How Novels Portray Consciousness

All writers of fiction are engaged with consciousness in fundamental ways. For starters, what we write comes from our consciousness. At the same time, we invent consciousness for characters in our novels. Novelists try to convey inner feelings in words, and expressing inner experience in a true and meaningful way seems like quite a tall order. Ever since the first novels were written, authors have done this in different ways. In his book, Consciousness and the Novel, author and literary critic David Lodge explores how the study of human consciousness has changed over time, and how this effects the representation of…

Writers in Pajamas: Why You Should Not Be Embarrassed For Working From Home

It’s funny how many writers are embarrassed of the UPS guy finding them in PJs in the middle of the day. In a recent article in The New York Times, Evan Hughes writes about the rise of the Writers’ Space, which is exactly what it sounds like: a space for writers to work, “a cocoon that protects its inhabitants from a world where most people regard writing, with some reason, as a peculiar and dubious hobby.” Working at a Writers’ Space, you can avoid the embarrassment of the UPS guy coming and thinking, in Hughes words, this guy just writes all…

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alammedine, a Review

72 year old Aaliya Saleh has only one mirror in her apartment, and it is smudged. “I don’t think we need to consult Freud or one of his many minions to know that there’s an issue here,” she says. “I begin this tale with a badly lit reflection.” But it is clear enough for her to see that she has unwittingly dyed her white hair, blue. Aaliya has lived alone in her apartment in Beirut for all of her adult life. She is divorced and childless, the ‘unnecessary appendage’ of her family. Alone in her apartment, Aaliya reads the hundreds of…

Flow, the Science Behind Having a Good Writing Day

You sit alone and engage with half-formed thoughts in your mind, hoping that some will spill coherently on to the sheet or screen before you. At some point after the inevitable self-doubt and blankness, the words start to fall in place. You begin to find the right words. Sentences pour out of your consciousness. Paragraphs come gushing forth. Ideas weave together, folding and unfolding in letters and punctuation. You feel as though you is outside of yourself, and for a time, nothing else exists. It is an exhilarating feeling, and it leaves you feeling drained yet satisfied. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has spent his career studying this experience of…

Review: Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Dani Shapiro is the writing mentor I wish I had. In her memoir – Still Writing: the Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life – Shapiro, a writer as well as a teacher of writing, describes the simple act of sitting down to write. How can someone read (let alone write) an entire book about this? Try it, and the simple act of sitting down to write can encompass the entire world. In chapter-snippets from Reading and Patience to Cigarette Break and Envy, Shapiro explores the formidable space between the desire to write and the repeated act of putting words down…

Reading a Book is like Falling in Love

I love serendipitous moments. While I was reading a book and falling a love with it, the character in my book described reading a book and falling in love with it. And it was during Ramzan (or Ramadan as it is known in the Arab world.) Why is that last part relevant? Read the beautiful passage below. The book is Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman, a portrait of a 72 year old woman living alone in Beirut. Ah… the deliciousness of discovering a masterwork. the beauty of the first sentences, the “what is this?,” the “how can this be?,” the first crush…

The Writing Life. It’s Harder Than It Sounds.

I am awake. My husband has left for work. I am out of bed. I have made my first cup of tea. The familiar sounds of water boiling, tea bag bobbing, spoon clinking against cup, sugar dissolving. The cup makes a thud as I place it on my desk and sit down. I flip my laptop open. A blank document pops up. I expand it to fill the screen. I have shown up to work. I take another sip of tea. Settle into my chair. Stare at the screen. The cursor is blinking. I can hear someone sweeping stray leaves…