Discussions, Writing

WHY WRITING MEANS SO MUCH TO ME… and why even though I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with it so far, I’m determined to keep going

Hello everyone…. I think we can all agree that at the very least, 2020 was a strange (although this hardly, hardly does it justice) year, and over the past 7 years of my life it was the first year which I did not engage in any writing whatsoever. I was overwhelmed by A Levels, and even though with lockdown I had more time on my hands, I just did not feel motivated or inspired to write (in fact, it was the very least of my concerns… simply adjusting to lockdown in a house with 7 other people was overwhelming, to say the least). I don’t want to jinx anything, but I know that the past few days have really changed my approach to writing that 2020 almost cemented in me (which was uncertainty, demotivation and lack of inspiration) and now with the second lockdown and my exams cancelled (don’t even ask about that because I don’t know what to even think lol) I feel like I almost have more room in my head to get back into writing. So really, this post is all about me talking about why writing means so much to me, why it’s so important to me that I get back into it and not abandon this special hobby to rot in the corner of my brain. I think a writer’s purpose is something that is very personal and unique to each individual – we all have our own way of dealing with things, expressing ourselves and voicing our own opinions – and every reason is valid – so I would love to hear what everyone else’s “purpose” as a writer is! πŸ™‚

I’ve talked about this several times on my blog before, especially when discussing Islamic Fiction, and I know I’ve also discussed this with several other lovely people who have commented on my posts who are able to relate with what I’m saying. As a Muslim teenage girl who embraces her religion instead of being confused and unsure about it (which a lot of people have, and disclaimer: I’m in no way dissing that because I know everyone is on their own journey and I totally respect that, I have loads of good friends who are going through that and I understand that you have to find things for yourself) I have over the years read many, many “Islamic fiction” books only to continuously see Muslim protagonists that I am unable to relate to (more on that in this post).

I understand that there are a lot of young people out there who aren’t religious, don’t understand religion, haven’t had a good experience with religion – regardless of whether it’s Islam or any other faith. I understand because I know and are friends with people like that, and I’ve spoken with them, and we’ve had many open and non-judgemental conversations (which I think is so important to be able to have) about it. But it seems to me, from the experience I have had with the majority of the books classed as “Islamic-fiction” out there, they only seem to reflect this one variation of a person when it comes to Islam. And I have to tell you… that’s simply not an accurate representation of all Muslims.

As someone who is almost the opposite of that kind of person portrayed in many of those books, as someone who is a religious Muslim but isn’t (at least I hope not lol… I try my best) judgemental, patronising, close-minded and isn’t religious because they are forced into it, restricted, know no other alternative… but because they purely chose it out of love and faith and conviction. And Muslims like this, Muslims like me, just simply are not represented enough in Islamic fiction.. and we do exist, guys, I promise! I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to live in multiple different countries, and everywhere I go I find amazing people like this, and I also find amazing people that aren’t like this… we humans are very diverse and this issue probably also links to the issue of diversity in books in general, but of course what I’m talking about is particularly specific.

And I think it’s all well and good to identify a problem, but when we see a problem, we should do our best to fix it, right? Having grown up not being able to see an accurate representation of myself as a Muslim reflected in books has sometimes been hard, but now that I’m older I’m confident that we Muslim writers can really make a change! Creating this blog and being able to talk about Islamic fiction to so many other like-minded people out there has really given me so much hope in the future of this genre! I think as Muslim writers we should work hard to break stereotypes that dominate the media, and portray a realest as possible perspective of Muslims and Islam – and for me, that is what it’s like to grow up as a Muslim who loves their faith.

Of course, this is not my sole purpose of writing. This is an important purpose of my writing, but this is the kind of purpose that has dawned on me throughout the years, and through experience has made me realise that this is what I want to do with my writing. But from eleven to around sixteen years old, all I was writing was pure fiction – and I absolutely loved it. I went from historical-fiction, to mystery, to fantasy. I distinctly remember the 200-page epic fantasy (unfinished… I think if I had actually finished writing it would have been 700+ pages) manuscript (which I actually came across today for the first time in ages and was overwhelmed with so many feelings) I worked on for a whole summer (setting my alarm to early in the morning to just type away at my laptop) when I was sixteen, brainstorming back and forth with my friend, coming up with archaic and beautiful names and developing my plot so much I thought my head would just overflow with ideas (let me know if you want to hear more about that).

So even though I’ve made Islamic-fiction the centre of this post on why I love writing and why writing means so much to me, it is far deeper than that…. I just genuinely LOVE writing. I don’t know whether I love writing more than I love reading, but I love them both very, very much and they both are a core part of me. Especially when I was younger, all I wanted to do was write, write, write and I had so many stories in my head and wrote endless (unfinished) stories that are crammed away in a file on my Google drive somewhere. I don’t just want to write more Islamic-fiction because I think representation of Muslims like me is really important, if anything, this desire is almost a side-effect of my love for writing (if that makes any sense?). Like I love writing so much that I want to be able to express myself my own way through words, to one day attempt to share with the world.

Another thing I absolutely LOVE is just the sheer power that is at the fingertips of a writer. Not only can you build worlds but you can also change minds… and that is just so beautiful to me.

So… this is my attempt at explaining my somewhat complicated reason as to WHY writing means so much to me. Most importantly, I LOVE writing and I want to use it as a way to express myself. However, I don’t think there’s any harm with reading or writing a good old story that has nothing to do with deep subjects like religion and is just… a good story (my blog is the definition of that lol) (even though I did partially end up giving up my fantasy novel because it was such a time-consuming process and I didn’t really know where it was going).

ANYWAYS, I’m sorry this is SUCH a long post I just have too many things to say!!! Please, please, please let me know your thoughts – I would love to hear them and engage in discussion with you guys πŸ™‚ Let me know what more you might want to hear from me about writing or my previous writing projects and stuff haha.

Speak to you all soon!!!

4 thoughts on “WHY WRITING MEANS SO MUCH TO ME… and why even though I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with it so far, I’m determined to keep going”

  1. Assalam U Alaikum Ruqs!
    Thanks for another great post, and Masha Allah you captured the exact same sentiments I feel. The disappointment regarding the type of Muslim representation in fiction today, the need to see someone who practices their religion out of genuine love, like me. It’s so frustrating because a lot of these narratives are of people picking and choosing their faith in order to fit in with society and their standards of fun. Why can’t we just have a 100% unapologetic Muslim? Someone who has no qualms turning down parties and ‘sexy’ clothes for a modest lifestyle? I know some will relate to the types of characters being presented, and I’m not judging anyone for that, but in order to truly claim diversity, we need to be diverse in our representation of Muslims. But I guess that’s where we come in! If we wanna see it so badly, we better do it ourselves! Now I feel like I have a responsibility, along with all Muslim writers who love their craft and wish to see different Muslim reps in fiction: if we have the vision, we should make it happen. Gone are the days of complaining. The industry is changing so much and being more accepting than ever in diverse povs. So instead of sitting back and waiting for an agreeable representation, we can very well make one ourselves and support others who share our vision!

    Your reasons for writing also resonate with me. I started writing ever since I was little, mainly for school projects, but I had a lot of fun. Before long I was writing my own stories for fun, most of them just focused on the thrill of creating something. I decided I wanted to be a writer because I admired authors who made me feel so many emotions and become so attached to their characters. I wanted to invest someone emotionally in stories too and tell tales that opened minds and touched hearts while having fun reading them. It wasn’t until 7th grade where I realized that these stories could be about Muslims. At first, I was embarrassed. I used to hide my characters’ names so no one could tell they were Muslim like me, which looking back is just heartbreaking and wrong. Once I realized that, I came up with a purpose alongside the will to just write because I like it: I want a space for young Muslims to have fun while recognizing themselves, accepting their identity, and coming closer to it. I don’t want them to have to leave their world of Islam while diving into a book. I want young readers to become aware of their religion and that it’s not something to be embarrassed about or have to hide. I want them to find proud, unapologetic Muslim characters that they can relate to, and realize that contrary to what others may believe, being Muslim is indeed a choice and one that many people are proud and happy to make. In the end, I just want Muslim characters to be referenced as casually as Harry Potter or Frodo with no negative connotations attached.
    Reading about your passions for writing gets me excited, so thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to see what else you come up with. Keep on being you, work hard, and chase those dreams!
    P.S. hope you and your family are doing well. Terribly sorry that you felt overwhelmed with A-levels, I hope you are doing better with more time for yourself now. I’m not too familiar with this A-level thing (I’m from Canada) but as a first-year uni student, I totally know the stress of applications and exams. Don’t make it the be-all, end-all. Just try your best and leave the rest to Allah. In sha Allah you will find the fruits of your labor in this world and the next, Ameen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Walaikumasalam Amina, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a long and lovely comment – lol you’ve only posted two so far but I love hearing your thoughts! ❀ Alhamdullilah I'm so glad that you agree with what I was saying, and I completely agree with everything that you said as well… we need to take responsibility for making sure what we think is so important and doesn't happen enough… happen. I also can resonate with your reasons for wanting to write – such good points! The emotions you can feel and the bond that you can form with characters after having followed their story is unparalleled and so, so, special and powerful. Honestly, it wasn't until I was around 14 or 15 where I decided to seriously sit down and write about Muslims my age… simply because I tended to write similarly to whatever book I was most into reading at the time, and none of those books consisted of Muslim characters and their Islam, so it almost felt weird to me to include Muslims and Islam in my stories because I was so unused to reading about Muslim characters and about Islam in the many fictional books I read for pleasure… which I also look back on feeling quite sad, but it's the truth… so I 100% agree with what you're saying and especially about the importance about having really good Muslim books and characters.
    Thank you so much for your support, and best wishes for you! Reading about your passion for writing makes me excited as well, and it's sooo lovely to be able to speak to someone who has the same thoughts on this as me and completely understands where I'm coming from here – and to of course read a fellow aspiring Muslim author! Inshallah you are successful in whatever you pursue – writing and just everything in general – I'm rooting for you now! πŸ™‚
    Also… thank you for the kind words – since my A Level exams have been cancelled due to the new strain of COVID, I've been feeling less overwhelmed over exams and more confused over what's going to happen next… but I'm trusting in whatever Allah has in store for me alhamdullilah πŸ™‚ I'm really beginning to realise the damaging effects of letting studying and exams consume you and how truly right you are by saying to not let it be the be all and end all, I'm definitely trying my best to focus on that now… hence, posting more on this blog and writing! Ameen, thank you for your duaa and may Allah also make you successful in whatever you do in this life and the next, ameen.

    Like

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