Why We Write

Before I go on and on into tangents, which is pretty much a certainty, who exactly is this ‘we’? Well, it’s “people like us”, that term which is gaining worldwide popularity. But since I cannot really know about anyone other than myself (and even myself, if mystics are to be believed, till I meditate deep and long, something which is beyond me for now) I couldn’t possibly speak about a ‘we’ or ‘us’, not with any authenticity (another word that’s enjoying upward mobility). And yet I am choosing a we because I believe some of what I’m saying is not unique to me. Yes, I don’t think I’m that unique.

That said, why do we write?

And I use the word write to encompass everything from poetry, prose, fiction (long or short), non-fiction, blogs (regular, micro, mini, nano and so on), except, topical blogs/articles, self-help books, and so on (not because I think they’re inherently inferior, or anything, just because in that case we already know the answer — we write them in the hope of making steady/large money or name or both). So consider this. Today, in the post-internet world of self-publication taken to its logical extreme, there are millions of posts published on blogs every day (http://www.quora.com/Blogging/How-many-blog-posts-are-written-every-day). There are millions of book published in the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_published_per_country_per_year) every year. And so on.

So while you’re working (or not even working) on that dream first book of yours, without a plot or outline in sight, say, in one year, a million more books will be written. Let me correct that — millions. Out of these a few million will be forgotten because they’ll never see the light of the day. A few million will see the light of the day, because of self-publishing say, or some miracle that will make some publisher give a no, but the light will be short-lived. Less said about the blogs the better (especially in the post micro-blogging world).

So why?

For there is hope. There is hope that we will, someday, write that one page which, whatever its fate, will make us feel proud of ourselves for having written it. A page, a story if we’re lucky, or a piece of poetry that captures something fleeting that words were never designed to capture, anything really.

Writing is a hard work (except for some, but they never bother asking questions such as “why we write”). It’s not the actual writing that’s hard, though, most of the times. It’s the agony of not writing that’s hard. It’s finding out what to write about that’s hard. It’s living with the disappointment of seeing on page a distorted, lynched embodiment (ironically) of a beautiful thought you thought you had captured in your mind, and were trying to capture in words before they turned treacherous, hiding from you when you needed them most, and to live with the knowledge that it was you who did the butchering — that’s hard. It’s being told by writers who have made it, that you need to read-read-read before you write, and then to follow the advice and read-read-read, and to find out that where you were standing had just been a quicksand that did not gobble you only because you did not really try to go anywhere; that what you wrote yesterday, and even felt proud about today seems like a piece of juvenile crap, and to see this process repeated over and over again, so that you’re trying to run like Alice just to stay where you are — that’s hard. It’s telling yourself one day that you have it in you, and to doubt it the very next day — that’s hard. And I’m not even talking about what happens when you actually have something which you may want to consider publishing (mainly because I don’t have any such thing, but more so because that’s post writing, even though it means rewriting, throwing away, rethinking).

There is that aftermath of read, read, read to deal with. I mean, why do we write, after reading Marquez making a child’s play out of that tight-rope walk called fiction writing, say? Or after being dazzled by Rilke’s sublimity? Or any of those greats, living and dead, taking the art to a different level, a different plane?

Is ‘because we love the sheer joy that creating something brings you’ a good-enough answer for that? Does it really? Like when that something is an amateur attempt that you’re afraid to show even to your most partial fan, fearing s/he’d see through it?

Can a skeptic ever be a writer? For isn’t writing — especially sharing your writing with the world — a supreme leap of faith? Can a person who has that strong a faith really be skeptical of other faiths?

Maybe, it’s more pragmatic than that? Maybe, it’s just wishful thinking? Maybe it’s just denial? Maybe it’s just the utter inability to judge one’s own work because of confirmation bias (e.g. “I can so relate to that, how can anyone not?”). Maybe it’s just hardheadedness.

Maybe it’s a mixture of it all.

But we write. We get frustrated. We get dejected even. We say no more, ever again. And yet we write. Because it’s a kind of itch that has no known cure. Or so we like to tell ourselves. And when we stop scratching, it goes away.


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