Are some writers naïve or just being 'proper'?
When her new book was out, Jhumpa Lahiri said:
“I do not write to please reviewers. Writing to me is fundamentally a private act and a form of meditation in words. I think about the characters that I make up and their lives. Nobody is listening, but me. When the book comes out and people read it, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
I would like to know whether these writers would be content to sit and meditate on words, create characters, listen to them and then go back to sleep. Why do they have agents? Why do they get publishers? Why do they do the rounds of book readings and marketing their product?
A writer who is on the bestseller list must not even feel the need to say she is not writing to please reviewers. No one does.
It would be foolish to assume that this is where it will end for a professional writer. People who have just begun taking baby steps too wish to be read or heard.
As a rookie, I imagined that every sigh escaping my lips was an important expression of angst. With some struggle, and acquired modesty, I found takers for my sighs.
Once I got a letter from an academician who said he liked my perspective.
“When you visit Bombay I shall take you to the places that honed my perspective,” I wrote back.
Several weeks later he did arrive and I took him around. After he returned, he sent me a note: “Thank you for the wonderful time. It seems that food has honed your perspective; you took me to all the restaurants in town!”
On another occasion at the lawn of an institute, a professor leafed through some of my writings that he had with him.
“I don’t know. You are angry, you are sad, you are thoughtful, you are precocious…where do I place you?”
“Nowhere. I don’t have a speciality, a niche.”
And that is how it shall always be. The process of others reading is not “a tip of the iceberg” for me. I may confine myself to a vast expanse where it is difficult to find me, but I do hope that some cold hearts do get thawed. Some need to unread, re-read…and weed out…but I am not writing for myself alone. I am writing with myself in it. The words and I soak each other.
Squish the sponge and you will get both of us.