kid brother. The first false alarm gives the reader a satisfactory jolt; the second is easy to predict, and at the third one it becomes a monotony; another aspect of the continuous ennui that inhibits every last line of the story. It might terrify a five-year-old when told as a bedtime chronicle, but to me there is no element of terror whatsoever. If one selects a book because it is categorized under “horror”, then what is the use if it fails to instill any sort of fear at all?

It is not worth wandering in the bleak world of Stine’s magic mirror, because it is composed of nothing truly new. Invisibility and magic mirrors are among the trademarks of fiction. Creativity is extremely valuable.

Some writers are so good at writing stories that along with making their plots strong, they express, portray and elaborate very well. Such authors compose books with such dexterity and ingenuity that the reader is spellbound from the beginning to the end. All of us have read such masterpieces: stories with narrators so charming one cannot desire to quiet them or worlds so richly painted one does not want to leave. I am afraid that “Let’s Get Invisible!” cannot be rated so highly. It is simply too mediocre and insipid to be pleasurable; it takes only a moment’s contemplation to tell whether you like it or not. If one seeks literary bliss, it is better not to read this book.