Why Does One Write

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 PMNov (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

Sitting near the door in the train on our way back to Manipal, Neha narrated the episode of her life where once her grandfather asked what benefit she would get by writing Shayaris (couplets). Years ago even my mother asked me the same question, to which I did not answer because the answer would have hurt her. The answer would be, “if I were not to ventilate my pent up anxiety and melancholy through poetry, I would have died long ago.” So it appears like I have been, through writing poems, postponing death for myself.

In his essay ‘What is an author’ (1969) Michel Focult also speaks about the relationship between creative expression and death. Quoting the example of Arabian Nights where stories are narrated by Schecherazade to postpone death. P. Lankesh wrote an article Naaneke Bareyuttene meaning, ‘Why I Write?’ (1975) who also takes the Arabian nights and keeping the self alive through stories, where he tries to say that stories are not just to postpone death but also to celebrate life by postponing death.

George Orwell in his essay titled ‘Why I Write?’ recollects his childhood days and says, “I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversation with the imaginary persons and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued.” Mulk Raj Anand in his write up titled ‘Why I Write?’ comments, “Some people feel an inexplicable urge to communicate what they feel intensely to say it to others.” These cravings for human touch seem to be common in both the authors. Jean Paul Sartre in one of his writings titled ‘Freedom to Write: Why Does One Write?’ says, “One of the chief motives of artistic creation is certainly the need of feeling that we are essential in relationship to the world.” But Focult says, “In writing, the point is not manifest or exalt the act of writing, nor is it to pin the subject within the language; it is rather a question of creating a space into which the writing subject constantly disappears.

To Mulk Raj Anand the first urge to write was sheer compulsion to dramatise myself and draw attention but later on his urge was to get a discreet pleasure from creating something new. He later remarked, “I discovered that one writes perhaps because one loves and wants to make contact with the other human beings. But for Orwell the motives behind writing are:

Sheer Egoism: Desire to seem cleaver, to be talked about, to be rememberd after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood.

Aesthetic Pleasure: Desire to share an experience which one feels valuable and ought not to be missed.

Historical Impulse: Desire to look at things as they are and to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

Political Purpose: Desire to push the world in a certain direction to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive for.

To Focult the motivation, as well as the theme and the pretext of Arabian narrative- such as 1001 nights- was also the eluding of death in order to forestall death. Lankesh writes that writing to him is a way to overcome day to day pressure of life and states that he always felt incomplete and his heart was heavy with pain and humiliation from which he could escape through writing. “The Gods send disaster to men so that they can tell of them and that in this possibility of speech finds its infinite resourcefulness,” Homer announced.

While Dr. U.R. Ananthamurthy sir says, “The novel got written through me,” referring to his novel Samskaara, which sounds like the statement made by Da. Ra. Bendre, “Bendre yell baritaane? Devi baristaala,” to mean “Who says Bendre writes poems? The Godess makes me write them,” it becomes difficult to point at the motivation for writing because the work of art is beyond the human control and the ‘self’ of the poet and the novelist appears to be quite a passive self while creating art.

“All writers are vain, selfish and lazy and at the very bottom of their motive there lies a mystery,” said George Orwell.

24 February 2010

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