That's not the kind of start you want to go with when you're speaking to a bunch of undergrad writers. But I didn't stop there.
"I hate writing as much as I hate reading!" I told them.
After the hesitant giggles subsided, I went on to explain to them what I meant.
I was giving a short talk to the students of the International Literature Class at the University of Iowa as part of my participation in the International Writing Program.
If a writer tells you that writing is a joy, know that they are lying. Writing is associated with misery and here's why:
When you're not writing, you are miserable.
When you are writing, you are not happy with what you're writing.
When you finish a piece, you find it horrible it is.
When you publish your work, you think of how you could've made it sound better.
Get the picture?
When it comes to reading, well. We were brought up associating reading with school textbooks and homework. Anyone who's gone through government schooling must've grown up hating books. We never explored the idea that reading can be for pleasure, and not just punishment.
At home, my parents had a big wall library full of all sorts of books on religions, politics, history and philosophy. My father kept insisting that I should read. The idea never appealed to me. Later on in life, I discovered that I can read what I want, when I want, for nothing more than passing time.
Following the talk, a bunch of the students asked me about the short story 'The Red Hand' which they had read as part of their class. I was both honored and flattered by their comments, questions and responses.
Here are some of them:
"From the cryptic description of the Red Hand in the beginning, I was on the edge of my seat" - Matthew McLaughlin
"Your story intrigued me from the beginning. I thought that this story was a metaphor about our society and the way we look at inspiration," - Aubrey Davidson
"First of all, I must say I really enjoyed your short story, 'The Red Hand', as it was very good at hiding it was going to be a short horror story, instead opting for a more traditional mystery novella kind of feel," - Akira Mizobuchi
"Your story was so descriptive and realistic," - Erica Jennings
"Your story left me fixating on this idea of whether it's worse to know or not know," - Kelsey Chingren
It was a real pleasure to speak to these bright young things and I was pleasure with the way they responded to my story and my talk.
I ended my speech by saying that the less we know, the more we discover. And it's that notion that kept me going as writer. I wanted to discover things for my self. My life was defined by NOT doing what I have been told to do.
Photos by Asma Nadia