Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An Excuse for Writing

[I'm currently in the Algorithms and Complexity lab, typing this out on one of the lab's computers. There's only me and Ate Jas, one of the graduate students. I'm a bit embarrassed - this is the first time I'm using one of the computers (and the free internet connection) for something that isn't related to my thesis, but I guess that will wear off after a while. :)]

This is my first semester taking a Creative Writing (CW) course that isn't a GE. Unlike CW 10, which can be credited as one of the Arts and Humanities GEs that everyone has to take fifteen or so units of, my current subject, CW 140, is an elective; the only students who take it are mostly from the College of Arts and Letters, where its home department is located. The first day I walked into the class I felt like an astronaut visiting an uncharted planet; I was already sure, even if I hadn't seen the class list, that I was the only Engineering student there. I felt inferior in some way, ill-equipped; all my classmates, especially the CW majors, had had their formal training. I, on the other hand, was a wannabe, a dreamer who had been waylaid from her desired path and was, in some small way, trying to make up for it. I had no clue what I was in for.

After a month of writing short personal essays with fluctuating quality in my free time, I find myself enjoying the exercises. Personal essays are quite similar to blog posts; the main difference between them, as far as I've come to understand, is the informality of the latter. Many blog posts are more akin to journal entries, with their air of intimacy and confidence. These posts can be about the most mundane of things; in general, blog posts are often not expected to be coherent, or to deliver a point. An essay, on the other hand, is well-structured and full of insights - the people who read it expect to come away with something: a bit of trivia, a vicarious experience, a new idea. Of course, a blog post can also be a personal essay; some of the better blogs out there are the ones we read because we want to find out about someone's experiences and views, not because we indulge in the minutiae of her life. While thinking about what to write for my exercises I often think of things that, if I weren't so lazy, I could probably post here. Which is kind of strange, when I think about it; if I like writing enough to take a CW elective, why don't I just write whenever I have time? Why the procrastination?

I can't definitively answer this question, but it seems that some writers share a similar quirk. I've read about published authors who love to put off the work involved in writing a novel; they do their chores, go grocery-shopping, take their families out to dinner, that kind of thing. As one author put it, writers like to have written - writing involves a lot of thinking, restructuring, analysis, editing, and so on, and the maddening rarity of inspiration can drive one to long bouts with frustration. One of the reasons why writing is called a craft is the discipline required to go through the repetitive, often fruitless motions of writing and rewriting; it has to be done regularly in order for one to acquire skill and technique, and one has to keep nourishing one's Muse with good literature, since writers are also the anonymous students of other authors. It's quite tempting to just wing it and write whenever inspiration strikes. I've been writing this way for years, and so far I have only slightly improved. Hence my signing up for English and CW classes, first the GEs that everyone takes, and now, with a little step-up of confidence, a CW elective. So far it's been great being told what to write and being given free advice. My main problem would be continuing to write once classes are over and I'm left on my own again.

Hmmm, maybe I should update this blog more often. There must be a million things that I can write about, and God knows I need the practice. :)

[It's already past 7 in the evening, and I'm the only one left in the lab. Ate Jas left about an hour ago. The corridors are awfully quiet... Have to go home now. XP]


Bharat said...


:) To be honest, I find your blogs already quite interesting, but I guess there's always room for improvement when you (the author) looks at them...

Atleast we'll be seeing more of you now :)

Sucharita Sarkar said...

great to know you are taking a CW course, we had to be content with Eng Lit courses. I'm sure blogging will help in CW, after all blogging is as creative as it gets.

PS: I really liked the song translation, you must do it more often!

aireen said...

hey. Im looking for the translation of this song and I landed off to your page. I dunno if this page was still active but kinda reading it now, it's cool. Btw, its April 2012. hehe. just thought you should know :)