On Writing

When the lovely Arathi (@miffalicious on Twitter) decided to do a feature on her Blog inviting guest-posts from people whose Craft she enjoys, she very graciously asked me to contribute as well. So this is me talking about my craft, for what it’s worth. You can also find this piece accompanied by her generous foreword; alongside her own engaging posts, here on her Blog: http://www.miffalicious.com/they-inspire-on-writing/

ON WRITING

A while ago I had a mild disagreement with an acquaintance. This person had just discovered that a certain Primary School was giving its students assignments on Letter writing- essentially drafting the old fashioned, long-winded snail mail missives. He found this not only amusing but also a complete waste of time. Upon being asked why, his response was, ‘’we barely even send people Emails of over 2-3 lines these days, what is the point of teaching these kids to write lengthy Letters? Communication these days is all about expressing yourself in the least number of characters. A quick SMS or a status update is how we keep each other informed about our lives, not through reams of text.’’ While he was undoubtedly just stating a truth of our times, I still disagreed on his assessment of the effort as a wasted one. To me, anything that inculcates in kids – heck, even some adults – the habit of writing freely can never be a waste of time. Anything that helps them express themselves coherently beyond 140 characters or dissuades dem frm wrytng lyk dis is an absolute, unquestionable win. Keep giving them those Letter-writing assignments, I say, and while you’re at it, drop a few Essays into the mix too.

In fact, when I look back upon my own school days, I wish back then the education process was more geared towards instilling the habit of writing in kids – beyond just the Essays and long-answer questions. I wish they actually identified kids who enjoyed and had a flair for writing; encouraged them to indulge in it more and in doing so, honed their skill – and perhaps equally importantly, made them aware that it was a skill. Growing up, I for one never knew that I had any great knack for writing. Yes, I was always a prolific and hungry reader – graduating to Novels when my friends were still finding their way through Comic books (something that I’ll be forever thankful to my parents for encouraging and not paying heed to the whispers of ‘’He’s reading beyond his age.’’). But while dipping into those fantastic worlds of imagination stroked my own and spawned many a parallel story inside my head, I never really knew if I had the ability to transfer those stories onto paper with any degree of clarity or competence. Although, having said that, on the few occasions that I did try as a kid, I think my atrocious hand-writing may well have aborted any fair assessment of their worth. Word processors were invented for people like me, I always like to think.

Anyway, as it turned out, it was only after a series of twists and turns of employment that I eventually found myself in a job –more by accident than design – where I had to constantly rely on both my writing and my imagination, and did rather well at it. It was only then that I fully realized I was fairly adept at combining the two, but, thankfully, I’ve managed to harness the skill exceedingly well occupationally ever since.

Ironically though (given how much pleasure the written word has brought me), the first time in my early adulthood that I actually sat down to write something substantial outside of work or casual correspondence – to try and pour out what I was feeling onto an electronic screen because I couldn’t contain it inside me any longer- was at a time when I was hurting emotionally. Writing then was nothing more than self-prescribed medication, a healing method. I don’t know how much it helped but it made a difference all right, certainly made me feel a tad less weighed down by my ‘wretched circumstances’ (yeah, boo-frigging- hoo, I know). Anyway, amongst the handful of folks I shared my out-pouring with then were some whose Writing I myself admired a great deal.  Presumably after sifting through all the angst-ridden layers, they informed me they actually enjoyed reading it – a lot – and that I should probably write stuff outside of work more often. So, I’ve continued to, and I’ve grown to relish it as a welcome foil to my Work fare, which for obvious reasons doesn’t allow the same creative and personal abandon. While, in some ways, I guess this ‘extra-curricular’ Writing will always remain a healing method for me, it has also become so much more.

I write to tell the stories that come knocking in my head and to give my own endings to the ones I only glimpsed in the passing as Life swept by. I write to rekindle old memories, when I’m worried I might be losing them. I write to feed the demons inside me; to keep them at bay, and sometimes I write to free them, to make them go away. I write to vent but I also write to grow. Sometimes, I write to feel connected and at other times, to let go.  I write to time-travel, to explore the ‘what ifs’, to go to places I’ve never been before and sometimes I write to play God, to create and plot imaginary destinies. But I also write simply because I can, a liberating little feeling in a World often beset by ‘can’ts’.

To me, the process of Writing itself is rather uncomplicated, certainly not always easy or effortless, but yes, uncomplicated. Once I’m reasonably certain of the story I want to tell, I wallow with the Words. I play with them. Tinker and toy with them. Scatter them and put them together again. Cajole and coax them instead of trying to bully them into coming to me. I find that if I do this long enough, and lovingly enough, eventually a picture appears. Sometimes it’s pretty, sometimes pithy and sometimes just plain scary but it still speaks to whoever looks at it. It won’t always say exactly what I want it to, or what they want to hear, but it’ll speak and that’s a good start. On a particularly good day, I can get it to sing as well.

I don’t always write to be read by others, but I do, however, enjoy writing most when I’m doing it for a potential audience (technically Readers, but audience just has a nicer ring). It doesn’t really matter so much if the audience then chooses to tear my work to shreds or to appreciate it. As long as my words tether their attention – right from the opening sentence to the closing period- and provoke a reaction, my work is done and I’m happier for it.

And as I bring this self-indulgent ramble to a close, I hope it too does at least that.

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