What is an honest piece of writing?

One that has retrospective magic. Born out of intuition at the time of writing. Logic that you recognise. Later. But not at the beginning of the journey. Or even during the process. No strategy of “unfolding”. As in a bullet-biting list or sequence of cause and effect. Or device. Or clever planning. Just the peeling of the onion’s layers. One that plays hide-n-seek with both the rationale and its aftermath. The chicken and the egg are both unable to answer the age old question related to their birth. Or at least it should appear as easy as that.

In practice the fear of the unknown as it unfolds word after word and begins to arouse your senses even as you write is at best what can be hoped for. The muse is active only when you allow yourself to write wearing a blindfold over a set of tightly shut eyes and your hands handcuffed behind your back so that you can not loosen the knot either out of impulse or deliberate intent to cheat your muse. The muse is best served and in turn best serves you if it remains invisible and faceless.

Grids or cleverly crafted scenes will make for skilful writing. Or even good writing. Or writing that will make excellent reading. Faultless, even. But not honest. Honesty implies vulnerability. Fragility that comes accompanied by trepidation.

Will the words I knit make sense and resonate with the reader as their own truth?

It doesn’t matter how harsh the truth is. For it to work the wide variety of readers out there have to make it their own. And to do so it has to be able to slip past their defences. Their armour of rehearsed responses. They need to simultaneously be exhilarated for themselves; and full of nervousness for you. Your vulnerable self made visible through their reading. But not as defect. As literature.

I read an entire book. I can sense the author is persuading me to step into the life of the characters. It is good literature. It draws me in. But a part of me is wary. It recognises the trap. Or the lure of the words. It surrenders to them as a sympathetic reader. It wants the words to work. The words in turn try their hardest to work.

But somewhere there is an underlining absence of truth. Something elusive that has failed to insinuate itself through the text to the reader. I guess this is what we allude to when we speak of “universal truth”. Not sure if anything other than the intuitive can achieve this. Learning to write well when you have something to say may be possible. But it’s what you say and how you say it without recourse to conscious artifice is what the writer needs to strive towards achieving.

Oh and please don’t allow yourself to be dictated by the market. The market is the creation of a successful myth. One that attracts. Like a magnet. Almost against one’s will.

You cannot entertain your readers. This is not your purpose. Your task is to disturb them. To open their eyes. Their minds. Alerting them to the possibility of receiving unconditionally. Through intuition and not through the jaded language of the marketplace.

So tell me about books that will last.

Those that are written because you want to write them. Everything that you write, you will argue, is written because you wish to write it, surely. I would agree. Partially. There is, however, a lingering area of uncertainty here. Often what you write may be influenced by an external need. Or circumstance. Or event. Or the felt need to respond to an issue in the public sphere that needs immediate intervention. From you. An “articulation” that only you are capable of providing. Or so you feel. Of course this is obvious. Yet there is a “doubt”.

I am talking of the books that are not quite in your control in the manner described. Books that come into existence because you sit down with a degree of purpose and finality to write them. With a restlessness that verges on the edge of the uncharted.

The terrain is unfamiliar. You don’t know how it will happen. Or what to expect from your foray into the unknown. To write what bubbles upwards and outwards on to paper. Boiling over. Almost as an intuitive or reflexive impulse. An act whose only pre-planned intent was to write. Not what to say. Like vomit. Expelled with force.

Yesterday's thought that lay unsettled. Undigested. Perhaps you swallowed it too soon. Or it was rancid. Who knows. All we need to know dear author is that what you write is something we want to return to. Again. And again.

Like a vulture hunched. I sat awaiting my prey. My eyes focused. Without blinking. On the page. This one. This white sheet. Stretching. Like a poker faced horizon. Blank. As if. It would fool me.

I knew that the words would come. Like migratory birds. Alight. One after the other. Cautiously to begin with. Looking to the right. The left. Then in droves. Flocking in a great big swarm. Safe. Or so they thought.

That is when I will strike. Grab them by their thoughts. And swallow them whole.