Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Writing about Writing

I was listening to Hemingway’s speech this morning where the famous irrealist talks about writing being essentially a lonely vocation. You compose when you are alone. And I couldn’t agree more with the grainy, masculine tenor my computer played for me. There is something soothing in lonely mornings that opens up the creative cap and allows you to see it all clearly. Under such formidable circumstances, the words and images hailing from the recesses of your mind face no constraint, no judgment, and no criticism. You find yourself in a labile path with no fixed points to remember while you compose. Nothing, not even the terrible fear of derision, bothers you; and for some hours you find yourself drifting in a frigate of imagination. In your journey you encounter your characters, they come alive in front of you, they take on human forms and peel away layers of stereotypical ordinariness you attributed them in your first and second drafts.  It takes several days, even months of undisturbed solitude to personify self-created puppets.

A community of writing individuals may or may not improve your writing ability, but a few hours every day in front of a laptop surely makes you perseverant. Also, you feel more alive. Even the flower-pot-colored imbricated rooftop tiles of an adjoining house start to look brighter. Writing without restrictions has an amnesiac effect on you. You forget, albeit momentarily, the hard truth of life, and lose yourself in a world and sentences and images. And this orgasmic relief, this sojourn in the ivory tower of imagination can seldom be experienced in a group.

In our writing class we often talk about the process of writing. Some of my classmates, especially the newly initiated ones, are still confused about the creative process, and ask for concrete steps. I wonder if there are any physical steps to writing. I think the writing domain is an untamed lea. We can learn the techniques of the craft, but writing is a personal process. And when people spend days under the delusion that whatever one writes is dedicated to his readers, he or she inevitably stonewalls the conscious with expectations, and that ultimately leads to a season of a harrowing drought, what we call writer’s block.  

Several writers suggest expecting the least from oneself. I find the word of wisdom invaluable. I have lowered my expectations to a negligible level. And whenever I write I know I am writing for myself. I know my meaningless syncopations would make no sense to the world, and I never try to transmute my illogical word-rhythms for the sake of elevating the world’s view about me. The truth is we all write for ourselves; it’s sad that some people take ages to realize that.

I wish writing something meaningful were easy when all you needed to do would be to sit at a desk and type away. Alas, those who write from heart know that it is anything but easy. Writing requires patience, humility and long years of meaningless improvisation. And however much the society and kin assure you that you are almost there, you know better than that. Awful first drafts lead to moderate second draft and then ultimately to the terrific third and fourth drafts; we are all caught in this vicious cycle. 

It was a revelation to me yesterday when a writer friend said he accepts his first drafts as perfect and just edits away the mistakes and thinks it’s ready for submission; I wish I could do that! But then, on second thought, I am glad I couldn’t pass away my inferior first efforts as finished product. The whole idea of writing is to think out of the box and say something in a way different from others. This challenge hits you like shrapnel when you are attempting to improve your creation. There lies the fun of writing. And truly speaking a single effort is seldom a complete effort.

I am attaching Hemingway’s inspiring speech for you: