Nondualism: Writing/Not Writing

By Minal Hajratwala

Categories: Alum Experiences, Women's Voices, Writing Tips,

Editor’s note: The following post is being republished from Hedgebrook Writes!

Altar, Mumbai, April 2011

 

Regret

Mid-Monday.  I feel bad that I haven’t written more, haven’t written much this weekend.

Luckily, I’m now intimate with the voices in my head. So I suspect this is a lie.  Time to take inventory. Since Friday morning, I’ve written:

• several thousand meandering journal-y words on gender, armor, rootedness, displacement, travel, destabilization & its gifts

• a draft of a film/culture commentary that I may or may not publish

• a long dialogue with a writer friend, more about gender, hair, transitions of various sorts

• a piece of flash fiction that emerged from Genine’s prompts (“poses”)

• and, oh yes, this and my previous blog post

Actually that’s quite a bit.  And this is my regular pace these days; I didn’t do much special for the Hedgebrook weekend.

I am working steadily, yet I realize (again) how constant this feeling is:  not working/writing/doing/being enough.

How good I am at saying to myself, “but that doesn’t count. That’s not real writing.”

I mean, journaling isn’t really Writing. And the dialogue was just emails. The commentary doesn’t really have a point yet, so you’re probably not going to do anything with it.  Everyone knows blogging doesn’t count.

OK maybe the flash fiction—but seriously, what are you going to do with that?  Is there a market for that?  Is that part of any of your projects you’re supposed to be getting done?  No?

Well then you’ve just been wasting time, haven’t you?

[keywords: internalized oppression, conditioning, definitions, practicality vs. dreamtime]

Check

During my alumna stay at Hedgebrook in 2004, I was in the middle of what, in retrospect, was a very deep writer’s block that would take several more years to resolve.  Another resident would come to dinner every night and announce her daily word count: 2,400!  3,000!

My imposter syndrome reared up.  I was scribbling in journals and napping and spending long hours sitting at my temporary altar daydreaming, hoping for a breakthrough that seemed elusive.

I came to dread seeing this writer approach the farmhouse table, her very presence a reproach to what was clearly my laziness, my failure, my Not Writing.

One day we rode into Langley together.  I needed boxes (I can’t remember why).  She had an errand to run, too. In the car she told me what it was: to pick up her lithium prescription.

Oh.

In my journal I wrote:

Well.  Isn’t it funny, the woman I worried about keeping up with is bipolar—she may have manic periods of writing thousands of words a day, but she must also have periods of absolute bleak silence.  Not something to wish for, is it!!   We had a nice drive in and back, she told me about her writing group.  5-6 women each with two or more books behind them, all feeling filled with self-loathing, not “real writers.”

She herself had published seven books at that point. But she didn’t feel like a proper writer. After all, most of them were genre fiction—not “real books.”

[keywords: female competitiveness, penis size, cellulite, insecurity]

Reality

Some notions:

I think reality is inherently unstable.  Hinduism has this piece of it right:  samsara, maya, moksha.

I think there should be a reality television show for writers. Like “Survivor” but for books.  If they could film our innards, it would be more melodramatic than anything currently on television.  Top Chef, Fear Factor, Project Runway, The Apprentice … What we do is quieter, but much harder.

I think I have no handle on reality, and need to stop trying to figure it out.  There is no way to assess “objectively” how productive I am being, day to day.  There are no billable hours; this isn’t like being a lawyer.  Day to day, all I have to assess my progress is feelings—and feelings are unreliable.  Buddhism has this piece of it right: delusion, mindstates, breathing.

One reality is that I often don’t know what I’ve done till I’ve done it.  Somehow over eight years of constantly feeling that I was Not Writing, I actually did write a book.

A real one.

[keywords: materialism, comparative theology, pathways to fame]

Desire

Vodafone India has an ad slogan Faster, Smarter, Better. The voice is a woman with a sexy British accent.  One day, waiting in a Vodafone office for my friend’s cellphone to be fixed, hearing this ad repeated over and over on an intercom loop, we started joking:Faster, Harder, Longer, Deeper…

Sometimes I think the voice in my head is like that.  Always demanding more, more, more.  Insatiable.

There can be something exciting and beautiful about this desire.  It’s the energizing, upbeat side of not enough.

I’m not enlightened enough to empty myself of desire.   But I’d like to remember to stay more on the desire tip—less on the downbeat of regret and self-reproach.

Is it possible to ride the wave of yes, yes, more, more … without succumbing to the undertow of not enough, not enough, not enough?

[keywords: second chakra, failed zen student, contracorriente]

Gratuitous unicorn image

2 Comments

  • Liza Monroy
    3:25 PM - 21 July, 2011

    So relatable and true! So much writing time consists of non-writing-writing to get to the beginning of the work. Loved reading this.

  • Shannon
    12:00 AM - 9 September, 2011

    Beautiful. I loved the image of the lithium lady. It felt familiar to my own experience as I sat blocked for days.

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