Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Because there is no conclusion

I realise now that my own writing was born out of my confused angry feelings about the roles that my gender identity seemed to have locked me into, roles which I chafed against. I often have the sense of being an instrument, of a finger in my back prodding me, telling me "now write!" Writers also speak of finding meanings, of learning things in the course of writing; the word "discovery" resonates in most accounts. Writing is a process of discoveries, often serendipitous ones, a groping in the dark, during which unexpected gifts fall into your hands. And since, most often, you write to make things clear to yourself, it is mainly a process of self-learning. The third commonality is a love of words — inextricably linked to the urge to say something. In fact, ideas and words are yoked together; it is a symbiotic relationship. When you look for the right word, you are examining the soul of the word itself. It is like creating and hearing music; a single false note is immediately discernible.
Writing seems an entirely self-contained activity, work pursued for its own sake. However, writers have written to express their anguish about social problems and their work is often intimately connected to these feelings. But in the course of the writing, the characters take over the story, bringing in complexities which have no place in an ideology-driven narrative. Human truths emerge and artificial constructs fall by the wayside. The focus is always the human being; it is the interaction between society and the individual that the writer is concerned with. People are both complex and complicated, and therefore writing, good writing that is, ultimately provides a complex picture, not the simple picture that writing as a social or political crusade would. But as I see it, the reader enters the picture only after the writing is complete. Until then, I am my own reader. In fact, when writing, I am telling myself things.
No creative writer is interested in conveying a message, whether political or social. In truth, it is not only difficult, but almost impossible to control the flow of creative writing within the narrow banks of a message, of political and/or social reform. In any case, I doubt whether writing can change anything. For example, even after so much has been written about feminism, people still equate it with hating men, abandoning families, lesbianism, etc. The idea that feminism wants women to be accepted as responsible human beings has still not got across.
To me, the writer's integrity is far more important than any avowed purpose. The creative writer, unlike the historian or the social/political analyst, explores the gaps, the silences, the ambiguities, the complexities, the contradictions — and this, not to get to any kind of a conclusion, because often there is no conclusion. What matters is understanding and, possibly, reconciliation. Articulating this is a kind of activism. In fact, writing is the writer's form of activism.
By making the writer a celebrity, the media has actually weakened the writer's role. The media has also taken away, to some extent, the writer's freedom: to want to be known and to be known — both these erode the writer's freedom. Sadly, to be known, to become a celebrity and be constantly in the public eye, seems to have become a much-desired role for writers. SHASHI DESHPANDE The Hindu Literary Review Sunday, Jul 06, 2003

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