Trying to understand literature – Why I write

In my mortal twitching soul
I hold Euterpe’s sweet decree –
Create worlds, of magic bold,
And on sprightly word-wings, soar free.
– An apology for leading a writer’s life, circa 2007, Eroteme.

Writing provides to me what a bath-tub does: A place where I can be my entire, passionate self, without having to cower in shame or pretend grandeur, a place where I can be so honest that I lose myself in the beauty of words and images and watch my own hand move on a promising blank terrain, nudging words to reveal themselves from under the whiteness of an emptied mind. I write because I love. I write because, in this world of impermanence, I seek something that is pure and permanent, and a writerly experience is just that.
I write because I care enough about the world and want them to look inside themselves and realise the story in there. I write because I wish to shut myself off from the world, read my own words and cry.
Beyond these very personal and very instinctive drives, I write because I have enjoyed beautiful literature and wish to offer my contribution to that. I believe art is the only differentiating factor between human beings and animals. Our appreciation and creation of art is something that, I believe, should never get corrupted or lost in the world’s mire. Hence, I wish to offer something honest and completely of mine, that would appeal to some readers in this world and make them feel a lightness, a rightness that only true art can provide. A writer writes only for that reader’s nirvana. As Nabokov had once said: “A work of art, has no importance whatever to society. It is only important to the individual, and only the individual reader is important to me.”

In case, someone wondered how “Why I write” would tie in with “Trying to understand literature”, then I hope you have found the answer.

Attempting to create literature is an adamant belief in permanence. In this world filled with 2-day marriages, job-hopping, one-night stands, carnivals, 5 minutes of fame and American Idol, there are people who daringly believe in permanence, in greatness, in truth, in purity, in nothingness. I count myself as one of them and believe (enough to consistently annoy others) that art isn’t a gimmick and definitely writing is not to be treated casually. It gives me great, immeasurable satisfaction to read a well composed passage, a beautiful story and an amazingly touching poem. I read because I wish to lose myself in the writing (thereby finding myself) and I write because I wish to lose myself reading what I have written (and again, find myself). I also write with the hope that those who wish to lose themselves find an avenue in what I write.

I read Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel Lecture and couldn’t help agree with him – on most things. I do not write because I am angry with the world. I write because there is a world. Its joys, grief, hypocrisies, honesty, simplicity, complexities – everything that makes this world spin – entices me to write. The promise that this world holds in making any piece of my fiction plausible, goads me on to write. Writing is the single way I have realised to connect to this world in the way I want to – completely, passionately, effortlessly.

Writing and literature are connected merely by intent and design. While anyone can write and do so honestly, a writer who wishes to contribute to literature, is a conscious writer with a purpose. Such a writer looks at different things in the My entire world...world and keeps weaving a few tens of ways to express the same. Although novelty and new scenes are welcome, what a writer typically attempts to do is express the same sunrise, the same scene of love-making, the same distraught eyes which watch a lover leave, the same tender fall of a duck shot in mid-air – the same incidents of life, expressed differently. Milan Kundera puts it aptly when he describes the purpose of a novelist: “[A novelist’s purpose] is not to do something better than his predecessors but to see what they did not see, say what they did not say.” And this is done quite consciously. One feels vulgar when one is exposed to a written work preceding the one he holds in his hands, and containing an expression, an idea or an insight which he had initially thought to be originally his. I still recall the time when – and this was in a writing workshop – a fellow writer, after reading a piece of mine, said, “This reminds me of a Fitzgerald story I read”. I was so terrified that I searched all over the Net for a Fitzgerald piece which was like the story I wrote. Having found none, I approached her and demanded an explanation. She laughed her 20 year old heart out before replying like the 70 year old she was, “You are so silly. I would have murdered to be likened to Fitzgerald and here you go taking offence. I was only referring to the style.” I remain uncertain of the truth in her comparison, but it dawned on me that day, that I was instinctively repulsed by writing like some writer (contemporary or on God’s payroll of copy editors).

I have many stories to tell. I could spell them out in under 20 seconds each but I prefer to create a whole world around it and ensure that I have your attention till the very end. I do not want you looking at your watch and the only methods I will employ to ensure that are all contained in my story. I have been telling stories since I was 5 or so. My mother’s repertoire was exhausted quite early and I created a few short quick stories as well as some sagas. As I grew more exposed to the world around me, and thought things that others might or not, I created stories as I moved around. I would visit dinner parties and imagine someone getting poisoned there, a beautiful little girl engaging me through the evening and doing a “Great Expectations” on me (but the story was different), or creating a business proposition which suddenly drew me into a deluge of several million (and in that age, I only thought in terms of millions) dollars. I created empires, circuses, families, dynasties, murder mysteries, drama but never wrote any of them. I always went to bed and started the next day exactly where I left, the page of each story in my head accurately marked (no dog-ears, please). I haven’t yet lost this habit, so my world tends to be a chattering one either on the outside or on the inside. With all this happening around me, I simply had to write.

I wasn’t always conscious of my writing. What I wrote then wouldn’t ever be published in Alvibest today (and I am doubly critical of myself). But as I read more stories and authors, I realised the world that they were all trying to create and the beauty of it all drew me in sharply. To be honest, I realised the banality of the world in which I live and often treated writing as an escape into paradise. I didn’t hate the real world but preferred the real world I was creating for myself. Here was a world where anything was possible, people wore the clothes I wanted them, said what I wanted to hear them say – a world where I was God. Then one day it entered me to become a writer contributing to literature. That day my world went on strike. People in there no longer spoke what I wanted them to, they didn’t even smile at me. They did things I never thought they would do. Several times I would start writing a story about Sandra and the character would actually be called Vasantha. I started to write a story about something and ended writing about something entirely different. I was happier this way. I would never be able to point out the exact year or month when I decided to become a writer who would (hopefully) contribute to literature. Now, I don’t see any other purpose in my writing.

I write to help readers see a smell and touch a sun-beam. I write to give readers an experience. I wish that my writing gets to be powerful enough to shake the reader out of their skin and make them see something which they had shut off. I don’t want readers to always be happy or dreamy. I want to disgust my readers, make them lose their sleep, silence them, make them cynical, make them reach out to everyone around them, make them think, make them slow down – make them live anew. When I wrote “Finality” for Alvibest, I wasn’t going to be satisfied unless each reader felt like throwing up. I wanted each reader to feel what the protagonist felt for his sister. I wanted them to see the vegetating girl lying on the bed. If that was done, I am satisfied. I don’t want my readers to be comfortable. Hence, I write.

Writing is the only art which doesn’t produce sensation in line with the medium employed. Paintings and sculptures are visual and limit themselves to that. Music limits itself to the ear. Dance is for the eyes, but writing differs. Although the medium is purely visual (the text on the paper), the effect is not meant to be merely visual. Writing bores into the mind and explodes a bomb of sensations. I write because I wish to create a whole bouquet of emotions and feelings in the reader.

I write, because I cannot help it. I always pack my notebook and pen before I slide the toothbrush in. I always want to buy notebooks because I fear that I might run out of them. I love everything associated with writing: pens, paper, ink, languages, words, sounds of words (I could keep hitting “Hear it again” for the word “persiflage” on Merriam Webster’s site) and people. Of late, I write mostly at my computer/laptop but my most personal writing is still done in a ruled notebook (I am not good at writing on unruled ones). Writing is essential to my sanity.

When writing a story I strive to be honest. I achieve this most easily when I am not constrained (by word limits or the need to write the best story). As I grow to understand (or be confounded by) the sinews of a short story, I am more convinced that a short story’s primary aim is to provide a unique experience. This cannot be achieved without a tale to tell. Sometimes – and I would leave that to the experts – a wonderful piece of writing can evoke in a reader an experience which is sublime and the absence of a tale is noticed only in retrospect. Nevertheless, the primary goal of the writer in me is to provide an experience by telling a tale whose rendition is timelessly delightful. Beyond that, I have little else to commit my writing to. It is not the strength of an idea or insight (and Kundera’s works abound in that although his story telling abilities are often questionable), it is not the mere ornamentation and literary elements and it is not merely the tale that can provide an experience. Literature is made of the same design that went into making a human body. I wish to lose myself learning and living one of them.

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8 thoughts on “Trying to understand literature – Why I write

  1. and you write so well. you’ve covered many depths which many of us could relate to but would rarely be able to express as simply as you have done.

  2. I agree with San’s remark.# Amazing post. Frankly I am speechless. And it is good that I am so; gives room for words from speakers/writers like you to flourish and nourish the readers.Enjoy your life as a writer too; you deserve to, considering the joy that you freely shower on readers of your blog, just by the sheer beauty and honesty and truth in what you write.πŸ™‚

  3. Its been long since I opened these blogs… so much has happened you’ve written such a lot!!! When do I begin reading all of it… Isn’t this the same way life passes us by when we are not looking…Will come back to read. I only remember one day, I replied to one of your comments and the net connection was lost. I tried twice more and it happened again and again. Probably I felt like I’d already told you the same thing thrice.. I never came back to it… It had felt so important then, but I don’t remember it today… much like life again..

  4. Dear Eroteme,You are right. You do touch your readers’ lives. You did mine. It feels so fresh reading this blog after a monotonous monday of Bandh.I wont say ‘too good’ cause I have said it so many times.All I’ll say is that I thank the accidental google search I did for my name just a couple of months back. It brought me to your blog. I haven’t stopped exploring ever since. Each day is a new exploration. I wish I could write with the freedom you do.. Most of the time I find myself at hiccups with words.And somehow the output which I see is not something which I wanted to express in the first place. I get angry and sometimes just feel I’m not made for it. It seems like a big loss cause I know I feel so much inside me. I just have to write. Write the honest thoughts I feel inside. Without any inhibitions or hiccups. Like the true reflection of my inner self in clear water..You inspire me each day Eroteme.Keep writing. I dont understand some blogs, cause they seem too technical to me.But I read them nonetheless, appreciating the efforts the author took.I’ll always love the way you mould words, as if they were made for you.. There is a strange symbiosis between you and words.Good work. Keep writing.

  5. Sorry for the delay…Dear S, Thank you. πŸ™‚ You have been very kind with your compliments.Dear P,Glad you felt thus. I surely enjoy it so far… πŸ™‚Dear P,Glad you found it so. πŸ™‚Dear S,Take your time. No hurry. πŸ™‚Dear M,I am glad you did that search too!! πŸ˜€ Really enjoy having you come over often… Merci! πŸ™‚

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