Recently, I was reading through my diaries from Class 4 and 5. As a young girl, I would write about butterflies and sunshine. My words contained joys bigger than my tiny world. They were happier words. My diary’s pages were filled with sentences of hope and my days were bright blues and greens.
Today, at the brink of entering my twenties, my mind is pre-occupied with less-happy words; with pettier things, clouds and coffee that has gone cold. My mind is trained to think about people; the way they talk to me, the way they look at me, the eyes and smirks of the men and women around me and the giggles of the people that walk past me.
When I lay down in bed at night, my body rests and my mind replays these events. When the writer in me sits down to write, there isn’t a sentence she can write that doesn’t mention another person. The protagonist of my story, ‘The eyes that follow me in the alley’ isn’t me, it’s them; it’s him and her and everyone else but never me. Every day I’m reminded of how little of my stories I own.
Is it cheating? Is it theft? To write about the protagonists of someone else’s stories. Is it appropriation? What does one write about, if not people?
I’ve always been in great awe of writers who manage to write about things and not people. I envy them because their creativity knows no bounds. I also envy those who are brave enough to write about people and own these stories. As a young girl, I used to be both; today, I’m neither. Neither is my mind imaginative enough to write about things without a soul nor is it brave enough to write about the people that impact my life the most.
Objects are almost never the focus of the stories my mind weaves. It’s also never emotions and feelings. They’re stories about people-the people around me. They’re stories about my interactions with these people. Stories of actions and reactions and empathy and jealousy. I find it hard to write about things; about objects. How does one write about inanimate things? How does one connect to them? How does one write about emotions that aren’t triggered by their conversations with people?
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But it scares me; to use people in my stories. To paint those around me in words and expressions. To put my relationships on paper. To pen down a twisted poem about how my jealousy is eating me up inside or how insecure my mind is about my achievements; because my jealousy is someone else’s success story and my insecurity is another’s asset. It scares me because it keeps telling me how little I have to offer as an individual. My entire life – all the memories I create, all the stories that run through my head are all someone else’s. Their reactions and their behaviour and their successes infiltrate my writings. But penning down my own thoughts feels like larceny of someone else’s story.
It makes me feel empty inside – like I will never have a good enough story to tell. Because all my beautiful words, all my oh! so marvellous poems would be about everyone but me.
So, I keep them hidden – my writings. My thoughts and opinions fill the pages of my diary but never overflow out of them. I contain them all too well for them to be read by anyone but me. Academia taught me plagiarism was a sin and creativity taught me that ideas come from inspiration. Today, a conflicted 20 something-year-old stares at her computer screen – does what I write even belong to me? Is it mine?
As a writer, maybe one day, I will get over my fears and own the stories that are filled with my voices and silences. But as a person, my mind will never quit playing games with me.
Ruchi Shahagadkar is a Journalism student from Pune, Maharashtra who loves to write and paint. She enjoys binge-watching rom-coms when she’s not neck-deep in assignments.