Bighead wants hole

7:00 am today, I leapt out of bed, sat at my desktop and deleted plants vs zombies 2. It felt evilly liberating. This happened partly because of a writing workshop that I attended in the last two days and partly because there was one psycho level that I just couldn’t cross. Bleddy Zombies.

Writing workshops don’t really make me write any better than I usually do. But it’s reassuring to listen to other writers and their struggles and stories. And when I listen to a really good one, I don’t feel like tearing my hair out. What I do feel like tearing is what I’ve written. I am full of decent admiration for these peeps and there’s a quiet desire to write like them.

This is my fifth writing workshop. I am a lot less anxious than I used to be. At my first, I was anxious to be good, to sound good and to make people believe that I was a writer and that they should take me seriously. At my second, third, and fourth, I was less anxious and more demanding of myself. Time was always a constraint and I told myself I will never be good if I don’t produce good writing, here, now.

I wasn’t anxious or demanding this time. It felt like I was on tranquilizers. I was smiling most of the time. And I paid attention when everybody read their stories, which is something I am not too good at. But lately, I have been very pro artists. For a long time, I had this very bad habit of putting people I admire on pedestals, convinced as I was, that they could do no wrong. While it is severely unfair to do that to them because we are unwittingly ignoring their struggles, we are also putting undue pressure on ourselves to be like them. Anything less, and we tell ourselves that we lack talent.

But they are people, who like everybody else aren’t really good all the time. When I think of myself as a writer, I feel like cringing a little bit for various reasons. But mostly because I still lack the good sense of saving drafts and reworking them into more or less something I am less ashamed of. As writer Paromita Vohra explains in this essay,

Sure, everything artistes do doesn’t work out. The really self-aware artist has distance on this and junks the dud draft. Some don’t. Moreover, in this particular Internet video universe, significance is superficially at least drawn from the numerical logic of likes, shares and engagements. When numbers become the sole indicator and defence of significance, a person may easily lose the very judgment artistes guard zealously, over what’s worth putting out and what’s not.

In the department the other day, A asked me if I ever write for myself and don’t put it on my blog. Her question left me wide-eyed and panicky.I realised that I haven’t written for myself in a year. I don’t anymore. And I don’t even know why.

I remembered what Namsies told me last week about changing the audience in my head to be able to find a new voice. I obsessed about this for the rest of the day and then the panic carried itself well into the evening where it split and became about many other things. At this point, I don’t know what I am looking for. I am sure I can’t find a hole big enough to bury my bighead and wail there until I have adulted enough to resurface.

All I want to do now is microwave yesterday’s potato wedges and stuff my face with it while I watch Premam again. Sigh.

My Yellow Wall

Every once in a while, I must pause to look around, breathe deep breaths, sigh a long sigh, fart a longer fart and smile. Even though I say so myself, I have come a long way. And because this journey has not been easy, because I have been lazy and busy and because there were always noisemakers I had to hush and ignore, I forgot to look back and congratulate myself.

I could have gotten here sooner. This place where writing still frightens the crap out of me, where the first sentence is always the hardest but at the end of four hours when I realize I didn’t notice how time went by, I feel a little well opening up in my chest and warmth gushing out. Even though I want to disown everything I’ve written, I still feel like Lara Craft on mission every morning. This place, where I am comfortable with silence and I let it decide what it wants of me, in the moment.

It’s like tugging at a small hole in time and locking myself in it for hours. I float, I writhe in embarrassment of myself, my words humiliate me but they also teach me and then there is the light plop of a water balloon and when I look around, I’m home like I never left.

Picture courtesy pdxxcollective.com/2013/04/01/women-writing-op/
Picture courtesy pdxxcollective.com/2013/04/01/women-writing-op/

Sometime in the middle of last year, I hit rock bottom from which I haven’t fully emerged yet. My writing was and still is tinged by anxiety, by revenge, and in search of a closure that isn’t there- that was never there, to begin with. But writing is all I have. Regardless of how much it hates me, I must tolerate it. It makes me vulnerable like nothing can, which is why it was attacked with such precision.

I thought I had to protect it – protecting it was a way of protecting myself. But I’ve learnt now that from the moment I began to write, there was no hiding. I feel stronger now. It feels like everything that they could say and do, they have said and done. What more, what now, what next? I don’t feel the need to protect it like I did before. It’s on its own now. We exist, as if on different planes. I own it until I finish it, and then it is not mine. It is theirs – whoever they are. They can do what they want with it. They can hold it up against the sky and mock it, hold it between the folds of their palms and crush it, hold it close to them and see their own reflections in it or they can completely ignore it. It is all I have but it is not mine anymore.

The girl I left behind is rooting for me quite strongly. I know this, I know her very well. She creeps up in my writing now and then, surprising me with a line that suddenly just appears, with a memory I didn’t know I had. If she knew I am here today, nowhere in particular but a place that she and I dreamed of, having stood through time and people, their smiles and hisses, she’d be happy for me and I, for her.

She turns up in various forms and sizes. A student who smiles from a corner and feels that she can relate to me, a student whose twinkling eyes from the first bench — her face, never leaving mine, holds my gaze steady, and tells me to ignore the bullies and just continue my work, a student whose emails tell me that I have helped her see a version of herself, a student whose voice is shaky and shivering but tries to reach out to me, and a student who never makes eye contact in class but is bursting with questions and comments. I see myself in all these people. In a world that thrives on destroying other people’s small joys, these students make it worth living in.

This doesn’t make me invincible. This just makes me see that my writing and I will always be vulnerable and this doesn’t scare me anymore. It is liberating in a very strange way, like I am letting go after holding on too tight. It has left wounds that will heal, but won’t be forgotten. I want to carry them proudly, like scars from a battle I didn’t know I was in.

Every morning is a struggle to write a new story, every evening is a sigh while I erase this story and write new ones and everything in between is a big yellow wall that I must paint a new color every day.