Talent and the mirror

by | Sep 16, 2015 | Shahnaz Blog (Previously They Throw Rocks)

I think I’ve always considered myself a writer.  Not always.  Since I was about 13, I would say.  I remember a conversation with a friend about how well her sister wrote; she showed me some of her essays for school and that’s all it took.  I was fascinated.  I wanted to weave those words into intricate patterns to make it seem like the author really knew what s/he was talking about.  Writing became crucial to my identity.  I felt I would only be a second rate person at best, if I didn’t write.  Somehow, writing well meant bragging rights, and who didn’t want bragging rights?  I think I started writing poems;  I wrote other things too.  I was fascinated by the story of Moses and I remember re-writing the story in my own words.  I was going to submit it to a writing contest in the newspaper, but never did.  I never really lead on to anyone that I truly enjoyed this new thing I was doing.  Bragging rights or not, I felt a strange compulsion.  No one told me to put pen to paper.  I just did.

I remember when I came to America, when everything felt new and out of place, my written word served as my clutch.  I wrote.  Anything I could think about, I wrote about. In college I remember I would explore short vignettes.  Random stuff.  Between studying, I wrote.  It was around that time I felt I maybe identified myself as a writer.  I say “maybe” because I couldn’t convince myself that I was good enough.  At 16, I started the first 2 handwritten pages of a novel, that didn’t go further than that. So, I couldn’t be an author or write a book, but I just kept writing.

I think somewhere in my 20s, I figured it out.  It wasn’t about bragging rights at this point.  I had started writing at 13 because it was cool, but nothing propelled me forward except myself.  I tried to pin it down as to why I wrote so much.  Why did I continue to write?  One day, the answer hit me in my face.  I write because I can’t help it.  It was at that moment I realized that the words I was cooking up came to me because they did.  The stories I wrote about came because I didn’t have a choice in the matter.  It was a part of me.

In my late 20s, I started to take writing more seriously.  I took some courses and tried to study the art of writing fiction.  In Indianapolis, I even started a writing club.  We met at a church every Tuesday night and we had rules about submissions and discussions.  It was this club that helped propel me to start writing my first novel, which is still not finished (75K words later).  Funny thing with life;  it throws curved balls at you and makes you balance and surf through storms and you find yourself immersed in a new, terribly disturbing situation.  When I lost my job and was very much in the process of losing my marriage, I lost something far more significant in the shuffle.  My words.

10 years ago, that 75K novel, called Color Of Rain, died.  Well, didn’t die, the characters just left me to go to the other side.  Words failed me.  I stopped writing.  For the first time in 20 years, I stopped writing.  That is an inaccurate statement.  I think I wrote little bits and pieces, poems and sorts, but I felt I wasn’t writing anything major.  I had gotten to the point of trying out for the majors and suddenly I was punting at the little leagues.  So, yes, I would say I wasn’t really writing.  I wanted my novel and I wasn’t going to have it.

That’s when I met my husband.  In normal circumstances, the person that I was, would not have considered hanging out with someone like my future husband.  The carrot he dangled was something no other man had dangled in front of me – the challenge to write again.  He introduced me to the medium of writing plays.  I worked at it.  I have written 1 full length and 3 short plays so far.  None have been produced.  I look at the other playwrights and their plays and I meet my talents eye to eye in a mirror.  Do I stack up?  No.  Not really.  My husband thinks so, but what does he know?

I have to be honest with myself.  I don’t have the best stories to tell.  Someone can make an amazing heart wrenching story about a cat that walked the street.  My story would be:  A cat walked the street.  Period.  The end.  I guess deep down it hurts that I don’t have it in me.  I have to live by my own saying.  You do the best you can.  So, for now, I have to say, I’m writing.  This blog has gotten more words out of me; that’s great.  Where to from here?  It’s pretty much doing what I can’t help; putting words together to make sentences.  Little at a time, about this and that and waiting.  If nothing else, it keeps me moving forward, talent or not.

Until next time,


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