Monday, June 11, 2007

When Our Writing Becomes Us

I wrote this essay and posted it on Caferati and Shakespeare and Company and the responses I got were varied and, well, um, multifarious, insofar as the content was concerned. I would also have liked some comments about what exactly the reader thinks about the Kafkaesque (Franz Kafka is a writer of the existentialist movement who postulated that what we go through life is, at most, absurd) moments that make him/her want to write badly, yet, flounder when he/she puts pencil to paper.

Response

Well written didactic. Existentialism has always interested me, and in these times when offices are cubicles and people are designations, this struggle to be something, to be heard is even more.

Do not have time to think about a befitting response, so just letting you know. Your words work. :-)

-Vyom Prashant

Why do I write?
Because ink runs in my veins,
not blood,
and it throbs, pulsates
and it must bleed,
and so I must write.

-Ozymandias (Raamesh Gowri Raghavan)

A good book to read in this context will be Amitava Kumar's "Bombay-London-New York." The book essentially attempts to answer the question "why do we read the books we read." It's a good self-reflection as to why do we veer towards certain authors and certain books. :-)

-Dan Husain

John, critics can judge, applaud, point to flaws, and compare with other writers, but they cannot tell a writer what to write. They don't decide what books must be written.

I recently read that the number of new English books published in 2004 was 375,000. Total number of English books available for purchase the same year: 450,000. The average reader probably goes through 10 or 20 in a year.
This of course excludes all magazine articles, blog posts, newspapers and every other form of printed information a person comes across, online or offline.

What an avalanche of advice, impressions and thoughts! It seems impossible for anyone to leave any lasting impression behind. I hope we all write at least in part to please ourselves, and those who may chance on it today, rather than posterity.

(If this realization isn't the stuff of Kafka, what is :-)

-Aparna

Hi John, a very good piece of writing.

- Mathew Joseph

“Why do we write?”

A question oft discussed at writers’ forums. “To express ourselves” is the obvious but simplistic answer. Even before the process of writing or printing was invented, humans composed verses and told stories and their spoken words were preserved in the oral tradition. Before they even had a language, our forefathers painted on walls of their caves. It is not only humans who have this urge to communicate. All living creatures use some form of communication, to survive and multiply.

Communication can be spoken word, writings, painting, singing and all kinds of arts. Searching for reasons for one’s existence and discovering the hidden self is at the root of all arts, I think. Do we hear questions such as “why do I paint” or “why do I dance”? Then why is it that writers seem to ask this question more often?

May be we writers are not really ‘asking’ the question. May be we are honing our writing skill by delving deeper into the process of writing itself. May be we are ‘practicing’ the art of writing by asking us this question and then answering in a coherently written piece?

Any ideas?

- Rajendra Pradhan

Our writing is us. And some of us write, while others don't. Maybe they find other means of expression. For those of us who write,it is so many things-expression, communication, connection, self-discovery(attempts at), trying to understand the world,finding the beauty of words, the list is endless.

For those who write, writing often is akin to breathing, beyond analysis.

- Abha Iyengar

Well-written, John. I liked your admission that criticism of your writing hurts you. It's the same for all of us, though we'd like to rise above our egos.

- Batul Mukhtiar

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