It’s been around six years since I’ve started publishing my writing for people to see.
I remember the first time I published something. The fear. The exhilaration. The unknown. These all combined to be one of my favorite feelings.
Over time, there are some things I’ve noticed about the way people view female writers in Pakistan. Everything is different once you write it down. Everyone will have an opinion. Sometimes, you won’t like it but you have to learn to live with it.
1. Aunties refer to you as the girl with too many opinions.
This, ALL THE TIME. This is one of the things I hate hearing most. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a strong opinion on a certain subject. It should be seen as a good thing. But here, in our Pakistani society, a woman is expected to be meek. She must be submissive. She must not speak louder than a pin drop!
2. Older people tell you not to share your work online because it isn’t safe.
This I sometimes understand. Agree with? No.
I think you have to start somewhere. If you have the power to share your opinions on a public forum, you should it. Ignore anyone that goes against you. People will always tell you it isn’t safe or it isn’t right, but don’t let their opinions affect the power of your voice.
3. Your mom might tell you won’t get a rishta if people read one of your more controversial pieces.
Because aunties don’t like girls who talk about social taboos and injustices. Aunties don’t like girls that question the norm.
4. People tell you to do something that makes more money
Everyone knows that writing does not rake in the big bucks unless you make it big time. So it comes down to money. That’s what it’s all about.
Passion be damned. Activism be damned.
Money, money gains power. It’s the only thing, no? No. A voice has power as well. And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
5. Haters in the comments
If you’re writing about women’s rights and any kind of feminism, the comments are the worst. You get bashed. Hatred spews all over your article and then you forget the reasons why you wrote it in your quest to silence the haters.
I remember someone commented on one of my articles once saying, “Feminism is cancer and you are spreading it.” Absolutely awful. A piece of advice: don’t read the comments.
6. People ask you why you write
I never have just one answer to this.
As a Pakistani woman, I think it’s important for us to share our views in any way that we can. Too often we are pushed to the sidelines, so we need to grab every opportunity we can to be heard.
7. Everyone knows everything you’ve ever thought
I usually don’t mind. But it’s as if you can’t ever change your opinion once it’s out there. Yes, that’s how I felt once upon a time, but people change. Views change.
Some people have a hard time accepting and understanding that.
8. You have a strong social media presence
It’s almost impossible to hide anything. Hit up Google and there are numerous ways to stalk a writer.
9. You always have those people that want to discuss your article in great depth
It could be that one lone commentator, or a friend, or just anyone.
10. You constantly have to be aware.
Sometimes, I’ll get sent an idea and have no idea what the backstory is and I sit there staring at my screen wondering why I haven’t read the news in two days.
11. Research tends to become your best friend
Agh, one of my least favorite things.
In Pakistan, everyone is late. Except when you’re a writer, you don’t have time to be late.
Got a deadline? You best be meeting it.
13. When you have writer’s block
First things first, there is no real writer’s block. It’s an excuse for when you’re lazy and tired and you just don’t have the attention span to write. Everyone tells you to write what you know. Which is usually the pressure of marriage.
That is, if you’re a girl in her twenties. I’m sick of marriage talk and even more sick of thinking about it.
14. Hating everything
That first draft? Crap. Second draft? Trash, delete. Delete. Delete.
15. The “favorite writer” question
I’ve had too many people come up to me and ask me, “So is Shakespeare your favorite writer?”
16. Needing to write everything down
I know if I don’t write an idea or sentence down, I will lose it. It’s always that struggle.
There have been times when I’ve been stuffing my face with biryani at a wedding when I get a really great idea (or so I think in that moment), and my phone notes are my saviors.
They’re filled with random snippets and phrases of could-be-somethings.
17. When people get concerned
When you write a really dark fiction piece and people come up to you like, Beta, are you okay? Eat some khaana, you’ll feel better.
Like come on, Aunty, it’s called fiction for a reason. Or they bombard you with questions like why are you writing when you could be cooking? It gets exhausting, not gonna lie.
18. When you ask someone to read your work
The response I usually get is a long sigh. People will just ask me to read it out to them.
19. When people ask you to read your work out loud
And out of the blue, you’re surrounded by like a million aunties waiting to hear you speak.
20. The praise
Sometimes I think it isn’t even real.
My mom shares all of my pieces on her Facebook page and somehow, she also gains more likes than me. All her aunty friends are commenting things like, MashAllah beta, you are a star. On the inside, I’m wondering if they’ve even read my work.
21. Lastly, just being a woman. In Pakistan. Questioning stereotypes.
People will always try to push you to the side. They will try to tell you that your words don’t matter. But they do.
They always will.