To all my writer friends all over the world, what does writing mean to you in your life’s journey? Is it intrinsic to your life’s journey? Is it a stranger? Is it a friend? Is it a barging intruder? Was the sheer act of writing a conscious choice for you, or did it come to you by serendipity?
As for me, this personal essay sums up my writing journey, and the relentless struggles I had and am still having with the pursuit. It has won an honorable mention at a writing contest hosted by Writerscafe.org titled ‘Why Do You Love Writing’.
When I Look at My Muse
In silent moments with myself, all these years, I have asked myself a thousand times: “Why do I have to write?” Or, let’s put it in this way: “why do I think I want to write” or “what do I think writing means to me?” In this big, bright, solemn computer-lab, where nameless, faceless entities come up with grim faces in front of desktop screens and type papers for hours, I am faced again with my usual confused, vulnerable self and ask: “why is that I sit here and write about why I want to write”? What is there in the sheer act of writing that has made me what I am, what I believe in today, or what I would want to do if I need to have a life of my own beyond the confines of our home, my family?
I had asked myself why I needed to write in my seventh grade when I had learned to muster courage enough to write my first poem about changing seasons for my school magazine, where I had rhymed each line with care to show my friends and my English teacher how I could implement the idea of a verse. I had asked myself why crafting those lines and thinking of crafting others, secretly, at the back pages of my science homework copy had become a ritual of salvation for me, as I had loitered around the huge hallways of my school building, playing in my mind with words and rhythm when the cuckoos chirped mindlessly in the dusty windows of the classrooms when all my other friends were busy solving their sums, preparing notes for their biology classes, or were just chit-chatting. I look back at those days and think why that secret, silent kingdom of unspoken words and rhythm was all that cherished for me when the sudden bursts of rain used to drag me to the drenched grass and muddy patches of our school compound, when the constant tinkling bell of the rickshaw-puller and the cart of the ice-cream seller passing by the school premises carried within them promises of sweet nothings, transporting me to a world of delight, cadence and artistry in the visible world.
As the days passed by, I have asked myself why this journey of mine with the written word has bound me up, tighter and tighter in chains, as my daily struggles in pursuits other than writing have increased with each passing day, as I have continued to be an engrossed listener of those unspoken words. I still do not know the answer. I only know that by the end of high school, as I went on exhibiting my incompetency in numbers and computations, scientific arguments and logic, I went on earning the highest grades in English, writing the best essays and composition papers in the class, which in turn left me with no other avenue to step into for college education other than English. Back at home, when it has been a constant struggle trying to fit into paradigms, and constantly failing at it, I had never known why or how the Almighty had drawn the lines of my destiny in different patterns.
Today, late at night, my husband works with rapt attention with SQL server, with the oracle database administration of his company, a giant business conglomerate. I, his unemployed, student wife, read Lady Chatterley’s Lover at the other end of the same desk, trying to flirt with the written words as they trickle down my spine with their divine nectar, breaking down upon me with some euphoric hunger. It was probably the same hunger that started to tear me apart when in my college days, I first encountered Romantic English Poetry and wanted to write, like Lord Byron, “She walks in beauty, like the night /Of cloudless climes and starry skies;/And all that’s best of dark and bright /Meet in her aspect and her eyes”….At the end of each act of scribbling, I got to know that my crappy love poems would never see the light of the day, and that in order to write some sane, sensible stuff, I need to study something more meaningful, like journalism.
I still think fervently of the days when in my reporting and writing classes in Mass Communication, the teacher recognized my thoroughly poetic and artistic narrative voice and constantly mentored me to tone it down to the every man’s crisp, prosaic voice, like it is there in the daily newspapers. I remember the unrestrained expression of delight and discovery as I look back to my first freelance assignment in a newspaper in Calcutta where I had written about the juvenile prisoners in an asylum in the city, a news item where I remember my fights, my silent tears and excruciating struggles to trade my first by-line with a meager hundred rupees Indian note. I remember the passion and anticipation of my very young, working days when I slogged like a dog to write mindless business copies, one after the other, for corporate clients that demanded me to write precise and user-friendly paragraphs and punch-lines. I have witnessed almost all of it, the unsung glory of a writer in a business setting, the doubtful eyes of friends and relatives who did never quite understand why I kept changing workplaces for more creative freedom, who still do not understand, or, now that I am married and have kids, do not bother what I do for a living. I remember the silent tears of disbelief and dismay when I had been rejected as worthless and utterly incapable of being part of an editorial team in a publishing house that used to be my dream one day. I am still a hopeless romantic, now trudging the lone road of writing Creative Nonfiction as a Graduate Student. I think of the small presses and the couple of regional publications which have accepted my work, but molded it according to their own whims even without asking for my permission. I keep thinking of the constant rejection letters I have received from a number of publications here in the United States which, by now, should have solidified my cousin brother’s faith that I am utterly incapable of being there in the business of writing. But desperate and despondent lovers do get their way in the end in at least some love stories I have known. I still woo the act of writing, the one and only love of my life and will continue to woo the pleasures of writing with this solitary hope, and like the desperate lovers, this hope gives me salvation and ecstasy when I think of it at the end of the day.
Read more of my poetry and personal essays/memoirs at http://www.writerscafe.org/rooafza