Something New, With An Instinct of Old
For a brief period in college, I was a member of its Write Club which propagated and emboldened in me several romanticized notions about writing and writers. Writers were, of course, never people: They were singled out at birth, marked for a greatness never available to the rest of us, and were the deepest of feelers – they didn’t just wear their hearts on their sleeves, they were their heart and their heart was them. And good writing was, of course, heavy handed with a domineering vocabulary.
With a few quick essays, I had established myself as the chosen one, living the role of God’s scribe during that period, while wearing a halo above my head. A friend once asked me why my writing was so complicated, I was relieved, proud even – she had sensed the presence of a halo above my head. I told her that my writing was a medium, a channel between me and my reader, the purpose of which was to inspire the reader, fill them with thoughts that were purely mine, and move them to the emotions I had dug in during the process of writing. My friend was incredulous: “That can happen only if I read, if I can understand”.
Fortunately, I was disenchanted soon enough. I couldn’t bear another writing prompt on depression, adventure, love or nature, and was sick of the repetitive words read out at every meeting (‘abyss’ stood tall on that list). As it was, we never received criticism of our work, – writing was thought to be a personal act, the most personal of all, and hence outside the purview of scrutiny – only positive words were ever meted out. Moreover, the inflections in the writer’s voice as they read their piece, evidently affected, were not in sync with my own emotions listening to them; I realized there was a mismatch here – the purpose had not been achieved, in fact, it had long slipped between the cracks, it had been forgotten. I spoke up that day: It’s a first draft, it needs work, I told him. How do you explain to a teenager that infatuation is not love?
I never went back to the club. Actually, I stopped writing after that.
In the dry season since, when questioned on my writing, I am varying degrees of circumspection but more often than not, my answer is this: yes, I write, I tell them, though it is very average. Hammered down by the personal branding on my writing, I am insecure and never truly satisfied with the result. I can’t stomach the thought of my writing being traced back to me long after I have let it loose and cut off all associations with it. And yet, I want to continue writing, modestly, while I strip myself of the aura of writers. Which is why, I have decided to keep a pen name. Anupama struck me as a beautiful one.
To write with sincerity and intelligence, as a service to the reader, and not as a frenzied act of selfishness– which is what most first drafts are – to not submit to overused expressions and lofty flourish, to weigh every word against the next in tone and context of the work, to write with deliquescence, for the outcome to always be greater than the sum of its parts, for the effect to remain untraceable, for the words to never register, for the words to become a thin mesh making way for something imperceptible and yet alive, for the writing to be breezy yet powerful, for the writing to be charged but never merely sparked- ah, what a beautiful thing desire is.
As I write this, my pressure cooker needs one more whistle before I turn the stove off and I am restlessly awaiting a text. The only thing keeping me on my computer is the deadline I have imposed on myself to inculcate discipline, a routine and an order now that I have decided to write. I hope I will write without illusions, in the most honest way available to me. With complexity and never complications. And this is a start.
I hope this series is as worthwhile to you as it is to me and I know that you will be trustworthy readers; you will punish me by not reading my works if I let you down. And that is all I ask of you: to exercise your right.