Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.
So much has been happening in my life lately. So many OVERWHELMING changes. I’ve rarely had the time to take stock.
So here I am.
I’ve noticed that life comes and goes in cycles. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Good days. Bad days.
Currently I’ve not had much success in the screenwriting/film-making department.
But I’ve been through long fallow periods before. I have hope.
This is a profound change for me. Choosing hope over despair.
It’s something I learned from Brene Brown. To paraphrase, if you numb pain, you also numb joy and hope. So I’ve decided to let both in and give them dinner and dessert.
So who is hope?
Hope is the good stuff. Makes whites whiter and colors brighter. Hope is a daring emotion. It takes courage to feel hope.
Because we all have that nagging voice in our heads. “Take all this joy down a notch. It’s not meant for you.”
How freaking disrespectful. Of course, it’s meant for me. Why else would I be feeling it?
So I’ve decided that I’m going to try pretty much everything and see what happens. No harm, no foul. And lots of hope. It’s a beautiful emotion and I want more of it. And oddly enough, that’s in my hands.
Who then is disappointment?
But of course, there will be disappointment. That hurts like a dentist’s appointment. Nothing will soften that blow. Except the memory of hope. And God.
Say it with me – nothing.
Put down that bottle. Put down that chocolate cake. No. Get away from that hot guy or girl.
It’s real. It’s here.
But it’ll go away. And then we’ll pick ourselves up and get back to work.
Notice I didn’t use a conditional sentence. I hate scolding. And being scolded. I know you’re a screenwriter. As am I. We hurt very deeply very often but we always get back up in the end. I have no doubt. Thank God!
Life comes and goes. Joy comes and goes. This is one of the great trials of this world. A friend once told that the good thing about bad things are that they end. And the bad thing about good things is that they too end.
Maybe this is why I believe in God. He never really goes away, no matter what I do. He’s always there to talk to.
Here’s another tidbit from the Internet that gives me hope.
Don’t be fooled by life’s outcomes.
I’ve spent so long thinking I was a screw-up because goshdarn it, I just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. But none of it was really my fault. Nope. None of it.
Ultimately it’s all dumb luck. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in fate. So it’s all God’s grace.
Maybe one day, He’ll smile on me too. That’ll be a great day.
Till then, I’m going to hope. It doesn’t hurt. It heals.
This has been another joy-coated pain missive from your very own….
Happy (and Hopeful) Muslimah
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Assalam alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatahu!
I’m deep into a comedy pass for Whose Wife Is It Anyway.
But I keep getting distracted. The past few weeks I’ve been distracted by sudden illness and moving to Rhode Island. (Which is beautiful and awesome and only 3 hours away from New York, which I have always wanted to visit, but that’s a story for another time.)
I wanted to get back into it. To do the best I can with the very limited time that I have.
That means not just locking the door to my home and my workspace, but to my heart too.
Locking the door to my home and my workspace is accomplished easily enough. Literally lock the door and the windows. Hide the TV remote (we didn’t have a TV in our home back in Denver, but we have one in this hotel room) and disconnect the Internet.
Locking the door to my heart? Now that’s a tough one.
I’m going to guess that everybody has different things that get under their skin.
For me, it’s outrage.
Something happens. Somebody is forced to endure a racist or sexist incident or otherwise dehumanized in some way.
This usually makes me upset. Very upset.
And so I’ve sworn off the Internet (to a great degree), especially Facebook and Twitter. Someone else will have to fight a few battles extra – I’m sure there’ll be quite a few voices to take my palce.
Talking to certain people drains me. Some of these people, I can’t avoid. But others I refuse to speak to, until May 5th (Yes, I know the Nicholls and Sundance deadlines are May 1st. I need a few days’ holiday, okay?)
Performing certain household tasks drain me. This is where it helps to be married.
Performing certain other tasks drain me – but really I can’t make my husband take my place at the dentist.
Sure, all of this can get a little lonely. That’s why I open the doors again after six pm and let everyone and everything in.
I usually spend the time before dinner and bed in quiet contemplation more than arguments anyway. Writing is emotionally draining enough as it is!
In any event, I think it’s a good idea for everybody to be okay with being by themselves and alone with their thoughts. It’s been the defining struggle of my adulthood – learning to love and trust myself. That battle, I’m still fighting everyday. But I think, I pray, I hope that I am much further on than I used to be.
I’m focused on finishing this project. It’s going to be done God willing! Done, done, done! I really can’t wait to put it out in to the world and see what happens.
Now before anyone comes charging in to pee on my parade, I am fully aware that it’s not likely to gain much or any success. But I’ve learned SO SO much from writing this movie, it’s a huge success already in my book. Ain’t nobody going to take that away from me Insha Allah. I’m sure the feedback I get will help me figure out what areas need work in my next projects.
My brain has been buzzing with ideas lately – mostly with left-field romantic comedies. I find myself getting distracted from my 1-location screenplay Birthday Cake (haven’t even started writing that one properly) by these ideas.
It’s a little annoying. But I’m going to count that as a blessing. Better too many than no ideas, right?
Anyway, I’ll leave you to it. It’s after 6 pm and I can open my doors again.
Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,
The Happy (to be alone) Muslimah!
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.
Assalam alaikum wr wb,
So help me God, I hate movies.
Day after day, week after week, I watch trailers, I look at posters, I scan the cinema listings hopefully, looking for something worth watching.
Less than nothing. A slap in the face. A grab for my wallet.
I’m not interested in franchises anymore. I’m not interested in movie stars. I’m not interested in explosions.
I am not interested in shock, awe, blood, gore. I am not interested in laughter or tears. Those are empty emotions and can be triggered by practically anything I pull up on YouTube.
I would like a story.
How do you define a story?
A story means something to you. Not to me, the viewer, the ticket-buyer, the audience member, the cat-caller. To you, the story-teller.
Why do I love listening to my parents tell stories? Because they are joyful in the telling and I can see it in their faces. And through that joy, I begin to understand their values, their experiences, their beliefs, however different we are.
As we began to stop telling each other stories, I understood them less and less and we fought more and more.
The fact is, story allows me to empathize in a way that no other medium has achieved.
That is why I hate everything that is in the cinema right now. It’s a blatant insulting play for profit. It desecrates story and the power of the human spirit.
I don’t mean to say that stars, explosions and high drama are bad things. I think they just have to be used in the right way.
I loved Michael Clayton. It showed a veneer of real filth underneath a sterile world. It showed two men coming apart at the seams. Yes it had George Clooney and Sydney Pollack in it. But it was a great story.
I loved Ides of March too for much the same reason. It seemed real to me.
I follow the work of Ryan Gosling, not just because he’s an incredible actor, but mainly because he has a knack for picking exceptional projects. There has not been one movie of his that I’ve seen that I’ve not enjoyed and that I wouldn’t watch repeatedly and that I wouldn’t badger my husband into seeing.
So why am I ranting on a Monday morning?
I’ve been generating ideas for The Quest 2013.
There’s plenty of literature on how to test a concept for the marketplace. I particularly recommend Save The Cat’s program of market research.
The question is – how do you know if a story concept is right for you? How do you gauge your level of passion for it? How do you know that it’s touching some deep dark place rather than simply treading tired old ground?
This isn’t just about generating the passion to go the long haul with each project. It’s about having a product at the end, that no matter what happens, you can be proud of. Because you poured your heart and soul into it. Because you told the truth, no matter how much it hurt.
That sort of energy will sustain a career, in my opinion, and that’s what I’m cultivating.
To that end, I’ve been asking a lot of questions about each idea.
As a viewer:
- Why would I watch this movie? What elements would make me book that ticket in advance?
- What elements would make me avoid this movie? What makes me shriek much like I did above?
These two questions allow me to really get to the nub of what sort of experience I want as a movie-goer.
As a writer (this is the clever bit):
- In what ways is this idea within my comfort zone of my abilities, interests, previous writing experience, etc?
- In what ways is this out of my comfort zone in the same ways?
It’s maddeningly simple, but for me, it’s helping me shape a story that’s been knocking around in my head for months now.
More importantly, it’s helping me commit to that story. Because I know why I’m writing it. Even if the telling is mediocre and the reception is poor.
Let me know what your thoughts are. And for God’s sake, if you’re a filmmaker with a movie that means something, please tell me about it. I’m starving for something real.
Wasalam and Fee Amanillah (in other words, Godspeed),
The Happy Muslimah
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Assalam alaikum wr wb!
Man, it’s been a wild year huh?
Early January this year, I went to a cousin’s engagement. On our way back to Colombo, my family’s car got hit by two buses. That’s right. Not one. TWO.
Isn’t that wild?
Alhamdulillah, everyone walked away from that accident.
I got a good knock on the head, though, which resulted in a dramatic swelling of my face as the blood from my head injury fell down into my eye sockets.
The effect my face had on people was hilarious. I scared children and made women cry.
I look back on that incident and I have to say, not only am I grateful, I am terrifically happy.
As odd as it sounds, we couldn’t have chosen better timing and a better location to have a disaster. Our entire family was on that same road home. From wherever they were, they all turned around and came back to aid my mom and dad. I can say with utmost certainty; there are far worse places to have a mild concussion.
I can’t remember much of the 12 hours or so after the accident and even in the weeks after, as my brain recuperated, my short term memory was a bit wonky. My big brother (who specializes in emergency medicine) said there’s nothing to worry about; I probably felt drowsy. Thinking back, waking up in the middle of conversations just adds to that hilarity of the situation.
But my parents were not that amused. They were fully conscious, terrified and anxious.
The capital-F Fear has lasted a bit too long. It’s been almost a year now. My father is still frightened to drive, thinking he fell asleep at the wheel that day. He tells me, “I’m too old to drive. I am too tired. I am too distracted. ” The Fear cripples him.
Why was I capital-H Happy? Why was he Afraid? Was it because I was unconscious? Was it because I was naive? Was it because I simply didn’t care?
Recently I have been quite fearful myself. A recent social engagement left me crabby and shaking.
I have been watching my ‘I am’ statements recently and found there is a shocking prevalence of a kind of self-smack talk. “I don’t like new people. I am not good with new people. I am not good with unfamiliar situations. I am a nervous person. I am a shy person.”
I thought of something else I’d learned recently.
Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. My father always said that. And I think I am fine.
I’ve heard this many times, but honestly it’s only made sense now.
These fearful thoughts have probably become my character. A photographer once told me she was surprised that I am a comedian because I was so timid.
“Like a mouse?” I thought at the time. I wasn’t angry; I was just sad that my Fear was so evident. Still I managed to have a kick-butt photo shoot.
On the morning of that social gathering, I sat very still and quiet and listened to my thoughts.
I was frightened of other people. I thought they would hurt me. I thought they would prey on my vulnerability. I thought they would bully me.
Good Lord, where did these horrid thoughts come from?
I’m not going to blame anyone else. I’m not going to blame some monolithic culture for branding a tiny South East Asian woman with stereotypical qualities.
Wherever they came from, they must be stopped. Because I don’t want to ‘become’ frightened. I don’t want my destiny to be shrinking away in the corners of rooms, waiting for someone to notice me and being scared when they do. Allah Subhaana Wa Ta’aala is my Protector and His world is too big and too beautiful Mashallah.
I’ve learned that my friend Fear doesn’t leave when asked. He doesn’t leave when yelled at. And he doesn’t budge, even if you tell him to go back where he came from.
I have started changing my thoughts consciously. I’ve started to turn “I am shy” to “I am hopeful”, “I am thoughtful”, “I am observant”, “I am peaceful”. Nothing wrong with not talking. When you listen you learn so much about so many new things. When you consciously listen, it takes a bit of hard work. You have to shelve your ego and give the other person the space to express themselves. I’m still trying but Alhamdulillah it’s a richly rewarding experience.
The day of the accident, I was happy because I wasn’t alone. That day and all the days after that, every time I woke up someone I loved was there. It was like the world’s best Facebook picture slideshow.
And the only person who was hurt was me and I knew it wasn’t that bad. You know when something inside you is changed forever and Alhamdulillah that didn’t happen that day.
That particular week, I was just grateful for every single silly little thing, from my parents to TV, from boiled eggs to pain medication, from hugs to the wind, to beautiful confusing Sri Lanka to lovely and infuriating Dubai.
Hopefully insha Allah in changing my thoughts, I will change my character. Hopefully insha Allah I will nurture peace, whether my friend Fear is with me or not.
That, more than anything, is my intention for 2013 insha Allah.
Have a blessed year. Have a blessed life insha Allah!
Wassalam and Fee Amanillah.
The Happy (and fully healed) Muslimah.
(Picture from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net)
Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu
Allah (SWT)’s mercy be on you, dear owner of eyeballs. I know lately, He is definitely been showering it on me.
About 7 years ago, I started writing a science fiction/fantasy novel in college. It was the project of my college years, wildly ambitious, spanning dimensions and planets and species. I attempted to tackle subjects of which I had barely any knowledge or experience – consciousnesses, quantum physics, identity, physicality, race, religion, society, culture. My imagination knew no bounds.
I continued this novel into 2008. But somewhere along the line, I decided I wanted to be a screenwriter. I have been struggling with that art form ever since.
But that story I once was so invested in still haunts me. Its characters have bled into some of my screenplays. My first feature had its main characters as some of its supporting cast. I found myself loving these characters and these stories, missing them, though I hadn’t looked at those word documents in four years.
I moved to Denver, Colorado. Yeah I know. It shocked me too. More on that later.
My husband talked about a fresh start. New freedoms. Away from countries and people whose relationships carried too much baggage.
I found myself thinking of my sci-fi novel again. Thinking that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. That I should finish it.
I looked back at my notes. Dayummm. I had an imagination Mashallah. I had courage. I was more insightful than I thought. But I didn’t trust myself. I let that snarky voice all writers have tell me how crap I was. How no one would ever read my novel. How I could never measure up to Vonnegut or Octavia Butler.
But why should I even try? I’m not the wonderful, effable, laugh-till-I-cry Vonnegut. I’m not the amazing, brave, beautiful Octavia Butler. I’m Sabina Giado. Adjectives yet to be written insha Allah.
That’s what killed my project all those years ago. Reading those beautiful people and feeling despair instead of inspiration, hope, rejuvenation.
Science fiction is about hope, not misery. Science fiction is about possibility, endless, untold possibility, limited only by our imagination, not the blackness of despair. That’s why I love science fiction. That’s why it resonates with me somewhere below my belly button. That’s why I plunge into libraries looking for Mr. Vonnegut like he was a friend I haven’t seen in years. (I haven’t. I haven’t read a Vonnegut novel since I dropped my sci-fi novel in 2008. Just picked up Breakfast of Champions.)
But then there’s screenwriting. Good Lord, I’ve invested time, money and hope in my screenplays. I’ve met people in coffee shops, trying to pitch them my work. I’ve wrote and wrote at all hours of the day and the night. I’ve read hundreds of articles, listened to tons of podcasts and roundtables, watched videos and films, though admittedly only read a few screenplays.
I feel like I’m on the cusp of breaking through. A little more reading, writing, learning and listening and maybe I can write something truly great.
But that’s odd. You see, what I wrote there? ‘Something’. Not ‘a screenplay’. Just something.
My study of screenwriting has helped me in tons in my storytelling abilities in general. I can spot bad characterization, overwriting, underwriting, a terrible ending or climax. I can also spot genius or an incredible mastery of craft. Both on screen or in a book.
I know what works with me. What I’d like to watch – or read – and what doesn’t.
As you can see, I feel like I have quite a dilemma.
Maybe I should try writing this bad boy for a while. What have I got to lose? Everything that comes out of me is from Allah (swt) anyway. Perhaps He wants me to finish this novel. One way or another. Inner critic be damned.
Plus, my last screenplay was about difficult emotional subject matter and really drained me. Maybe writing this novel will be like a working holiday. I might figure out I love sci-fi more than so-called ‘dark’ comedy.
I’m familiarizing myself with my characters again. It’s like I’m meeting them after a long time.
I’ve decided to simplify the structure a lot. I’d like to simplify the goals and the science of the extra-terrestrials too.
Most of all, I’d just like to worry less and write what feels good, regardless of how little or much I think I know.
Lord knows, none of us will ever really know enough. We can just do the best we can with what we know.
Insha Allah it’ll work. Or not. It’ll still be fun insha Allah.
Much love and happy writing.
Peace and the protection of God,
The Happy Muslimah.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.
Assalam alaikum wr wb, sister or brother.
I am going to do something I don’t do enough. I am going to be honest.
Brother and sister, I am truly too exhausted to make art.
It’s been a draining couple of years. My life has felt like a train-wreck and I have been trying desperately with my petty mortal hands to control it.
I have expected situations to be different but they haven’t been. I have expected people to behave a certain way but they haven’t. Things have changed when I had hoped they would stay the same. Things have stayed the same when I have prayed they would change. But the details are unimportant.
My feelings are not. I have disappointed, sometimes angry, exhausted all the time.
I’m sleeping like crazy. I can’t eat. I can’t think. I have absolutely no creative energy to tackle anything long-form like a screenplay or a novel. The thought of a deadline makes me want to vomit.
Alhamdulillah I have written some poetry, though.
I think it’s about time that I took an extended period of rest. Regroup my spirits, learn to forgive myself and others, find my footing a little maybe. Or learn to just let it slide and accept Allah (SWT)’s plan for me.
As soon as I say that though, some strange demon in the depths of my belly stands jumping up and down, making scratch marks in my inside, shouting with the voices of my parents, a thousand teachers from over the years.
“You have no right to relax! People like you, less-than-geniuses, have to work your butts off to get anywhere – I mean ANYWHERE! – in life! Full tension every day all the time! That’s the price you pay for being born the way you are.
What have you achieved in your adult life? Nothing.
Has your writing changed anyone’s life? No. Not even your own.”
(This is not true. I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself and others through my work. Though it has been private, it has definitely been transformative.)
“Have you made your mark on the world? Like your heroes, Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye and Ani DiFranco? Have you made any of those mind-blowing films you keep dreaming of? Have you rivaled Mr. Scorsese or Mr. Kauffman? “
(Is it really necessary for me to change the world? I thought my work was for Allah (SWT). Then it simply is what it is, the story truer than the truth. It’s my duty to tell it, whether anyone cares to listen or not. Whether it changes anything or not.)
“What don’t you have enough of? Time.
What are you getting? Older. You’re 25 years old, 26 next month. Every day brings you closer to middle age and motherhood. Increased responsibilities, lower energy levels and your already poor time management skills will simply fall apart under the pressure.”
I ask real people for advice and it is always conflicting.
“You’re trying too hard.”
“You’re not working hard or smart enough.”
“You’re too young.”
“You’re too old.”
“You don’t give yourself enough credit.”
“You’re resting too much on your laurels.”
I find myself facing a mountain. Make this film. Write this screenplay. Find collaborators who are as excited about your work as you are. And for a while, I feel energetic. But then something happens, not really a discrete incident but just something else. Something outside of me. Maybe my father calls and or my mother or some boring administrative task takes up my entire day and my body just sinks beneath despair.
I feel like the world doesn’t want me to write or create. Perhaps Allah (SWT) is trying to tell me that my destiny is to be mediocre and house-bound like a not particularly cute cat.
I find myself fighting with the people I love. Not being able to tell them how I feel. How lost, alone and confused.
It’s time I took a little time off from the rat-race insha Allah. Whatever I’ve been doing hasn’t been working. This means finding a new path. Maybe recalibrating my beliefs. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing. On the contrary, I think the fact that I’ve written so little has contributed to my exhaustion.
I’ll worship a lot more. I need it more than I think.
I’ll exercise too. Take long walks in nature. Run around after children (will somebody please lend me their children kthx), kung fu, kickboxing, aerobics maybe.
I’ll spend a lot of time outside of my comfort zone, especially when it comes to people and my interactions with them. Maybe I’ll try explaining spoken-word to my husband LOL. Yesterday, I showed him “When Love Arrives” and his mind just went blank.
And yes I think I will spend a lot of time writing. I will try insha Allah to rediscover the play in art, try to refill the well a little bit. Maybe I will work on a long-term project but as something fun, not as something that’s ever going to see the light of day.
I’m not going to be telling you how it’s going because the aim is not for it to be going anywhere.
I’m just going to be myself for a while. I’m going to find out what that means insha Allah.
Wassalam and Fee Amanillah.
Picture by Danilo Rizutti
Assalam alaikum wr wb, sisters and brothers,
So I’m on my way out of the city of my birth, never to call it my home ever again. My husband is happy and excited, well, because he loves me, bless his heart.
Me, I’m caught between excitement and fear. Sometimes, even anger.
I’ve been wondering why I feel so powerless. I wonder where the tide of life has taken me as if I were so much driftwood.
And anger fools me into thinking that I will gain power again, by rage and intimidation.
But that’s not true.
The fact of the matter is, I made a choice – and a truly blessed one it was too Mashallah. As with most choices, there are changes. I always knew these changes would come. I just didn’t think it would come so quickly and they might even hurt a little.
After some reflection and prayer, I’m at peace with my choice now. I‘ve started to notice things about my beautiful city – the tall buildings, the hundreds of different kinds of people. This afternoon, I watched the patrons of a roadside cafeteria with fascination for a good half hour, making up stories about the uncommonly well-dressed delivery boy and the smoking colleagues.
I’ll miss these winding streets, so familiar I could drive through them with my eyes closed (I won’t, I promise). I’ll miss these strange but familiar people, from all over the world, just as confused and in-between as I am.
I’ll miss my mama in the morning, grinning so wide her drenches almost fall out, standing in the yard waving my dad goodbye.
I’ll miss my silly older brother and his Xbox and obsessive TV watching.
I’ll miss daddy, bionic eyes, slow driving and all.
When I’ve finally learned to love you as you are, it is time for me to leave.
So long, Dubai. I’ve loved you since I was a child. And I always will.
Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,
The Happy (though tearful) Muslimah.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Assalam alaikum wr wb and howdy.
There are some movies that just get you. That crawl into your skin and stay there. That touches a nerve. And you keep returning to them over and over again trying to figure out how it works.
I didn’t expect Crazy Stupid Love to be one of them. I expected it to be a star vehicle for Ryan Gosling’s abs.
But it was a surprisingly vulnerable, sweet, non-cynical movie. About, oddly enough, crazy stupid love. I got the product advertised AND I wasn’t disappointed. Score for the Hollywood star machine!
I am personally sick of one-note female characters that are about as deep as a puddle. Many people however fail to realize that, as the foils to their male counterparts, these flimsy characters simultaneously cheapen the male character who romances them.
Now I’ll admit the women in this film didn’t have much to do. This movie failed the Bechdel Test resoundingly (though frankly I have my reservations about that test). They were, as always, the receptacles of male desire and nothing more. We only hear the men’s side of the story and not much else.
But somehow there was a little more at stake here. Cal was Emily’s soul-mate. As Jacob may well be Hannah’s. Call me love-struck, but that’s hugely different. Even if it wasn’t alluded in film time, that gives the impression of a shared history, a shared LIFE. That’s no small thing to share. Even if the women were simply plot devices, in the ‘real’ world, they would have been much more.
Okay, let me get into what I really love about Crazy Stupid Love and leave the complicated stuff aside for now.
- A man was treated like a piece of meat and hated it.
Throughout the movie, the camera lingers lovingly on Ryan Gosling, tracking slowly up to him in a very well-cut suit as he munches on pizza.
I’ve only ever seen that kind of shot used on women.
At one point in the film, Hannah orders Jacob to take off his shirt. Jacob is distinctly uncomfortable; he even asks whether he can put it back on again.
Now he knows what the women feel like.
- The same man was treated like a complete human being and loved it.
Moments after this scene….well, I don’t want to give anything away. There was a strong emotional connection between Jacob and Hannah that moved well beyond the physical. It was so refreshing to see something other than ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ between two people under 30 on screen.
- A man became a womanizer and hated it.
- A man admitted desperate unhappiness.
And it wasn’t an emo support group moment. It was simply a change from being lonely to not. And everything that he’d missed became clear.
- Women recognized what they wanted and went after it.
Both women in the film did precisely what they intended to do. They didn’t doubt their power for a second.
- They later realized they made a huge mistake.
Women are always under pressure to be perfect in every single way. Sometimes what you want isn’t what you need. You find that out in a strange twisted way. Fate’s funny like that.
- Genuine good humor and affection in the war of the sexes.
Where’d the love go? Seriously. I thought we were all in this human boat together. Cal and Emily didn’t treat each other like enemies, even though they didn’t always get along. They were always vulnerable with each others. Tears welled. Voices shook. There were never any secrets between them.
*sigh* Now that’s love.
Godspeed and protection.
The Happy Muslimah.
Bismillah ir rahman ir Raheem
Assalam alaikum wr wb, everybody!!
It’s so easy for me to get side-tracked from writing. With wedding planning reaching hysterical levels, Mashallah, I’ve given myself a holiday from my work. But! I shouldn’t! That’s why it’s called my work!
Do you know the Hadith about small consistent acts being greater than big inconsistent ones?
“The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “The dearest of actions to Allah is that which is done regularly, even if it is small.”
I have been thinking about that and how easily and beautifully the Sunnah about traditional Ibadah can apply to our work as well.
How do we make something consistent?
The same way we consistently do our prayers or read Qur’an.
The actions build on each other. Each step magnifies the benefits of the one that preceded it before we finally give our salaams to the angels that protect us, having done our duty to our Creator (SWT).
The same approach could be taken with our work.
- Pick an iron-clad time you will worship Allah through your art.
Is it in the morning before your family wakes up? In the night-time after they go to sleep? In the bus/train/car-pool on your way to work/school?
All we need is quietude, time and a readiness to work. What’s the best slot in your day for that?
For me, it’s crazy early in the morning after Fajr, Qur’an reading and 20 minutes of aerobics – well before my parents wake up. I can do my work a good few hours before my mother’s shriek sunders me from my concentration. I love her, but the woman has a voice that would make the dead moonwalk.
If that isn’t possible for any reason, I make maximum use of the few hours my parents aren’t at home to get some solid work done.
- Prepare yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.
In Salah, this might translate to making Wudhu, setting an intention or learning new du’as to recite in prostation.
In writing or the making of art, this might translate into setting a goal and envisioning the joy of reaching that goal daily. It could mean saying a small prayer to the One that Gives all provision. It could mean writing morning pages, sharpening a skill, exercising to get blood flowing to your brain and eating a healthy breakfast. Most important of all is preparing yourself for the ups and downs of the business of art – the writer’s block, the networking (that’s my LEAST favorite part) and the rejection (over and over again).
- Subordinate all resources to achieving that goal at that time.
My goal during Salah is to worship Allah (SWT), Insha Allah. That means no distractions. Phones go off, doors are closed or a quiet corner is found. Parents, children, spouses and colleagues are told what prayer looks like and what we need to achieve it – that means no talking.
I imagine to truly pour yourself into your work, you would need to do something similar; channel all of your resources into achieving your goal.
What are your mental, physical and spiritual resources?
Once you’ve listed them, how can you best channel them into making the best art you can?
Since art is a social product and meant to be consumed by the community at large, perhaps engaging those social resources becomes exponentially important.
Here are some suggestions:
Ask your family to leave you alone when you’re in a corner with your laptop, when you have a sign on your door or on your forehead, when you’re in your garage messing around with wood.
Ask the most critical member in your family/friend/professional circle to look at your work and give you their worst (at the very least, it’ll humble you. At the very most, it will let you know what emotions are actually induced by your surrealist expressionist papier mache sculpture.)
(That’s actually really cool. If a sculptor is reading this, please consider doing that.)
Ask an Imam if the art you’re making is worthy of a Muslim.
- Remember to thank Allah (SWT) for the gift of another day at work.
If art is truly Ibadah, we will never know if our good deeds are accepted till Judgment day and the Dunya is a poor indicator of Allah (SWT)’s pleasure with us. Hence, it is best to leave the outcome to Allah (SWT). The only way we can guarantee fulfillment is taking pride in the work itself and our mindset as we approach the work.
If it’s good, if it’s bad, if it’s ugly – remember to thank Allah (SWT). Just because it came out.
Making art seems a lot like what I imagine giving birth is like – a struggle but also a great joy, a great gift from Allah. Like children, our art will try us in every possible way – before, during and, for many long years, after their birth.
(As you might have guessed, I’m rethinking that 7 kids thing.)
All of this ties down to fighting Shaitan who causes us to despair, what Steven Pressfield would call resistance (The War of Art is an incredible book which I would recommend to anyone who’s ever tried to tackle a challenge.)
If we are the stage of our Iman where we would accept no excuse for missing our Salah, if we truly think our art is what Allah (SWT) has destined for us, perhaps we should apply the same rigor to it.
Today, right now, I make a commitment to write at least an hour a day. It’s the least I can do to get things done.
Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,
The Happy (and Insha Allah, productive) Muslimah.