Things seem to have gotten rather busy lately. I feel like I’m not as active in the blogosphere as I used to be, but there is a good reason for this!
I have written a story.
Well, it’s only a short story — four pages to be exact, though it is handwritten and double-spaced too — but it has taken a very long time to write. I went through four drafts in total. (The number four seems to be a thing here. Too bad the story only has three characters.)
The reason it took so long to write relatively little, and why there are so many drafts is that it is entirely in Persian. It was inspired by my favourite sentence that I’ve learnt so far, which translates to “the fox is standing in the snow” (roobah dar barf istaadeh ast). I learnt that sentence from the website I’m using, which gives me a “word of the day” every day, and sample sentences/phrases with each word. (Search for “Persian Pod 101” if you’re interested in learning too. It’s been alright so far.)
When I saw this sentence, my first thought was that I’m surely never going to have any use for it. But I learnt it anyway, and I wrote it out for my friend/tutor (MM), and such hilarity ensued that I have become quite fond of the sentence. Whenever someone asks me to say something in Persian, it is my go-to sentence.
And, of course, everyone’s first reaction when they hear that I’ve learnt this sentence is that it’s a very strange sentence to have committed to memory because “when the heck are you ever gonna use that?”
But now I’ve used it in my story, so I think that puts that question to rest.
Besides, it’s not just the actual content/subject of the sentence that matters – it’s the sentence structure. It might just be me, but constructing sentences in Persian has proven to be rather tricky. It’s good to know vocabulary, but you need to be able to make sentences if you want to write a story or communicate in any way.
Since I’m learning Persian very informally, and predominantly in an autodidactic manner, I don’t have a very good foundation when it comes to sentence construction. When I started learning Persian late last year, I initially set out to learn as many words as I could. I learnt all the basic phrases like “please” and “thank-you”, how to count, how to say the days of the week, and many, many nouns.
What I needed, though, was verbs.
And the other things that go in sentences, like connecting words, and words that indicate subject/object or location or the relationship between one word and the next.
Between the website I’m using, and my friend MM, I had learnt some words of this nature, but my grasp of sentence construction was (is) not very solid. As a gift to MM, I wanted to write this story independently of her, to show her my progress and diligence, so I had to avoid asking her how to write this or that. (And, yes, it was also partly for my own gratification to write the story all on my own.)
So I went back and looked at sample sentences. I think I kind of worked out standard sentence patterns, and where to put particles like “ra” (which indicates the subject of a sentence) or “az” (which is kind of like the English “of”), and when I didn’t need those. But it still took such a long time to write certain sentences because I deliberated so much on where each word goes (and also because I had to look up several words along the way).
When I was in school, I learnt Japanese for about 4-5 years, and in Japanese you have all these words like “wa”, “wo”, “de”, “ni”, etc, etc which you put after nouns, before verbs, to indicate place/time, etc, etc. My Japanese-trained mind kept wanting to put place-holders everywhere, and it was up to my critical mind to figure out when they were unnecessary.
I wrote three drafts in as many weeks (or maybe more) before I gave it to MM to read. The feeling of handing over my work to her was not dissimilar to when I started sharing my first novel (part of me still wants to call it a “novel-length story”) with a small number of friends. I was chuffed that I actually finished it, but also kind of nervous, like I’d exposed some vulnerable part of myself (my ego?)
And although MM had to make corrections all over it (mostly issues with verbs and tenses), she said she was proud of me, and that’s really all I wanted.
It took a few more weeks to go through all the corrections, and rewrite everything to produce the fourth and final draft; but it’s all done now (and hopefully correct), and I have given MM a copy as a keepsake.
And now, of course, there’s the question of what next? I think I need a bit of a break from creative writing (it can be an exhausting process), so I’ll go back to trying to read the Persian edition of The Little Prince that she lent me. I will probably try to write more stories, but I’ll wait and see when inspiration hits again …like a fox in the snow.