So much of my writing life has been not writing. Some would say this doesn’t make me a writer. But I am a writer precisely because I am constantly struggling with not being able to write. Find me one writer who can write easily and I’ll show you an unserious writer.
This is what makes a writer a writer: every sentence it writes, it hates.
This thing I’ve just written for example – It’s the worst piece of writing I’ve ever seen. It shouldn’t be allowed to exist. It is atrociously clumsy, unbelievable uninsightful, sickeningly obvious. I hate it with all my heart.
And now I can’t write anymore, I’m stuck; hating myself for my poor ability with words, unable to come up with anything clever or funny (or clever and funny), about to give up, my mind like polluted air, choking on the fumes of a past full of regret, blocked by vague and nervous plans, exhausted by ideals and aspirations.
But I don’t give up. Look – here’s another sentence I pushed out of my constipated mind. And here’s another one. And another.
Writing is very much like taking a shit – sometimes nothing comes out and sometimes it’s a goddamn deluge and you’re left wondering what you ate last night, and you examine the excrement and see strange things that you’ve never seen before, strands of this, seeds of that. It’s a disgusting, smelly and lonely process.
But ultimately it is a relief.
The boy who lived across the street was walking one evening when he found a marble on the road. He picked up the marble and examined it but it was dirty. So he licked his finger and wiped the marble with his spit. It was a blue marble. He took it home and put it on his bedside table.
In the evening when the boy’s father came home he showed him the marble which was blue. His father said, “Who’s is it? Did you steal it?” Then he beat the little boy till his mother came in from the kitchen and said dinner was ready.
That night the boy cried and cried and finally he swallowed the marble and it got stuck in his throat and he choked to death.
Photograph ‘Oil and Water’ © Roshan Ali