There is something absolutely magical about a story being entirely personal to the reader. Like a one-of-a-kind limited edition cut of a movie being played in the head of everyone that reads a book. In everyone’s head, the characters look different, sound different, their gait and posture, all entirely unique to that reader’s imagination. That personal bond with a story is something every writer aspires to produce, something that will stick.
Now, that would be a wonderful, and honestly exhaustingly pretentious answer to the question ‘why do you write’, but my real answer isn’t so poetic. My real writing origin story is more along the lines of ‘desperate child’ than it is ‘superhero’. But still here it is: I have had a stutter for the entirety of my life. It used to be a lot worse; to the point where saying a few sentences out loud continuously would be a considerable challenge. So, instead of talking to people and braving that challenge, I decided to simply find a better way of expressing my thoughts: the written word. I dedicated a not-insignificant amount of time writing in a notebook or loose leaf paper as a child. That slowly evolved into an appreciation of writing, and me wanting to participate in the complexities of the art.
But the more I think about it, there is so much more to writing and literature that I, and most people don’t appreciate. Writing is arguably one of the oldest artforms. It serves both an everyday and artistic purpose. The written word is one of the oldest and most widely practiced concepts in the world, the first record of it being in Mesopotamia in 3200 BC.
Why most people don’t enjoy writing; whether it’s on actual pen and paper, or just essays or stories, really beats me. But I do have a theory. Firstly, school. Educational institutions, especially Indian ones, have this practice of hammering the art out of everything. Schools tend to turn everything into a science. Now, to some extent, this is important; learning the foundations and structural complexities of painting, drawing, music, and very much so, writing is crucial. But at some point it is vital that the art doesn’t become a chore. Arts are really not well for the grading concept. It’s nearly impossible to score a work of art that stands on pillars of nuance, personal effects, and emotion. And schools do know this. Thus, they came up with a concept that makes grading easier, but the art as a burden: the format. Every essay, short story, painting, all had to be structured to fit a specific format. The number or words, paragraphs, sources etc. Quantity over quality. Students are being awarded for sticking to a script rather than taking a risk. Writing especially is treated more as a science than an art, which makes it absolutely dreadful for anyone to enjoy.
Well I will make my best effort to break the sarcophagus, and change your mind on writing.
Writing is an absolutely glorious practice. Never has a concept been so versatile, and universally used. Poems, short stories, essays, grocery lists, government bills, hit lists, they are all founded by the writing. Thousands of languages, millions of dialects, and seven billion different potential writing styles. When you take a look at the scope of writing, it’s absolutely mind-boggling. It’s a culture that is thousands of years old and, for me, being part of it is more of a privilege than it is a passion. Each writer is minuscule in comparison to the grandiosity of the artform.
And writing is one of the few artforms that is incredibly forgiving. A poor pianist is easily identified, we have all made pathetic drawings, hating on bad movies has become a bankable global business model, but writing is so personal, vague and widely interpretable that it is hard to pinpoint and hate. Take it from me, I am admittedly a poor writer, but no one ever tells me that, because writing is this mysterious artform where the effort is self evident. You literally get points for trying.
What started as a crutch for me, has become my biggest passion. Writing is this magnificent tool that everyone uses, but not enough put the effort into. That is largely due to schools which treat writing as a paint-by-numbers canvas that just needs a few words filled in. But it’s so much more than that! Wonderful stories are what humanity is about, and writing is one of the oldest ways to express that. Beyond that, writing has no limitations. It can be literally (and I do mean the dictionary definition of ‘literally’) anything you’d like. Take it from a bad writer: there are very few ways to screw it up. I also think that everyone wants to write, but no one knows how to start. Well, as I said before, writing is extremely forgiving. It can be a joke, a poem, a short story, or a rambling mini-essay on writing itself. So, I implore you, take a chance on yourself and take a chance on writing. Whether it’s on paper or on a screen; just write.