We writers are a moody bunch. Yes, protest all you want against my generalisation of that statement, but we really are. At least most of us are.
At our highest point, we can weave intricate stories around complex characters, evoke powerful emotions from our readers and create a stunning tapestry of visual images using just our words. But at our lowest, forget writing. We're moodier than dullest day and colder than the darkest night. No, not knight. We're not Batman.
It is often at this point, what we call insecurity, sets in. Plenty of questions like the ones below, start to creep into our mind.
why do I even bother to write; does anyone, except me, like my writing; wait, do I even like my writing; why aren't people reading what I write;
It's like the proverbial 'otherwise dormant snake of self doubt' raises its ugly head and says, 'Well, hello there! Let's see if I can mess with your head today'
At this point, if you're a writer, you're either nodding your head to agree; or vehemently shaking your head to disagree. If you're a reader, but not a writer, you're probably nodding off to sleep.
As you may have figured out already, this isn't one of my usual posts. So stories about Rishi, fiction or posts with my trademark humour twist are off the table. This is a post that has been languishing in the drafts section for a few weeks now. In some ways, it's a confession-post.
Ok, so before I lose you all completely, here's the thing. If you're regular readers of my blog, you'll probably remember me mention in passing that I've not been my usual self. Yes, for almost the entire duration of October, I sat lamenting and confused, wondering if I should write and most importantly, if what I write made even the tiniest difference to anyone.
If you're someone who writes, you've probably been through this situation before. Yes, maybe the self introspective questions were slightly different or you didn't feel so low as I did, but you should be able to relate to some of these instances. So anyway, I'd gone almost an entire month without writing anything, and it was starting to get to me.
Do you know why? Because the thoughts that were popping up in my head went along the lines of:
maybe you're a one hit wonder; maybe you've written everything that you possibly could; maybe, just maybe, your ink has finally run out and it's time to hang it up; maybe, this is where you fade off into nothingness; just another speck of dust, along with the millions of others who fell along the wayside;
Of course, some of you may feel that I'm exaggerating here. But the truth is, that's exactly how I felt at that point. Of course, later I'd realise that it was all in my head. But, right then, I think I sort of hit the proverbial rock bottom.
I couldn’t focus on writing. I over-analysed every little thing I wrote and found fault with every thing - even ones that were perfectly fine. So, I decided to stop writing and to read, instead. I armed myself with books that had brilliant reviews and were highly recommended by a group of bibliophiles, whose judgement I’ve come to trust. But instead of losing myself in the beautiful world of words that these talented writers had spun, my insecurities grew. In fact, I crawled deeper and deeper into the hole that I’d dug myself, wondering if I’d ever be able to write half as well as they did.
And then something happened. Actually, two things happened. I watched two movies; ones that made me sit up and rethink about writing - the whys and the what-nexts.
The first one was ‘Chef’, starring Jon Favreau as Carl Casper, a chef who loses his restaurant job, and ends up starting a food truck, in an effort to reclaim his ‘creative commitment’ to the craft, while trying to bring back his family together.
The second one was a fairly recent one - Burnt, starring Bradley Cooper as Adam Jones, a chef who at the pinnacle of his career destroys everything with drugs and general ‘bad-boy’ behaviour, and then tries to redeem himself by taking over the helm of a restaurant in a bid to get his 3rd Michelin star.
[Ok, if you're done ogling Bradley Cooper, can we get back to the post?]
What intrigued me wasn't the plot or the story of either of these movies. I was drawn a bit by the drama and in fact, some of the dialogues. And somewhere, I started to draw parallels between the life of professional chefs and writers. Perhaps, this is the foodie in my speaking, but in a lot of ways, we writers are a lot like chefs.
We adapt to the pressures of a constantly changing environment. We adopt known bases (plots/characters/scenarios/tools) and make them our own. Often, we create brand new dishes / stories from scratch. We have a passion and dedication to our craft, unlike no other; we will spend as long as it takes, to get our product perfect. And much like professional chefs, our success or failure is widely dependent on our trademark/signature product. Our ‘piece-de-resistance’ if you will.
As Bradley Cooper's character, Adam Jones, says in Burnt:
"I don't want my restaurant to be a place where people sit and eat. I want people to sit at that table and be sick with longing."
As a writer, wouldn’t you want your readers to have a similar feeling after their read your work? Wouldn’t you want them to ‘long’ for your next article, post or book?
To me, that’s a measure of success. To me, as a writer, that’s what we should all be aiming for.
And just like chefs, we will all get ‘burnt’ at some point.
But we will rise again.
PS. I finally decided to hit 'publish' on this post, not because I want validation about my writing skills in any way. I decided to do so, because I'm now in a better 'headspace' and am actively working on the writing pieces that I should be. And, if this little confession of mine, gives anyone that added confidence to want to keep writing and fine tune their craft, then that gives me a lot of happiness.