Learning the Art of Writing Well

“I already freaking know how to write!” I used to say to myself when I felt my writing was monotonous, but wasn’t honest enough with myself to take ownership of different possibilities to change things. “To hell with going to school to get an English degree or whatever!”

While I am still pretty adamant about not returning to school to get a degree, I am pretty jazzed about the fact that you don’t really need to go back to school to brush up on your writing and English skills (or other languages if you write in a language other than English). There are so many programs that offer the exact courses you need to brush up online. These programs are either standalone MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, or live on platforms like edX and Coursera.
Through my state I’m able to get the certificates from Coursera for free (which you normally have to pay for), so I use that platform for all of my learning needs. With these programs and platforms there are no more excuses. If you want to be a writer and you don’t feel like your skills are up to par, there are free curricula out there to help you get better.

Now that we’re in the 2020s getting a college degree for career paths like writing and such may be a bit unnecessary. Unless your parents are paying your way through school, you get a ridiculously amazing scholarship, or your schooling is somehow paid for, I personally wouldn’t go back to school for a writing degree in any form, whether it’s English or Communications or what have you.
Some young people might want to go for the college experience, but if you’re like me and way past college age, it’s probably best to stick to the resources available, whether they’re free or cost a teeny, tiny little bit of moolah.

It was a hard pill for me to swallow, not having a writing degree tied to my name and with no intention of attaching one, but at the end of the day, becoming an author doesn’t really require that. Many of my favorite authors did not go to school for writing. Some of them didn’t go to school at all. It’s all about perspective, perseverance, attitude, and a willingness to fill in the gaps on your own.

∞ Aminah Jamil

Haruki Murakami – How His Writing Style Has Changed My Life

I’d use an image of him from the internet, but I’m feeling a bit too lazy to search for one that’s royalty-free

Back in the days when I used to read voraciously, I’d stuck to some of the more well-known female authors like J.K. Rowling, Amy Tan, and Zora Neale Hurston. I’d loved their styles of writing, but within the pages of their books, I couldn’t seem to awaken to my own. Pair that with super low confidence in my writing abilities, it seemed impossible to pull out my true voice.
A book I was recently reading on writing had a list of quotes by famous authors and writers. Funnily, the list had Hayao Miyazaki as one of the authors of the quotes, but when I went to search for him on Amazon.com, Haruki came up instead. I’d typed the name wrong and so the algorithm must have decided that I needed Haruki more than I needed Hayao.

And the algorithm was right.

When I read the excerpts from some of his novels, I thought to myself, almost literally, “are we allowed to write like this?” I could’ve cried. The quirky, smirky, mystical, and salient voice that Haruki writes in is eerily similar to the voice that I often write my novels out in my head in. It was a voice that I translated for years into something I thought needed to be tamed and tempered to be able to withstand the world in which I sought to publish in.

He writes in a matter-of-fact, unapologetic kind of way, as if he’s telling the readers, “here’s what it is. You can take it or leave it.” And I was writing in a way where I was unsure how the readers would interpret it, sort of telling them, “I’m not sure if you’ll like this, but I did the best that I could to make it easy for you to read and understand. I’m really sorry if it’s not good enough!”

After reading his work, it was Haruki that gave me the confidence to write how I now write. Years of writing inauthentically were erased by Amazon.com’s silly algorithm.

🙏 Haruki Murakami, the dopest.

∞ Aminah Jamil

365 Days of Writing Prompts

Look at that sky full of change

The biggest woe of my life has been being finicky af. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, but I could swear I have one of the two. It’s in the fact that my attention is diverted with some time, not immediately, like most sufferers, that I would say I don’t have either diagnosis. I should start calling my affliction Renaissance Deficit Disorder – a disorder where the sufferer is plagued with too many interests and too little time, so they switch from one interest to another when one gets too time consuming, they get bored, or whatever the reason.
The other side of the RDD coin is the fact that we can change our realities if we so choose. Whether you believe that or not is up to you and your desire to try it out for yourself. I’ve been afflicted with RDD my entire life, but I never once thought to try and remove it from my reality, or at least make it so that it’s something that works for me, and not against me. At least, not until today.

I’ve been reading this book called The Law and The Promise by Neville Goddard who talks about using imagination and intention to shape the future you want to experience. The book has inspired me to change the narrative around my experience of RDD.

With that, a scientific experiment: from today until 365 days from now, I will be writing short stories and poems with 365 days worth of writing prompts.

RDD begone, daily writing habit, welcome.

The success of this endeavor will mark the success of the use of imagination and intention to create the reality in which we wish to live.

All successful authors and writers say that, if we also want to become successful writers, we should write everyday, even if it’s only for 30 minutes a day anyway, so what a neat way to bring that reality to life?

You can find the short stories and poems in the Writings section of this blog. If you’ll join me in this endeavor, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to come read your writing! Together we CAN fight RDD.

∞ Aminah Jamil

Writing Again, but Seriously This Time

Back in the day, when I used to write, I was scared of all kinds of things. I was scared that people would judge me, so I would write as PC and normal as possible. I was scared that I would fail, so I wouldn’t venture into the kinds of writing that I might fail at. I was afraid that people would see the true me and not accept me or my writing, so I wrote in-authentically, leaving my true voice behind for years.
When we really get down to it, I’m quite eccentric and a bit loony. People keep me around for the crazy things I say, but, less often, people push me away for the crazy things I say. I’ve recently come to realize that, regardless, those things are better said on the pages of the things that I write, even if I do leave some anecdotes in my mouth for the people in my life to savor; the babies to my mama bird, receive these juicy worms!

One might assume by the title of this post that when I say “seriously” I mean to write in a somber or grave manner. No, not the case at all. There’s nothing somber or grave here, even when writing about death. When I say “seriously” I mean “sincerely.” I mean “authentically.” When people read my work they will know it was written by an eccentric lady, take it or leave it. It’s the name of this business now.

When I think about having been worried about being accepted, I try not to beat myself up about it. It would have been nice to never have had to worry about that, but it is, indeed, a scar upon the wall of my life experiences – something that I can’t get rid of. Maybe, even a little bit, I’m a better person for it.

To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about the blog analytics that automatically comes with WordPress, so when I started getting notifications that people liked my posts, I was both confused and amused.

I had no intention of my writing getting onto the phone and computer screens of anyone unless they found me by accident or I told them I blog and they wanted to check it out. If you have been reading these posts and liking and/or commenting on them, thank you. I definitely do appreciate it. Even with knowing that these analytics are in place, I still have no intention of writing anything other than what I feel like writing, unlike before, where I’d write to be liked.
It’s quite refreshing, though, actually. To be perfectly who I am without a care and to allow that to be reflected back to me on the pages. I’m big into inspiration, and so I hope that anyone who’s able to read the words that I not-so-delicately affix to the pages of whatever I write is able to find some inspiration there, to find it easier to be themselves in a world where conforming to standards is almost like second nature.
I’ll leave you with this quote from one of my ex-colleagues:

“If you’re scared, go to church.”

(I still have no idea what it means, but thought it might be fitting here.)

∞ Aminah Jamil

If You Ain’t First, You’re Third

Surely, as I continue posting, you, my dear reader, will find that there is no meaning to the pictures that accompany said posts. Adieu.

Recently I’ve found myself going through this weird depressive episode. In the mornings when I wake up I hate life and I wonder what’s the point, but then by around 10-11am you could call me Optimistic Olga. I’ll be hopping around my apartment with all kinds of ideas, crossing things off of my daily to-do list, and laughing maniacally.

Perhaps I’m in need of a proper B-Complex vitamin?

The truth probably lies somewhere in the crevice of life that I am currently in – able to not have to work for a while, but also worried at the same time about what should happen if I don’t find work that pleases me enough to not want to run away and hide in Morocco or Tunisia in a run down studio apartment with no AC once I begin to need to work again.

The truth probably also lies in the years of lies I’ve told myself, and that others have told me, about work and career and the necessity of it and what work would be most pleasing to me. I won’t be taking clients for my life/self-empowerment coaching consultation until mid-August. With the way the world is at the moment, it’ll be a wonder to find clients, not that I’m not confident in my coaching abilities. It’ll be more of a test of faith in that concept that says, “if you put it out there, they will surely come.”

But then there’s even more truth in the fact that right now, at this very moment, I am struggling with the decision of whether to write the novel I’m working on in first person or third person POV, and THIS, I TELL YOU, IS THE TRUTH BEHIND THE DEPRESSIVE EPISODES.

Or so it feels like. I could be wrong, but I haven’t been able to write a lick of the novel yet, because of it.

The Solution: I am a very solution-oriented person. We ain’t leaving this room until we come to a conclusive decision with a solution attached. And the solution to the first/third person problem is…drumroll please…to write the first five pages of the the novel in both.

Boom. There it is. How scandalously easy it was to come up with that. Would you believe me if I told you I came up with that idea whilst writing this post? Aww you did? That’s sweet, but I didn’t. I’d mulled it over in bed yesterday while learning some Korean alphabet, or Hangul, consonant and vowel pairings.

히 is hi like “he”
니 is ni like “nee”
사 is sa
가 is ga but it kinda sounds like ka, super hard g.

If the word starts with a vowel, or it’s just a vowel by itself, you have to write it like this:
이 or 아, which are “ee” and “ah” respectively.

Alright, onto hopping around my apartment and laughing maniacally while I am somehow super efficient with my time!

∞ Aminah Jamil

3000 Words a Day

Leaves of a tree with dew for no reason.

As I walked into the bathroom, after doing a crazy dance in the mirror and laughing the kind of maniacal laugh I’ve had no control over these days, I made the decision to write 3000 words a day. It doesn’t matter what they’re for, who they’re for, or what they’re about, but 3000 words must be written before the settling in of my bones atop my Japanese futon (something I highly recommend everyone try sleeping on at least once in their life).

A little secret about me: I’ve been writing for almost 3 decades. It didn’t come as naturally to me as it did some of my peers who’d won things like the Young Author’s contest in school, but I had to replace the lives I created with my Barbie’s with something, less I die of boredom. That’s where writing came in. It’s been a love/hate relationship that we’ve shared over these twenty-plus-some-odd years, and sometimes my heart hurts to think of all of the time I could’ve spent writing when, instead, I found myself participating in some form of self-loathing activity.

I do have to remind myself that, although I wasn’t writing fiction, I was writing something, whether that something was a blog post, a work article, an unsent letter to an ex-lover, and so on. I was still writing. Some of it I’ve saved in the illustrious Evernote, which has saved years of my writing without me having to do anything else but write in it. That brings me some semblance of peace.

Back to fiction, the love I always seem to leave, that never leaves me. Ever since the 3rd grade I’ve wanted to be a fiction author, to create interesting worlds that others could get lost in like many of my favorite authors had created for me. Every time I’d sit down and get halfway through a novel, I’d read it and there would be more holes in it than a cheese grater. It wasn’t until I was around 22 or 23 that I found out that most writers need to follow some kind of story structure in order to create a cohesive story. Aha! After all those years, I thought authors just pulled ideas out of their heads and splattered them onto the pages without having to actually have a foundation. I seriously thought all of the most famous literary writers were that talented. 

It wasn’t until then that I finally understood. But by then, my life had changed; I had many commitments and priorities, and I could no longer spend the countless hours I used to spend sitting behind my laptop, typing away at plots, character arcs, and chapters.

It’s been almost a decade, and I’m back where I left off, but this time with much more gumption and a lot less commitment going on. It’s only right that I force myself to write at least 3000 words to make up for lost time. At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself so that I can feel better about it.

Ha, just kidding. I’m beyond excited to hone my craft and write my heart out, as much as I can, pulling in inspiration from the most mundane of things. I’m also really excited to be able to share this with you, and hopefully the excitement rubs off on you so that you, too, may be encouraged to grow your craft into what you know it can be. 

∞ Aminah Jamil