by Fatima Al Aryani
I have always wanted to write a novel with awesome characters and a unique plot. There were times when I would imagine that a small light bulb had appeared atop my head; this is when my mind would get frantic with new ideas for my novel.
With a sizzling excitement, I would make my way to the laptop, open a fresh word document, and begin typing. My fingers would fervently beat against the smooth surface of the keyboard, while I would focus on the story.
Day after day, I would lift my laptop screen, and my fingers would, once again, dance in the same ardent manner—just as excited as the day before. However, slowly and steadily, I felt this spark decline.
Each day, the fire within me appeared to extinguish on its own, yet I could not understand why. Why was my vigour towards the story I had planned beginning to diminish? Was it the characters? Had I not dissected them as deeply as I should’ve? Maybe it was the the plot. Or maybe it was just me? Maybe the reason I didn’t love this story was because I just wasn’t a good writer to begin with.
After working on each plot for a few days, I would discard it for reasons I myself could not understand. Perhaps this wasn’t the fantastic idea I wanted to write about.
As time went on, I would get new ideas, but, as always, none of them would be satisfying enough.
I just couldn’t seem to understand why.
If there was a resemblance in the nature of my writing process, there must be a resemblance in the stories I was telling, I thought to myself, there just had to be.
This is when I read about the infamous notion of the “single story”—the narrative of identities, races and people. This idea portrays an entire identity or race of people in one standard manner. I then realised that there was a single story that I was consistently repeating through my writing. A single story that was completely unlike my own story.
I am a 17-year-old Emirati muslim woman. My main characters were white and male. Why I had unconsciously revolved every tale that I thought of around the same sort of identity, confounded me. That is until I realised it was because of what I had been exposed to as a writer and as a person.
Growing up, the majority, if not all, of the stories that I had read were stories of straight white men, of white picket fences, and of the all-American dream—stories that I did not relate to on any basis whatsoever.
I hated what I was writing because the stories I was writing about held no true meaning to me—they were not my story. Although, the literature I was exposed to my entire life shaped some aspects of my personality, it didn’t represent who I was. I realised that I was writing stories of other people instead of my own. Only after this revelation did I begin to find true joy and meaning in writing.
I don’t understand why it took me so long to figure this out; it truly wasn’t an entirely revolutionary thought. We’re always told to focus on what we’re best at, on what we know, and on our qualifications. So how come I never applied that to the stories that I told?
After realising this, I began writing my true story. Only now I understand what it means to tell a story. Only now do I comprehend what it means to truly love the art of the written word.
So, if you ever find it difficult to write, just take a step back and think—“What’s my story?”