A WRITER'S PLIGHT

I am pained to read about Manik Bandopadhyay’s plight, a writer of 40 novels and 223 stories. He did not have enough money to reach the hospital in time. I feel sorry for him and his family. This sad state is not new for most writers. Should a full-time writer stop writing full time? Should a writer be only a part-time writer who has other means of livelihood? William Deresiewicz's book tells about how creators are struggling to survive in the age of billionaires and big Tech. Is it a good time to be an artist because there is an abundance of means to write as well as publish? Though the publication of a book has become relatively easy, due to the arrival of a number of self-publishing and distribution platforms, most sink like a stone. Though there is ‘universal access’, and at the same time there is ‘universal impoverishment’. There is a deeper shift on the artistic horizon. Networking and self-promoting are taking most of a writer’s time. There is less time for building an oeuvre or perfecting the technique. Art is becoming entertainment.

Deresiewicz doesn’t like ‘creative entrepreneurs’. He likes to call them ‘part-time amateurs’. Is there anything wrong if one is a part-time amateur when it is hard to make a living as a full time professional? Should the lesser popular writers forfeit their urge to write? It is a fact that books by popular writers only sell if they sell. Barring a few exceptions, it has always been so. Should that be the reason for a writer to stop writing? Why can’t one indulge in ‘wasteful’ expenses, if one can afford it? Perhaps, for an amateur writer, it is not an expenditure but an investment for the future.

It is said that there is too much of everything, including writing. When one writes for oneself and one’s associates and friends, does it matter if there is too much writing? Assuming that an amateur is a mediocre writer, the question is who will serve the mediocre who are in majority? If a mediocre aspires to become a high class, why discourage him. The majority of full-time writers live in places, and they know this, should not have lived. Still, they continue to write and live ‘where they should not have lived’.

Digitization has changed the writing world. Not so popular writers also want readers, even if that means ‘selling’ books for ‘free’. But that often doesn’t work. Only Kabadiwalas love ‘free’ books. For my poetry books, I have only 10 readers. My engineering books sell. Even when I edit an engineering book I am complimented for my writing. When I write a poetry book, I don’t even receive the acknowledgment. I feel bad, but I have realized I should not. How many ’such’ kind of books I myself read?

It is my effort and if I can afford to play with my money, there is nothing wrong. Self-publishing shields me from the onslaughts of publishers. Moreover, I don’t have to go for a paid review to get a good review. I don’t have to go for a book promotion. I can manage my people. I don’t mind taking chances to express my inner truths.

It is okay if I am not proficient in the craft of writing. Who will know my inner truths better than me? Perhaps I want to cultivate an air of independence from the market. Perhaps I want to remain simply a writer, and I have no desire to turn into a professional. Perhaps I am not looking for commercial acknowledgment. If I am not the “the bright, the loud, and the easily grasped, ” so what. Perhaps I don’t want to become one. Perhaps mine is a case of sour grapes. Times have changed. Perhaps the time is for those who can support themselves for the long haul and write independently. Perhaps the time has come for the ‘not so popular’ amateurs. Perhaps I am writing less thoughtfully. I am writing, maybe the same thing. Perhaps everything that needs to be said has been said. I use borrowed thoughts. I am not afraid to make them my own. I don’t let my limitations obstruct my writing. I love recognition, but that is not the sole purpose of my writing. I am aware of the digital world, but I don’t expect that world to let me understand my needs. I want to develop my stories. I am of an age that believed in one-to-one communication between a grandparent and a grandchild. I like to spend real time in a fictional space. I too want to write a breakthrough book and read a flattering review of my book. I also have more faith in what others say about my work than what I think about my work. I feel happy when I think I have achieved a respectable level of professionalism.

The life we are creating for ourselves is rushing towards ‘a quarter of a second’. Perhaps I am forgetting a vital fact that there is a difference between ‘barely registering ‘and ‘actually seeing’. Perhaps I am losing my ability to endure the long shot, the slow dissolves, and the sustained monologue. I am forgetting that the greater the numbers of events we come across per unit time, the lesser become the number of experiences. It is important to enliven the memories, but it is equally important to live memorable moments. Amidst plenty, I hope not to miss the subtlety. Perhaps I am making lesser errors.

The likes of Manik Bandyopadhyay don’t deserve the plight they suffer. When they die, along with them so much dies. They take away with them an era.