The Matter of Writing

An art teacher once told our class that if we were to use our imaginations and sketch a human face that it would most closely resemble our own face. Even if we were not consciously trying to make a self-portrait.

The same must hold true for writing as well. Granted one’s writing could get blatantly autobiographical but even if one attempted writing something that wasn’t about themselves it would inevitably be colored by their own experiences, drawn from their own memory banks. So an autobiographical slant would be inevitable. No matter how hard one tries.

If my writing was not about myself then it would end up being about Anoushka, Anil, my father, my mother, my brother or anyone whose life has been separated up to six degrees from me. So if I write about people I know then I would still end up with something autobiographical. So what’s the key to avoiding this?

I once read John Irving’s interview where he was asked if his writing was autobiographical. He answered that it was, no doubt, because it couldn’t possibly be anything else. One could give their characters other names, different lives but in essence the characters would essentially behave as the writer himself would have in those situations.

I have been turned off by my writing lately because it reveals inordinate self-absorption. Then I saw this commentary going on on Caferati about V.S. Naipaul’s comments regarding the autobiographical nature of all Indian writing. That this in essence reveals perhaps a lack of imagination. Perhaps it does.

1 Comment

  1. HI Prags! Caught your page finally! And it's a beautiful page! By the way I too contributed my to-penn'orth to that VS Naipaul debate – I agreed with him 🙂

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