My 2017 review is divided into 3 posts.
- The first focuses on my personal and creative updates.
- The second concentrates on my online presence.
- The third includes my new year’s writing goals.
#1 Personal / Creative Review
Books Published Internationally and TEDx Contributions
Last December, I celebrated the publication of the first book I wrote that was accepted by an international press. Fountain of Youth is the 2016 Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Award Semi-Finalist and is available from Vine Leaves Press, Australia. I am very happy to conclude 2017 with another international publication. Mischief Diary is a collection of funny short stories for young adults and it is available from Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press, Qatar.
My TEDx contributions are another highlight of 2017. In September, I presented “Perception is Only an Ink Stain Away,” at TEDxAlShuwaikh, which took place at Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center (JAAC) in Kuwait. In the following month, I presented “The Beauty of Friendship” at TEDxCanadianUniversityofDubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Poetry Performances and Talks or Lectures
I intend on documenting my progress more efficiently next year. Recalling every appearance in 2017 was not exactly difficult, but it wasn’t quite straightforward either. My journal mentions most of them, but I also had to cross reference with my other social media platforms to see if I missed anything. Turns out I did. I forgot to mention my poetry performance and motivational speech at the New English School on March 9, 2017, and my feature at Gulf University for Science and Technology’s Poetry Night on December 7, 2017 – I found both on my Instagram account but not my website. Moreover, my PSA for the US Embassy is available on my Twitter page but not in my journal. Etc.
In brief, I gave 12 poetry performances, and made another 12 appearances – these include lectures, talks, or readings from my book, Fountain of Youth. Some of the events that stand out are the following: participating in two major local literary festivals: Gulf University for Science and Technology’s GELL conference titled “Translingualism;” and The American University of Kuwait’s Biennial Literary Festival “Migration, Identity and Cultural Transformation.”
Collaborations with other writers, or other types of artists, as well as non-artists, is something that I am especially grateful for this year, which began with writing a poem inspired by Dr. Shahd Al-Shemmari’s book Forget the Words at the Divan, and ended with a collaboration at Artspace Café – I shared my poem exclusively with my readers list. In between these 2 collaborations, I also worked with the US Embassy and Dr. Ed Simone, as well as the brave women of Abolish Article 153. Along with two other Kuwaiti artists, I was selected this year to kick-start a campaign organized by the US-Embassy to raise awareness on intellectual property rights. And of course, this section would be incomplete without a heartfelt shout out to my friends, Kuwait Poets Society, with their creative and consistent collaborations with musicians and other forms of performance artists across the country.
How I Spent My Time in 2017
I found out around October that I had completed only 45 books, so I made it my mission to continue with the ones I discarded halfway through. In total, these amounted to 25, making the total number of books read by the end of the year: 70.
Nonfiction comprises the largest portion of these. Most of the nonfiction books were in the areas of spirituality and mindfulness. Poetry makes up the second largest category of books. Unfortunately, I only read two novels this year: Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, which I disliked, and John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down, which triggered negative memories. It brought back images of my depression and thus I cannot say I enjoyed it or even recommend it to anyone. I attempted to read two other novels but completed neither. I keep saying I would like to read more fiction during the year, but after scribbling out my writing goals for 2018, I realized that fiction will continue to occupy a peripheral position in my calendar. Still, I am hoping I can squeeze more in! And I would like to be more active on Goodreads next year as well.
Not sure how many exactly, but I spent hours studying online (Kabbalah University, Udemy, and YouTube’s Yale courses), listening to a variety of podcasts, and learning from the Great Courses series on Audible. 2017 was a cornerstone year for me. This year, I intend on building on top of that base. Knowing now what I want to study, how and when, and most importantly, why, I can spend 2018 centered on specific objectives. The last post in this series includes my new year’s writing goals. In short, though, I aim to improve my translating skills in Arabic and English, and to utilize all my online study hours in learning a new language.
Movies and TV Shows
With Netflix, however, I was able keep track of my activities and to note down the amount of hours siphoned from my schedule. I watched 19 new shows, some of which were short, with a single season (like GLOW, which is probably my favorite thus far), and some with consecutive seasons (like Jane the Virgin) demanded a more time-consuming commitment.
I watched movies too, but in the second half of the year I began hosting a weekly movie session for my family. This added to my movies-watched pile, but more importantly, it diversified the heap as well. Take the following collection as an example: The Princess Bride, Saving Private Ryan, Steven Seagal’s 1992 movie Under Siege, and Pulp Fiction, to name a few. The real shocker was Road to Terabithia which had me crying buckets! In sum, I watched 47 movies including standup comedy specials, single documentaries, and musicals.
My lesson? I need to spend less time on Netflix and more time outdoors, in the garden, on the beach, meeting new people, consolidating bonds with family and friends, and more importantly, giving back to my community! Even if I choose to stay in, I should invest my Netflix time in other activities. I already mentioned that I would like to acquire a new language this year, but it also goes without saying that I would like to write new manuscripts and revise works-in-progress. In other words, to focus on my writing catalogue.
Traveling & Finances
I traveled to Dubai a few times, Prague, Bahrain and the USA. I used my savings since my job hunting didn’t go as planned. None of the offers I had lined up for me before 2017 panned out during the year. I also took on a freelancing project with an ‘entity’ that demanded I prioritize its work, but it did not reimburse me after. It’s been a whole year now and we’re still going back and forth discussing finances. I learned never to undertake a project, even tasks I enjoy, or to work with clients, even ones I respect, before hashing out all the kinks and agreeing to them in binding documents beforehand. This year I pledge to honor my time, and my effort, and to establish my boundaries myself.
Speaking of money, I discovered new ways to be charitable. I donated to new institutions, supported new causes, and used my platform to inspire my followers to do the same. Charity has always been a big part of my life, but this year I committed to tithing 10% of all my income and to distribute it across both local and global charities, to help humans and animals, and to alleviate the pains of people who suffer from the conditions of war and those who have been victimized by structural violence. I also set aside an additional 10% for tips and acts of kindness throughout the month.
I didn’t freelance a lot this year, because I had to preserve my workday for the entity that ended up consuming most of my time. I published a few articles however with Fanack Chronicle of the Middle East & North Africa. See, for instance, my article on Kuwait’s Anglowaiti music scene. Next year, however, I will invest my “writing time” in my own creative projects. This applies to translation as well, which I dabbled in this year. I found out that I enjoy translating from Arabic to English, and next year I hope to develop the skills to translate vice versa.