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A Blank Sheet and Great Expectations – Designing Daily Creative Attempts

Some days are better. I sit down to write, and a story pours out of me impatiently like bubbles jumping from a pot of boiling water. In such instances, it is not me writing it; the story writes itself. I just type. Today is not that day. As I sit in front of my laptop, I can notice the unclean screen. There’s dirt and grey-black spots. Saliva drops that have gathered dust and settled in, making a spacious home of my 14-inch screen. My nails need to be clipped. The edges have started scraping. Am I thirsty?

yellow plants

Lots of things come to my mind, but the story. It is easy to shut the laptop and come back to writing when a story is ripe like fruit on a tree, ready to be plucked. But sadly, writing is more about sincerity and discipline. Showing up every day in front of the blank sheet, unafraid. Staring at it and let it stare back at me. It is all white, but neither of us is calling it truce. I prod on, nudging my imagination to explore new territories. But it keeps going back to the places it has been to earlier. The ones I was ecstatic to discover. The favorite haunts of my imagination are spots that look very scenic but very familiar. I am back to a rainy evening in a city. Everything is grey. The color of buildings on both sides of the road matches the greyness of the sky. It seems like the clouds have burst, and sheets of water are hammering the ground without pause. No one is on the road; the downpour has pushed everyone indoors. Even the stray cats and dogs are not out. Except for Savita. Savita is standing on the side of the road under a black umbrella, dressed in grey. Just her head is dry because it is directly under shade. Rainwater and spray have wet her clothes and hands, and feet. There are drops of water on her face. It could be rain; it could be sweat. How scenic, but what a cliche of an opening scene. It could only be a man she is waiting for. It is always so. Or could it be a friend this time? No. Friends don’t make us do desperate things. They understand. They accommodate. Love makes you act in desperation. It has to be a man. I don’t like where this is going. Sorry, Savita. I am abandoning you in the rain. Like your man.

So many of my protagonists are in limbo. Waiting for me to come back and finish their stories. A 35-year-old well-built tall man with the softest eyes in the world is stuck with a cup of coffee in the lobby of a 5-star hotel. A beautiful woman has wrapped up a hectic day at work and is now waiting for the elevator forever, with her laptop bag on one shoulder and tote bag on the other. A child is alone at home, and I stalled his decision to try his mother’s sandals. An old man is missing his late wife and is paused as he reaches out to smell her clothes. All of these were supposed to open up to dramatic events, happenings, tears, and laughter. Nothing happened. The protagonists are still waiting for me to come back and create their world. But I don’t see anything exciting happening in their lives. How do I tell them so? How do I tell them that their life will not be extraordinary? That they are not the center of any story.

I think I am thirsty. I am announcing a water break.

Have to order bread and water. Added these to the grocery list. There is a mango tree in the view from the window next to my desk. It is at a distance but within the compound. Some time back, it was laden with big tempting green fruits. Now just a few are left, and their skins are showing off a slight shade of yellow. Two weeks back, most of them were plucked and distributed equally amongst the residents. There is still one in my kitchen. The mango is as big as my palm. The thick pulp is fibrous, and the taste is just the right mix of flavor and sweetness. I often look at the tree when I am thinking of ideas. I saw the flowers blooming in January and February. The blossoms of a mango tree have a very distinct smell. It is sweet, but not all the way. Manjar they are called in Hindi, and I had a senior named Manjari in school.

I go everywhere looking for an idea and a story. And come back to the blank sheet. The story is here. Some days I find it, some days I don’t. In this one hour slotted to write a story, I think of all the calls I have to make and the payments that are outstanding. I recall all the stories that I began writing but did not complete. It is not just books that are half-read. Some stories are half-written too. It would be easy for me to give up. To not show up to the blank sheet and embarrass myself for an hour of looking at the wall and outside the window. This is the battle I must take on every day, waiting for that one winner idea to emerge. An idea that’ll fuel a masterpiece.

Writing is the only escape I have. An escape where I can create a world and make my creations do what I want. I give myself the power to become God in this world, on this blank sheet of paper. Am not giving this power away just because the whiteness of this sheet can sometimes be blinding. Mr. Blank Sheet, I will meet you daily. Here, on my laptop. Am not giving up yet.

Author: Ritu Sinha
[Writer; Advertising-Creative; Founder/Entrepreneur]

Illustration/Image/Graphics: TDLM Design Team


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