Tonight, I don't know what to write about. My problem is fundamental. A writer is really a person who mixes his own dreams and ideas with reality and derives from them, a blend that he can call his own. While his creativity and writing skills play a huge part in what he does, most of the time he's just treading water, hoping he doesn't suddenly find himself empty of ideas. But sometimes dreams do dry up, and reality fails to inspire, and then the writer finds that he is no longer a writer, but just a guy (or girl) with some writing that has his name on it. One is worthy of the title of 'writer' based on one's next work, not on one's previous piece. If
the person is lucky, he's only going through a temporary writer's block; sooner or later some dormant thought sparks off a whole new world to write about. The hope that the 'block' will be short-lived is all that keeps a writer going.
Humour is something I love writing. The notion that something born in the murky wilderness of my brain could make someone else smile is both a flattering and humbling thought. But humour is difficult to write, and the risks are great. A chance statement, written shabbily or in poor taste, could destroy the enjoyment of the entire article for the reader. Similarly, finding the line where satire turns to mockery, and staying clearly on one side of it, is draining and nerve-racking. The pen is mightier than the sword because it is more accurate, it strikes directly at the heart. Will this remark hurt anyone's feelings? Is this joke nasty or offensive? One has to constantly keep alert, always keeping in mind that the end result should still be provocative enough to draw out a laugh or two. Sometime last month, in a burst of (I think) insight, I suddenly saw through a lot of my own writing. My work is divided into poems, songs, short stories and these essays. I saw that my poems were too high-browed, my music and lyrics were mediocre at best, my short stories never got past the conceptual stages and my essays had enormous scope for improvement. Having seen this, it became impossible for me to keep any traces of pieces that were less than 'pretty good'. I ended up trashing a bulk of my writing, over one hundred stories, poems and songs. Self-doubt is the bane of any artist, but it can also be one of his best friends. Had Michelangelo left behind every sketch and doodle, even his accomplishments would have been diluted by a flood of substandard work. Anyone can produce one excellent piece if he tries a hundred times, the true skill lies in hitting that level of quality nine out of ten times. The reason I'm telling you about this is because I've noticed that most people don't understand. I can't begin to tell you what a hard time I got from friends who believed that I'd done the most stupid thing by throwing out most of my articles. They said that it was senseless to destroy something once it was written. Quality control in the future is all well and good, but why meddle with what's already done? But most people who frequently read my works are artists themselves. Writers, poets, musicians and painters, all of you have felt the exquisite joy of creating something out of nothing, like a magic trick that you don't really know how you did. That sense of achievement, of accomplishment, of having added to the world rather than having taken from it. The slight sorrow of having parted with something that was yours alone, of having broken off a piece of your dreams. Our creations are our children, and once they are complete, like children, they take on identities of their own. They become as real as us, and it's hard not to take them too seriously. But after we get over the rigors of childbirth, we need to see those children for what they really are. It is easy to fall in love with that which was born out of one's own head, indeed that sort of narcissism is natural. It takes a clarity of vision to be able to view the finished product from an outside, unbiased perspective. I fell into the trap of narcissism for many years, saving even the most idly written scraps of half-hearted poetry. Only a fluke flash of clear sight revealed to me what I was doing, and the perils of doing it. Previously, the folder on my computer entitled 'Psychoneurotic Xplorations' contained 124 documents, now it has only 20. I know I've been rambling on, but it's hard to write humour when the heart is heavy. The results are irony and sarcasm, and those are two things I try to avoid. But I still feel uncomfortable at having subjected you to a pageful of my unfunny thoughts, so here's a little piece of an unfinished article that never saw the light of day. The reason I chose it is because it is somewhat in keeping with my general topic so far. I hope you like it.
HOW I WRITE: THE SECRET REVEALED
People often ask me, "Where do you come up with this stuff?" They, of course are referring to my writing, and not to what I bring up onto their laps after eating too much, but the processes involved in both writing and puking are strikingly similar! An article, in its embryonic stage, is very much like a spoiled piece of chicken that is consumed too fast. I'll be going about my normal business, which generally consists of solving Sanskrit crossword puzzles while building a 200 foot statue of my big toe, when I'll start to feel a bit uneasy. Something begins to stir inside. I ignore it and go on polishing my statue. Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain within me. "Aah!" I cry. The sharp pain is then followed by a series of sharper pains. "Aah! Aah! Aah!" I cry, being a creature of habit. This goes on for a while until a crowd gathers, at which time I rush to the nearest wash-basin or keyboard, depending on what is about to come out. My judgment on this is still not perfect, and many a keyboard has gone to waste due to this error. Now that the general alarm has been set off in my body, my brain takes over.
Before I proceed, I'd like to introduce you to my brain. He's a squishy, grey fellow, who, just because he's got me by the nerve-endings, thinks it's his right to boss me around. Not only that, he also takes all the credit for my ideas. I'll be standing in the loo, wondering when I'm going to throw up, when the idea will erupt instead. Having to share the thought with someone, I nudge my brain.
Brain: Huh? What? Where? Is it Tuesday already?
Me: Uh…no, its still Sunday.
Brain: Moron! I told you not to disturb me till Tuesday! What is it now?
Me: Well, I've got an idea for my next essay. I thought you might like to hear it.
Brain: For this, you disturb my beauty sleep? Okay, just get it over with!
Me: OK! How about I write a column on the trials and tribulations of going shopping with a girl?
Brain: What, are you a sexist or something? No wonder you never have any dates!
Me: Hey, wait a sec.
Brain: I'll tell you what, instead why don't you write a column about an outing with a girl. None of your mushy nonsense, make it funny. Show all the problems you encounter. Set it in a shopping mall or something. Yeah, that's it! Write a column on the trials and tribulations of going shopping with a girl!
Me: But that's what I sa…
Brain: No! No! Don't thank me! Always glad to help out! Though what you'd do without me, I don't know!
At this point, I once again contemplate the many benefits of a do-it-yourself lobotomy