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Why do I write?

"Why do you write?"

When reviewing applications of young writers eager to be mentored, I often ask them this single question: "why do you write?". The reason for asking this question is two-fold. First, she who knows her why can endure any how, if Nietzsche is to be believed. Second, one's why is a window to her personality, beliefs, and cognition. 

Today morning, I thought of asking that very question to myself. Why do I write?

The first response was I write because it moves people to take action. I write because it can impact a change in the society we live in. I write because it matters. 

On second thought, I asked myself a follow-up question: would I still write if none of these happened? In a hypothetical world, where people wouldn't be moved by words, where society wouldn't listen to writers, would I still write?

Then came out a different answer. An answer that's not relative to the world we live in. An answer that doesn't change whether I'm on this planet or some alien planet, whether I'm home or in foreign lands, whether I'm concerned for society or not. 

I write because it's how I paint. I write because it's my preferred expression of art. And art is vital not because it looks good, but because it allows us to revalue our experiences. Art lets us take a pause, look back at our experiences, and live it again from a different perspective. 

Writing as an art

Writing, when done right, becomes a piece of art. Art that makes the onlooker behold. A performance that couldn't be more careless about the audience, and yet somehow manages to keep them fixated. 

It involves putting pieces together, just like an artist puts all her strokes together. But writing is even more impressive: the pieces it puts together are not merely figments of imagination but also of cognition and emotion, all intertwined together. 

It is careful about coherence, integrity, and flow. Coherence of the cognitive pieces. The integrity of the imaginative pieces. And the flow of the emotive pieces. So that the three, when put together, teleports the reader to another reality. 

It is concerned about aesthetics, albeit auditory. It rehearses again and again how it will sound when read aloud. Or when the reader reads it silently inside her mind. I am yet to meet a writer worth her salt who doesn't review her writings by reading them aloud. 

It is a deliberate process. Each word is crafted carefully to meet the contextual demands. Each phrase serves a purpose. Each punctuation brings out a tone, an emotion. It is as slow as a snail, or a thousand armies moving together. 

Because it is slow and deliberate, it makes you relook at your experiences. It makes you reconsider how you lived your yesterday and how you are planning your tomorrow. It repaints your thoughts with introspection and analysis. 

How you too can enjoy writing

Who doesn't enjoy being an artist as noble as a writer? However, there are some contingencies to appreciating this form of art. Take care of them, and you too shall be on your way to enjoying writing as an art!

Stop copying. Forget the Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V option that your computer gives you. Copy-pasting from another work is like trying to repaint the Monna Lisa - you may get recognition and applause but not the inner happiness that comes with creating something new. No matter how crude and unrefined your work seems to you, go out and own it. Treat it like your own child - proudly wear it because it's your own creation! (This applies to writing research papers also. Relying on existing literature shouldn't mean copying from them.)

Stop writing to get published. Stop writing to further your earthly ambitions. For one, it spoils the sanctity of the process. For another, it distracts you. Think of publishing only after you are done with the writing, not when you are at it. 

Make it slow and deliberate, like you do when sipping on a glass of mango shake on a summer afternoon. Craft each word carefully, and rehearse each sentence by reading them aloud at least twice. Enjoy the process. Enjoy listening to the sentence you just wrote. Enjoy imagining the word you just crafted. 

Avoid distractions. All of them. Avoid distractions of ambition - of publishing, getting recognised, getting famous, among others. Avoid distractions of the senses - visual, auditory, and emotional distractions. Avoid distractions of other writings - focus on writing only one piece at a time, or even better, a day. 

Happy writing!





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