Tell Your Story

A writing tip from Jennifer Zobair

To write something compelling, you must speak your truth and be fearless.

This is, of course, easier said than done.

Few of us are immune to the voices that crawl into our heads when we write. Co-workers who don’t swear. Mothers who will read our sex scenes. Mullahs who will abhor even a minor gay character.

What will they think?

You must show them the door, either gently and firmly, or with a swift, slamming motion. One way or another, they have to go.

The best way I know to accomplish this is to tell yourself that none of them ever needs to read your work. It is yours. Your thoughts are your own. They don’t become any less private by committing them to paper. It’s the equivalent of writing a lousy first draft. You know you’ll fix the rough transitions and choppy dialogue before anyone sees it, but first you need to get it down. Similarly, tell yourself the bold, exposing parts with the potential to shock or offend can be redacted.

In the end, if you’ve been brave and thoughtful and demanded much of yourself, you may be left with a bright, blazing thing you want to share, naysayers be damned.

Because if one of you must be, I think we can agree it will have to be the naysayers.

Tell your story, the way it’s meant to be told, the way your gut tells you it must be told. Worry about the rest later.

Tell your story.

Jennifer Zobair grew up in Iowa and attended Smith College and Georgetown Law School. She has practiced corporate and immigration law and as a convert to Islam, has been a strong advocate for Muslim women's rights. Jennifer lives with her husband and three children outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Painted Hands, forthcoming June 2013 from St. Martin's Press, is her debut novel.



Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they’ve thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn’t count on? Unlikely men and geopolitical firestorms.

Click on the cover to visit the book's Amazon page.

5 comments:

Paul said...

"Tell your story, the way it’s meant to be told, the way your gut tells you it must be told. Worry about the rest later."

So true, and yet so difficult to be brave. Great post and great advice.

Paul

Aniket Thakkar said...

I see you're getting wiser with age!

^That's as close to a compliment you're going to get from me. :P

jennifer zobair said...

Thank you, Paul! I often have to remind myself.

And Aniket, I'll take it. I think. Also, where is your entry??

Aniket Thakkar said...

I still have 6 days, right?

I've been caught up with things. Shifting office. Shifting house.

Also, after last years spectacular failure, I didn't want to put in a disappointing entry. I wanted to put in some real work into it. So far haven't been able to come up with anything.

I do intend to submit anything that I can manage though - disappointing, or not. :)

Sarah Hina said...

Because if one of you must be, I think we can agree it will have to be the naysayers.

This is beautiful and brave and I love it with all my heart.

Writing is as much about facing your fears as telling a story. Both require immense effort.

And when they work together, you have a book like Painted Hands.