My writing process is a bit like being constipated. I feel bloated with unformed ideas and grumpy with blocked up words. I get irritable and it consumes me. I can think of nothing else. Conversations feel like an invasion on my thoughts, and I resent people expecting me to participate in life. All I can think about is this piece I am supposed to be writing. If my life had a soundtrack, these moments would be mournful country music performed by a one eyed, bourbon soaked, Banjo playing, cowboy hat wearing, white bearded Southerner with wrinkles etched at the corner of his eyes.
This phase can last days. Even weeks. Mostly, I tell myself to be patient. Allow the words to marinate, swish and swirl around in some sort of accidental alchemy. Pamper them, so when they emerge, they come out ripe and plump and succulent. Bouncing with vigor. Vibrating with energy. Glistening with sheen. Sometimes I try to push. Show up and type. Squeeze one painful tiny pellet after the other. Other times a turn of phrase will appear in my head, all glittering and lithe, and instantly seduce me, demanding to be written down and adorned with other words. I have to quickly get to a laptop and purge out everything that’s been bubbling in my brain before it spills over. Unfortunately, this happens mostly in the shower, or when I am driving. So my notebook has taken to looking like a dog wrote down a Chinese poem whilst white water rafting. Often, I need a laxative. So I turn to the Masters. Furiously devouring line after line. Page after Page. Piece after Piece. Envy is a powerful tool.
And when it’s all out, and my system is cleansed, my God it feels good. For the next 10 minutes. Then it starts all over again.
It has been one year since I started this blog. I have always wanted to write. I have always wanted to be a writer. I used to write when I was younger, and then went on a decade long hiatus where I consumed a lot, but created very little. That little seed of desire grew in me, sprouting scented leaves of yearning, its branches sprawling out and invading every ounce of my being. Until it took over my body. And the stakes became too high. It meant too much. I was paralysed by the fear of mediocrity. You see, I wanted to be a big fat famous widely read much adored even more discussed author. Oh and rich of course. I wanted my writing to touch millions of people in the world. To Move Them. And I wanted it to be perfect now! I had built a mountain of pressure too high to climb and too heavy to bear. And so I watched from afar, reading jealously and watching wistfully as other writers wrote their stories.
I love words. I love how a few innocent words strung together, can sweep you away, make you gasp for breath, make you want to inhale them, absorb them, chew them, suck them, swallow them, turn them into a part of who you are, unravel them syllable after syllable, peel away the layers, pick at the spokes to understand how they can make you feel this way. I love words.
My family urged me on and I had little spurts. Buoyed and inspired by my dear friend Nafisa’s writing, I set up an obscure little blog, and in the dead of the night, blue light blinking, I furtively wrote a tiny piece which I dropped onto the internet, and ran away scared to look at it ever again.
I whispered this desire to friends and got some dubious advice. Samo’s theory was that my voracious reading appetite was friendzoning my own writing. I was getting too intimidated by all the incredible work I was reading to ever make a move. His solution. The classic play hard to get technique. Stop reading completely. This was advice I promptly ignored. He may as well have asked me to give up life.
Have you ever wanted something so badly, that you would rather believe in the possibility of its existence, than discover for sure that it doesn’t exist? If I never wrote, in my head I could potentially be an incredible writer. And I could die happy with that mirage. If I wrote, I ran the risk of finding out that I am actually simply mediocre. And life can never be the same after that.
This is what writing meant to me.
Then almost exactly a year ago, I sent some incredibly self-indulgent writing to Biko Zulu, whose writing I adore, asking him what he thought of it. Biko was not entrenched in the literary circles I inhabited, and I needed an opinion that was removed. His response was sufficiently obscure. He said something about how my writing was like water. It had depth, movement but then went still…. I didn’t know Biko well enough at the time to figure out whether he intended that as a compliment or a literary side duck. But I was going to take what I got. So when he ordered me to stop being such a p****y, set up a blog and send him a link by morning, it seemed simple enough. Chanyado was born. One simply doesn’t argue with Biko’s forehead.
I had no idea what the blog was about, but I knew I just had to write. Chanyado would be my playground, where I would scrape my knees and bruise my arms as I stumbled and explored. All I aspired to was getting to point where my writing stopped making me cringe. And hopefully someone along the way would read and enjoy a piece or two.
A side note. Who are all you people googling ‘women in saris peeing’?? I can see you. The back end of my blog shows the search terms that lead to Chanyado. If you are typing those words with a half empty jar of Vaseline by your mouse pad, please go away. This is not that sort of establishment!
And so it’s been a year. My palms still tingle and butterflies still chakacha in my belly every time I open a blank word document. The sheer terror does not go away. You just get used to it. You ask it to please take up a little less space and ka-square, so that you can breathe a little, so that you can play a little, so that you can dance a little.
I have realised, that this piece here, and the one before it, and the one after it. They all have to happen for the next piece to be written. They are important not because of what they say, but because of the way they teach me how to say it. This is not my masterpiece. But it is the ploughing of the field, so that the soil is aerated enough that when the time comes, the sunflowers can bloom.
Malcom Gladwell has a theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at your craft. If I had done three hours a day, every day, from the day I declared I wanted to write, by now I may have been halfway to becoming the writer I want to be. So I tell you. If something means that much to you. If the stakes are that high. Start now. Don’t wait. Three years from now, you will remember me. You will be glad you used your training wheels, so that when the real race comes, you are primed, ready to feel the wind in your hair, and the taste of victory on your tongue.
To everyone who reads, comments, shares. Thank you for being part of this journey. It isn’t the done thing to say this, but I really do care rather a lot what people think, because I don’t really write for me. I write for you. I write to share a different perspective on life, to make your soul exhale, to stop your world for a second as you inhale beauty in language…in story…in a truth.
To Chanyado. It’s been a year. It’s time to shake off the training wheels.