At the age of 16, after reading a few borrowed books, I held my mother’s hand and said, ‘I am going to become a writer, ma.’
Let us pause here and examine my statement of ambition. It readily conveys two things:
- I was not a writer or had never attempted writing at that time
- I must have intensely liked writing to have committed the rest of my life to it
Now, do we see a dichotomy? Yes, but the problem was not with the poor child, it is in the nature of writing.
Why does writing seem so glamorous from outside?
Which brings us to the more important question. Is it as glamorous when we are writing and failing and learning and writing?
Personally speaking, though I have written so much since that age of 16 (all those sheets of paper, physical and e-, can be crumpled to form a paper mache of a stunted tree), I still feel hesitant when I sit to write something new. I fantasise about my prose, but when it is time to write, I conjure a hundred reasons to postpone guiltlessly. Writing is a sweaty pursuit to me.
Another of my challenges is writing’s ability to bring out the worst in me. It is a universal truth that most often we are ourselves the source for our writing. This means we write from the very roots of our existence, which invariably brings up to our mind rusty buckets of self-awareness carrying murky memories.
Similarly, there are very personal intrinsic challenges we writers all harbour, but the more I discussed mine with comrades, the stronger I felt that these challenges are also shared in one form or another.
This is obvious. If not, there wouldn’t exist today a crop of bloggers who have employed themselves to create helpful writing tips every other hour: ‘7 ideas to…’, ’23 ways you can…’
Through this advisory role they are quite successful in creating an instant psychological disconnect between them and the writer who is grappling with his problems: a rich man looking down his aristocratic nose at the poor.
And no matter how advisable these tips are, they cannot belittle the challenges we face.
What we writers really need is a community to share our headache, not just a show of expertise to relieve it; an acknowledgement from one another that challenges exist; the empathy that I share what you are facing; and the connect that comes out of it.
Like when an anxious student who has not finished his assignment comes to know that none in his class has completed either, all our challenges seem so much less negative in their own company.
And that is what I am trying to do here. To express my own writing challenges confident that they are shared by others too.