Write like no one’s reading. The thought came to me on a train journey I hadn’t expected much from. It was always about taking a nap and snoring the distance away for me, avoiding eating anything from the mobile vendors selling dubious tea and untrustworthy coffee. I’d forcefully close my eyes, plug in my earphones, till the point a part of my brain would give up and turn itself off.
It’s different this time- I find myself on a comfortable seat, near the window, with enough leg room to keep both my bags and still not feel suffocated. I couldn’t sleep so I read; I couldn’t read any more so I drifted away in my thoughts- a practice I had left years ago.
Like encountering an old friend on a strange road that somehow feels familiar when you see the friend smile, my thoughts embrace me back. I allow myself the freedom to let them fly away as far as they wish to. I allow myself to steal my waking time to do nothing, instead of occupying myself with thoughtless texting or data analysis work for my job or playing games on the tiny cell-phone screen. ‘Il bel far niente,’ the famous Italian proverb I used to love so much, made itself significant in my life again. The beauty of doing nothing.
And so, it questioned me with the same right an old friend would have of asking if I’ve changed a bit or not, “Where were you all this time?”
When was the last time I did absolutely nothing, enjoyed it and allowed my thoughts to be? When was the last time I wrote so peacefully?
It was back in 2013 when one of my short-stories got published nationally through a competition in a book that later turned out to be a bestseller. I remember I have been writing ever since I was 10 years old. It would always bring me peace. If it got published, it made my parents happy and that’s it. There was no pride for me in seeing my work published in magazines or newspaper. If there was some remuneration involved, it made me happy for I could indulge in some fancy expensive food item in some restaurant I hadn’t been to before.
But times had to change for me after 2013. My social media usage was at its peak. I was overwhelmed by the messages of appreciation I got frequently. My other short-stories got published in other books too. I started calling myself a writer without knowing what the world truly meant. Of course, I didn’t consider myself an author but a writer for sure. I received mails by readers who would even ask for suggestions and advice. I would respond gleefully.
Things changed for me. I was always a writer, right from when I was just 10. But when I started calling myself one I failed to become one. Expectations of colleagues and bosses and friends and family piled up on my wrists- they asked when I’d publish my novel and my fingers ceased to type.
The next time I’d write even a sentence I’d think what’s in it for the readers. And as I started thinking for the readers – strangers I never met – I stopped thinking what made me happy. So the novel I was working on sat on one corner, covered in dust, untouched, unheard of. It was difficult to meet with all the expecting eyes – in their minds I still was a writer. In reality, I wasn’t.
I stopped writing fiction because it was difficult to write something when so many people were watching – in my head. Is this sentence correct? Would this be something meaningful, something different?
I started writing non-fiction – putting my true feelings and adventures on paper – I couldn’t do that wrong. I was vulnerable with my emotions but that was alright because I owned them. There wasn’t any the-ending-could-have-been-different messages. The beauty of true stories.
Of course, people hardly have the time to read these days. Those who would ping me about my next blog post wouldn’t give a second thought on just dropping a Facebook like on my blogpost and then moving on without reading it. That made me more confident in being so vulnerable about revealing trivial details of my life on my blog. If no one’s reading, what’s the harm? I was amused by people who would start a new blog and ask for advice. I’d ask them – who are you writing it for? I was amused by people who would get their articles printed in some magazine or some book. I’d feel like telling them not to fall in this trap. For I once made the same mistake - an editor would call and demand a story to be written on one theme, I’d feel stressed about not being up to their expectations.
There’s no perfect story. There’s no perfect book. There’s no perfect author. But there’s a perfect writer- the one who would write just for the fun of it. The one who wouldn’t care what one’s readers would want to read. The one who wouldn’t even care if one’s work is not published. The one who would write because one enjoyed doing so. The one who wouldn’t change a word, who wouldn’t change the ending and who wouldn’t read the reviews. The one who wouldn’t convert this art to some exercise that one could do till perfection. The one who wouldn’t edit and re-edit like a taior trying to make the exact match of another outfit. The one who would write because the story has come to oneself and not writing wouldn’t let one be in peace. The one who wouldn’t think of publishers, rejection, critiques and feedback. The one who isn’t writing marketing plans for one’s book to drive sales. The one who’s writing because one wants to. Not an author for the world, but a writer for one’s heart. The one who writes like no one’s reading.