Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Random Ramblings: Why I write

Why do I write? I don’t know, but I think I have an idea. Several ideas, as can be attested by the fact that I have six or seven unfinished ‘projects’ sitting in my hard drive. To make matters worse, every day I come across something new, or see another aspect in something known. More ideas! How some writers wait for years for any inspiration escapes me. But then again, these writers are the ones who create stories that stay with you forever. Like the recently-deceased Harper Lee, who wrote one of the most renowned pieces of literature of all times, To Kill A Mockingbird (I am discounting Go Set A Watchman). Or Joseph Heller, he of the Catch-22 fame, satirist beyond compare and egotist of the highest order. Or even J.R.R. Tolkien, the writer most responsible for this terrible influx of elves and dwarves that today infests the popular fantasy genre.

Is that what I crave for – recognition? Fame, enduring legacy that transcends posterity? I think I do. I want to be quoted by readers long after I am dead and gone. I want to write something that touches the soul of the reader and makes his heart weep in unflinching despair and laugh with unbridled joy, all at the same time. I wish to escape death through my writing, and I want to live on forever in the hearts and the minds of my readers.

There are times, though, when these thoughts seem too lofty for someone of limited knowledge and intelligence. Terry Pratchett, known the world over for his humorous, almost irreverent take on anything from society to popular classics to people to the concept of godhood and even death, was able to create complex stories and characters because his knowledge was not limited to one field, nor was his vision hampered by linearity. Similarly, Steven Erikson, whose books on the Malazan Empire singlehandedly  broke many a aspiring author and ended their writing careers before they even officially began, was able to create an engrossing, engaging and at time transcendentally meaningful series simply because he, as an anthropologist, knew what he was talking about.

Even writers I can consider my peers (at a stretch), such as those in my Facebook writing group, often show a very deep understanding for various aspects of life and are generally much more knowledgeable than I, be it in the matter of creative arts, politics, movies, sports, literature or any other field you care to put your finger on. As I have no such claim to fame – apart from an animal cunning and a willingness to adapt – my writing invariably suffers. Knowing that my chance at greatness is a farfetched one, I wish to stand on level terms with my contemporaries as far as my work goes – if not in terms of outreach, then at least in terms of quality. At least a part of it is a yearning for affirmation from my peers and my betters (yes, there are some, no matter what I say). But even there, I sometimes feel like a doppelganger, posing as someone I am not.

This feeling of dissociation and not belonging is not helped by the fact that I want to write in multiple genres – at any given time, I want to write a witty satire, a high fantasy, a contemporary fiction, a thriller, an anecdotal non-fiction and that latest assignment that has come in from a client, in that order – and am easily influenced by anything good. I read A Dog Eat Dogfood World by a skilled humorist, Suresh Chandrasekaran and I want to write a satire on corporate life. I read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and I want to write something otherworldly, something fantastical. Then there are books like The City of Joy and The Hungry Tide, integrally, almost painfully humane, that leave their mark on their readers, and I want to brand my readers (how presumptuous of me, assuming a plural exists. I sometimes doubt even a singular exists) with a harrowing tale of love and loss and crushed dreams and unyielding hope. I want to write something that resonates with a reader. I want to write something that is appreciated by the elite as well as the people looking to pass their time on a train journey.

And I want to be recognised for it; I wish to bask in the adoration that comes with having written such a piece. I want a massive crowd that jostles for an autograph from me, and I want women to swoon when I wink like they do when Durjoy Dutta smiles his dimpled smile. I want the world to know me – by my name, by my face and most importantly, by my work.

But there are times that I am not sure I want this spotlight. Writers, I have been told, are essentially creatures who wear their social garb to mask their inherent melancholy. Like Hemingway, who after 3 failed marriages, multiple affairs and The Old Man and the Sea, put a bullet in his head (from his favourite shotgun. I do not know why this detail is relevant, though it has been stressed rather extensively). I feel this to be true from my personal experience, but then the question arises – is it true because I want it to be true, or is it true because it just is? That’s a tough one to answer, unsure as I am about everything at this moment.

I do know this – I want to earn a lot of money from writing. I want to have a big, lavish house, I want to go on holidays to Cannes and Morocco and other exotic destination that Agatha Christie often took her characters on, I want to own a supercar, I want to sit in a posh club, sip on some imported foreign liquor the way they show in the movies, have the bartender nod and smile at me, and just sit there in the corner, with my notebook, a pen and a laptop to keep me company as I see the teeming mass of humanity through my tinted lenses. An occasional journalist or two to break the monotony will be nice.

Money and fame, however, are something of a privilege – there are days I want nothing more than the company of my loved ones to keep me happy. But a writer’s life is a fickle life, and a writer is the meanest, most demented creature on earth. My penchant for creating stories has landed me in more trouble than I should have, mostly because I always try to bring my stories to life. This is usually accomplished by either directly or indirectly hurting or in some way inconveniencing those near and dear to me. I create narratives and push my loved ones onto the dark path that I envision them walking in my stories. I risk my relations to achieve greater authenticity in a storied retelling, and it is a wonder I never manage to truly appreciate these wonderful people – friends, family and partners – for being there for me. Maybe this is why I write – to validate the misery I inflict upon them, to derive some meaning from their despair. Or maybe that is what I tell myself to ease my conscience.

Wow, this has been a rather lengthy rant for something that started as a drunken tirade against and a wakeup call to self. In trademark fashion, I have rambled and rambled, and yet somehow still failed to find a conclusion. Maybe there isn’t one; maybe there is, and I am just not equipped with the tools needed to craft it. But regardless, I keep on writing. Why do I write? I don’t know, but I think I have an idea.... 


  1. Wonderful to see my book float up on that tide of alcohol. :) AND alongside some of the best in the business - THAT made my day.

  2. If writers don't dream, who will. Maybe you will accomplish all your dreams one day.

  3. My mind couldn't go past your literary brilliance without leaving a word or two about it here. I found myself agreeing to most of the reasons you painstakingly disclosed here. We writers need to be appreciated. In fact all creative people crave for appreciation. I am not sure if that is entirely out of narcissism, but then it sure fuels the soul to be more.

  4. Well written. You weave a gripping web.

  5. Could relate to many things you have mentioned here. Especially the handicap that is: not having knowledge beyond a handful of topics.

    This felt good to read.

  6. Thanks for sharing this Ritesh. Fantastic read! I think this is a question that plagues all writers. And it always will. And in pursuit of the answer to this, we wield a pen...or tap on the keyboard, if you will.
    I see so much of my own psyche in this article. But the one that I agree with the most is the one where you talk about one book and feel like writing something like that too. Even if it is a delusion, that I could ever churn the kind of writing that inspires me as a reader, I nurse it happily...for the fire that it brings in my spirit to write.

  7. Thanks for writing this, Ritesh. It felt as if you have captured the thoughts that are floating in my mind. I think we will never find the answer to that question because there is no one answer to it.