Anybody can write. I believe it as much as I believe that nobody is boring or that we could love anyone. Are people writing more? I believe so. There is a lot of writing going on. All kinds of writing – amateur writing, professional writing, creative writing, dreadfully boring writing, frivolous writing, substantial writing. Writing is a thriving industry. Avid Reader is hardly a thing anymore. Storyteller, published author and prolific blogger are credentials that decorate people’s bio more often. The trend of listing what one is reading has been replaced by listing self-authored articles. Writing is integral to social networking. The new aspirational goal is the membership of elite clubs of published authors. Writing is the new hobby that comfortably sits before reading in the list that ends with baking. There are more unfinished LinkedIn articles to be written than saved unread books in one’s kindle.
Yet, we must admit, writing is painful. And despite all the pain, some of us will write because not writing isn’t a relief either. Not everybody chooses to write or wishes to. They far outnumber those who write. Perhaps they have other better things to do. Perhaps they have spared us their writing, or if they did write, they could have given greater writings to the world than what exist. Therefore, those of us who write can feel secure, relaxed, and take our time; we are still relatively few. And those who aren’t writing could look inward and perhaps type the very thought down. It is only in the beginning when writing appears suspect and unreliable. Gradually it feels like the first bicycle ride with the hands still shaky, and the body mounted precariously, resulting in several crashes before it develops into an instinctive skill acquired for a lifetime.
Reading is unavoidable. It is not just for good culture; it is evolutionary. Reading for pleasure generates the roadmap for a society’s progress. Reading fiction nudges the imaginary transportation of the reader into the world of the book’s characters, thereby resulting in not just prompting imagination but also empathy. But then why write? To express and share? To make a record of things and thoughts? To be read and heard? The most substantial reason could be the ease of doing all of them – Expression, Record, Reach. Enabled by present-day technology, the ease of Record (digitally saved for eternity) and Reach (to readers anywhere in the world) are undoubtedly the more straightforward motivations to write. But ease of Expression? We perhaps partly owe that to technology too. The social shaping (e.g., messaging behaviors) caused by technology has resulted in the breakdown of structures and rules of writing to a great extent, if not entirely, thus freeing up the craft of writing like music and art. Consequently, writing in all forms (short-long), structures (words-graphics-sound), and shapes (books-blogs-posts-tweets-open letters) has erupted like a movement.
People could have talked more. According to Darwin, talking, in fact, is the first natural tendency for communicating. Even Socrates preferred conversations to writing. But writing somewhere allows to wander off that in conversations would resemble blabbering. Writing is a creative playfield for designing sentences with words that would be great to listen to when read aloud (audio content/books) but only after it has been articulately written first.
Reading doesn’t need style, although it is a considerably underrated creative process. One enjoys reading to the extent to which one surrenders to the author’s plots and plans. But there is no predesigned structure to reading, to that surrendering. After getting introduced to the pleasures of reading a thrilling story, the reader develops a habit without remaining mindful anymore of the physiological process of reading.
Writing as a craft in all languages has had rigid and familiar structures and styles expected to be learned and followed. Just like for reading, literacy and advanced education are responsible for a society’s growing writing community. However, the anxiety surrounding the relaxing of these rules and structures of grammar and language keeps the entry-level barriers high for new writers from varied backgrounds. Modifying the designs of literary technicalities and righteousness could result in diverse written expression forms. The current digital technology offers that opportunity and somewhat flattens the steep learning curve of writing. As readers, we are familiar with the conventional forms of writing. But conversational, informal, creative new styles (mixed media) of presenting written work could allow writing to be more accessible and relevant. I can’t conjure up the look of those kinds of writings yet, but I can sense they are almost here.
Writing is a promise – to oneself if written for self and to the reader if it is meant for others. It is a promise to deliver not just pleasure, information, or inspiration; it is a promise to care. Writing can be intrusive and imposing. It can even be hostile, as Joan Didion puts it in her essay Why I Write. The readers are the consenting victims of the writer’s thoughts and views. But that’s how writers challenge the readers to think or mull over, look around and push back.
Even after we have managed to ease the disciplinary demands of good literature, it still wouldn’t take the pain away from writing because thinking is the pain point of writing. We have to make things up or think about things we see. One could be as local, raw, gritty, and not remain neurotically preoccupied with presenting a stylized piece of sentence and still find a platform to write. But let us ensure we don’t ever give up thinking and never make writing completely painless.
Author: Esha Sen Madhavan
[Founder Editor, The Daily Life Magazine]
Illustration/Image/Graphics: TDLM Design Team