Writing ain’t for wimps

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. 
Red Smith

 

Working with my associate

Don’t ever delude yourself into thinking that writing is easy. It is not.
It is a brain-swelling job that requires dogged determination and stamina.

A writer is basically an amalgam of a poet, a baker and a chiropractor. His job involves a lot of musing, kneading and massaging.

When you endeavor to write a story, you first need to come up with a subject. And it is not as easy as it sounds. Practically everything on earth has been written about… by others.
You want to present your personal view of an event, and (in my case) it is often opinionated.
I always thought that readers are not interested by bland accounts.

When you put together a story, you try to be true to yourself and express opinions in a civil manner and without unduly offending anybody. But regardless of the subject, you are bound to hurt someone’s feelings. It cannot be helped or avoided.

“I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.”
Patrick Dennis

When I begin a piece, I start by quickly jotting down a temporary title and random thoughts, in no particular order. After this, I often go for a solitary walk mulling over what I wrote or what I should include. Exercise relieves the stress and gets the creative juices flowing.

After my constitutional I flesh out the story with details gathered on the Internet and then, like freshly kneaded dough, I let it rest. I sleep on it.

The second day I read my story again and pay attention to the fluidity of the text. A story should flow steadily, but not chaotically. It should be interesting, droll and provocative at the same time. I also check for repetitions and accuracy and that’s where the Internet comes handy. In doubt about a fact or a date? No worries mate, you Google it, a few times if necessary.

A text is massaged, kneaded and modified a countless number of times. Bless Microsoft’s “cut and paste” and “spell-checker” for that, but never blindly accept all the latter’s suggestions.
Once in a while I think of the time when everything was penned by hand and when editing must have been a nightmare.
I often reflect on Alexandre Dumas who employed it is said more than 45 nègres (ghostwriters) to write or correct his stories.
Today, thanks to word-processing, I can manage without even a “négrillon”.

When I am halfway through my story, I might change the working title if it not in synch with my story anymore. It happens often.
And finally, I try whenever I can to post an accompanying picture that I personally took.

No writing is useless. Its purpose is to make you pause and take a position on various issues.
If you let others do this for you (as seen recently), you are courting big trouble.


The veiling wall

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Will Rogers

 

When you apply for a job, experts agree that it is absolutely crucial to make a good first impression. You are basically a salesperson hawking a product, and the killer app is you.

Thus, you dress as best as you can and strive to make the best possible first impression.
You and your body language want to say: my smile and the way I present myself show that I am friendly, easy to get along, eager to work, and willing to blend smoothly with your workforce.

Algeria, circa 1960

Similarly, an asylum seeker is akin to a job applicant saying, “I want to live in your country and share your way of life”.
But a woman wearing a veil, a hijab does not project this kind of message. By wearing a hijab she basically retreats behind a wall and ghettoizes herself and her family.

I wanted to know why some Muslim women elect to wear such a garment in western countries and I found an article in the UK Telegraph describing, “why Muslim women chose to wear the veil”.

Women variously said:

“I was forced to start wearing a hijab at the age of 13 and now find it hard and very uncomfortable to take it off in public.

This I understand. It is a habit and habits are notoriously difficult to break. But to flourish, women have to trample barriers erected by chauvinist men.

“I fear and love God, and He has said that women must cover their hair, so I follow what He tells me, simple as that.

God has nothing to do with this. She never said that women had to cover their hair. Jealous, insecure men decreed this and everything decreed by oppressors should be abolished.

“It honestly liberates me because I get to choose how much of myself I reveal to the public.”

Poppycock! Balderdash! Flapdoodle!

“The only times I wear a burqa – the black robe thing, is when I don’t feel like changing so I just throw it on when going somewhere.”

I find this difficult to believe. When I don’t feel like changing, I go as I am (warts and all) or I stay home. Donning a potato sack is not going to make me feel more comfortable and it will definitely make my interlocutors pretty uneasy.

Living better together is not erecting but toppling walls.
What the world (especially the Muslim world) needs are leaders like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk or Peter the Great who ordered their backward people to cut out the religious crap, and get in line with the rest of the world.

There is nothing more painful than a relapse. After years of steady improvements, the condition of women is jeopardized anew by retrograde populist zealots like Recep Erdogan or somebody closer to home.
A tradition is like plumbing. It needs to be regularly overhauled.

When in Rome… for crying out loud, eat spaghetti!



Just the facts ma’am

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan


Just the facts ma’am!

I guess that I am not very smart or very well informed. I read magazines, I listen to the radio, I watch TV news but I still fail to understand what’s happening.
For instance, why is it that pundits can always explain “facts” after they occurred, but never before those damn things happened?

And what exactly pray tell is a fact?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines a fact as something known to have happened or to exist.

I like facts. They are like concrete blocks used to construct solid structures. With good quality facts, you can build a great variety of sturdy walls, houses, dams, etc.
The problem though is that lately some people have been using “alternative facts”. In other words cheap knockoffs of real facts.
If you look up “alternative” in the dictionary, you will find synonyms like substitute, replacement, emergency, fallback.
Is this the kind of facts you would feel comfortable with?

For a fact to become genuine, dependable, a few people must have witnessed it. It then becomes irrefutable, isn’t it?
Not quite, because some people play fast and loose with facts nowadays.

Take the Holocaust for instance. Thousands of people have witnessed it or were victims of this gory episode, but today some individuals still continue to deny that this crime against humanity ever happened.
They use “alternative facts” to account for what really happened.

Personally I’m too poor to buy cheap stuff or ersatz facts. I believe in utilizing good quality products because they last longer.
I will buy genuine facts before stooping to shoddily made “alternative facts”.

Counterfeit facts are like fake one hundred dollars bills. They are everywhere, can easily pass for genuine and do a lot of damage to the economy.
Before accepting a “fact” as genuine, you should scrutinize it, hold it to the light.
If your fact remains murky under a bright light, it is likely a counterfeit.

So before cashing in substitute, replacement, emergency, fallback facts, turn off your ideology and try hard to be impartial.

A fact is like a parachute; it is safer to use the genuine article than to trust an alternate product.