On Being A Writer

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""Almost unsurprisingly, she had returned from her self-imposed hiatus. They’d warned her about it, everyone around her. One had told her (and this warning rung again and again in her ears), "It makes no difference whether you go into hiding or stay on the surface. For should you decide to retreat, you will find, when you come back, that things are the same way they were before and that they are different from what they were. You will find that they are as unintelligible now as they were then, and as they will continue to be for all time to come."


"Nothing, my dear", he rambled on, "is black and white. There is much in this world that we must see as grey."


She rolled her eyes, fed up of pretentious warnings from people who almost did not deserve to be where they were. She’d wanted to be a writer her whole life, still did want that. Yes, she thought she could write. And sometimes when she looked at the people who society admired as ‘writers’, she did wonder how they got there in the first place. She looked at them and thought often (almost conceitedly) that she was far better than they were; that they were idiots to put in the amount of effort into writing that they did – writing was, after all, a task meant to come smooth and easy; that if she were in their place, she could do much better; in fact, she would be better than them before she reached their age. Definitely.


But writing did not come as easy as she thought. She found herself, more often than not, running out of plots. She found herself telling repetitive tales of characters that couldn’t even come alive in her mind, let alone on paper. Writing was no longer a passion, no longer something she was good at ? it was just a mechanical task, where all she did was churn out, week after week, a piece of something or the other. A piece that was a shot in the dark, and she hoped that she would get some praise for these pieces.


She realized, though, sooner rather than later, (as did her readers), that she was no longer a writer. It dawned on her that if you put your heart and soul into something, what comes out will be different from what comes out when you do something because you have to. She felt the distinction between a work of art and mere work. She realized that writing was not about sitting at a computer and typing a couple of sentences, saving it and publishing it, never pausing to look back. That it was more about coming back to your draft and perfecting it, being fully willing to change and move around chunks, even modify the plot and the characters so as to reach perfection, to be able to attain the feeling that you’ve done your best, rather than writing a draft itself. She realized the difference between a draft and a masterpiece – the difference made by hard work and a commitment to perfection.


She thought back sheepishly to her period of hiatus, brought about in part because she thought she must take a break and put some time into writing quality pieces, and in part because she was too burned out to write. She’d always call it "self-imposed" because she stopped writing at a time when nothing seemed to make sense, when she was writing just for the sake of it, when there was no clear distinction between good writing and bad writing and all she seemed to be able to do was mechanically churn out anecdote after anecdote.


But she came out of this retreat, because it was far too boring to sit and not write. She came out because she wanted to write, to feel that relief when her fingers flowed over the keys. And yet she knew that it is not just once that these fingers must flow; they must come back time and again to add little finishing touches, to sculpt a perfect story out of the draft.


It made sense to her now, the pretentious oldies who called themselves writers. She seemed to have a better understanding of the process of writing. She chided herself for reading too many novels about writers who came to be known as extraordinarily talented with just a few strokes of the pen, and realized that reality was much different.


Reality was hard work, and while this realization was not wholly unpleasant, it caused quite a stir within her. It brought her to decide that she would put in the time and effort needed to become a serious writer, and not merely scribble a few lines and never come back to them.


She decided then that she’d become a writer, a true writer. That she’d be the kind of person she once despised, because that was what she needed to be.


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Kimberly Fernandes, Qatar

Author: Kimberly Fernandes- Qatar