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               Volume 11 |Issue 02| January 13, 2012 |


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Musings of a Wannabe Writer

Sharmillie Rahman

The proverbial writer's block is every writer's nightmare. Photos: Internet

The blank page has been staring back at me for a while.

My ship has run aground once again! The proverbial writer's block is every writer's nightmare; with that in mind, I waited, but even after days of paralysing ordeal, I still could not bring out anything even remotely resembling my original idea.

I believe, to write is to inhabit a world that is far from the real tangible one. It could perhaps be called a meta world, one that emerges out of the whorl of the rippling lava of competing thoughts that keep bubbling up in one's head. Once the frothing seething miasma of mental impressions solidify into some manner of concrete notions, it still remains a world that is abstract and ephemeral and painfully beyond the grasp of the anguished author. I, with all humility, speak for myself. Most of the birthing thoughts that spur a piece of writing, in my case, does not necessarily remain pure or unobtruded because it gets 'moderated' by received conventions of a writer's craft that I am still struggling to learn. It is a case of considerable irony that the conceived ideas which, by my standard, I consider precocious, almost as a rule, transmute themselves into something different in writing, consummately digestible, conventionally recognisable and therefore, not quite how I had received them. My writings are replete with clichés, both in the form of views and phrasal formulations. It's a paradox which, like many of its species, will persist to remind me of my mediocrity or even worse (I shudder to even name it). I mostly put it to my lack of rich, fluid and ready-at-hand vocabulary. What else could it be? As days go by, I am progressively faced with an ever widening lacuna dividing my actual thoughts and their written expressions.

I was taught since infancy that reading improves one's skills at writing. I would like to believe I have acquired a fair amount of 'reading' capital which should allow me an equally fair and steady supply of explicit and succinct choice of words at my disposal and at will at that too. Yet, I find myself agonising over that one elusive word that uncompromisingly encapsulates the essence of my thought; being turned down once again by my rusty neurons, I grudgingly settle for the lesser choice which, without a doubt, fails to drive my point home. This is one anomaly I have accepted as an indigenous technical defect in my artistic tool. My only hope is that with practice things might yet get better, not to mention how much solace I extrapolate when my friends console me by saying that people do much more with much less.

Very recently, I have taken to writing, somewhat for pleasure, and partly also for imbibing in my diminishing sense of self some sense of usefulness. I belong to a generation that precariously straddles over the drifting continents of the pen and the word-processor. The switch from one culture to the other initially was resisted, bemoaned and finally adopted (adapted?) as an act of surrender or, to be charitable to myself, a leap of faith, if you like. I found myself gradually making peace with the machine at the betrayal of the homely pen. I thought I had joined the league of the jet-setters. Little did I know that technology is like a slithery phantom, always steps ahead of you, and me being no Steve Jobs trundled on reproachfully tinkering with one innovation to the next, mastering none. I discovered with much suffering that the simple word-processing tool has several versions each with distinct application. What frustration?

The word-processor has replaced the almighty pen.

My brother was the disciple of the 'silicon valley' oracle, and he, for one, saw prophetically in the closure of Borders, the sure signs of the Neanderthal age finally juddering towards an end. If Kindle (to my knowledge) was the forerunner in pushing eBooks to its money-wise readers, then it now faces tough competition from powerful contenders. Google itself is negotiating with giant publishers for bringing out online versions of hard-covers at a fraction of their price. It surely does not augur well for the good old publishing business, but endless debates still could not settle the matter regarding its demise either. On my recent visit to New York, in a moment of ecstasy, I bought a copy of The Great Gatsby from a small bookstore at the Grand Central and later decided to have a cupcake for lunch to minimise the budget deficit. The smell that curls up from a cobweb covered forgotten little book from an old book-case can arouse me to an orgasmic delight. Yet, I only have the passion but not the necessary cognition I need to amass all the treasures or the miracles bound within the divine covers! What inadequacy! Here, I might warn the readers that I did get carried away and might even have only just begun to dream of a potential publication of my own. What audacity! Now, haven't I just been musing about the winds of change swooping down on the publishing industry? If I even stood a chance, whom would I go to amongst an army of rival systems?

Coming back to my bittersweet relationship with words, I wish I could wield more magic with them, and bring to life, to reality the world that resides inside my head just the way it is. You could argue that it is an audacious and foolhardy ambition; I am definitely not a native speaker of English, nor am I a writer- ventriloquist like Madhushudan Dutt, who spoke through his word-puppets of a world beyond our imagination, in Bangla. Let's face it, let's put the pen down; let me correct myself – shut the word processor down! Shan't I?

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