Someone (who reads this blog) recently asked me at an office holiday party, ‘How do you write’? I heard it wrong and assumed that he meant to ask ‘Why do you write?’ Without hesitation I answered, ‘Because I want to, I really want to and every time I do, it gives me a little bit more understanding of myself and how I fit into the world around me’. It’s only when I noticed a slight bewilderment on the face of my friend, that I realized, I was probably not answering the right question. He repeated, “that is fine, but I asked how not why?” I will be lying if I said I had an equally emphatic answer for the how as I did for the why. I did not, I thought for a bit, I reached for an honest answer within me, but I came out with some some very curious diffident sounds “uhm…you know, ….there is this…how do you say it…well…uhm…excuse me……what was the question…yes, how do I write…yeah?” My inquisitive friend quickly realized that I was at a loss of words and was frantically trying to save me from my embarrassment when dessert was served. Never before had vanilla flan felt so welcome. I smiled sheepishly and pretended that I had an answer if only I didn’t have my mouth full with flan.
We continued to socialize, but that question weighed on me through the rest of the party. How do I write? While my physical self was coasting from one colleague to another, the rest of my being was deeply absorbed in understanding my own method of writing. How do I put the pen to paper? Well, I am going to try and answer that question here. (See what I meant when I said “I write because it helps me understand myself a bit more.”)
I have always been in awe of the writing which is searingly clear in what it has to say. I wasn’t quite attracted or taken away by writing which is shrouded in mystery, in layers and layers of meaning (while this works beautifully for me when it comes to movies, my digestive system struggles with the layered heavy handed style of writing). When I realized that there are actual human beings who are behind the written word, the awe was transferred towards those writers – writers who express a daring clarity of thought in their writing. Now what has this to do with “how” I write? So to put it simply, my method of “how” I write is to coax my brain to transpire the muddled thoughts in my head via the keyboard strokes into words that give some sense to the confusion that is a permanent resident upstairs. I strive to achieve that clarity, achieve that beautiful graceful free flowing dance of words that can rarely be interpreted in more than one way. It is obvious that I am yet to achieve it and I hope this blog is an evidence for this. When I go back and look at my older writing, I cringe, my ear lobes warm up, my harshest critique reacts – “yikes, that was so amateurish!” “Wow, that is a new kind of awful!” “Really? I wrote that!! That is such phoney tripe” “No no no, that whole essay was so patronizing” “Where did that venom of prejudice come from” and many more. However easily I could delete those posts or hide them, I want them to be out there to serve as mile markers on this journey. I am quite positive that I will never be able to say “yes, this is it, this piece is perfect, I have done it”. This is what makes this whole writing process exciting and tiring at the same time. (See how I veered from the “how” to the “why”, but then while I am working on the answer to the “how”, the “why” has become an important side-kick to the answer and cannot be ignored).
With that said, I would also like to acknowledge the fact that I am not a ‘writer’. I have never been published, I have never even tried to get published and do not harbor an ambition to get published (at least at the moment of typing this, tomorrow is a different day). So in the traditional sense of the word, I am not a writer. Enough of the self-flagellation. What I want to really say is, I am not ashamed of any piece that I have written, I am embarrassed about many of them, I will call them bad and unreadable, but ashamed I am not. I will continue to display them with pride, only for the reason to help me not repeat the very mistakes I made when I wrote them. A few years (its more like months these days) from now, I am sure I will read this piece and react in an unfavorable manner. It’s a process I enjoy, I enjoy going back to understand what I must have been thinking when I wrote them and how I have grown out of those thoughts.
Moving to a more morbid territory, if I am conscious enough at that moment when I die, I would love to go back to at least one post, one essay, one article which I can read (or have a loved one read it to me) which will shine a crystal clear ray of sunshine on my being when I pass. That is motivation enough to keep going at the moment.