Why I Write: To Paint A Picture That Is Swirling Around In My Head
I became a writer by sheer accident. As a child I used to draw and paint all the time and everyone in the family assumed that is what I would do when I grew up. I was not very good in my studies and often got very poor marks in every subject except for drawing. I sometimes wrote short stories just to amuse my school friends but I always filled up the pages with more drawings than words. My teachers in school were surprised when I wrote a good essay but always gave me low grades “Her spelling is very bad”. Only one English teacher when I was in class 10 encouraged me to write but it was too much hard work. I continued to draw and paint.
I feel it is something so fragile, this ability to put your heart, you innermost secrets, into words and it is better to leave it alone.
Many years later I began doing a series of pen and ink sketches for a newspaper (The Statesman) and was asked by the editor to write a short piece to go with the sketches. I hesitated, remembering my school days and the beautiful pattern of red-ink circles on my essay pages but they were going to pay extra for the 300 words, so I wrote a short piece to go with my sketch.
That is how it all began. Soon I was writing a nature column for Times of India along with illustrations and a year later a travel book My Sainted Aunts came along. Then a few months
later, as if by magic, I wrote a book for children. Before I knew it I was a writer. My family, my friends and my teachers were all very surprised but no one was more surprised than me.
Why I write is something I have never really thought about. I just know that I love stringing words to paint a picture that is swirling around in my head. Sometimes I manage to paint a vivid picture and then sometimes I fail and only a blob appears. The picture stays in my mind, driving me mad as I struggle to find appropriate words to make it come to life. It is a lonely, difficult and exhausting task. Painting is much more joyous. When I paint I don’t have to huddle over my laptop, searching for that perfect word just hovering out of my reach. The tubes of colors, the brushes and the canvas all are my friends but a blank sheet of paper or a cold, staring computer screen, seldom is.
But despite all that, I write everyday. It flows easily now that I am not afraid of spelling mistakes thanks to the computer. It is like breathing for me. I write very quickly and I don’t plan much. Even when I plan a story out it somehow grows wings and flies off wherever it wants to. I try calling it back and very often it will not listen to me and I have to let it do its
I have to force myself sometimes to polish what I have written or flesh out a character more but I do it very reluctantly.
I really don’t like to think too much about why I write. I feel it is something so fragile, this ability to put your heart, you innermost secrets, into words and it is better to leave it alone. I believe if you stop and look at the craft of writing too closely, keep asking yourself why you are writing, you might just stop. It is like learning how to ride a bike (something I have never done properly). Think too much about how you are balancing and you might just fall off. I always did.
All writers just write. Some plan methodically and write and rewrite over and over again while, others like me, write at top speed like a meteor rushing through the sky. I am always
afraid I will lose that chain of thought if I stop. That one brief glimmer of an odd word, that half formed sentence; I have to grab at every word before they fly away from my head. I write at a furious pace and then I know I will keep my balance and not fall off. I hate rewriting. I feel I am painting over a painting already done. I have to force myself sometimes to polish what I have written or flesh out a character more but I do it very reluctantly.
Why I write is a mystery to me but I just know I need to write. As long as my readers keep reading me and keep traveling with me and my stories, I know I will keep writing and not think too much about it. I just hope and pray that the magical fountain of words that all writers drink from will never dry up.
Bulbul Sharma is a painter and writer based in New Delhi. Her works are in the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Lalit Kala Akademi and Chandigarh Museum. She has published several books which include the bestselling My Sainted Aunts and The Anger of Aubergines. Murder in Shimla is her latest offering. The views expressed are the author’s own.