“Orson Welles as Harry Lime: The Third Man”
“….in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
Is angst essential for creativity? If yes, does a peaceful period causes a creative vacuum?
I have been feeling a little stuck with my writing lately. No topic moves me sufficiently to write. It could be just a phase, a bout of lethargy that comes over me for no reason; a period of calm that intersperse intense rounds of warfare in strife zones. Like many writers, I write to understand, both the outer and inner worlds that I navigate each day. Some days, life chugs along smoothly like a car on cruise control. Days with clear roads, pleasant weather, and great visibility – easy days devoid of memorable moments. Then there are days when DQ is defiant, Princess is resistant and HH is self-absorbed. A day that starts with a loud thundershower, an afternoon when a monkey climbs into my kitchen (on the seventh floor!) and ends in an evening with no response from any of the job openings I applied for. I hate those days but feelings of helplessness, righteous rage, inadequacy, self-pity, all serve as catalysts for my writing. The adrenaline rush gives me a feeling of purpose, an artificial high that pumps creativity through my system.
Why do writers write? Since the time mankind started capturing thoughts in written words, I am sure every topic under the sun has been adequately covered, more eloquently than I ever could and with greater insight than I have at this moment. Why do I even bother to write?
I write to untangle the jumbled web of thoughts that constantly stream around in my head. With my words, I unravel the threads of disparate narratives that crisscross in front of my mind’s eye, like scenes from different movies playing in random order. During particularly trying times, the screen seems unnaturally clear, as if the personal crisis has granted me perfect vision, a tool to sort out my internal machinery. Perhaps it is an emotional extension of the body’s physical fight or flight instinct for survival that kicks in as needed to preserve life. I write to preserve my sanity.
I first started writing when I was overwhelmed by guilt at working full time after DQs birth. Sleep-deprived, hormonally unbalanced, emotionally distraught – the words came out of me as apologies to my little girl. Only when I wrote down my rambling thoughts did I make sense of my seemingly contradictory desires to be fulfilled personally and professionally.
“Into each life some rain must fall” and I have had my fair share. When the storm clouds gather and I wonder which way it will blow, for how long and how hard, that’s when my senses are at high alert, not just to the cues outside but to the internal radar that serves as my guide. Under that rain-soaked cloud, cloaked in the hazy half-light, I have my moments of clarity. Epiphanies abound. Learning is accelerated. A spiritual growth spurt occurs. Accompanied by a strong urge to preserve that experience in words.
I have had periods of remarkable stability as well. Phases where I felt I was in control – of my day, of my life, of my moods. I have been shaped by these quietly introspective months as well as the momentous upheavals of major life events. Perhaps I have written less during the peaceful phases because my ideas needed a time of gestation to mature, to coalesce into some inchoate form that could then be identified and named. Life has been a continuous process of learning, letting go and relearning. My writing is not a final polished product but a witness to the process of my growth.
As Anna Quindlen’s protagonist Rebecca Winter in “Still life with bread crumbs” puts it
“Then when she really thought about it she realized she’d been becoming different people for as long as she could remember but had never really noticed, or had put it down to moods, or marriage, or motherhood. The problem was that she’d thought that at a certain point she would be a finished product. Now she wasn’t sure what that might be, especially when she considered how sure she had been about it at various times in the past, and how wrong she’d been.”
With each wave, a gentle surf or a tsunami, I change and evolve. With each turn of the road, I choose my path and my attitude. With each chapter of my life, I write my book.