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What's so hard about Writing?

Contributor: Chetan Mahajan, HWR Author-host.

· Writing,Author posts

“Ironic that poison comes with a date of expiry.” The voice in my head says. “So after the poison’s date of expiry, it is safe to drink, right?”.

Can we please stop being so distracted? Can we just focus?   

Thomas Mann said “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”. And now that I have adopted writing as my full-time profession, I find writing a single good page harder than igneous rock.

So I sit here in my mountain home - a self-professed writer - trying to create something original and impressive. I search for a topic, a theme. My wife - a psychologist and mentor - is on the phone coaching a counselor about something juicy with all the elements of a Bollywood potboiler. She notices my attentive eavesdropping, burns me with a stare and leaves the room. I turn back to my writing.

Yesterday as I wrote my blog, the words flowed. But today I am stuck from the word go. The words mostly don’t come, and the few that do seem to be from an incoherent mammal. As I ponder, a facebook alert pops up on my screen. I stare at the intrusion. A reflective brain thinks. A reflexive finger clicks faster. While my mind makes itself up, my fingers are already chatting with some obscure acquaintance. I learn that her daughter has coloured her hair blue. And she also wants a place in the mountains, but with air conditioning because her pet dog cannot handle hot weather. At 6200 feet, I don’t even have fans in my house. The brain regains control from the fingers and finds dark, perverse joy in telling her that my kids now refer to dogs as BKT, an acronym for “Bagh-Ki-Toffee”, “Bagh” being the colloquial word for Leopard in Kumaon. I tell her that only one in three dogs die of old age here. The other two are eaten by leopards.  She ends the chat.       

Compulsively, I scroll Facebook. Donald Trump is all over. Politics and Religious fundamentalism bait me into pointless rants. Full of wisdom, I finally resist and shutdown Facebook. Bloody time thief.

Alone, I focus.  Still no words.        

I think of creative ways to unblock. Vaastu? I turn my chair to face south instead of south-west. The vacuum continues. I put on a hat – maybe that will focus the thoughts. Nah. I put on my full-face motorcycling helmet. Still nothing.       

Maybe a cup of tea will help? I put the electric kettle on. The power fails. “Should’ve picked a village with full power backup!” I chuckle and grumble.       

I transfer the water to a pan and set it on the gas stove. Waiting for the water to boil I vacantly look outside. The kids have left a bike out, and it is cloudy. Might rain.       

Still helmeted, I step out and move the bike to the store. Our store has two rooms. I intend to make one into a writing room someday, to stay away from the distractions in the house. I look around at the mess and see some books that I plan to give away. I set the bike down, pick up one of the books and leaf through it. Turning the fourth page I find a royalty cheque of 46 rupees from my first book. It is dated March 2016. Sheesh, what a waste! I wish I was better organized.        

Just then Munni – our help -  who thinks I am goofy anyway, walks in and asks why an empty pan is on the gas stove. She sees me in my helmet and runs away. I run after her - but to the kitchen. The steel pan looks like a rainbow on steroids, with colours ranging from rosy pink to burnt black.        

I kill the flame, remove the helmet, and step out to find Munni peering at me from behind a tree.

Nonchalantly, I ask her to make me some tea. I return to my writing and take a deep breath. Just then the door is pushed open, and both my kids return from school. They announce I have to help them collect eggs from the chicken coop. As I leave my writing again I wonder, “Can an Ostrich hatch a hen’s egg?”

(Chetan Mahajan is a permanent Himalayan resident and facilitator of the Himalayan Writing Retreat. His first book, The Bad boys of Bokaro Jail , was published by Penguin in 2014.)

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