I guess I’m just not the kind of person who likes to dwell much on past events. Once something has passed, then it’s no longer on my radar. Frankly, it’s not because I could simply forget them. It’s not like that. I could conjure up the sights and the smells, the sounds, how people talked, how people looked, what they wore, what I was feeling. It’s in my nature that I could remember the weird things. That’s probably the reason why I prefer not to attend class reunions or anything of that kind. They make me feel uncomfortable.
Even with this blog, I hardly ever scroll down to see the articles I had written, nor do I bother to check the stats to see how well they’re doing. On rare occasions, the closest thing I’d do is that a few moments after an article is posted, I’d clean up any typos or errors (ones that I overlooked during the editing process). And that’s that. Then I leave them alone for good. Once an article is done, I move on to the next one, or if my frame of mind calls me to take a retreat, I do just that.
Writing is something very dear to me. It’s the one craft that I’d sharpen as long as I live, one that I wish I could dedicate every waking hour and turn all my attention to. It’s the only thing in which I don’t mind all the tedium, all the sweat and hard thoughts that go. If I get too busy with schoolwork that I don’t make the time to write, I would feel unhappy. It doesn’t mean that my articles are good. I’ve written plenty of bad ones, mostly because I was exhausted. I couldn’t muster the strength needed to dedicate myself wholly to make every step as good as they could possibly be.
Sometimes the bad ones were written because instead of writing with something urgent to say, I was writing to show how smart I was, even though I’m not. Because I put myself before the article. Because I believed that I was the one responsible for the ideas that came.
When I write, even as I write this article, I feel like I’m nothing but a medium. I’m not expressing myself. Rather, it’s the article expressing itself through me. I’m the guy typing on the computer at midnight with a cup of coffee on the table, but the flow of ideas come from outside of me.
As ideas unexpectedly come, often when I’m showering, walking, cycling, driving, or when I’m not doing anything, it’s my responsibility to organize them, to build a home for them, to present them in the most coherent way. And that really isn’t an easy thing to do. But it’s as if the ideas are saying, “Come on, get up. We need you. We know we can count on you.” In return I get an experience like no other as I throw myself into the work. I lose my sense of self in it, because the tedious process frees me from my preoccupations. I could leave this world for a while. It’s not about me, it’s about the article I’m writing.
As I’ve said earlier, sometimes the process doesn’t happen so smoothly, for reasons I mentioned. Yet there are also times when the process runs well, but I don’t feel like clicking on the publish button at all, or that I don’t want to tell anyone about the article I wrote. This happens when an article demands something deeply personal from me, in the sense that it makes me feel, “Who am I to say this, when in reality I’m nothing close to being worthy of giving such advice? Who do I think I am? I’m not good enough to write this” — I can honestly say that this happens quite a lot, especially when the article relates to Islamic advice or on developing good character.
I suddenly had the call to do something I’ve never done before. I read my own articles. Among them were my first two pieces on how to read more, and I also read one that was about not attaching yourself to this world and placing your dependency only in Allah.
As I read them, I felt like I was reading the words of another person, like I didn’t write a single word in those articles. When I wrote them a long time ago, I was thinking about adding value to people who were going to read them. And now, sitting in the reader’s seat, it was the articles giving me advice. It’s a funny thing when you step back and realize that you’re reading your own piece. But it didn’t feel like that at all.
My heart was filled, especially as I read the articles I initially had paralyzing doubts about posting. It made me think of how far I’ve deviated from the hard path I’d like myself to take, and it helped me get back up on my feet.
Maybe that’s another beauty of writing that I had never discovered before, that you write to help people with no intention of getting anything in return, but when hard times come, your own work come to remind you that everything’s going to be alright. The words that you gave life to become the hands that reach out to you, that help pull you off the ground.