Saturday, 13 March 2021

On Writing:

Why do people write? Why do they write from their lives? How much of writing is fair? How much is acceptable? How much of reality should be documented or narrated in writing, and where does one draw a line? Do writers have ethics? Do writers have a messy mind palace? Do writers have fucked up lives? Do writers have open hearts, fragile egos, overly sensitive personalities?

Why do people write? Why do they write from their lives? How much of writing is fair? How much is acceptable? How much of reality should be documented or narrated in writing, and where does one draw a line? Do writers have ethics? Do writers have a messy mind palace? Do writers have fucked up lives? Do writers have open hearts, fragile egoes, overly sensitive personalities?

I do not know enough writers in this world to stereotype them. I haven't even read enough of them in all honesty. I can only look into my subjective experience and talk from it, or at best my observations and discussions with a few of them. Is this statistical research? Nope. Is this backed by data? Nope. At best this is experiential sharing. At worst anecdotal in nature. So, dear reader, read with caution, at your own peril 🙂

When I first began writing I was 2 and a half. I didn't know this, I don't cognizant remember this. But I have been shown by my father the sheet of paper, on which I wrote a two-line rhyming poem for my younger brother.

The first time I remember writing consciously, was when I was almost 12. A classmate had read a poem she wrote in the assembly. As a child who was known for oration, her literary taste, I felt challenged, and so happened my first poem. Little did I know, it would become my safe space, it would become my haven, it would become my go-to source of respite.

Not by my very gracious immediate family, but I have been judged for my thoughts, my writings, by not one, not more, but almost everyone at first. My teachers found my thoughts depressive, unsuitable for my age, overly mature was a kind compliment some of them used for my work.

My psychiatrists went on to assume that my writing isn't my way out, but a stronger pull into depression. In fact I was once told by a very senior Psychiatry prof, that I should stop writing if I want to feel better. I never visited him again.

My psychiatrists went on to assume that my writing isn't my way out, but a stronger pull into depression. In fact, I was once told by a very senior Psychiatry prof, that I should stop writing if I want to feel better. I never visited him again.

Do all writers grow through deep melancholy like I did? I don't know. I do not think I dealt with sadness. I was a diagnosed albeit improperly for the longest time, patient of depression. Writing kept me sane. It kept me functional. It made me feel accomplished, even though the youthful romantic notions of being a victim were ingrained deep within.

I never showed my work around except for the initial few years. I still show very limited work to the larger world. Imagine how prolifically I must write to bombard you all with so little 😃 And there is yet so much more that awaits being poured on either a sheet of paper, or a screen. Imagine what a clutterbox my head might be.

My mindpalace you see, is a fascinating place. It has over decades absorbed and soaked information like anything. It brings out the right memory, the right emotion, the right human face in front of me. I haven't traveled much, so the right setting or landscape still doesn't happen as easily, but the rest, does.
Books, a large number, despite my everlasting claim of reading insufficient number of them, are my portals. My mindmap knows which one to refer when talking of philosophy, which ones for business, which ones for sexuality, spirituality, science, commerce, trade, interior design and decor, gender equality, you name it, my mind has a reference.

I take no pride in saying that I have found books to be a very productive engagement. I also have no shame in admitting that they are my escapes. They drive my sense of accomplishment. I feel equally overwhelmed, as I revel in my perpetual friends.

You see, this mind palace can be as tiring as enjoyable. It can be obsessive, it can also be called a passion, and it can be called madness as well. However, it allows me to write. It allows me to empathize. I cry when I read about the tattooist, and I can empathize with the psychopath, even though I am confident that they should be kept away from the larger society. I can weep in joy when a romantic pursuit comes to its obvious conclusion. I can be in despair and wring my hands when a hero is in a moral dilemma.

And then, when I write, this all comes alive. All my personal misery, my guilt, my joy, my heartaches, my celebration, my pride, it all comes alive. So does that of people around me, as I relive vicariously and precariously, the moments of my interaction with them. I imagine, I try to feel what they might have felt. I wonder what thoughts they might have. Oh and most times, I am not aware that I am doing it consciously.

As I write in this moment, a part of my brain is wondering who does this writing sound like. There are elements of dialogue from Anne with an E, others from Always a Witch, and then I hear myself repeat the dialogues from The Man from Earth, and there's one bit that makes me think of Dr. Viktor E. Frankl.

I do not really care, when someone calls me superfluous for wanting to process all this together. I am OK to feel frustrated when my thoughts run faster than my fingers, but I am not OK when I can't / don't / won't write.

Now about the ethics of writing. I have heard a few times, stupid, crazy shit from people. Writers are poor. Truth? Everyone except Adanis and Ambanis are! Writers are mahan. No we are not! We are human, we have similar needs, desires, we express them better sure, but no we are not mahan, and we do not feel compelled to be mahan. Writers have a responsibility to their readers. Yes and no. As an entertainment writer, my responsibility is to entertain. As a non-fiction writer, my responsibility is to present a thought well. As an innovative writer, or as a thinker-writer, my responsibility is to present novel concepts lucidely, maybe. But none of us is responsible for all of this together, and more, and that for free.

You want to read what I write, buy my books. You want to read for free what I write, read what I distribute. You want me to write about something YOU want, PAY up! Unless you're a friend, unless we engage in a contributive space, WHY THE FUCK will I write for you for free? Why will you enjoy at the cost of my domestic expenses? Why don't you ask Ambanis to let you live in their house for free? Or Adanis for free electricity for that matter.

I MIGHT CHOOSE TO GIVE YOU FREE CONTENT TO READ. But I WILL decide what, when, how much. Take it or leave it. I give two damn hoots! Offended much? Good!

Are we fragile, as much as anyone else. Do we have egoes, self esteem, self-respect, just like any other person next door. And pray tell me, why should I not take pride in my work, like a coder takes in his? Please stop calling me the arm chair activist, for if it's easy, you're welcome to try it yourself. Promise I will be more generaous than you are.

No it's not just about 'is' or 'was'. It's not about the word counts for those of us who write commercially. Because if I say Mr. Ratan Tata 'was' (instead of an 'is') the chairman of Tata Trust, it would be a mess. So don't be a cheapster if you want a writer to work for you, pay up.

Your product is shitty. Change it, improve it for fuck's sake. Don't expect me to make a snake look like a necklace. Even if I do, it won't sell. It's a dead snake. Get a necklace first please.

How much revealing is too much revealing? As much as the revealed decides. Consent is underrated. Even in writing, and I don't do that shit. Will I not tell a story, or lie about it, because it will break a home, yes. Will I shy away from telling stories from my life, just because someone's sensibilities? Please take your senbilities and insert them as appropriate!

Offended much again? Good!

There's a lot more to be said, about the process, the style, the tools, the technique, and what not. However, I'll conclude this by saying one simple thing. A visionary, revolutionary woman who came and wrote before me, said - “If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.” ― Anais Nin. She also said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect."

For me these two combined, are good enough to justify the dance of the cosmos within me. Through words.

© Anupama Garg 2021

No comments:

Post a comment

Share your thoughts