“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.” ~ Gloria Steinem
Last night I received a surprisingly warm reaction from a special friend, Miss SS, on one of the stories I had written on this blog way long back in 2010. I was somberly happy about her reception of the story ‘Emily and Sam’ and slept over it (a writer’s joy) almost immediately. When I woke up early today morning I felt a strange sort of psychological pain in my head. At first I put it down to a nightmare that I couldn’t recall and with that thought, I proceeded into the cold shower hoping for the pain to go away. No sooner than I shook off the drowsiness, thanks to the snipping cold shower, did I realize that the pain was caused not by a forgotten nightmare but by the much memorable compliment of the previous night. Yes! the compliment had had that strange effect on me. With the healthiest use of words it stirred up a deep-seated regret of not having written enough over the last few years, especially before my last birthday (which was four days ago)! I realized that in an attempt to avoid making the most-cited regret of writers (“I regret letting writing come in the way of life”) the story of my life, in the past few years I have immaturely sidetracked my writing habit. And to me, writing is more life-affirming than breathing itself.
“Have you been breathing just a little and calling it a life?” asked Mary Oliver in one of her poems. In a similar fashion, the compliment of last night made me question myself,”Have you been avoiding writing to live life and calling it a life?”
Before stepping out of the shower, I mentally sifted through the entire pile of regrets I had been listing down since my birthday this past week and, at the moment, none matched up to the pangs of conscience caused by the regret of not having written enough. I really regret not having written more and more when I was younger. Because essentially, as grown-ups say, it’s not the things you did but the things you didn’t do that you end up regretting the most. I lived life by my own rules in the recent past, almost without limit at that, at the cost of writing. Today I ought to realize, now that I am one of the grown-ups too, that my urge to live unfettered ought not to come at the cost of my urge to write. Not writing and not living are the two regrets I cannot really live with when I’m much older. (I am slightly ashamed of having to remind myself of a fundamental tenet – writing – of my own life at this age, but hey, life’s like that!) Writing and living are not contradictory but complementary elements of my existence. There are other things I’d be glad to compromise on and sacrifice, like sleep or food or internet BUT NOT writing, when life comes flooding through the sluice gates again. I promise!
I did make a resolution this new year, to write regularly but life took over even before I realized it. Now that things are back in control, more or less, I am looking forward to a great AOC (ass-on-chair) time. What’s more reassuring is that, my career-plans now demand professional writing abilities, which means that I am required to spend at least three months from now AOC. So, in effect, there can’t be a better time than now to align my personal writing agenda with some professional AOC action.
Plus, I endeavor to get my creative streak back this year, shifting focus from the self-pitying write-ups I’ve been indulging in these past few years, those few times that I ever sat down to write. Imagine riding those flights of fancy again, just like the teenage days..!
I’d have done a great disservice to my older/future self had I not written this very blog post tonight. I’d be doing a great disservice to this post if I fail to push myself everyday from hereon to keep up the promise in this post.
“Being a writer is a bit like eating garlic–even when you stop the act itself it seeps out of your pores [but only if you’ve not been away from it for too long],” writes Naturi Thomas-Millard, to metaphorically illustrate how an ‘in-the-zone’ writer’s emails et al become unappreciated works of art. I know exactly what she’s talking about and I want exactly that garlic-seeping-out-of-my-pores feeling and emails-becoming-unappreciated-arts feeling real soon!
P.S. Thanks to Miss SS for pushing the right buttons in me, knowingly or unknowingly.