I have wanted to write for as long as I could remember. … No, that’s not really the truth.
I’ve wanted to express myself for as long as I can remember. … No, that’s not it either.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Yeah, right there.
Writing is another form of digging all the way to the truth.
Pursuing any subject of study, trade, or art form with an orientation towards bettering self and community, improving social structures, and transforming modes of interaction between individuals, does the exact same thing: it acts as an excavation tool to a plane of existence beyond the simply visible.
When writers, artists, businessmen and women, housewives, students, professionals, retired seniors pursue a passion relentlessly, it leads to grasping of the deeper layers – of the psyche, history, nature, market forces, and familial turbulences – that possess the obscure roots of what we see manifested through our eyes.
Let’s try again:
I have wanted to get at truth for as long as I can remember. … Nah, too ambitious. You kept running away.
I have been blind and deaf and angry and overflown, like wine in glass, with resentment. True, but this isn’t about writing.
Oh but it is, because until you realize that you’re not the problem, you’re not the writer’s block, you keep lashing yourself – a form of self-punishment for perceived self-failure.
Anyone who writes (or practices any form of art or branch of science) has to be comfortable with failure if they’re trying to get to the truth – their experiential truth (I’m sensitive), a natural truth (people are born, people die), or scientific ones, like e=mc2.
The moment the ego takes charge: pushes its spectacles up the nose and crosses its arms across the chest, writer’s block is inevitable. Judgment, though necessary to navigate life, is also the enemy of creativity who is thick friends with imperfection; whereas play, also friends with creativity, is the enemy of perfection.
I have wanted to play and but have been pushed toward perfection for as long as I can remember – a woman is kind, generous, sincere, puts others before herself, never gets angry, never talks back, anticipates needs of others before her own and is designed to successfully navigate complex relationship matrices without batting an eyelid. She is a healer, a counsellor, a cook, a cleaner, a laundromat, a financially savvy working professional outside of these jobs, and a self-actualizing bit of human species (‘coz she must have hobbies too). This woman can be modest in social settings and the damnest cur in bed.
Funny thing is, nowadays tech companies make machines that are advertised as having traits mentioned above. Not one android fulfils all the above criteria, though the dominant desire visible from the marketing seems to be to ultimately pack it all-in-one. You should check some of them out. Go on; invoke GG (the God Google), search for home bots, companion bots, healthcare bots and recruitment bots.
We’ll try this one last time:
I lost the art of playing and began writing to regain it. A few years later, goaded by perfection, I decided to go all in, threw my safety nets down the Grand Canyon (metaphorically, of course) and emulated what writers in the early decades of the twentieth century had done. I self-exiled. Now, they did it because they had no choice. I did it out of ambition and arrogance. And one fine day I found myself starving spiritually, nearly physically disfigured, blind and deaf with anger, and frothy with resentment. And I thought, did it go like this for T. S. Eliot? Did Oscar Wilde disintegrate to bits like this in jail? No wonder Virginia Woolf decided to kill herself. And that gorgeous poet put her head in the oven.
Writers are human beings after all, possessing a life force oriented towards community, stability and creation just like other people.
Wasn’t it a symptom of how badly we’re teaching the skill of the writing arts, creating this sharp dichotomy between imitation and originality, if we’re eulogising people’s lives going to shit, despite which they created such enduring works of art? Despite. The pain.
Imagine how it could be if we could build communities that assuage the pain so that creation need not cost emotional, psychological or physical lives.
So that growth, instead of rejection, may be the norm; and acceptance need not come at the cost of having to be so utterly perfect – in submission formats and writing, or in life.
DIY Your Writing
Nowadays I write to get at the truth of how things can be if we all come together and give each other a chance. Part of this was to give myself a chance, therefore the writing and self-publishing of 101 Stories in 101 Words. I picked one writing example that I have loved for more than a decade and decided to pay homage, hence the constraint of writing a tale in 101 words. 101 of them because the repetition appeals to the part of me that dwells within rhythms.
Writing this book was a chance I was able to give myself after four years of being part of the DIY MFA community and taking DIY MFA 101, after writing a decade of messy half-drafts for Nanowrimo, and years of participating in Story-A-Day.
The 101 course was crucial to developing a mind-set of growth and seeing failure as a learning opportunity rather than something that paralysed me. The community of people taking the course together, meeting for critique calls, discussing specific roadblocks, solutions and sharing milestones was essential to sustaining a writing practice. Even being a silent part of discussions about individual challenges and therefore, distinct clarifications did wonders for me.
Be kinder to yourself, expand the opportunities to play, the chances to build creatively and be part of supportive communities geared towards growth and expression, not despite the pain, but because of it.
So when are you giving yourself a chance?
Neha Mediratta is a writer based in Mumbai though she enjoys gallivanting around the globe virtually and in real life. Her decade-plus career spans multiple kinds of writing, editing and physical manifestation of unwieldy, avant-garde or truly ancient ideas, but writing poetry and coming up with entertaining fiction remains her first love.