A writer’s discombobulation

The bizarre giant ladybirds in the tropics (Theosophical Society, Chennai)

Collecting my thoughts for a meaningful blogpost has never been harder in these past weeks. The reason for this could loosely be due to an inability to concentrate, a major deficit in attention. But then, we live in times of austerity, anxiety and disconnection. Good news has gone out of fashion (bomb blasts in Brussels this past week) and working hard yields minuscule benefits. Yet, we plod on.

Perhaps it is because I’ve taken on writing that I feel this way – I perceive roadblocks everywhere. Overcoming them feels impossible at first and a bit like being asked to climb Everest and be back to prepare dinner but that’s the way it goes, it seems. When it gets done, it feels like the easiest thing. The entire legend of Hanuman in Hindu mythology is based on this one human aspect of self-doubt and self-belief. But then legends are stories at best.

The writer’s block is of course a classic – scribes the world over have perfected the special formula for that concrete mixture which we churn away producing some pretty amazing sludge that hardens immediately on pouring!

I attended a workshop in Bristol, with Scottish novelist Morag Joss a few months back titled, “Page Fright and how to Overcome it”. It’s a little ironic that workshops like that can have the opposite effect despite some excellent suggestions.

Here are a few: Create a writerly sensibility that is one’s own – hmm…easy if you are a famous English writer with a Scottish surname (a short-story about writers, by Ian McEwan published in the New Yorker). Most of the time, it is an uncomfortable piece of information to impart when people ask you what do you do. There is also a danger that you (me, really) might delude yourself into believing you’re any good. The aim of course would be to create a good writerly cocoon and weave silken tales and pretend you work for MI6. The mystique of a writer is quite glamorous when you think about it.

Mine the personal stories and twist it in uncanny waysha, ha, (I direct you to a previous post about the writerly life). Easily said, harder to execute. I fight a constant battle between my creativity and my need for authenticity. I reckon it is all a huge game that we need to play – and that requires assiduous application. Which leads me to the next point…

Make lists of favourite words – ‘Assiduous’ has such a ring to it – it feels as if there’s dexterous technique resulting in perfect execution. In Salman Rushdie’s recent novel, “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights”, I came upon ‘bizarreries’ – it immediately feels like Indianised English – as if a writer went to the bazaar and came back with a kilo of something bizarre.  ‘Discombobulate’ is another – a perfect word to describe the confusion of the writer’s angst. And the angst does go around in circles in a most discombobulating fashion.

The more I write, the more off-notes I feel I strike. I write in the only language I’m any good at but am always conscious that my words are trying to sing a different musical genre altogether – like playing Mozart in Carnatic style. So many Indian writers have overcome this struggle admirably but it never really goes away.

But the fact is that writing is what settles me – calms me down when there is a need to make sense of the world. When I write I feel I’m me and when I haven’t written, it gnaws away like a feral pest, chewing off self-confidence and joy. So, assiduously, I shall carry on.


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