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Are you a secretive writer? Is that such a bad thing?

Recently, my seven year old son told me “Amma, why do you call yourself a writer when you never write?”
I asked him ‘Why do you think that I am not a writer?’
He said, “I never see you write, Amma.”
After this dialogue with my son, I have increasingly thought about my secretiveness in the writing process. For instance, I cannot write in a public place. I cannot bring myself to bleed on paper with a hundred people or their voices hovering around me. I need to be completely alone to write, to unwind and to bleed on paper. I have wondered if this secretiveness has done me any good and whether there was something not ‘normal’ about my writing process. 
The seven year old’s question stemmed from curiosity and I began to contemplate seriously on my writing process and thought of sharing it with you, dear reader. Perhaps you can help me gain clarity on my writing process. Or perhaps you can simply listen and be with me now at this moment.
When I first began to write about my Guru, I was in Class 6. I used to hide my scribblings from my friends because they would mock me for writing about Guru and Bhakti. They found it hilarious that I am writing such ‘junk’ at my age. To them, God was real junk and they thought I must be hallucinating or ‘stoned’ to be writing about God. That one doesn’t have to be in a state of intoxication to contemplate about God seemed an alien concept to them.
My friends, if you could call them that, would try hard to divert my attention to joining their groups after class instead or hanging out with a bunch of the school’s laziest groups. Somehow I didn’t feel that it did me any good to do what suited them and I would opt out to sit in a corner and write.
The more I wrote about God and spirituality, the happier I became and the more others made fun of my writings, it made me more determined to keep writing. Yet, the habit of being secretive about what I write began to take root early.
As a result, whenever I write about spirituality, I don’t like to show it to anyone and if I eventually do, it is usually with those very few people whom I intuitively trust.
Sometimes you can trust a stranger
Nearly two decades ago, I completed a manuscript on a spiritual Master, a Guru who is worshipped worldwide. While writing the book, I got visions of the very same Guru who corrected several aspects of what I was writing and these constant divine revelations from the Guru prompted me to seek constructive criticism from some one whom I had read was a close devotee.
I took the manuscript directly to a Minister of State though he was a complete stranger to me. Yet he showed surprise that I, a college going student and not a devotee of the Guru, had written a book on the same Guru. He bowed his head to me and said, “We need more youngsters like you.” The humility with which he said this brought tears to my eyes. No one had ever said that to me before. Then he added, “But writing about spirituality means you have a greater responsibility to adhere to Truth than others. Let me try and find time to read. I won’t make any promises though.”
That dashed my hopes. Why would a busy Minister read my raw manuscript? But he did.
The very same minister studied my book thoroughly, met me about three months later and told me “On my flights and whenever I am travelling, I read your manuscript. It recharged me. I have noted down some suggestions if you would care to take a look.”
To my surprise, the Minister had detailed suggestions that gave me a clearer sense of direction with regard to the book. No one had ever studied my manuscript as closely as this Minister. I promised him, “Your suggestions have been valuable. I will incorporate them.”  
This is perhaps one of the rarest of the rare instances when I have shown my manuscript to a total stranger.
If you are passionate about something, you have every right to create your comfort zone that will help you strive for happiness and excellence.  And those whom you trust with that ‘gut feel,’ they are the ones to help you chart your growth path proactively.

Comments

Vishnu said…
Hi Swapna, interesting stories here especially your interaction with the minister! To give you such detailed feedback is a great story of a positive experience with a reader. Do you still have that manuscript - is it time to work on it further for publication :) ?

I've written for myself and I've written for others. The benefit of writing for myself is for practice and self-expression. The practice of writing for others allows me to share with others and inspire them. A blog is a great platform for that because you get good feedback from your readers and know what they do/don't like about your writing and your perspective on things.
Jairam said…
Wow, this was a lovely post, almost like a journey into your past where you brought out not just incidents from the past about how the world viewed your writing, but also about how you have actually completed a manuscript and that lovely incident with the Minister of State.
KParthasarathi said…
I fully agree with your last para.I believe writing especially for human good is for sharing.It is a sort of dhan,vidya dhanam.
MomWith aDot said…
Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience. Secretive or public, whatever comes naturally, works best - that's what I always believe.
harimohan said…
The book you wrote on our Guru and the book you gave me by another of his devotee gave us a lot of answers if you rememebr Swapna
Iam sure he guides you always
Dear Vishnu,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I too agree that to give such detailed feedback is truly a positive experience that we, as writers, get from readers. Since you asked - I published three books when I was eighteen - this was one such a blessed book. Title is 'Pearl of Divinity' and the book is about Mata Amritanandamayi. Though not a devotee, I had the rare blessing to be with AMMA on several occasions, to savor her amazing friendship as one woman to another and as a spiritual seeker myself, no one has impressed me the way she has especially in her interactions with the masses - the way she distills the essence of compassion to the fisherman, the poorest of the poor and all of those people whom we refer to as 'aam aadmi.' My direct interactions, experiences and conversations with her and those close to her is what I attempted to record in the book.

AMMA was kind enough to bless the book. She skimmed through the pages, kissed some of the pages and lovingly told me, "I don't understand English but I understand your love. I am not important for you to write about but you wrote out of love, and that's what matters. You are more important, remember that."

Her words, even then, inspire me because they are so profound. She conveyed in very simple Malayalam that she is not important but that I wrote is more significant. To a struggling writer, you can understand why those words carry such richness of light and inspiration.

I can send you a copy of the book if you feel like reading it. As a spiritual seeker, it is forbidden to me to 'sell' my books for making commercial profit.

Like you said, the benefit of writing for self-expression is an incredible experience in itself and I can relate to what you meant there. Also when you write for others on blogs, you open yourself to more interactions, interesting discussions and insights. For any writer practising the craft, these are godsend.
@Jairam - Thank you so much for reading through and for sharing your thoughts with me.

@KP Parthasarathi - Truly, such writing, as you rightly said, is a sort of dhyan, vidya and dhanam. Sadly, most writers these days are more concerned about name, fame, money and make best sellers out of writing so casually that the craft of writing loses its appeal altogether. What was once a craft of the talented and contemplating minds is no longer the case. There are very few craftsmen or craftswomen in the field of writing now especially in India, we see that pulp fiction has become such a rage. Sad to see a great country losing grip over its intellectual and literary prowess.

@MomwithaDot - Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts here. I agree with what you said - Whatever comes naturally and works best is the way to go ahead with.

@Harimohan - Thanks Hari uncle. Yes, I remember that incident very well. To be a humble instrument of the Guru is a godsend opportunity. Though I have not been able to practise my Guru's teachings as I should, I have tried to and on many occasions, it is His grace alone that has helped me through. His love and guidance is the compass that I try to follow at all times. But as you know, the ego is such that the mind goes in another direction and that is where I too fail against my real will.

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