I’ve been as prolific as I can in the month since I left CAIR. Today I updated my Issuu page and my LinkedIn page so they now have my latest publications, which include my new Muslim Voices Matter column for MuslimMatters and…drum roll…at last some new Straight Path posts. More about that in a separate post. Please check out my newest work on one or both of the sites linked above.
While I was working on my MFA I had to share feedback with fellow students and mentors. That is, of course, a huge part of the program. I generally feel ambivalent about it. When I feel people haven’t understood what I meant I struggle to slow myself down and listen carefully to their comments. It ranges from difficult to exhausting.
Now that my degree is finished and I’m free of the obligation, I find it challenging to follow what my classmates and colleagues are writing, which I primarily do via a Facebook group for Goucher MFA students. I have a problem with envy, one of the worst of all character traits. As horrible as it sounds, I often feel paralyzed by others’ successes. I believe solutions are offered in one of Albert Ellis’s books, but I don’t think I read it in detail. It’s surely one of the irrational thoughts he writes about.
Envy is considered a terrible characteristic, perhaps a sin, in Islam and there are many hadith about overcoming it. Shaitan envied man and was cursed forever; enough said.
Until I achieve mastery over my envy, however, I have decided I need to just stick my fingers in my ears and not follow the achievements of my fellow Gophers. Right now I need to stop checking the Facebook group and focus on myself. I am going to close the door to my office and write and only read the works of great authors whom I don’t know. I’ve started an essay for Creative Nonfiction’s Marriage issue and recalled that in Slouching Towards Bethlehem Joan Didion wrote about weddings in Vegas. So I took that book off the shelf and re-read it and thought to myself that I need to read only the works in my bookcase and my own writing. Can I achieve what my classmates have achieved? I don’t know. Does it matter? I don’t think so, but let’s not risk thinking about it.
I’ve closed my office door and drawn the blinds. It may make me an ugly person of poor character, but as Garbo said, I just vant to be alone.
Why the exclamation mark? I don’t know…I’m just happy to write for their website/wire service. I took a trip to Farmersville last week, got totally turned around by GPS (HATE GPS more than I did before) but made it to the Farmersville special town hall meeting. 700.3 miles altogether. I’m glad the trip was memorialized in writing. More writing about Muslim cemeteries to come. Mwah ha ha…
After three years and much self-doubt, procrastination and shaky focus, on August 2 I finally earned my MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College. My perspective on the program shifted throughout those years, which included two semesters leave when I started working at CAIR, but in the end I cranked out just enough pages to graduate (the requirement is 150; my thesis was 151) and now I have some pretty good material to polish and publish. I don’t know if it will ever become a book. My brain is resting today and tomorrow I go back to my new full-time job of freelancing.
The great news is that last week I got my first gig. I’ll be writing a biweekly column on civil rights for MuslimMatters. More about that when it is official.