I’ve always enjoyed it. For most of my life, I’ve been able to say things better in writing than in conversation. I like the fact that I can control the intensity of my emotions on paper. Else, I can be a spitfire. Writing calms me down, helps me have a coherent conversation with myself, and clears my mind when in doubt.
What started as soliloquy soon became musings to relate to. I didn’t choose writing. It happened to me like most things in life have. But it wasn’t without reason.
There were times when my mind wandered off in the classroom from participating in a discussion to writing out pages about how enamored I was of Jo’s strength of purpose in Little Women or by Portia’s smart ways in The Merchant of Venice.
However, in the midst of carving out a larger space of my own, writing got reduced to being a window to my existential crises.
When I quit a corporate job to come home to family, writing seemed perfect to get by without toiling it out at a regular job. Honestly, I took it up essentially to make use of what I believed was an innate style I had developed over the years of randomly scribbling on scrap paper whenever I felt like it – be it on a flight, when I saw a lone star over the twilight horizon for the first time, or while mulling over the purpose of my life!
When Ernest Hemingway was asked in an interview what would be the best training for an aspiring writer, he replied, “Let’s say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced by his own self to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with.”
Amen! That’s what I did: I took the plunge.
I do think I have the flair for jotting words down but I didn’t realize how different writing for yourself was, compared to writing for an audience: I would be judged not only by people who know me but also by strangers who would inevitably form an opinion of me. Thinking or talking about writing is one thing, but actually doing it is something else.
The first five hundred words I wrote felt like a war between my mind and the keyboard. So many ideas brimming, and suddenly I would go blank. I would constantly be thinking about how a best-selling author would say things because that would be the right thing to say.
It wasn’t easy to talk myself out of that mode and allow myself to tell a tale like only I could.
Moments of doubts and insecurities about my style plagued me. If that weren’t enough, I perpetually wondered whether my thoughts matched the sensibilities of the readers.
In all this, though, I did start addressing myself as a writer.
A year has passed by since my tryst with words. I’ve realized that the most important thing to remember for a writer, apart from being original, is that there will always be people who can relate to your thoughts, others who truly don’t agree with you – which is extremely healthy for your growth – and still others who would like to pull you down and make it difficult for you – just because they can.
Cynics aside, constructive criticism has encouraged me to become better while appreciation made me smile. To know that there are people out there who understand what you’re going through because they are going through it too, and are finding comfort in your words brings immeasurable satisfaction.
Even the best of writers have good days and bad ones with great pieces or mediocre ones. But the key is to keep at it. An old writer’s rule is to have the courage to write, to tell a story that hasn’t been told, or tell the same story in a different light – by making it your own! That’s the charm of words – one story can have myriad interpretations.
Pick one that’s yours and say it with eloquence. The world needs more writers who play with fresh ideas, push their imagination to its limits and have the guts and the flair to say it all in good words.
Yes, I question myself and wonder if I’ll ever measure up. In the same breath I feel this could be what I’m meant to do. Empowered with the thought, I strive to be that writer, and maybe one day I’ll get there. Even if I fail, I can already tell the struggle was worthwhile. The only way I’ll know, as John Steinbeck puts it, is to write and take chances.
There’s no magic formula or secret ingredients. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something s/he feels important to the reader.
While criticism does take its toll on your self-confidence, it’s important to be able to let go because when you’re an opinionated writer in a public space, it’s a conscious choice you’re making to subject your views to the mercy of the readers.
By nature, most humans are judgmental as much as we would want to be, or believe otherwise. It took me a while to understand this. Now I know better. It’s sometimes good to agree to disagree, because in the end, it’s impossible to please everyone.
The writer is an aspiring and unrelenting story teller.