When younger, I wrote like a romantic, each sentence an offering of adoration. The words were clumsy and blunt. They described with ease the way things looked–the glow of cheeks after a first kiss, the longing ache of a lover upon parting and the hushed, borrowed desire of a love letter slipped quietly into another’s hand. Such incidents were portrayed with little grace and little subtlety. Writing, then, was simply a tool to win affection, a paltry sort of thing to mould and fashion as I desired, or rather, as she desired. In high school, I wrote a paean to an infatuation as a writing assignment and she swooned.
Then, I acted also like a Cyrano of sorts, writing love letters for lust-struck male friends who fell for young girls with agile ankles in high heels and tight thighs in short skirts. As teenagers, their feelings and desires were like everyone else’s, only they were too young to know it then. I came to this realisation early, when different people asked me in different voices to say the same thing to different girls. It was easy, made easier by the fact that I stole abundantly from Shakespeare. To this day, I regret nothing.
After a while, I became a depressive, writing pithy, short pieces that reflected adequately the inner turmoil of a insufferable teenager. Most days were spent wearing black, sitting in semi-darkness and writing sinister, gloomy stories where, almost always, the protagonist died. This was the easiest manner in which to wrap up a story and I beat it to death, so to speak. Murders, suicides, murder-suicides, blood and guts galore. This satisfied my inane desire for the morbid while also facilitating the expression of my own budding thoughts and feelings. It was a tough time, or at least it felt tough then. Looking back, I am exceedingly grateful that this phase ended as abruptly as it began.
Then, for a while, I was a reactionary. The influence of leftist literature and radical philosophy left me slightly insane and with a bad case of word vomit. I wrote polemics, haranguing the world from atop my pulpit of moral indignation. I espoused the virtues of communism and denounced capitalism as the most evil force in the world. This phase also paralleled my ignorant atheist phase, where I seized every opportunity to malign god and the religious. Being young and naïve, little did I understand that ideas cannot be hammered into minds, that the louder you yell, the less people hear. I did not try to cajole, inculcate and explain. I roared like a lion, like a dragon, like only the ignorant and stupid can, confident as they are in their own righteousness. I was a fool because I thought I knew so much, when in fact, I knew little or close to nothing.
Thankfully, this too ended. And now, I am sometimes a cynic, rarely an optimist, frequently melancholic and always reflective. This has been hard-earned and going by experience, it too cannot last. These days, I think before I write. I know what I am going to say before my fingers reach for the keyboard. I have ideas and I expand and build on those ideas. Finally, writing is a craft. It is not just something I do when I sit down at my computer or with a pen and paper and hope for inspiration. Gone are the days when I would simply write and let it all come independently, as if possessed. My muse no longer empties her bowels into my head. She teases me, drops a hint, leads me on a mystery. I follow her clues like a trail of breadcrumbs. And although I do not know the destination, I see the way.
There is still purpose to writing. I still write for others, sometimes to women I love and sometimes to women I want to love. I am no artist, no poet and no musician. What I can do is string a few decent words together to form a decent sentence. This is my offering, maybe my only offering. I will never change your life, I will never make you forget your cares and I will never inspire you to take on the world. But I will try to give you a moment’s respite from the bludgeoning of the world. I will try to give a glimpse into a life that is ordinary and thereby, show you that all life is ordinary. And there is great beauty in this.
I am not writing to get at a singular truth. I am not writing to change the world. And I am definitely not writing because there is money to be made. I am writing because it is the only thing I know. It is my only salvation; it is my bible, my bottle, my bosom; it is my life, my lie, my love. I am writing because this is the only way to keep the darkness at bay. There are wild hungry wolves out there and writing is my fire. Without it, living is unimaginable.
I write because I know of no other way.
I write because I am not a writer.
I write because I am a liar.