It has taken many weeks and many sessions with the love of my life N to come to terms with the fact that it is alright to call oneself a writer. I have often resisted being called an artist, a writer or a filmmaker.
But now when people ask me what I do, I answer, "I'm a writer and a blogger."
"Yes, that's right. But what do you do?"
"Ummmm.... I write."
I have seen disbelief. I have seen them frown. Precisely the reason why I have stopped going to the neighbourhood park now. Precisely the reason why I am wary of making friends outside of my fraternity. And precisely the reason why I was at my alma mater to talk about various career options as a writer.
It is surprising that even though I earned my first pocket money as a ten-year-old because of what I wrote, even though I often earned prize moneys to buy that fancy pair of jeans or kurta out of creative writing competetions and even though for most part of my career I have written scripts, concept notes, e-mails, web content, reports, features and columns to make a living, I would still not call myself a writer. That is because we often believe that writing is something you do by the night. Writing can be a 'hobby' but it can't be your day job and writing can't be something which will fetch you money. That is only partially true, though. It takes time. The gestation period is extremely long and tedious. But it pays, sooner or later.
"Oh, so you are a writer? What exactly do you write?" Asked my daughter's classmate's Mum, who sat next to me sms-ing incessantly on her Blackberry.
"Anything that can fetch me some money," I wanted to tell her. But it sounded cheap.
"Scripts. I write scripts." That would have been the easiest answer.
"Your kids are lucky. A writer-Mum can never fall short of bedtime stories. You must be a good storyteller too."
Well, yes. But no. I am yet to learn Scheherazade style of storytelling. I still grapple with words and characters every night to fill them with interesting stories which unfortunately fail to hold their attention. They now have their own stories, you see.
"So you are a writer? Why don't you write a bestseller?" That dear friend asks out of sheer concern. Do you know of a shortcut, I want to ask her. Since there are none, is bestseller the only reason why I should write? I write because I love walking into the walls. When dark and lonely times don't offer you any solace, your writing does. That one shitty and not-so-great piece can make you float. And if this is the only way to redemption, what's the harm in holding onto it for the rest of your life? Bestsellers can wait till the next lifetime. So can the blockbusters. So can money, may be. If writing is what I am passionate about, money and fame are only logical conclusions.
For now, I believe that writing is a spiritual experience, like painting or chanting or meditating. Like every other such experience you prepare your ground before writing - listen, observe, eavesdrop, be in tune with the universe, fall in love with pansies and petunias, walk on the dry leaves, wait and watch.
You sometimes wait for eternity. Sometimes, you know what you want to write about. Sometimes there is inspiration. Sometimes money is the only inspiration. Sometimes you write that one piece with your kids jumping on your head, sometimes you get into a cocoon. Sometimes you read to be able to write. Sometimes you stack away every readable material. Sometimes you write to communicate with the world. Sometimes you write to listen to your innermost fears. Sometimes you gather the strength to write about things you dare not acknowledge. Sometimes you muster some more strength to gag yourself from communicating the unwanted.
Writing is a trackable process. You do see yourself growing and recovering through your writings. You see yourself evolve. You see yourself angry, grief-stricken, ecstatic, depressed, hopeful, hopeless, happy, hapless - all through what you have written. You see your mind and soul as one, in tune with what you feel and convey. Didn't I say writing is a spiritual experience?
But aren't writers often depressed, confused, insecure, promiscuous and hypocrites? Yes, there are better adjectives in the thesaurus if you please. A writer is volatile because she is sensitive. This state of insecurity and confusion is quite helpful because it pepares the ground for pushing some more, thinking some more and expressing some more. As for promiscuity and hypocrisy, good storytellers also make for some brilliant stories.
So, with all the juvenile and not-so-happening things that I am writing and churning out everyday, I finally declare myself a writer. (Aah, this is quite liberating. The accepatance of yourself as a writer, I mean). I also hereby accept that this may call for a brutal murder of my "nice" self. While I move forward on a difficult and fascinating journey, come along only if you are willing to share the grief.