The earliest memory I have of honest writing was when I was 12. Although I’d kept a diary since I was eight, up to that point it composed mostly of details of – silly daily rants, tiffs with friends, boys who made me blush and lyrics from pop songs.
It was the first big fight I had with my mother that transformed the scented pages. Although I can’t remember what we so strongly disagreed about, I know I was furious with her for shutting me out without listening to what I had to say. It felt incredibly unfair to a girl stumbling at the threshold of full-blown puberty – to not be heard.
I pulled out the thick blue notebook with doodles and stickers all over it and began scribbling away. There was no thinking, filtering, editing. The rage brewed within like a vat at a chemical factory, spilling harsh, illegible words onto paper. Reading it later when my temper’s fizz had settled, I was astounded by the venom in my words and felt both shame and pride in this alternate person within me.
I learnt that I could be selfish and raw in my journal without the need to display any sort of sensibility or empathy; it was more than just a log of events, it was the unconditional friend who took everything I had to say without questions or judgment. As someone who constantly battled with self-doubt and the anxiety of not being worthy enough to fit in with the people around me, I’d developed the tendency to clam up. I feared that being honest about what I wanted from relationships would result in losing friends and family. For someone with such crippling insecurities, writing became a life jacket, enabling flotation in the torrid stream of growing up and moving on.
My life transpired through the usual sequence of events prescribed by society to most of us; an education, a job, a marriage, a new home, some travel, moving homes, moving jobs. Somewhere along the way, I stopped writing. A hectic career in Finance and the struggle to maintain relationships ate away at my time and creative instincts. Or rather, I let it eat away.
Disconnected from myself and feeling devoid of any particular purpose, I fell into an abyss of loss. The more the darkness swallowed me, the more I turned to vehicles of escapism. I ate too much, drank too much, stayed awake when I should have rested, slept in when I should have been out exploring wonders hidden in unknown nooks. All I wanted to do was numb myself from the burning urgency of needing to contemplate the question – What the fuck do you want?
You know how people get clogged arteries from all the deposited fat? Well, something like happened to me. In my head.
Every instance of overwhelming joy, sadness, angst accumulated within me like burdens I could not relieve. I couldn’t decide what deserved to be thought about and what, felt. It was as if there were all these words bursting at the seams of my soul but which never made it out and continued bouncing around like boiling molecules, multiplying by numbers and restlessness. It got harder to confront the reality that presented itself before me everyday; I suffered quietly and terribly.
Then one day I attended a local writers’ meeting at a cozy coffee shop. I fidgeted and listened to a few people reading their pieces; captivated by some, confused by others. There was no way I could do what they were doing; sharing their stories, attaching their names to the kaleidoscopic worlds they built with imagination, memories, opinions and facts. I didn’t go back right away but resolved to blog diligently. After setting up a Tumblr account, I began. All sorts of juvenile rubbish came tumbling out of me. I hated everything I wrote but kept at it for the sole reason that I was probably the only one reading it all.
Months went by and I started to feel differently about my intention. Writing was no longer just about venting or self-expression but a tool to dig my insides and yank out scraps of a psychedelic universe swirling within me. I felt infinity. I felt jagged. I felt pain. I felt bliss. But I felt it all too much. I would sit and start typing away with one idea and as I immersed myself in all of its beauty, suddenly I’d drown in the unknown seas of my subconscious and get hurled violently onto a new island awaiting my exploration. It was exhilarating to feel capable of such magic, even if it was mostly imperfect.
Then there was the process of extracting myself out of the abyss. I quit the Finance job, signed up for a bunch of free online creative writing courses, spent time in quiet solitude and learnt to savor it, read books that were different from my preferred genres, went out and met other writers and indulged in honest and strange conversations. There was so much to see, do, feel and write about. My reality didn’t change and I still saw the same shit that used to bog me down. But writing gave me the strength to fix my own inner demons so I could construct firm beliefs in the possibilities of change.
It has taken me several years to cross the vast chasm between “I write.” to “I am a writer.” I used to mumble it softly when people asked me what I did but now I say it with certainty and dignity.
Sometimes I find myself back near the edge of that abyss, hovering about it, doubting my own ambitions.
‘What were you thinking?’
‘A writer? Really?’
‘Do you not see how small and useless you are compared to the brilliance that already exists out there?’
Days when these voices in my head laugh with evil mirth, the darkness invites me to plunge in once more, whispering promises of ease and comfort. I. But I’ve been there before and force myself to remember all the will and courage it took to claw out. And so I step back, inhale, and walk away knowing fully well it won’t be long before I land up here again and have to endure this cycle of doubt and affirmation all over.
Writing is my habit and I live to sustain it. I observe the world around me; the swollen veins on my grandmother’s arms, a child relishing the flesh of a pulpy mango without a care for the dripping mess it makes on his clothes, the couple bouncing amidst crashing waves as the rough sea reminds them of how much they need each other, the white moon shining defiantly before its stipulated time in a light blue sky, the greedy crow picking at the splattered innards of a dead rat. I stand on a lonely street at night in a somewhat-silence and let the breeze stroke my skin and hair to arouse a bud in my heart that just might blossom into a meaningful tale.
So here it is once more – I am a writer. I try not to care whether my words will define my place in this world or if I’ll ever be able to sell them well enough. Every sentence I create is a little baby, ejected out of my immensely wonderful brain, strung together with bones, veins and rapidly beating hearts.
No one sees the world the way I do. That is my gift.