The Art of Haunting

This is my first blog on writing. Treat it as a cloud.

There comes a time in a writer’s life when the clamor is suddenly over. He feels like a pilot who has flown through rainclouds, skirted a couple of thunderstorms, hit a few air pockets until he has got the craft above it all, and is now swimming through the stillness. The world is spinning far below; engaged in its chaotic velocity of wars, genocides, betrayals, love stories, elections and the sundry activities that continue as real time history.

From his cockpit, the writer looks down.

Does he see a little boy drawing a boa constrictor, which has swallowed an elephant?

He tries to recollect Saint Exupery.

No. That part is over.

He simply remembers what he has read, seen and happened.


The writer is now ready. The effort at remembering is unnecessary now. The stories are all there, clear as stratospheric light, waiting to be told. That’s when he realizes at last he is a writer. Has become a writer. Like a swimmer who knows he has finished training and is ready for the Olympic pool. Or a fighter who suddenly knows he has become a warrior.

This ledge of arrival doesn’t mean there is nothing more to do. The sword needs constant polishing and sharpening. Know, the pen is a sword; it is as mighty. Words are the weapons of engagement, books are gauntlets to be thrown down to the world to be picked up and engaged with in a war of ideas.

Personally, I don’t see quietude as the necessary climate for creativity. That’s for people who cannot concentrate. Self indulgent and weak, they’re unable to banish white noise at will. I need the tumult of memories, events and ideas, the vertigo of epiphanies, the power of hurling a sentence into the void when I write. And hear the echoes as they spin away, like confetti from a spacecraft.

The writer is a storekeeper of lost souls. He is able to create a lonely room for himself, and listen to their chatter. They are strangers. Sometimes friends who are strangers. Or vice versa. Sometimes I wonder; are all writers haunted? Where do the characters come from? Biography and autobiography in fiction are easy ways out; the writer just plunders his memory bank and scribbles away like a creative munshi. But does he ever wonder where the dialogues come from? Who puts the words in the nib or the keyboard?

These are my rules.

I believe a writer cannot escape his past or the continuous present. But he must examine it mercilessly.

He has to learn what he should keep and throw away.

He must allow himself to be possessed by the spirits of his characters. Writing is a séance with the inhabitants of an imaginary world. No recollection is totally complete. Nothing is authentic.

Be vain. Be surprised at things that suddenly appear. Sentences that suddenly flow. Phrases that pop up. These are the vitamins of the creative ego.

And above all, be dishonest. All the crap about being honest to yourself and your writing is a load of Coelho type of crap. A writer is a pragmatic soul. Once Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow’s father, a rabbi, asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“A writer,” Saul replied.

The rabbi disowned his son, saying writers are liars because they make up things. He was aghast his son wanted to be a liar.

So, this is all for now.

Happy lying. Keep your teeth shining.

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