Monday, 16th of July 2012:
A wave of panic is slowly creeping up on me because I seem to be losing my writing flow. For the last five days, hundreds of words have spilled out of me each day in a way that has not been possible for so many years. Of course working in the garden and living in a Buddhist Monastery has been a wealth of inspiration but certainly not the only motivation to write. I think what has also been beneficial is having fewer distractions such as not watching television, films or listening to music. While I wholeheartedly agree that the pen is mightier than the sword, I must admit that owning a laptop also definitely helps. Loads.
I do understand that the oral expression is more typical of the African tradition than the written word. However, everything in moderation please. Many years ago, I penned numerous poems which were then recited at high school poetry competitions. I cannot honestly remember any of it. But it was so much fun. I wanted to write. I loved it. And I was given the space to present and perform. How I now wish that I had held on to those writings even though they might now be cringe worthy to read.
I can remember very vividly that even from a very early age, we were encouraged to listen to another’s point of view. That which was different from our own. To then debate and challenge that view by giving convincing reasons to the opposing side. These debates were held in both English and Kiswahili. Therefore, even as children we were encouraged to be critical. This was certainly not something learnt at University (which was probably one the best experiences of my life) but has been instilled in me also by a non- British educational system. That’s why it is difficult for me to understand why this seems to have changed so drastically.
So I guess that location is not really the whole story and that it is entirely possible for one to write wherever one is. Several years later at university the writing inevitably became more academic rather than creative. I think this might be part of the problem. I have not actually been reading as much as I would like although there has not been a shortage of good books. Last night I just had to read a few pages of Iris Murdoch’s “The Sea, The Sea”. This is the second book written by her that I am now reading in sync with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”. Prior to that, I read “The Bell” which was such a great read. After many months of immersing myself in the magical realism genre; Ben Okri, Isabel Allende and Salman Rushdie, it was a truly refreshing change. I like her writing style because I find it to be clear and uncluttered. Down to earth rather than other worldly. Furthermore, I was very intrigued by her sensitive focus on interpersonal relationships. She made me laugh and she also made me cry. I enjoyed the fact that the story was set in England partly because of the parallels of religious and monastic themes in my present situation.
I don’t know how much of an impact if any this detail has on other readers but the type writer font was particularly attractive to read even though it might be too small for some people. Just in the first few pages of Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children”, I came across so many new words that have richly enhanced my own vocabulary. However, it is not just mastery of a language that matters but the way in which a writer captures the readers imagination for example by use of similes, metaphors or juxtaposition. The creative use of words to make readers feel a specific emotion. To move them even if in just a little way. These are the things matter. Therefore, I need to read as much if not more than I write. It is possible for one to become vain because of looking at or thinking only about one’s own work. I am filled with gratitude because meditation will be useful in clarifying cluttered thinking as confusion continues to reign in my brain. I know that I must always be careful otherwise I may have to eat my words one day.
Having said that, at this moment in time, I feel that I’m writing because my sanity and very life depends upon it. My only resource. I need to write. I suppose there is a certain amount of pressure in that. Isn’t there? The only way to think about is to remind myself that there really is no pressure because this is something from which I derive so much pleasure from. There are no deadlines. There is no word limit. Just because I wrote almost a thousand words yesterday does not mean I have to do so again today. Even just a couple of coherent sentences will do. Just get the words out! Ultimately, writing has now become a survival strategy. A way of responding to the most bizarre life experience. There is so much talking in my world. This is not necessarily by people who are with me physically which I know makes it sound stranger than fiction and totally weird but that‘s not really the point. It is not so much about who is communicating but rather the fact that this communication method is completely ineffective and unproductive. I have been unable to make any progress in resolving the conflict created as a consequence. It is completely beyond my comprehension. How can it be even physically possible for anyone to talk or shout continuously for twenty four hours a day? This sort of communication has just become too one-sided, too confrontational and too chaotic. I have honestly tried to reason and negotiate my way out of this maze but have not yet managed to talk my way out of it. Even after five years. It is no longer possible to reach a compromise through speech. It’s like being stuck in a bad marriage with nowhere to run. How I yearn for a taste of the sound of silence. Yet, is there really such a thing? If there is silence, complete and utter silence, how can there then be a sound? I suppose I’ll just have to complete and re-read Ajahn Sumedo’s book, “The Sound of Silence” to fully understand.
Once upon a time I might have been under the illusion that I possessed the gift of the gab but after 6 years, I have finally been liberated from that myth. So, I will write. I will write until the cows come home. I will write even if no one ever reads these words nor cares about them. I will write because it stops me from talking back. Writing will free me from speaking unnecessarily, from screaming or shouting. From losing the plot. From alienating those who are dear and those who might potentially be. I will write because it is the only way that I can reclaim back the freedom to have my own thoughts, my own ideas, and my own mind. I’ll write while I still can…