Kuwait, Musings, Writing

Athnain Magazine: A Polished Thought Experiment

ATHNAIN COVER 3b

So a couple of weeks ago I got word of the fact that one of Kuwait’s most highly anticipated and editorialized magazines, Athnain (Arabic for ‘two’), would be available to order in Kuwait via Tap (I believe you can only access Tap from your smartphone for the time being) and I pretty much made like the wind to snag that sucker!

Now, like many other starry-eyed Instagram onlookers, I was deeply fascinated by the way everyone had covered the launch of the magazine and the way that Athnain itself had created an identity which revolved around the notion of cultured individuals exploring Kuwait’s untapped and unexposed artistic endeavors in a way that was both meaningful and different.

Lofty aspirations? Sure. But, from what I previewed on Instagram and all the other social media buzz, Athnain seemed to have just the right amount of daring confidence and alternative prowess to pull it off. I was honestly the very picture of human excitement when I received a launch invite and all but kicked myself in the shins when the universe so sinisterly kept me from attending.

But after getting my hands on it, Athnain (at least the premier issue) seemed to read more like a polished thought experiment than the purposeful expression on new modes of art, creativity, and identity in Kuwait that I had initially hoped it would be.

And, sure, ‘a thought experiment’ is not an overtly negative term–not by a long shot. No matter what angle you’re coming from, Athnain will challenge or probe your mind in one way or another. That is good for society by any measure and it’s an admirable effect for anyone to have. It just slightly underwhelmed me and maybe that’s partly my fault too (although that would mean I should lower my standards to appease someone else’s ineptitude, so no). And, hell, ‘thought experiment’ could speak for a whole host of different experiences.

So, because I know that different people buy different magazines for different reasons, and because I don’t ever want to come off as a Negative Nancy (I’m honestly not, I just think the key to a good critique is an open attitude), I’m going to briefly tell you guys what to expect from whichever brand of ‘thought experiment’ you’re particularly interested in getting out of Athnain. It goes without saying, of course, that if you’re not super interested in the concept of thought-provoking media (and it’s totally fine if you’re not–I am an absolute connoisseur of reality TV trash, so I’m not about to judge) then Athnain altogether just might not be for you.

Beautiful, Musings, Writing

On Chasing Salmon (Or Writing The Tinderbox Project)

MR. PLOT

As you guys may know, a few months ago I decided to start sharing with you all some of my creative writing in a fiction series called The Tinderbox Project. This was a piece of writing that I came up with specifically for this blog and for you guys. The series has recieved so much love in emails, comments, and elsewhere, and I’m so pleased to see people take a real liking to it.

Unfortunately, the last time I updated The Tinderbox Project was 4 months ago. 4 months is a very long time. 4 months is damn near inexcusable because I’ve actually been writing the series for a lot of that duration. Yes, there was a brief stint of writer’s block but, really, I’ve gotten my writing legs back a good while ago and have been tirelessly churning out the creative word power ever since.

The only reason I haven’t updated The Tinderbox Project yet despite all the progress is this:

The more I write it the more that it loses the plot. Seriously. The more time and energy I invest in this fiction the more that its been proving itself to be an independent life form of its own. I know that sounds stupid–and IT IS stupid because ‘Hi! You wrote it with your own finger-tapping hands!‘–but writing The Tinderbox Project has honestly become a sort of transcendental experience for me.

A very deeply frustrating, difficult, transcendental experience. Especially when it comes to this plot business. I compare it to trying to grab a salmon. A big, wet, unwieldy salmon. The more I clutch at it and try to get a hold of it, the more it slips out of my fingers and I go chasing after it in anger yet again.

But now I’ve decided I’m not going to try to catch the salmon anymore. Instead, I’m just going to share it with you guys and follow it into whatever murky water it takes me.

But how in the world am I (or you!) supposed follow a plot when the plot disappears for pages on end? In reading and writing The Tinderbox Project, I kind of feel like the text is sticking its tongue out at me and at my familiar way of understanding plot. It is as if an outside voice is saying: What a mess you’ve made of everything by always harping on story, story, story! Because the reality is that our actual perceptual and thinking lives are so much more unpredictable, kaleidoscopic, unaccented, wandering, and always bumping against an outside world that, for the most part, doesn’t really know anything about us.

We all think that we muse constantly about our love lives, our jobs, our children or our dead parents, but is that really the case? Isn’t our actual thinking much more coincidental, serendipitous, filled with eddies and flows, with all kinds of random materials, than we care to admit? How much weight does ‘the important stuff’ really carry?

I mean, try comparing the version of yourself which exists in your résumé with the drifting, random noise that is incessantly being produced inside your head, and ask yourself: Is this noise me? Am I this noise? Where are the clean lines that I see on my résumé?

Or, try focusing on all the big, important events of your life, and mix those events with your actual living. You won’t get very far before you get overwhelmed by all the stuff about yourself that you never knew or even thought of.

You’ll either get run over by a passing car, or completely ignore those around you, or you’d just have to table ‘the big story’ (youth, love, work, family, death, etc.) so you can move on with your day. Because, after all, there’s work to do, places to go, people to deal with, money to make, food to eat, living to accomplish.

True enough. I mean, some of the best stories ever told are ones that very lovingly dwell on ‘the big story’; but how much space do those aspects of your life truly take up? If you had to draw a huge chart of all the time you actually spend tending to the needs of either heart or soul—as opposed to stomach or wallet—what would that chart look like?

Is your life like a structured plot line? A pretend scenario where only important things happen, where you are only ever thinking about the great issues, where every encounter is life-altering, every word exchanged is meaningful and resonant, every gesture significant?

No. Because life is not like that. And if life is not like that, then why the hell should my writing be any different?

So I’m going back to sharing The Tinderbox Project with you guys. And I’m officially jumping on this crazy roller-coaster ride with all those who care enough to join me.

All my love!