“A gentle word opens an iron gate.”

– Bulgarian Proverb –

Words can fill a reader with magic and wonder. They can conjure up landscapes, visions, and characters that are vivid and tangible. Stories entice us into worlds, often far removed from the lives we inhabit. I have always loved words: the way they feel on my tongue when they are new and I am uncertain how they should be pronounced; the musical quality they achieve once my tongue curls around them with a sense of familiarity; and the way they curve and stretch themselves out on paper. I fill scraps of blank paper, colourful index cards, and notebooks with them. I stop short of scribbling on walls.

I have recently been asked by blogger friend Lani if I would like to participate in the Writing Tour, which is currently doing the rounds amongst bloggers. The questions that are posed intrigue me, as they focus on writing and the processes writers make use of. I don’t often give much thought to how I write, but it is something that I have been reading about a lot lately, so I said “Sure. Why not?”

Lani is one of those really interesting people one gets to meet in the blogosphere, and I was lucky enough to have met her in person in Chiang Mai, Thailand earlier this year. The name of her blog “Life, the Universe and Lani” is fitting for her quirky writing and outlook on life. This is how she introduces herself on her blog:

Reader’s Digest Version for the ADHD inclined:

American. Asian. Expat. Writer. Teacher.
Overall, alright gal to be around.
Blogs about: Chiang Mai, and the ‘Rai, Thailand. Writing. Creativity. Asian & Girly Stuff.

As part of the Writing Tour I have to answer four questions: What am I working on? How does my work differ from others of its type/genre? Why do I write what I do? How does my writing process work?

My blog is essentially an expat blog, although I always write posts that highlight my traveling adventures too. It originally started only as a way for me to document life in the UAE, and to allow my family and friends to get a glimpse into the life we are living here. I have come to realise that we tend to see the world not quite as it is, but as we want or believe it to be. My writing is thus a reflection of what I believe the world looks like. I look at it through glasses tinted with my beliefs and values, and no matter how objective I try to be, my voice will never be able to completely hide these. There is a fine line one has to walk between allowing one’s unique view of the world to colour one’s stories, and the desire to stay neutral; to simply show the reader what something looks like, and allowing them to make up their own minds. Too much colour and the reader will perceive you as biased and ranting (not quite the qualities I am striving for), yet, not enough colour will deprive the reader from feeling connected to the world one is sketching. I am not in the habit of comparing my blog with those of others. I think if one honours one’s own voice and avoids following ‘recipes for writing’, every blog will be different without trying to be so.

I am hoping that my voice, through my writing and photography, is an authentic one that has the ability to wake up a cocktail of emotions within the reader, whilst leaving them with a sense that they have just paid a visit to another place. Not many people have enough money, time, or even the inclination to constantly travel, yet, when writers write well, they have the ability to take us with them. I am striving to be one of these writers, hoping that every day’s session of laying out words on paper will hone my skills just a little bit more. I admire travel writers like Pico Iyer and Paul Theroux for the skill and beauty with which they create enduring artworks with their words.

I am often thinking of or tinkering with a new blog post, and try to post about every 7-10 days. I simply do not have more to say than that. My life is one that is quiet and content. I fill it with writing, reading, and thinking. Yoga keeps me grounded and able to function, while a social morning once a week feeds my soul with the joys of good company. I don’t rush around trying to do too much. I have long ago learned that I like to live on the fringes of life as a quiet observer, instead of a joyful participant. It is from this place that I write.

When I decide on a topic, I usually scribble down words in the form of mind maps to explore different possibilities. Whenever research is needed, I consult various notebooks that I keep for this specific purpose or Mr Google. I always verify research, and often leave out facts if I cannot. I try to get a first draft out as quick as I can – allowing words to gurgle, bubble and flow freely. I choose and resize the photographs I want to use, and add them to those places in the post I think they best suit. And then I let the post and my brain rest. A day or two later I start the tinkering process. Rewriting and rethinking what is already there. And so I alternate between resting and editing until I am happy. I rely on Editor Bob (my husband) for catching grammatical errors, which I fix as quickly as possible, especially as this part of the process usually only happens after the post has been published.

I am often asked if I will eventually write a book about our life here, and my answer is always, “I don’t know. Maybe.” I have now lived here long enough to have a variety of things to write about, but I am still not sure that it will be enough to make for an interesting read. I am perhaps, in many ways, still too close to my subject matter, yet, I need this closeness to be reminded of the myriad of interesting things that makes life here so different for us. Because of this paradox I have started to put my thoughts on paper. Everything that I notice, that I think of, that I find interesting. Maybe later, who knows, a book will be born, but for now I am simply living, observing, and writing. That is enough.

The following two bloggers, whose blogs I enjoy reading, have graciously accepted the challenge to participate:

Gwen, or Garrulous Gwendoline as she calls herself on her blog, is vivacious and witty. She writes when she travels and when she is at home in Australia. She doesn’t bind herself to just one genre, but immerses herself in travel writing, stories, and memoir. Her voice is one that manages to mesmerize, and reading her blog is a simple delight.

June lives an interesting, conscious life, which is reflected in her passions and writing. Originally from Ireland she now calls Lithuania, where her husband hails from, home. Her blog centres around, as she herself puts it: Food. Country Life. Travel. Photography. Perhaps I love it as much as I do, as it nourishes my own longing for a little piece of land on which to grow my own food.

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I recently took my camera with on a walk through the neighbourhood. The gates and doors leading into modern-day Emirati properties are often impressive statements of wealth, but gates in general also often conceal the hidden or mysterious in life. It invites us to step out of what we are familiar with, and into the unknown or unusual.

 “Back on its golden hinges

The gate of Memory swings,

And my heart goes into the garden

And walks with the olden things.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox –

“Still around the corner there may wait

A new road or a secret gate.”

– JRR Tolkien –

“Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.”

– Kalil Gibran –