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The Right Words

Of late, I have been writing what I am calling my ‘throw away’ work. Wasted words that are cold and flat…lacking in imagination or technique. I hack away at my keyboard for minutes on end and then with one impulsive touch of the backspace button, every word is discarded…I’m back to a white screen…back to contemplating…stuck again.

How ironic that at this moment I am writing about not being able to write!

The feeling of helplessness is almost physical…I am seldom happy with the words on my screen…mediocre phrasing annoys me. I long for finesse. I need…something…I’m not sure what exactly….but I know my writing lacks it.

I wonder…I deliberate on my choice of expressions…scratch this…change that…rephrase…punctuate…find another way to say that…write something different…and then in a moment of exasperation, “I can’t come up with a good idea” becomes “I’ll never come up with a good idea ever again.”

The vexations creep up on me like a shadow on a sundial…like a vine on a wall…like a cat on a mouse. Sigh! I overdid that, didn’t I? I’m almost incurably verbose…that’s my other struggle.

If I sound annoyed it’s because I am and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This dissatisfaction with my writing drives me…ideas simmer in my mind…they hang there…I’m aware of them but I’m still searching for the right words to give them shape. The foggy feeling lingers…like when you’re in that half-asleep, half-awake state just before your alarm breaks the silence of the early morning. You know?

(Takes a ten minute break…comes back to laptop with a mug of coffee, a leftover idli and a little more clarity…)

I guess like any skill, writing takes practice and for me that practice comes from my throw away words. If I was happy with everything I wrote I wouldn’t be allowing myself to grow…to learn or to just write a whole lot of nonsense once in a while. I keep telling my students that unless they’re practicing, they’re not improving. The same applies to me. To us. To everyone.

Despite my usual misgivings about New Year’s Resolutions, I am determined to keep writing this year…to keep toying with words even though there are times when I just want to click the little red box on the top-right of my screen and undo all the phrases. I think I should start keeping my ‘throw away’ words…start saving them instead, so that I can read them over…without judgment…without posting them on a blog…without asking people for feedback. I think we all need a space to express ourselves naively…a canvas where the strokes don’t mater…where the technique doesn’t count…but a place that exudes the kind of vibrancy that comes from spontaneous expression.

I wonder if there really are right words for every thought. For now, these will just have to do.

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One comment on “The Right Words

  1. A galley slave to pen n ink!

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