Sunday, 1 June 2014

Why Should I Write

A new post in the series - Reminders to Self


Drawing hands, by M. C. Escher, Source


Any reader of this blog or even an occasional visitor must have noticed that almost all of the writing here finds its inspiration in, or a connection to the words and thought of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. So when it comes to writing itself, it is obvious where I would look first. And last.

Many aspiring poets, sadhak-poets and writers in the Ashram and elsewhere used to ask Sri Aurobindo for advice and help with their writing and writing process. And Sri Aurobindo would painstakingly write back to each one of them, giving suggestions, making corrections to their drafts, guiding them. In many of his letters and talks we find great lessons on process of writing, inspiration for writing, role of concentration while writing, deeper purpose of writing, use of English language, writer’s block, and even place of humour in writing. And yes, a reference or two on plagiarism too. His own voluminous writings - prose, poetry, drama - serve as incomparable examples in various styles of writing including literary, philosophical, mystical, sociological, political, satire, polemics, you name it.

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For many years in my professional-academic life I learned about and facilitated learning of others in this thing called academic writing. Yes, that genre of writing with all kinds of quotes and data! And jargon too. Though I was never really fond of the latter. I was also fortunate enough to work in a non-conventional stream of higher education where academics for the most part have not bought into the model of “publish or perish.”

As a result, my writing - other than what I did based on purely academic research like my doctoral and post-doctoral work - was mostly inspired by or influenced by topics, themes and issues that were of interest to me at that time. Some of these may be read here, here and here. My expression, voice, and style in most of these writings would not really qualify as “academic writing” in the most conventional sense. Yet there was an undeniable influence of the years of training in and exposure to a certain style of writing that is common to academic circles.

When I started this blog last year, I wanted to follow no particular “style” or “voice” or “objective” but just express whatever was inspiring, interesting, important, relevant, and meaningful for me at that moment of time. I have written at length in another post about one simple criterion I follow when deciding whether to post something on this blog.

And when it comes to “how” to express, there too I haven’t put any limits. It can be words, music, images, inspiration gathered from various sources, mixed up with my meanings, my words, my silences.

Today my inspiration comes in the form of a reminder. A reminder for why I should write or rather why I should NOT write.

I can not not write. But I must remember why I write. This blog, or anything else. Especially now, at this point in my life-journey.

Why I should write, why I shouldn't write

Someone once asked Sri Aurobindo:

I cannot deny that along with my urge for acquiring a fine style etc., there is hiding some desire for fame as a good writer which, however, one can reject, at least one can hope to.

He replied:

Better not force the inspiration. You have some literary gift and can let it grow—but no desire for fame, if you please. (4 October 1933)

In another reply, I find this advice:

There should be no “desire” to be a “great” writer. If there is a genuine inspiration or coming of a power to write, then it can be done but to use it as a means of service to the Divine is the proper spirit. (14 May 1934)

And this:

Every artist almost (there can be rare exceptions) has got something of the public man in him in his vital-physical parts, which makes him crave for the stimulus of an audience, social applause, satisfied vanity, appreciation, fame. That must go absolutely if you want to be a yogi; your art must be a service not of your own ego, nor of anyone or anything else, but solely of the Divine.
(14 September 1929)

And this too:

It is your aim to write from the Divine and for the Divine—you should then try to make all equally a pure transcription from the inner source and where the inspiration fails return upon your work so as to make the whole worthy of its origin and its object. All work done for the Divine, from poetry and art and music to carpentry or baking or sweeping a room, should be made perfect even in its smallest external detail, as well as in the spirit in which it is done; for only then is it an altogether fit offering. (11 November 1931)

~ Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo, Volume 27, pp. 600-601

Today I feel grateful for this reminder.
Today I remind myself to remember this advice. Today, tomorrow, the day after, and after.
Today I remind myself to practice this advice. Today, tomorrow, the day after, and after.

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For previous posts in this series - Reminders to self, click here.


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Linking this post with Write Tribe Wednesday Prompt 2014 - #17  The prompt is to write a letter, or a poem or non-fiction giving advice to a novice writer. I am writing this letter/reminder to myself.