Thursday, May 16, 2013

I write because I cannot not write.

This was assignment #2 of the course I'm doing- which asked us to talk about how our identities as writers connects with the identities of other artists/ writers.

“I write because I cannot not write.”

This is how my conversation with my writer friend had begun one random Saturday night. We were three of us friends hanging out, of which two of us were writers, and the third, a banker. I’m not sure why or how we began that conversation, but an hour or so into it, I think Banker Man was wont to throw in the towel, and run to Far Far Away. Here’s why- what we talked about that night, with a sense of absolute urgency, was how when the writing urge takes over, there is no going back. It’s a visceral feeling… almost as if someone had taken over your body and there’s no way you can ask it to pause.

It’s pure passion.

My observation this week, across the many articles I read, was exactly that. Every single piece I read came from a place that was personal, and really felt. Writers, as is the same for all kind of artists, have one big thing in common- the dire need to communicate what they feel. They say the world is split into left brainers and right brainers, and if you believed in that theory, you’d see that the right brainers are more ‘feelers’, rather than ‘reasoners’.

I’m certainly not saying that all artists, or writers, are loons who don’t believe in logic. No, no. I’m merely suggesting that they are people who feel first, and reason after that. Feeling is instinctive to them. And expressing that feeling becomes the next step- whether it’s through a painting, a piece of music, or through carefully designed language.

For me, and for most writers I know (including the ones I read today), this need to express is almost a burning desire. It’s sometimes not even voluntary. My favourite proof of this to myself (so I can tell myself that I’m not going completely crazy) is a TED talk I heard by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the famed ‘Eat, Pray Love’). Amongst other things writer-related, she talked about the existence of a muse. The muse, she said, was an extension of yourself, or perhaps, it had nothing to do with you at all. It was just someone with all that ‘talent’ that came to use your body to express its creativity. She talked about herself, and several other writers in history, who had said that this sometimes inexplicable urge to write, felt like someone or something had possessed you, and you had to let it do its job.

I’m going on and on about this passion, and this need to express feeling, because not only is this the one thing that identifies us as artists or writers, but it’s perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind as we write or express. It’s our USP. Indeed, it’s the ‘research’ to our business- Looking deep within ourselves, and our experiences and converting it into words is what we do. Like Hemmingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

It’s almost like we’re in the business of converting our emotion through expression, while touching the hearts of the world, and saying to them, “You felt this once too, you remember?”. Because you see, all emotions, all feelings, all thoughts, on one level or the other, are universal. At some point in their lives, everyone has felt something you’ve felt, and making them feel this once again through your expression is the goal. That is why expressing these feelings, ideas, and emotions in their purest forms are essential to us and to our success. It is the gift that has been bestowed on us right-brained people to give to the world- especially those logic-driven left-brained people who sometimes are in desperate need of getting in touch with themselves!

Even personally for us as people, it’s therapeutic. Sometimes the pen and paper become our shrinks. They let us channel our questions, our surprises, our grief, our happiness. What I’ve discovered (much to my surprise), is that it’s not always related either. For example, I don’t necessarily write angry or sad poetry or prose when I’m in a negative state of mind. In fact, the book that I wrote last year, was written during what was probably one of the hardest phases in my life. And yet, the book talked about sunshine and happiness. I’m beginning to think that maybe that was my way of letting myself hope.

Whatever it may be though, it’s important for a writer to be real, to delve deep, call on himself or his muse, to come spew out the story that needs to be told. Notice I said, needs to told, not should be told. Grammar, style, or other rules of writing, are merely different tools that help with your craft- just as the pen, keyboard, or paper do. The real secret to being a successful writer is to tell a story that needs to be told; indeed, a story that needs to be read.

Because you see, you cannot not tell it.

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