Writers’ Woes

5 Sep


You know that saying, “find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day of your life?”
Can you find out who said that for me? I want to bash his (or) her head in.

As a thickly bespectacled little girl growing up with her nose perpetually stuck in books, I had only one career choice that ever made sense to me: to be a writer.

Unfortunately, conservative middle-class Sri Lankan parents had never heard of the job description. Still less had they heard of anyone having a successful career after studying Arts. “Arts? (Gasp) Who studies Arts?”
Never mind that when I moved on to non-fiction as a teenager, my nose was stuck inside historical, sociological or anthropological tomes.

“Science is the only option,” the Sri Lankan Tamil mother decreed. “Of course it is,” echoed the Sri Lankan Tamil Father.  “Good Choice” approved the Sri Lankan Tamil community at large. No-one tactfully mentioned (or even appeared to think) that ‘choice’ was a misnomer in this situation.

So came a few years of skipping biology lab classes on rat dissection days and nearly setting the school on fire on Chemistry lab days.

One particular session I couldn’t skip was an exam on dissection – we had to bring our own cockroaches. I, a born vegetarian, to dissect a live cockroach? I went hoping at least some of my batch mates would show up without cockroaches. The wet blankets that they were, they all turned up dutifully with the disgusting creatures in test-tubes, held up like trophies. “Where’s your cockroach?” demanded the teacher.

My quick-thinking skills came to my rescue. “Uh, well you see Ma’am, my house is so clean I couldn’t find one.”
Unfortunately, She didn’t buy it.

“Thulasi Muttulingam, Why did you choose Science if you don’t even like Science? Out! You have failed this exam.”And thus ended my ‘career’ in the Sciences.

The Sri Lankan parents convened to decide on my future course yet again. “Medicine and engineering are out now. What do we do with her?”
I put in my unsolicited two cents: “I want to study English Literature and become a journalist.”

It was duly heeded as per Tamil society norms.
“Accountancy is the only remaining option,” said the Sri Lankan mother. “Of course it is” agreed the Sri Lankan father.

Thus went the next seven years of my life.

“Which stage of the course are you at now dear?” asked community aunties who knew that the course had Foundation, Intermediate and Final stages.

“Uh… Intermediate Stage.”
“Weren’t you still at that stage two years ago?”
“How long is the course?”
“Two Years.”
“How long have you been doing it now?”
“Five years.”

“Boo hoo hoo” went my mother one day. “I am inundated by the community talking about their sons and daughters being doctors, lawyers and engineers. What am I to say when they ask about you?”

“Tell them what I am is none of their business.”

“Booo hooo hoo.”

And so it was that at the ripe old age of 26, I threw in the towel, quit my accountancy classes and joined the Sri Lanka College of Journalism instead.

In my initial years as a professional journalist, I was on cloud nine. It took some time to float down. So the pay *cough* is terrible and some of the mid level editors are fire-breathing dragons, but I was finally doing work I loved. With the fresh memory of what it felt like to work and study accountancy (think Dementors Harry Potter fans), it took a lot to bring down my initial euphoria.

Not that I am complaining as yet. I just quit another stable, well-paid job unrelated to journalism to concentrate on writing full time. The call to write is strong. But then, so is the call to …  procrastinate!

I used to think it was my problem, that I was just plain lazy – but during my bouts of procrastination, I have been researching other writers and their writers’ woes. It’s a herd disease it seems. It’s not just writers’ block, where you simply can’t write because your creativity seems to have dried up. Even when we are raring to go, brimming with ideas and stories to write, we can still be hit by a condition called Writers’ Avoidance it appears.

Writers’ Avoidance takes ghastly forms. You will resort to having the cleanest house on the block. Or cooking up various recipes you found online. Or surf the net for hours on end. Or stalk and troll people on facebook and twitter. Or – as I do – research till the cows come home on the topic you are to write on. Research until you can write a book on it. And then avoid writing, because how on earth are you going to fit all that into a 1500 word article?

Sigh!  My house is clean because my sister is a cleanliness freak; and my meals are great because mom is a cooking enthusiast  –  which doesn’t leave me much to do in those departments when procrastinating. Which leaves me – the internet?

My procrastinating bouts of anything-but-writing productivity have produced some quite elaborate facebook posts. And a reputation as an online troll. Oh well…

Back to the grind of writing the article I was actually intending to write. I wrote this while procrastinating on that article.


2 Responses to “Writers’ Woes”

  1. Tharani September 5, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    Hi Thulasi, I have done all that and more. Seems like a malaise that afflicts middle class Jaffna Tamils who have a creative bent. I see all around me people who go after what they want with such drive and focus. I’m just about embarking on what I’ve wanted to do for a dozen years despite having countless opportunities and time to do so.

    • Tulie October 7, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      Well better late than never Tharani.

      Wish you All the Best 🙂

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