Sunday, 22 July 2018

Who Owns the Credit?

It has been almost 4 years since I wrote my first letter to a non- existent being summing all the thoughts a week’s time could permit. It will feel more like a diary entry if one reads it, but as far as I remember, when I wrote it, I addressed it to somebody in particular in my mind, hoping that one day someone will lay their eyes on it and walk by the same muse as mine.

During my school days, never even one tiny thought of grabbing the pen escaped my mind. I used to run and obscure myself from the pangs of pulling out words from the imagination. Especially when we were given assignments to write long essays I was absolutely clueless about. More appropriately, all those essays I was not keen to exercise my imagination for. This continued year after year, and I merely touched the average grade in all my English exams.

Until of course this gorgeous day came along. It was my grammar exam, and we were supposed to come up with a story which began with, “On that day..” or something along that line. That was a pure opportunity. For maybe the first time I saw such an independent question which allowed a student to let their imagination run free. Anything could happen on that day, anything…and that became a weapon. I scribbled my way across two pages and ended up sketching a heartfelt story about the attack on 26/11, Mumbai. It was my brother’s story, a brother I never had in real life, and one who did not escape the story alive.

I remember I had a tear escape my eye while concluding the piece. I was moved beyond measure by what I had just written. And to be completely honest, to this day, I do not believe that the story was drafted by my mortal self. Because can a person’s own imagination kill them?

That was a question which changed my life.

When the results were out, my teacher called me and asked me to participate in the National Essay Competition. I was glad of course and did not need to feign a beaming face, even though I knew that the words did not arrive at any random call. When I was about to leave, my teacher pressed her lips together before she asked me with a suddenly guarded voice, “Were you there?”.

“No mam.”

She smiled without any expression but looked straight at me with peering eyes and I dawdled to my class feeling a shiver down my spine.

Was it possible that I caught a glimpse of what actually happened that day and made the brother in my dreams the crux of the terrible events which followed? Was it even likely that I spoke someone else’s mind?

Ha! Maybe not. This is what happens when the imagination runs free and becomes a separate entity in itself, and maybe, just maybe we think that this Imagination’s voice is not our own.

The essay I was told to write for the National Essay Competition, no doubt, turned out to be pure trash. I have blamed several elements including myself for that failure. One of the elements was the essay topic itself to begin with. Then there was the word limit, and then the time limit. I know those are too many demands from a competitive arena but the truth is, Imagination cannot be enslaved by the limitations of mere numbers.

My teacher was unmistakably disappointed.

Another year went by, I stayed utterly undisturbed by the agony of creativity. There were of course moments when thoughts thundered through me in a flash, and often during inappropriate moments like when I was crossing the road or was under the shower or was waiting on the bus. And as soon as I let myself cross a threshold, the thoughts escaped me, or rotted away owing to no immediate action. I am guilty of not taking the aid of ink and parchment to jot down the strange events of a plain human mind, a guilt which I’m sure has agonized us all on random days.

But of course, on another glorious day I came by a milestone, and as far as my experiences suggest, a day… rather a moment, changes the outcome of all our creative energy, it changes our future to be precise.

So, on November 14th, 2014, I wrote down the first letter, addressed to no one in particular. Hoping that some curious eye finds it and wonders about the possibilities of the questions left unanswered.

That letter, as already mentioned, was the result of a week’s curiosity of the unhinged mind.

And then, there was no stopping. A letter was a rare occasion, but at least it kept going. I wrote about two to three letters a month, and sometimes nothing for two straight months. Even though I was just falling in love with this craft, there was the heartbreaking knowledge that this was not to be my bread and butter. I could go from writing ten letters a day, to years without writing a single word, and I did not wish to starve my mind of the physical needs of mortality.

So, I kept going with what I thought I was moderately good at.

Logic. A rational element of the human mind.

And as Andrew Stanton put it, we cannot let one element of our brain struggle for hours at a stretch and expect it to perform with shinning brilliance. No, of course not. We need to fluctuate the elements. Maintain the balance. And I knew, my profession, as long as it was about the elements of rationalism, was to be the savior of my unrealistic ventures to the realm of surrealism.

During all these years of nurturing this craft, until the present day, I was so unsure of the ‘How’. I confessed to my mother and to certain close friends on very rare occasions, that I did not know ‘how’ the words came to me. That there was someone else speaking through the pen I held in my grip. I was ordinary, but the thought which distilled on paper were things I could not think of in my wildest dreams, or things I could not portray so perfectly, just as they were. I was after all, the one below the threshold of average when it came to Language exams in all my schools.

The ‘How’ was a question asked to me on unlikely days by rational minds and coarse tongues, and I did not answer them, afraid that they will not understand, or simply consider it a whim of the fanciful mind.

But this was until I found real evidence which matched my ‘fanciful’ understanding of Creativity. It wasn’t actually evidence, it was a witness. Another person narrating the exact same events to a crowd of enthusiasts. Elizabeth Gilbert, an undoubtedly charming writer in her forties, wrapped in graceful divinity.

She not only elaborated her own experiences with a humor beaming in raw originality, but she also conveyed the stories of ancients who believed that the “spirits of creativity” lived outside the vessel or the body of a mortal. Often called ‘Daemons’ or ‘Genius’, these were the mystical creatures of the surreal world. Unlike today, they believed that an artist ‘had’ a Genius and was not ‘the’ Genius. Quoting her on post Renaissance, “people started to believe that creativity came completely from the self of the individual. And for the first time in history, you start to hear people referring to this or that artist as being a genius, rather than having a genius. And I got to tell you, I think that was a huge error.”

When I wrote something, which impressed well on my mind, I knew, as Elizabeth Gilbert puts it, “the Elusive One showed up”, and when I wrote something ultra-close to gibberish, there was the consolation that my partner was probably off to some vacation, bothering Jake Shimabukuro in Hawaii.

And this was it, the exceptional answer to the questions which have left artists Divine one night and robbed them of all the jewels the next morning, leaving them clueless about how to meet their own standards once the aid of Divinity was set afire and reduced to mere dust, converting the creative sections of this world to “alcoholic manic-depressives”. Mortals cannot beat the divinity of a Superior, and every time they do, it renders their time post-creation wrapped in nothing but chaos. However, the key, as Elizabeth so perfectly embodies in her words, is to have the “sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up” for your part of the job.

I suggest you hear the words straight from the one who conveyed them:


Date: 22nd July, 2018
Hyderabad, India

Picture Credits: Google Images