Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Magic of Words

I am a bibliophile. I buy and collect books with every intention to devour through all of them. This is when I wish I had photographic memory like Mike Ross the character from the television law drama “ Suits”  so that I could have one glance and grasp it all. But then these are writings which are different from datas, legal texts and authorities. The writings that I enjoy reading are works of fiction or writings that come from the heart of their authors.  We need to savour and feel them.

I read fictions, whether they are heavy, dark or light hearted and I also read some  non-fictions about humanity and how our brains and psyche work. I may not understand completely the findings and theories in some of these non-fictions written  by intellectuals and scientists but I do find myself learning a little bit more about humanity as I read them. It takes me a much longer  time to read these non-fictions as compared to reading novels. I enjoy fictions because I love words and the beauty of how some prose and sentences are strung together. Even though the themes I am interested in centre around life events, there is an abundant supply of fascinating stories that are created by the writers all over the world. I am constantly amazed by how insightful all of these writers are about the realities of life and how clever they are to weave a story and  that intrigue around all these words. Sometimes I read to escape from the dryness of my work, sometimes I read to find solace and resolution like what Nina Sankovitch, a lawyer turned housewife did when she started her reading project and wrote her reading memoir : Tolstoy and the Purple Chair My Year of Magical Reading . But mostly I read because I find great pleasure in reading. Nina Sankovitch was committed to reading a book a day after her sister died of cancer as she was seeking reprieve from her pain and possible answers for her loss . Like what Ms Sankovitch wrote, “But all the books I read, the hard ones to work through and the easy ones to devour, were doing me good, lots of good. And bringing me pleasure, lots of pleasure.

The Elephant House , Edinburgh
Very often I cannot wait to finish reading one book which I had started so as to get on to another. To me many books look like promising reads. The problem is you cannot gobble down words just like you cannot chomp down food no matter how hungry you are. You need to digest what you read just like you need to digest the food you consume. Sometimes when you are so engrossed with the story, it is an anti- climax when it ends and you feel a sense of loss when you come to the end of the book. There are fictions that are intense and I completely immerse myself with the protagonist and the characters and then when the story ends, I feel a little sad that  I  have to leave these characters behind. When that happens, I feel like I need to decompress and take a little breather while my head is still swinging with the stories of  these characters.

I  get particularly excited whenever I come across a passage that resonates with my thoughts. I am naturally drawn to writings that I like so that can happen quite often. I also enjoy writing. I write opinions and advice for my legal work but that is not the kind of writing I like writing. I can only write in spurts the kind of writing I dabble in. Although I do not write the kind of writing I like for a living , I find the following passage from the memoir by Haruki Murakami as translated in English by Philip Gabriel in “ What I talk about when I talk about Running” aptly describes how I  feel about writing.

As I suspect is true of many who write for a living, as I write I think about all sorts of things. I don’t necessarily write down what I’m thinking; it’s just that as I write I think about things. As I write, I arrange my thoughts. And rewriting and revising takes my thinking down even deeper paths. No matter how much I write, though, I never reach a conclusion. And no matter how much I rewrite, I never reach the destination.”

Haruki further writes, “ Even after decades of writing, the same still holds true. All I do is present a few hypotheses or paraphrase the issue. Or find an analogy between the structure of the problem and something else.

When one writes, one is in touch with his or hers thoughts and we think about things.  When we express our thoughts in written form, we are putting down in print our stance and  our beliefs if we are truthful. Writing needs concentration. It is also a creative process where one can be transported through one’s imagination when one writes. But thoughts come and go, so often I come across an idea or a concept which I think comical or insightful; I might have thought it was a brilliant idea to write about later and when I tried to recall it later somehow I could no longer feel its magic or humour. I also do not have a good memory so I can no longer recall the exact words or phrase I probably used to formulate the idea. There were times when I had scribbled my thoughts down somewhere  and subsequently  when I took a look at what I had written, they no longer worked as well as I had thought they would. It was probably just a particular state of mind at that particular moment when the idea  seemed to matter.

Writing is a form of play to me; as I write I think about how to construct a sentence to describe a thought, an emotion, a scene or an event.

I attended my first writing workshop in October. It was really embarrassing that I had attended a writing workshop without any writing pad. What kind of aspiring writer are you when you do not carry a note pad ? The problem with me is that I can be planning ahead and somehow miss out the important detail so there I was, turning up at the workshop without any writing sheets. In  the past whenever I scribble a thought that came to mind, I tend to discard it whenever I sit down with a view  to type them out. I had even tried recording when I drove but when I played it they sounded hollow. So these days, I carry my laptop everywhere with me just in case I can find some time to sit down and write. The workshop was an eye opener for me so now I carry notepads around as  it does make sense to carry a notepad to jot down interesting words that I might come across when I read. Inspirations is everywhere if one pays attention to one’s surroundings. What I have learnt from the workshop and talks about writing  is  that you must write everyday so rain or shine, you have to sit down and write in order to hone your writing skills. Writing and reading are solitary activities and you simply need to set aside the time and space to get down to it everyday.

Writing is meditative and you need to be calm to possess a clarity of mind. I find that  if I am  pre-occupied or feel troubled, I will not be able to write. But then again what did I learn from the writing workshop? You must sit down and write everyday even if you are not feeling particularly insightful about anything on that day. Yes troubles and problems can wait, but not reading nor writing. Be inspired everyday and everywhere.

Sozzled Sausage, a pub in Lemington Spa, England