There is an old photograph of a little girl sitting in the middle of a cozy room. The room is empty except for books scattered from one end of the floor to another. The girl, her hair tied in neat plaits with red ribbons, is bent over a book. Her cheek resting on her fist, she is so engrossed in reading that she is not aware of anyone taking that photograph. That girl is me. I have looked at that photograph a few times over the years. It’s a beautiful memory of someone who loved reading, loved being immersed in a world of imagination – where characters were not afraid to show their true colors, plots unfolded like meandering streams and stories sometimes didn’t have a happy ending.
As years have gone by, that’s what that photograph has turned into though – a beautiful memory. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very fond of books. When people talk lovingly about books and have a sparkle in their eyes, I know exactly the joy they are experiencing. I feel a sense of pride when I see my son captivated by books. But I don’t see myself pouring over books much anymore. I wonder if this world that was once a huge part of my life has slowly closed a door. If I was into citing quotes, I would have followed that by ‘…and it has opened other doors’. Ha! But I dislike quotes. They come without any context, they don’t care for the nuances that are only possible in a story and yet they have the audacity to project a certain authority. So no, I have not checked to see what new doors have opened for me. My guess is that they are tired of all the openings and closings and have thrown their knobs up in the air by now.
What I do know is that I have become a bit keener on being able to write stories. I feel joyous when I write a simple story and my friends tell me that they connected with it. Then I try to write an even simpler story. A story that unravels a few knots in my mind but is largely uncomplicated, like a few ripples on a still pond. My stories are most content when they mirror my way of life.
Sometimes these stories write themselves out of the experiences I have, sometimes it’s a little annoying to see that my words fumble, unable to hold the richness of my experience in their palms. Like the pretty foam art on a cup of coffee that is created with much finesse but is gone as soon as the first sip is had. Whatever the case may be, a story that gets written has the power to calm that inner voice a bit. The one that pleads me to create – create, create something, anything. Self-expression has that raw power that arises out of the sheer vulnerability where you pluck your innermost emotions and gently put them in front of the world to see. It’s a fine balance of power and poise.
Now only if I was a writer, how nice would that be! A master of own words, I would wave a wand to conjure pieces of beauty. I would sit next to a window with red bougainvillea flowers in bloom, watching the artistic bustle of a tropical town. As the place would light up around dusk, words would surely flow like a sultry breeze. Oh well. Who am I kidding? As good as this daydreaming is, one thing that has been noted again and again is that great creative moments are not without an effort. In fact, there are no great moments of “aha”-ness but a natural culmination of talent, dedication and hard work. A convergence of a mind that connects the dots after diverging into the variety that life has to offer. The phrase to remember here and practice is the Growth Mindset.
So the only story that I can tell myself is this – you want to write? You pick up that pen and write. Hold those bougainvilleas in your mind for a bit and don’t worry about what gets written. You want to dance? You get up and move, and trust that you will have fun. I am not sure where I am going with this, so let me just say that I hope I keep writing a few more stories, including the story that’s called my life. If I don’t, who will? Here you go, I just did.