Friday, July 25, 2008

Honest Injun.

This has something to do with a process people call, 'writing.' Like all processes, and like all human habits which have a long and chequered history, writing has a history, itself long and complicated, and fairly muddied. But when a person takes a pen and sits down to write (a very unlikely prospect, which should not occur more than a few dozen times in an adult's life once he is past the age of university examinations), this historical aspect is forgotten. Or, to be precise, this historical aspect does not come into the picture at all, just like so many other aspects ascribed to writing by the academia.

Writing, on its own, is a simple mechanical act which leaves its trace (forgive my ragged jargon, but I'm only trying; I'm not trying to deride the obvious) in more places than just the paper. For instance, it imprints itself in the memory (short-term); it might leave residues for the future. It may leave a score on the piece of wood on which you placed the sheet (a peculiar property, attributable both to the force of your hand and to the point of your stylus, and also to the obvious fact that not always would you use cellophane or nitrocellulose as a backing sheet). Whatever aspect we turn to, we find the activity to be thoroughly engaging. It demands something from us, but it leaves us free. Writing is always...writing per se.

Which brings me to the point, all too soon: we write, but not our thoughts. Just as a novelist is not describing or writing about life (he is but writing his story, he is, simply stated, writing), we simply write. Serious writing—by which I mean the sort that wishes to keep itself floating—is not parametric, nor is it programmatic. It does not have an agenda. It doesn't work all too well that way.

In fact, it doesn't work at all that way; we have been fed these misconceptions ever since they began to teach us on the basis of difference: you and I are different because your daddy is different from my daddy, and so on. We suppose that writing has a purpose, and that the purpose is none other than reflect our thoughts. And here, we make a mistake when we consciously attempt to produce great prose and poetry by recreating a thought or a feeling or a groove which left us on a high.

As I have said elsewhere, writing is not a trip; nor is it a drug. Then what is it? It still takes a human being to write; we need to make some motions, some effort, some sort of action, to write. The idea remains the same throughout: you put your thoughts on paper, you put your ideas on celluloid, and so on. It is the basic pattern for all creative work. You translate what's on your mind, or, since that is not possible to do it with any conviction, you translate your recollections of what you tried to do. Duh.

At least some of the pen-pushing, tongue-wagging scandalmongers must have realised in their long careers (may they rust in one piece) the latent danger, the hollowness, of this position. But, like almost all human professions where three's not a crowd nor three million, no one is required to do anything about it. But some (like me, perhaps?) adopt the hangdog air, at least occasionally, when they look back upon the crimes they have committed (yes, I'm speaking of the men of letters). And yes, it all amounts to the same: knife and paper can both cut.

Good an enigma that unfolds like the resplendent delicateness of a butterfly opening its wings for the first time. Nebulous, flaky underside cuts open like the leaves of a book to reveal impeccably finished filigree of the greatest clarity. The purity disarms us, and brings us to face life, still and unborn, quiet, but filled with meaning, beauty, and our presence. Yet that moment is marked out for our absence: we were there, yet we were beside ourselves, we were not aware of being there. We remember it, the recollection blissful, staying on like the dash of pollen from where the butterfly kissed our arm.

At the crossroads, accessible neither by joy nor by sorrow, yet alone and filled with life: reflecting, feeling, not remorseful, not happy, but full, contented, warm: this is how good writing should be, and this is how we feel when we read a good piece of writing. The writer may repeat, the writer may make mistakes, but he manages to let you loose in a private place, alone, where you can find things out on your own, turn things over, and make that life your own. A writer gives you a space to roam, a good writer doesn't force you to eat his grub.

And this is as it should be, today, the day I complete my twenty-second year as a hobby writer. And I hope, one day, to be able to rightfully describe my vocation by simply stating (should someone still understand what that means), 'I write.'

[878; direct onto blogger; recollection of July 21]

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