Do you remember the first book you ever read?

Do you remember the first book you ever read?

Remembering the very first book you have ever read might be impossible.

Not for me. I do remember.

I remember the first book I read.

The very first book I read in English, a language that is not mine.

The book was Super Fudge by Judy Blume.

A second-hand copy was brought to me by my father, who found it while scouting one of the street markets in Zarqa, Jordan.

That was back in my home country of Jordan in the late ’80s, and finding a book in English was rare.

My dad was very proud of his found treasure and insisted that I should read it to improve my English.

“This is a rare book,” he told me. “I’m sure it was left by some expatriate. You can’t advance in life if you don’t know English.”

I hesitated a first.

It was a book in English, an impossible mountain to climb, thought my 11-year self. Eventually, I conquered my fear and devoured every single page of the book.

Ambivalence and appreciation

More than thirty years later, I found the same book at a Free Little Library in our suburban Maryland neighborhood. I immediately grabbed it, ran home, and showed it to my kids while telling them the story behind it.

They briefly looked at it and then put it aside. To them, there was nothing special about this book.

They were surrounded by hundreds of books in the land of abundance.

My kids’ ambivalence didn’t diminish the special bond I had with this book.

Thank you, SuperFudge, for teaching me that having little has its perks.

That having a modest upbringing makes you develop a special appreciation for many things that people take for granted, like books.

I finally ate that frog and wrote this article: Takeaway from a bestseller

I finally ate that frog and wrote this article: Takeaway from a bestseller

I have been procrastinating in writing this article for a while. No one to blame but me. Inertia takes the best of me sometimes. Today I have finally decided to go ahead and eat that live frog and finally do what I preach.

After reading the classic productivity book Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy (I know, I know, I’m late to the party), I get why it has sold more than 500,000 copies.

It’s a short book that gives you practical advice on how to be more productive during the day and not use the cliche term, work smarter, not harder.

The central theme of the book revolves around the idea of finishing your most important, dreaded task first thing so that you can achieve a higher ROI and get momentum to continue with your other tasks (with a lower ROI).

The idea of “eating that frog” comes from Mark Twain, who once said: “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

Brian Tracy says:

“Your frog is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate n if you don’t do something about it.  It’s also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.”

Key takeaways

Keeping that fundamental concept in mind, here are the top five takeaways I got from Eat that frog:

  • Plan every day in advance: This definitely one of the top productivity tips I personally believe in. Part of my night routine now is to look at my calendar for the next day and make sure  I block at least some time for deep work to “eat my frog” of the day and eat it really well. 
  • Apply the 80/20 Rule to everything:  This is also called the “Pareto principle,” named after its founder, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who noticed that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results.

 What does that mean?

Here is how Brian Tracy explains it:

    “Often one item on the list of ten tasks that you have to do can be worth more than all the other nine items put together. This task is           invariably the frog that you should eat first.”

  • Identify your key constraint: It took me a while to understand the importance of identifying that was causing me to procrastinate on some tasks was friction. I live in a small house with a total of five people, there is not enough space to have a dedicated room for an office or a studio.

    Every time I had to film a YouTube video I had to move my desk (which is in my room) around, set the lights, the microphone, and all that jazz. It’s a lot of work before I actually do the work. 

The minute I placed my desk permanently in one location (that gives me enough lighting) and invested in a selfie mirror that you can just place on your desk, I didn’t have to move furniture around anymore, and I just get to filming. This made filming videos much more enjoyable and reduced my procrastination time.

  • Slice and dice the task: Diving a big task into small ones is a must and make it less stressful. For example, I’m ghostwriting a memoir now and it’s a big project with a tight deadline. Instead of adding to my To-do list: “Work on the memoir” I add subtasks within that project. 

        The subtasks include:

     – Creating a timeline in Scrivener.

    – Listening to the first recording on Otter.

    – Taking notes from the first recording and adding them to the relevant chapters in Scrivener.

    – Editing the chapters that were created after the first recording.

You can’t eat your meat or your frog all at once. You will choke. Dividing it into small pieces will make it more malleable 

  • Single hand every task: I was mistakenly a firm believer in multitasking. I would foolishly tell myself, I’m a mom I can multitask for sure. I will get more things done.

Later I realized that yes, while you can change a diaper while you are on the phone, and cook a meal while responding to text messages when it comes to the live frog, you have to get into deep work, you have to get in a state of flow, and this state won’t be achieved with multitasking.

Now when I work on my frog of the day, I put my phone on focus mode, listen to focus music (Currently listening to Hans Zimmer music) and place a TimeTimer on my desk to keep me on track. My productivity and the quality of the work that I produce have tripled when I do deep work and when I single task instead of multi-task.

So, are you planning to eat a live frog today? I encourage you to do so!

Bon appetit.


Surprise, I adored this science fiction book

Surprise, I adored this science fiction book

Science fiction is not a genre I enjoy much, but Klara and the Sun by Noble Prize winner Kashu Ishiguro is one of the books that will stay with me for a long time. It’s a story told from the perspective of an artificial intelligence machine (AI) called Klara who was assigned to keep the company of a teenager named Josie.

They all live in a dystopian world where kids are being “lifted” to give them a chance at a better life so they can excel in education and get better jobs. Most of the kids in this dystopian world are homeschooled, so they are lonely and socially awkward, hence comes the role of the AI or AF (Artificial Friend) as they call it in the novel. Klara, who is the AI or AF, is always watching over Josie, who happens to be sick all the time seems to be getting worse.

The book also has a love story between Josie and her next-door neighbor Rick who seems different from the other kids in Josie’s vicinity, which adds a whole layer of complication to their relationship. Klara finds herself stuck in a dramatic situation that involves Josie, her mom, and another shady character who is working on what we’re told is a portrait of Josie.

Klara has a special relationship with the sun. She needs the sun to power her and give her energy, and also she seems to be worshiping the sun in a godly manner. Her relationship with the sun plays a significant role in the novel that I won’t get into it now, so I won’t spoil the book for you.

Overall, This was an enjoyable, fast read.

Do AI’s have feelings?

A lot of concepts to ponder.

Do AI’s have feelings?

Shall we fear that AI might take over our livelihood?

What will the future hold with the increased presence of AI and robots?

Can there be a bond between a human and an AI? One thing I would have wanted is for the book to be a bit longer, with more details. For example, I don’t know if AI’s fall asleep in this world, and if they do, how do they keep themselves occupied while the world sleeps?Do AI’s change clothes? What kind of clothes do they wear? I also wanted a more physical description of the AI.

So question to you?

Do you like science fiction books?

I’m not a huge fan, but Klara and the Sun is different.

Below is a video in which I review Klara and the Sun.


Should fiction writers air dirty laundry?

Should fiction writers air dirty laundry?

As fiction writers, sometimes we fall into the trap of everything being permissible when it comes to writing, that the sky is the limit, that we can create build as we wish. We give birth to characters and kill off others.

We can do to our heart’s desire, but is that true? That question has been haunting me for a while. When do we draw the line when it comes to fiction creation, or do we even have to?

During a recent conversation with young Jordanian-Canadian author Sara Badawieh, I asked her about the concept of “airing our dirty laundry” in fiction and if fiction authors should do that in the name of telling an accurate story?

My question came in reference to the domestic violence/honor crime plot in her most recent novel Dalia.

Are we, as authors, specifically as Arab/Jordanian authors, risk empathizing negative stereotypes of Arab men being violent and abusive by writing about these issues? Are we making it worse for the Arab image in the Western media and Western culture?

Or are we staying away from telling an important story by saving ourselves the trouble of getting into a controversial debate or stirring the beehive? What path must we, as fiction authors, take?

I asked this question to my Twitter friends, and I got this answer from communications professional Olamide Francis.

“I think it should be balanced. Say the truth. Point out the good, bad and ugly.”

That was one of the best answers I got on this dilemma.

Tell the truth, but stay balanced. You can watch the whole conversation on my Youtube Channel here.

​​    What are your thoughts? Should fiction authors air dirty laundry?

Photo credit: Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

What type of reader are you?

What type of reader are you?

There are two types of readers, those who will do anything to finish a book if they hate it because they want to give every book a chance (no book left behind!).

And there are others who abandon a book from the very first few pages if they don’t feel it’s a good fit for them because, well, life is too short.

I mistakenly thought I was part of the first group and that I would never abandon a book no matter what until I read this one book.

Watch the video below to get the whole story:

If you are a creator, you have to read this book

If you are a creator, you have to read this book

If you are a creator of any kind, Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s Big Magic is a must-read.

I’m kicking myself that I had not read this book earlier, way earlier when it first came out in 2015. It could have saved me so much time, anguish, and tears, ah, so many tears, but anyway, water under the bridge. Moving on.

Here are some of the golden nuggets that I got from this gem of a book:

#1. Writing is a gamble

Writing is not an exact science, and every time you are shipping something, you are at a casino, playing a one-arm bandit, hoping, and praying to win big. Gilbert, of course, is better with words than me, so here is how she eloquently described the creators’ gamble:

“Artists, by nature, are gamblers. Gambling is a dangerous habit. But whenever you make art, you’re always gambling. You’re rolling the dice on the slim odds that your investment of time, energy, and resources now might pay off later in a big way—that somebody might buy your work, and that you might become successful.”.

#2. Dealing with negative feedback

I’m someone who struggles with negative feedback. Although my skin gets thicker as I get older (literally and figuratively), I still get heart palpitations when someone trashes my writing. Here is what Gilbert says about that:

“What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art.”

#3. Dealing with frustration

Being a writer is not for the faint-hearted. Do you know how many times I wanted to shred my manuscripts into one million pieces and toss them in the Potomac river?

“I remember thinking that learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person. If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work—perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process.”

#4 Having a creative mind is like caring for a dog

Yes, if you ignore your dog and don’t take it for a walk, it will trash your house.

“Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc.).

It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).”

#5 Dealing with failure

I’m someone who keeps picking at the stab. Analyze, rethink, revisit. What if, what if, what it. I should not have. I should have. I could have. I would have. Vicious circle. Gilbert addresses this corundum:

“Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. You don’t need to know what anything means. Remember: The gods of creativity are not obliged to explain anything to us.”

Do yourself a favor and get Big Magic by Elizabeth’s Gilbert.