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  • Kanika Bhatia

Care enough to be a writer?

Everyone has a process. The process to create, even if it’s something as drab as excel sheets for me, there remains a process. Well, atleast with accounts, it’s essentially procrastination but you get the drift. Writing ever more so. For a long time, I have known the exact spots in my mother’s house, my house, and the cafes that bring out the best in me. As I write this, I am stationed in a particular room, at a particular computer to arm distance, with only the sound of a hideous blue clock in the north west corner of the room. When they said, magic happens when you believe in it? Writers took that literally. I believe I channel my inner magic in the most simple settings around me. Process.

But there is more to “growth” in this profession. Apart from accolades, bylines and books, these great dreams with my midget abilities seem dependent on a much bigger process. The higher skill of feeling. My best pieces of writing have come together when I have either lived it, known it or felt it. And as I progress, there is nothing that I believe to be a bigger enabler for my work than empathy. The indisputable truth for any creative work is that it is only great when it’s derived from a good place. Not one that’s necessarily happy, but one where intentions are not maligned. To put it bluntly, can you really compartmentalise your life enough to be a good writer but a not so great human? How mutually exclusive are the characters that we build in our heads, the honesty in our build ups and a writer who isn’t? Can a writer form great sentences, imagine great protagonists, give them power, words, and metal without having any of his own?

Isn’t this compartmentalised thinking then tokenistic of what we really are? Is the writer then regarded as a genius creator or a liar? You’ll be noticing, right about now, I have more questions than answers for you in this post.

Whenever we imagined ourselves as a successful something, age no bar, we always pictured a noble, unadulterated version of that success. The writer I created in my head, was always that who lived for the art. She didn’t bow down to commercial expectations, defended her characters and stories, and fought hard for words that could potentially change the world. She had her days in poverty, because let’s face it, we don’t really make much money, but her strength was never in the riches. She romanticised the pain, and loved even more furiously. Sometimes, it led to better writing. Till date, when I have to write better, I have to revisit this virgin version of self. The one who knew her art like the back of her hand, like those rancher boys who smoke cigarettes without taking them off their mouth. The one who validated the goodness in this world with constant reminders and allyship to the right causes. It’s authentic and vulnerable at the same time. I wonder how then does a writer separate the pretence that creeps in every adult life? How does he cope up if life hasn’t been kind to let him continue being the good man he believed he was? A person is a mosaic of everything he believes and is influenced by. Can the person then write about goodness if he doesn’t have it in him? Ann Pratchet in her book, talks about how one of her professors, Grace Paley consistently pushed her students to stand for what’s right, participate in protests and raise their voice for the weak. Her method involved more empathy to write better. To most, this remains a revelation and to some, worth a column.

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