Jan 20, 2013
It’s 4:30 am. It’s quiet enough for me to be able to hear the low gurgle of the refrigerator punctuated by the intermittent swishing sound of the heater as it’s coming on intermittently. The river is dark outside and the lights on the banks of the river are glowing like diamonds because it’s going to be a clear day.
The everyday sounds of the day in full blast are still mute. I can get in touch with a part of myself that turns my thoughts into writing.
Soon the business of the day will penetrate into my consciousness when I’ll have to become a functional human being. And within all that noise, I know I’ll be able to add, subtract, redo, edit, rephrase a lot of what I have already written. But to get to the core of that idea, I need silence and a part of myself that’s inaccessible to the everyday.
The older you grow, the more you realize how much of a privilege writing is. And how you need to be privileged to be able to write at all. Or a superhuman multi-tasker.
All deep thinking is a product of mental seclusion and seclusion is usually a product of isolation or solitude and long periods of solitude is a matter of privilege.
So most of us write in spite of work, not because it is work. And yet, writing is gruelling work.
Writing brings very few material rewards. And the few material rewards it might bring to the successful are not immediate. Much like many of the poorest countries of the world, writing has no big middle class. The super-successful stand as examples that it can be done but they are very few and far between. Then the rest are struggling writers.
If you’re making a living through writing (I mean the creative kind, not the more “useful” varieties of writing where writing is the medium to achieve something else, not the end-goal) it means you are super-successful because no one else is.
And yet, creative writing is very hard work. One of the most difficult. The more abstract it is , the more gruelling and the less “work” it seems within the noise of the real world, the more distant it is from material rewards and non-material rewards (prestige, respect, sense of fulfilment) and the less it can justify its existence.
The day (the job, the business of living such as cooking cleaning etc., and almost anything else one can think of with an immediate effect) has a head start in terms of priority.Only the biggest multi-taskers can get some writing done in bits and spurts within all this noise. Or the most privileged–those who don’t need to work and are okay to be seen by the world as such (because few will consider writing as work).
Those who can take off from work for long periods of time confident that they can come back to their careers whenever they want can also devote chunks of their life to writing, but how many can?
Even then, those who have and can retreat into a room of their own for long periods of time can actually put that idea into practice and make that time fruitful. Above all, such people need to be big risk takers willing and able to invest so much of gruelling work into something with a very low chance of return or no expectation of return at times when washing the dishes seems more rewarding.
Therefore, my hats off to those who write in spite of the daily.
(My thoughts started taking off after I read a post by Cheri Lucas driven by the coincidence that I woke up at 4 am today and couldn’t go back to sleep–a rarity for me.)