Here’s some more musings from that 1992-93 period. The computer date shows this was written on 23 April 1993.
The act of writing is an important question. Why does a person write?
* When I was young, the Illustrated Weekly of India used to publish poems by small children. Somehow I felt that I must see my name too on the page. And so I wrote my first poem at the age of 9 (I do not think it was published, however).
* When I became slightly older, I read poems of love. Poets of reknown became important to me. I too wanted to become a well-known poet. So I wrote a lot of poems. Some good, some bad. Some got published here and there. I was happy.
* When I went into government service, I was not allowed to write because of the rules. I had to seek permission, etc., all the time, and so on. Or so I thought. So I wrote for my own satisfaction – initially on paper, and later on in the computer.
I hoped to publish all this one day.
* In fact when I was 25 it was my major ambition to publish a book. This I did (some form of book) when I wrote DAISY, a technical book on rural development using computers. I was quite proud of having written this book for some time.
* But that was not good enough.
* Then in August or so, 1992, I wrote a scathing article for the Sentinel on the problems, as I saw it, with Assam government and its mismanagement in general. I was genuinely unhappy and frustrated with the Indian system, and knew that no matter how many years I stayed in the government system, no one would hear me there. And things would go from bad to worse, while my frustrations and feelings piled up inside me. This was perhaps the first article which served the real purpose of self-expression in me. It was not at all for the fame, and least of all for the money. And in fact there was no money in it for me – or hardly any. I had earned much more in my free-lance stint as a journalist before joining the service than I earned from this article.
But never mind.
* What I want to find out is what makes a person write?
I think the following things are possibly important:
– self-expression, or the desire TO TELL. The fact is that we often discuss many profound matters over the occasional social meeting, that even if some of it became a part of common knowledge, it would help change the society. For example, we discuss India’s corruption and associated problems but we hardly write about these. The result is that those who are indulging in corruption are not exposed, as they should be.
– possible renown. But this is a thing I found difficult to sustain. People know of you more if you are rich, or even if you are a politician, than if you are a writer. Even the best writers are known far less than the medium ranking politician. For example, how many names of Jnanpith award winners does an average person know? Not more than three to four. There have been ….! And even Nobel prize winners? Not many, I am sure. And what about the classical philosophers, and others? Very few indeed. Yet we all know who was Akbar the Great – a politician. Writing is not the best route to fame, I find.
– Money. Emphatically not. Whereas you have the phenomenon in the US of some best-selling writers becoming rich, it is at best the writers of pulp fiction who become that rich. And they are clearly not indulging in writing as such. They are merely pursuing a profession to earn money from the desire in us of gossip and knowing about murder and treachery. Writing, as I see it is about something intimate to all of us: something about our own soul. It is not mere telling fictitious tales of crime, sex and money without any further meaning. Such writers are pulp writers, not writers. A writer has to be a thinker too. Well, at least that is what I think.
I find therefore that good writing has only one motive – self-expression.
But the question is what does a person want to express? And does everyone have something to express?
Well, not everyone has something to express at all the time. In particular, when one is peacefully enjoying a drink on the beach, there is nothing to express, only to experience. But maybe I am mistaken. There may be something to express if a person is poetically inclined, even in such a situation.
The first thing about a writer therefore has to be a desire to express something about almost everything. He has to have an opinion. And we expect some kind of consistency too. Emerson did say that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. But how will it seem if writer (even Emerson for that matter) today writes a pulp fiction novel, tomorrow writes a scholarly discourse about the existence of God, and the day-after-tomorrow denies it. I mean, we have to have a theme in our lives, which will weave all our expressions around itself.
Further, the writer has to have a disturbance. A fully placid person may have nothing to express beyond the banality of existence. Hence one has to be ever so slightly skewed from the normal disposition. In fact, in my case too, I find that I write chiefly when there is some force compelling me to do so. I do not write when I am completely at ease. The force could be positive or negative: I may be excessively happy or excessively sad. Of course this does not mean that the disturbance has to be large. Ever so slight a disturbance will do, too, such as not getting sleep, and pouring out one’s thoughts into writing, rather than brooding in the bed. Writing does relax a person.