Thursday, October 31, 2013



Following my heavy subject blog post last week on life and death, I’ve been working on one of my novels non-stop. The chapters I have been working on required me to do some digging into some old writing and research for one of my characters. In the process, I stumbled upon more writing I did back when I was at UCSD.

One of the last workshop courses I took at UCSD was called “Philosophy of Writing”. Yes, the title of the class was just as terrifyingly confusing as the professor and his assignments. I reread two of the stories I wrote and was thoroughly confused. I couldn’t recognize my purpose or reasoning behind the piece. I finally remembered that even back then, I had no idea what I was writing.

This isn’t surprising to me. It was fall quarter of my senior year at UCSD: I was battling the flu for the second time in three months and bronchitis that lasted for months; my patience was being severely tested by a professor who had it out for me because of my background and had no problem telling me what she thought of me and my writing through a letter connected to one of my assignments (in this situation, I put on the professor shoes and had to educate her on diversity); my mom was going off to Hajj and I couldn’t bid her safe travels in person; I won’t even get started on how I was dealing with my French literature class … I was a mess. These are the only reasons I can find behind writing such dark and nonsensical pieces during that time in my life.

In case any of you are interested, I did some digging and found an “Explanatory Note” that my professor required us to attach to each of our assignments. The following piece was apparently my interpretation of Foucault and Barthes’ theories on author-function. It was my response to Foucault’s “What is an Author” and Barthes’ “Death of the Author.” Based on my attempt to bridge both philosopher’s concepts into one, the grammar and verb tense in the piece are off; that was deliberate. Despite the high grade I did achieve for that course, so much for actually retaining anything I learned.

I need to head back to my writing, so I shall leave you with this piece originally untitled. Remember, this hasn’t been touched in four years and I’m pretty sure it was one of those “written at 3 am the night before class” assignments. I bid you well wishes trying to understand the story.

As promised, I will always post on Thursdays, even if it means putting up an old, horribly written story and embarrassing myself in the process…



         The full moon of the month illuminates the grisly streets of the city. A shadow lurks on every corner sending spiders to hide within their cobwebs. Howls of unidentified animals whine into the air giving it a chill. The crisp winds lick at his black leather jacket. He pulls on the zipper as if to make sure it is possible to extend it beyond closing point. Hands wrapped tightly around themselves, wrings his fingers to conceal any warmth, he hastily walks on in a confident stance illustrating that he knows where he needs to go and it must be quick. There is no time left. It is coming.

         His eyes perk up at the site of an old run down house at the end of the street. Light stream from its windows shining itself onto the dark and vacant houses nearby. He reaches the fence. Slowly opening the crooked gate, he begins to ascend the steps gently as to not step on the trail of spiders leading the way. He reaches out to the doorknob, ready to twist –
         STOP! Do not enter… turn back slowly… Now.

         He jumps, turning around to the gentle whispers. No sound, the area around him is calm. A shiver runs down his spine. He shakes it off and once again returns to the door. Spiders now lay confident on the doorknob, circling tighter and tighter. Changing his mind, he walks back and out the gate. Maybe this isn’t the right house.

         You’re not there yet. You must keep going…must.

         His first step back on the street, rain pelts down hard jerking him awake and washing out any noise. He pulls up his collar and wraps his arms tightly to hug in the warmth and continues on down the street. As if on cue, lights begin to pour out of the houses followed by laughter and happy voices. Brows furrowed in confusion, he makes a turn into a dark alley only to find another row of houses. These are silent and almost ghostly like. He can sense his destination is near now. It must be. The houses become larger and scarcer leaving now more space between them. Unsure of his next step, he stops to consider any options.

         No, keep going… almost there… I should know, shouldn’t I?

         Again the whispers startle him. He spins slowly in a circle shifting his eyes back and forth to spot the thing that spoke. No one seems to be lurking nearby. There lie only houses, dark, dim and undisturbed. One holds an aura of cobwebs. The rain stops. Dew glistens on the webs revealing a pathway by which to enter into the garden surrounding the grand front door. Shoving his hands into his jacket pockets, he walks through the webs up to the brick walls holding together the steel door. He raises his hand to knock and stops right before his hand reaches the gold metal.

         Do not fear, enter.

         The door smoothly opens shining light onto his face. Hunching his shoulders, he shoves his hands into his jeans pockets again. He enters slowly and spots a shadow coming near yet no image appears.

         Welcome home. Be prepared. Another maze awaits you once again. It will reorganize itself soon. Ready? Set. Go…

         The lights go out. He stands in a misty jungle ready to follow the light and whispers once again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Life, Death, & Everything in Between

Asalaamu Alaikum,

I’ve been struggling to write a blog post for the past two weeks. I would have just posted a story I have written, but it didn’t feel right taking a break from my blog for two weeks in a row. I’ve been in quite a… not sure if I have the right word to convey how I’m feeling, so let’s just say funk… I’ve been in a weird funk lately. I find myself experiencing much more downs than ups and my usually optimistic take on life has taken a hit.

They say practice what you preach, so I haven’t spoken to anyone lately. Staying in my own secluded bubble.

Before any of you optimists begin to prepare your responses to employ your wisdom of why I should always see the beauty in life and wah wah wah… It will probably start to sound Charlie Brownish to me. I’m not depressed. I’m also not a pessimist. I’m just being realistic with what stands in front of me at the moment. I have a lot to do, a certain amount of time to do it in, and I have yet to find the best way to accomplish what needs to be done. Cryptic much? This isn’t a post directed at anyone specific. This is one of those posts where I needed to put down a bit of my jumbled thoughts out there into the world and let it be. This is how I deal with the craziness in my life. Some of you walk it off. I write it out.

The reality is that I know exactly what’s making me feel this way. I know why I haven’t been able to multitask with my to-do lists. I know what I need to do. I’m still stuck. I’m at a point in my life that a lot of you in my situation (mid-twenties, unemployed, and unattached to anyone) are experiencing. I’m in limbo.

During limbo, we may reach a few different levels of insanity and anxiety about our future. Me? I think I’m just angry… At myself. Putting aside my insomnia, many of us, like myself, get to a point where we stay up all night or wake up early in the morning unable to actually get out of bed and stare up at the ceiling thinking, “What the hell is the purpose of my life? What was the purpose of EVERYTHING I have done to get to this point in my life? Why haven’t I painted my ceiling so that I would have something interesting to look at during all the times I spend staring at it?” All very reasonable questions.

This past year has been filled with many deaths of people that I know and people related to those I know and care about. Last night I attended an azzah (gathering to express condolences to the family of a loved one who has passed away) for the mother of a friend I love very dearly for the sake of Allah swt. My friend is not only my sister in Islam, but also a role model with her humble and bright personality and strength in deen (faith). Her mother was visiting her sister in another state for Eid and passed away on Monday from a car accident. While my friend’s aunt lived, having suffered only a broken leg, her mother passed away. Hearing of this death led to a thought-provoking conversation between another dear friend and I.

Nothing is certain except for death. Allah swt tells us in the Quran that everyone will taste death. This is the reality for all of us. Death is inevitable.

“Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.”
Quran, Surat Ali Imran, 3:185

If this is the case, if as Muslims we believe that before we are even born, our destiny is written with the exact moment that God will take our soul back to Him; if the afterlife and Janaat (heaven) is our true destination, then why live? Why put so much effort into our lives? What is the purpose?

As Muslims, we forget that our purpose in life is to serve Allah swt. We forget that this life is just the road, journey, to the most beautiful destination. We forget that even if this is the case, Allah swt asks of us to balance our faith with the pleasures of this life. We must continue to gain education, love for his sake, and enjoy this life in the best of ways.

I live by these words and hold it as my motto to life:

“Live in this world as if you were going to live forever; prepare for the next world (Hereafter) as if you were going to die tomorrow.”
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

Even if you are not Muslim, regardless of what you believe in, you know that not only will you not be able to escape death, but that our time in this life is limited. We must make the best use of our time. We must live it to the fullest with the awareness that it can be taken away from us at any moment.

We can’t stop living.

“Life is rich as we fill it with the things beautiful to remember.”

Life is challenging, but also filled with love, beauty, and adventure. One of the greatest blessings that Allah swt has given us is the ability to forget and move on. In Islam, when a death occurs, even if it may be a loved one – a parent, child, significant other – we must grieve, show emotion, shed tears and remember the beauty they brought to our world, but we must not get caught up in a cycle of despair. We must not inflict self harm. We continue living. Grieve for those first three days. Lock yourself away and allow yourself to pray and reflect on life and death. In the end, we must move on. We carry our loved ones in our heart always, but we must live our life to the fullest and make dua’ (supplication) and pray that God will join us with our loved ones once again in heaven.

When my friend put that question out there: what am I doing with my life? I pondered the same question. All those years of exhaustion and overwhelming all-nighters – were those straight A’s from first grade through high school necessary? Was it a waste of my time to get involved with all those clubs and student government in high school? All those AP courses, were they worth it? What made me think that spending my days hauled up in the basement of Geisel library at UCSD with nothing but my studies and crushing stress would amount to anything? Why was I so invested in the MSA and SJP at UCSD and what on Earth compelled me to take on board positions in the organizations that stole every free moment of my time and not to mention affected my GPA? Were all those silent tears and stress induced three months of the flu and bronchitis over school during my last year at UCSD needed? The sleepless nights at UCSD and AULA, where did they get me?

The reality is, that’s life. Life is about the hardships and challenges that strengthen our determination and aim to accomplish our greatest adventures… Right?

Now, I sit here gulping down my iced coffee with a monstrous loan to pay off from graduate school looming over my head, the fear of forever being unemployed and my novels never being published, and being stuck in the same city I was born and raised in. All those dreams and goals of traveling the world with my DSLR, paper, and a pen, can I still believe in it? My biggest fear of all: will I ever reach the point of being able give back to my parents at least a sliver of everything they have done for me? All this passion and effort, will I taste its honey before I die? I million more fears and questions spiraled out of control in my head.

I look back and realize that I regret nothing that brought me to where I am today. Everything happens for a reason. Living in the worries of our past will never do you any good.

"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I answered her bluntly and confidently with the first answer that came to mind (this is directly from the online chat we had):

Allahu A3lam (only God knows) what may happen but I know I need to make the best use of my time now for the sake of Allah swt because I don't know when He will ask my soul to return to Him.
I focus on my family, my writing, finding a job to be there for my family and to work for the sake of Allah swt; those are my priorities long before planning my life with aspects that society believes will provide happiness but may not happen... like marriage that keeps being shoved in my face.
Life is too short to expect happiness to come later and sit there waiting for it to appear.

Life is short, but each one of us is given the exact amount of time needed to fulfill our purpose. I know it’s hard to believe, but I must have faith. Not just tawakul (trust) in Allah’s plan for me, but faith in my ambitions and all aspects that make my life so wonderful.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
Anne Bradstreet

I had the beautiful pleasure of spending time with my mama and sister over brunch on Tuesday. While I would like to describe to you the delicious place we tried out that infused chocolate into every single menu item – yes, every single item had chocolate, vanilla bean, or caramel – I’ll spare you the details for another time. (San Diegans, check out Eclipse Chocolate! Trust this coming from a person who doesn’t care for chocolate.)

I’m not sure what we were discussing before I expressed to my mom that life is short. I can’t live by what society tells me my life should look like. With all that this world has to offer, how can I assume that life is to be lived and experienced in only one way. No one can determine my happiness for me. No one has the right to tell me or coerce me to assume that’s if I don’t carry a certain money-filled carrier, marry at a certain age to a specific type of man, and have a family that this will complete my happiness.

I put out there what may be the scariest words a parent wants to hear, or maybe anyone for that matter: what if God hasn’t written for me to live comfortably, marry and have children? What if I’m meant to live my life seeking knowledge and adventure? What if all I have to look forward to is the fruit of my writing being given to the world? What if I’m meant to bring entertaining education through my writing to present Islam and Muslims in the beautiful light that it deserves? Should I then assume that I will never find my happiness? NO! That is my happiness. My happiness is whatever I want it to be. I don’t know what Allah swt has written for me. I don’t know what awaits me in the future or how long I have to live, but I know that I must live in the now.

What I also know is that I will never settle for less than what I deserve. This is something that I promised myself as a child and it is a promise that will go unbroken.

“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature.”
Julian Barnes

Unlike literature, we write our own stories. We are responsible for our own happiness and finding the life that survives the harsh winter conditions.

I believe that my purpose in life is to serve Allah swt. This is what makes me happy. I serve Him in more than just through remembrance, prayer, dua’, reading the Quran, and being the best Muslim through my speech and actions. I serve Him in my hunger for devouring knowledge and passion for finding peace in my writing. I serve Him in finding the beauty He has blessed in this life and this world. Beauty is not one for all; it is not black and white. We all know by now that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Those of you who know me well, already know that when I am at my lowest point, I find myself at the ocean. That is beauty. I can stare at the expanse of Allah’s blessing for hours. I find it incredible that so much life exists in the water, life that is continuously being discovered by humans. Still, there is so much that exists in the unknown. We are but a speck in this vast universe. We must live and learn.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn

When we find ourselves being pulled one way or another, threatening to drown, we learn to pull ourselves out of the water and breathe.

Find your own space to think, breathe, and continue living – even if it's climbing to the top of the highest mountain and screaming until your lungs are dry. Perhaps it’s spending time in your kitchen cooking a delectable meal for your family. It may simply be to wrap yourself in a fuzzy, warm blanket with a hot drink and music or a book to enjoy. Let out all that energy. Let out all your fears. Remember your blessings. Find your purpose in life, what makes you smile. Live.

For all of you out there who are sharing the twenty-fifth year of their life with me, or are experiencing their mid-twenties:

"You’ll be fine. You’re 25. Feeling unsure and lost is part of your path. Don’t avoid it. See what those feelings are showing you and use it. Take a breath. You’ll be okay. Even if you don’t feel okay all the time."
Louis CK

To end my stream of thoughts, I am reminded of the words written by a brother in Islam I dearly respected. He passed away from a sudden and unexpected heart attack before his twenty-first birthday and a little over two months before his graduation from UCSD last March.

“"For some of us the flames of hope are merely candles; small dots of light in what appears to be an eternally dark night, and yet everyday my candle will flicker, and the voices of my mind will again begin to bicker. But the voice of the divine light will shine through:
'Look up to the sky... Just look up to the sky...'
And so I look up to the sky, and even though I can't see the sun...
I know its there."
Alireza Moaddel

May you live your life to the fullest and find a purpose and happiness in this world.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

What I Learned From Re-Reading My Work & Rejection


My first title for this essay was, “What I have learned from re-reading my final manuscript AFTER receiving it as a fancy bound copy from my MFA program”. I decided that title was a little long winded. You’re lucky that I edited it down.

The original long, verbose title represents the thought process in my head after I re-read my final manuscript. Last week, I received a large package from AULA’s MFA program and I thought to myself, “What could they possibly send me that was like my residency boxes after I graduated?”

(Before each residency at my program, I would receive a large box with all my materials and readings. It was actually pretty exciting. Not just being able to read my peer’s work that I was going to workshop, but more importantly because it meant I was getting close to seeing my Antioch family of writers. I miss my Antioch family.) 

The package held my bound final manuscript. I had no idea it would come looking like an actual book. It was thrilling to hold it in my hands. It was beyond exciting being able to place it on my overflowing bookshelf, among my favorite authors.

I dream of the day that I can witness a published copy of my novel among my favorite books and authors. Until then, I have a bound manuscript from my MFA program.

Having my novel in my hands, I realized that I have been focused on my next novel and should find time to bring back my attention to my first one. I have been reaching out to agents so that I can be a step closer to getting it published. Despite this, I had not actually read my novel on paper.

I decided to print it out and take a red pen to the pages for what I hoped to be positive changes and maybe even a few more chapter additions. My red pen received a nice workout.

Thirty-nine mistakes. Yep. That’s how many mistakes I found in my “final manuscript”. Keep in mind that my final manuscript is equivalent of the master’s thesis and was turned in as such, bound by the MFA program, and a copy is now sitting among other bound final manuscripts at my graduate school for others to check out.

Now, some of these mistakes were a missing comma, maybe a word like “a” or “the”, or even just an incorrect verb tense for that specific paragraph. Still, I was horrified. The upside is that I did make changes that I believe strengthened my story and now I am working on a few new chapters that I believe my future readers will appreciate and enjoy.

I learned a few lessons from reading my manuscript in print after it was so called “finalized”. Naturally, I made a list of what I learned and the results it had on my writer psyche.

These tips are for myself and not meant to generalize the writing style of any other writer; however, I do welcome you to learn from my mistakes.

1.   ALWAYS print out your work to edit.

I repeat, PRINT out your work to edit. I know there are those of you who disagree with me. I hate wasting paper and ink. It doesn’t feel right to me. However, I do hope to one day see printed copies of my book in bookstores around the country, and who knows, maybe even other countries too. I used to print out several chapters at a time, but I thought it would be too much to print out my entire manuscript. The reality is, I have read my novel so many times that I actually have the story memorized. On the computer, it’s easy for me to skim over parts or fail to pay attention to small details after the hundredth time editing, especially when I start to see spots and colors emerge on the screen from focusing too intently.

My final manuscript was sent to both my mentor and a good friend of mine who is a strong writer. That doesn’t excuse me from not catching those thirty-nine mistakes ahead of time. Printing out the manuscript made me see details I missed while it was sitting on my computer. I noticed longer paragraphs and run-ons that could have been separated, areas where I will now expand and bring to life in a more descriptive way, clarifications that should have been made, and chapters that I am now excited about adding that didn’t seem to be too necessary with how long a 230 page novel looked on my computer. Getting through it after the fiftieth time of editing was exhausting and took me forever.

So, yes, I do believe printing out my novel and making edits also made me excited to read it all over again because I was able to turn the pages in the same way I do with my favorite books.

2.   Share your work with two types of friends: the reader and the writer.

It’s very difficult for me to share my novel writing with anyone, let alone friends. For a long time, the only people who had seen my novels or any of my writing were my AULA mentors. (My workshop peers at Antioch only received first versions of usually first chapters.) Instead of requesting a new mentor each project period, I successfully alternated between two and consider myself blessed to have carried on the mentor-mentee relationship after graduating.

My wonderful mentor and brilliant writer, Gayle Brandies, was my main reader for the novel Café Francisco. Although she is brilliant and always honest with her feedback and creative criticism, I knew I needed another pair of eyes, if not more, to read my work.

I sent specific chapters to two friends that I trusted who served as readers. They provided me with their reactions and feedback as my future audience. Their focus was on the flow of the story and strength of my characters. My only other reader was a friend who I knew would be willing to read my manuscript from the first word to the last and also open track changes to provide changes and feedback he thought would serve my story and readers. I consider him to be a fellow writer and someone I trust. I have already told him I’m writing new chapters that I will ask him to provide feedback.

I use the word “trusted” very strictly because I trust very few people in my life and even fewer with what I hold deeply close to my heart. Recently, another close friend, the reader type, has asked permission to read my manuscript completely and offered to use track changes to give me commentary. I’m waiting until the new chapters are inserted to share the novel with her.

I should also add: get over your fear of criticism and send your work to a writer you believe is more experienced and just better than you at writing as well as editing. I plan on reaching out to one of my AULA MFA buddies to find a friend who is willing to read my novel for me. This is warning to them… (Contact me if you’re up for it!)

Every friend I have reading this story is a different type of friends. Each come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and I know hold very different views of the world. This helps me immensely to gage how wide of an audience I can reach with my writing. As a writer, I want to reach as many readers as I can.

3.   Don’t be afraid to make changes, BIG CHANGES, to your work.

When I write, I try to control my OCD and perfectionist tendencies by shutting them out. I write a chapter when it comes to me or a scene despite where it may end up in the novel. It may be the second to last chapter that is written before the first half of the story. I find that there are two chapters I can’t move around – the first and last chapter of a story.

I always need to write the first chapter before I put anything down for the rest, even if I know for a fact that another chapter will precede it somewhere down the line. This was the case with Café Francisco. I also need my last chapter to be the last thing I write for my novel. There’s a rush of finality to knowing that I am writing the last chapter and I can almost say that I have completed a novel. I had many versions of the last chapter for Café Francisco in my head but none of these versions were written until I knew my journey with my characters for this book were ending. The final version of the last chapter came to me around three in the morning. I stayed up past sunrise until I had finalized it and then crashed from both excitement and exhaustion.

Despite all of this, I have a crazy organized folder on my computer with all the different versions of my novel and extra chapters that may never be seen by anyone. While at Antioch, I changed verb tense of my entire story as many times as celebrities change their hair color. There are many scenes that have different versions and different points of view. Sometimes when I would receive feedback from a strong writing peer or mentor to change something in my novel, I would do it even though I had a strong feeling that I wasn’t going to stick with the change and it wasn’t right for my story. I always had the previous version to go back to, but I knew I shouldn’t be afraid of trying the change. Who knew if it would actually strengthen my story.

Recently, I realized that I do indeed need several more chapters to make my story whole. Yes, I have the ending and that won’t change, but I’m currently writing chapters that will go in near the beginning of the story. That’s more than okay. It’s exciting to see my novel continue to evolve and fill out.

As writers, we have an understanding that until our novel is sent out to the final publication process and hits bookshelves (or short story/ essay/ piece is accepted by a journal), we will continue to edit out work. I don’t think I will ever feel like my work is 100% perfect. The characters and story live in my head and their lives don’t end with “The End”.

4.   NEVER stop writing… especially if you’re stuck.

This should be obvious and self-explanatory, but it’s one of those “easier said than done” statements. We all have days where we just want to curl up into a ball and hide under a blanket all day. Let me ask you fellow writers this: was there ever a time when you were working on a story of any kind and decided to take a “break” and your mind actually let you take a break? My answer? No.

My brain is constantly “writing” even when I don’t have a writing utensil, paper, or computer near me. While driving. After an argument with a friend or family member. Staring up at my ceiling. After a tragedy. In moments of happiness. My mind is always on the go, even when I’m asleep. I often suspect that the reason I dream excruciatingly vividly is because there’s a story that needs to be told. It can be one that is only for my eyes to heal me when I’m at my lowest. It’s still worth something.

When you’re on any emotional high, be it sad or happy, it’s the perfect time to write… and edit later.

I find that when my emotions are at their highest levels, that’s when I’m finally able to put anything down. Other times, I really do just want to rest on my bed and stare at my ceiling, only getting angrier at myself for not being able to write down what I’m thinking. At this point in my life, I the only excuse I should have to not write when I know I need to are when my migraines attack. Dealing with one of migraines are the only moments when I don’t have enough control to write. That’s okay.

When you’re stuck with one piece, move on to another. Write gibberish if you need to. Hey, stare at the words you’ve already written. Re-read what you’ve already written, even if it’s the first 100 pages of your novel. Whatever keeps your mind going. Just don’t stop writing. Personally, I hop over to one of my other novels in progress.

As a writer, I find reading and writing to be my medicine… Recently, it’s been writing that brings me more happiness than reading.

5.   When you receive a rejection from an agent, find 10 more.

I have been trying to find an agent for my writing and a home for Café Francisco. This is not new news for my loyal readers, friends, and family. As all writers are aware, this is a very difficult process. AlhamduliAllah, I have very supportive friends and family in my life and an incredible mentor who has been a source of advice and comfort on this journey.

I have found that receiving a rejection is better than never hearing back from an agent. Not hearing back keeps me wondering if she ever read it or what could have gone wrong for her to skip over my email. Was my story really that horrible?? This Tuesday I received my first real rejection. I hope that it’s okay for me to share it (without naming names of course)… If not, I’m sure one of my writer friends will alert me so I can edit it out.

I was sitting at the Toyota dealership waiting while my car was being checked out. It was 10:20 AM when I decided to check my email. There it was. A response to a query I had sent out five days prior. The response was twenty-two minutes old. (Yes, I know the exact time.) I was shocked that I had gotten a response from an agent who claimed it would take her about six to eight weeks to get back to a query letter. I reluctantly opened it:

Dear Haneen,
Thank you for your query. After consideration we have decided not to pursue this project, as it doesn't seem quite right for us. As you know, this is a highly subjective business, and other agents are sure to feel differently. We wish you all the best in your search and hope your book finds a good home soon.

I went through a few reactions, all while feeling numb.
1.   Wow, that was a really nice rejection letter.
2.   At least they responded back.
3.   I shouldn’t be surprised; I’m very familiar with rejection.
4.   I can’t believe I just got rejected by my favorite author’s agent.
5.   What’s wrong with my story? Am I a horrible writer?
6.   It was because my stories are colored with multiculturalism and diverse characters, definitely not mainstream.
7.   I’m being an idiot. Reading is subjective. It’s not like I would be willing to pick up every single book or story I laid eyes upon.
8.   Their loss. There’s an agent out there who I can trust with my work, will support what I love, and will find herself very lucky when my novels break out in the publishing game.
9.   Patience grasshopper!
10.   AlhamduliAllah, everything happens for a reason.

I wish I could say that I went home and went back to writing or searching for more agents and sending out query letters. I’m human. That numb feeling turned into sadness. I wanted to spend the rest of the day sulking around my room. I couldn’t even pick up a book. Talking to my family members felt like too much effort, which was difficult because that day my mom needed help in the kitchen and later that night my younger sister needed help with her English homework.

I went to bed early. A little after midnight. That is really early for me. Needless to say, I didn’t fall asleep. I felt like I needed to figure out why my story hasn’t been worthy of an agent. I turned to Allah swt and spent much of the night in massive dua’ (supplication) as always.

I woke up with new motivation. The agent who responded represents my favorite author and her rejection gave me the greatest push to find that perfect agent for my work. I copied and pasted that letter on my desktop so that it can be there whenever I’m writing, researching more agents, and sending out query letters. So, thank you Ms. Agent for reminding me why I feel so strongly about my work and why it needs to be read!

Use what you find to be your weakness as your greatest motivation to succeed. Be patient. It will come when you least expect it…

6.   Constantly remind yourself why you write.

ALWAYS remind yourself why you choose to write.
Whenever I need the inspiration I read my own essay.
Works every time.

Find what reminds you why you write.

7.   It’s okay to take a break… Just not indefinitely.

This may seem contradictory to my number four tip to myself. The reality is, rest is needed. For me, this is with the ability to actually stop thinking about writing enough to sleep.

I heard sleep is good and healthy for you.

Find new ways to take a break. Everyone needs a breather. Sometimes I take my writing with me when I go relax, but I find time to clear my head. I love going to Coronado Island. It’s my favorite place in all of San Diego. When I’m overwhelmed with basically everything and everyone in my life, I hop into my car and head over to the island. It’s always a spontaneous drive. Driving for me is one of my best breathers.

I take a pen and something to write in, never my laptop. I always grab coffee at my favorite coffee cart and take a nice, long walk around the area. I clear my head. I refocus my attention from my own thoughts to the people and little details around me. It’s soothing. When I feel like I’m ready again, I find my nook facing the ocean and return to writing. For every page I write, I look up and take some time to breathe in the ocean smells and watch the waves crashing against the rocks. I tune out the world around me. It’s just me and the ocean.

I can’t always abandon my responsibilities or my “to do” list for the day. Another way to find motivation or just inspiration is to find a new place to write or mix up your writing spots, even if it’s writing in a new spot in the same coffee shop or library you always seem to find yourself. Sometimes the familiar is the best for a specific story or piece.

Find what works for you. Just remember to breathe!

I am OCD and love my odd numbers, so I stopped my list there.

I hope that my dear, fellow writers were able to find something of substance from this list of reminders I have written for myself. Essentially, we write because it gives us peace. I know that the road will forever be full of dense trees and scary monsters and the waters are just as rough, but I love it.

Write on!