Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Writer's Woes - 6: Information V/S Imagination

A Writer's Woes - 6: Information V/S Imagination

I stopped writing six months ago. Or writing stopped from me six months ago. The difference couldn't be more profound....and the cycle couldn't be more vicious. When I stopped writing initially, it was due to schedule and stress. When writing stopped from was due to lack of imagination. Lack of imagination triggered a loss of motivation. Then followed the inevitable sense of fear that I could not progress beyond a couple of paragraphs even if I tried to write. The final straw was that the world might not approve of what I write - if my writing wasn't as interesting or as smooth as it was in better times.

The biggest strength for a writer in my opinion is his ability to pause. The ability to pause and stand still when the world around him spins madly and people go about trying to conquer it. When he pauses, a writer finds this unique frame of reference through which he evaluates the world with a completely different yardstick - one that is more emotional and creative and less logical and rational. And the observation brings forth that many questions - questions that trigger imagination. Questions to which all of us could have our own answers and yet modestly concede each other some ground for harmony.

Questions. I can almost feel questions facing an existential crisis in this information age- Information which is just information - information that need not and that will never be knowledge. The moment I think of a person and try to imagine what he is upto....there goes a post of his on social media...clearly showing who he is with and what he is doing; The moment a national event happens, there are opinions that bombard us from all sides - and most of us have little else but to align ourselves with one set of people. And someone else has already formed an opinion for us to embrace. 

The impulse for information - I somehow found it overpowering the sense of imagination. So much so, that one of the first things that I did when I found my writing deserted me was to Google "Why have I stopped writing?" and go through the results rather than introspect. A couple of years earlier, I would take a break and reflect - and curiously my writing would resurface from the depths of whatever was causing the block at that point in time.

Curiosity. An other benefactor of beloved imagination. Till recently, we planned trips to destinations with only the name of the place in mind. What was to be expected at the place remained a mystery. An uncertainty. Someone said the sunset on the Arabian Sea is beautiful. I spent weeks before our trip trying to visualise and imagine the sunset and how the journey could actually play out. Today at the click of a button, I have a clear idea of how exactly the sunset would actually play out...minute by minute if necessary.

Curiosity and uncertainty die an instant death at the hands of instant gratification. An acquaintance from the last generation to this day complains jovially that he never had a chance to look at his future wife till the day of marriage. And that he was confined to imagining her face when his parents described her. He still shows the letters he wrote for her while thinking of her (he never did post them though, out of fear!). Today, his daughter makes sure she looks up her prospective groom on all kinds of social media even before talking to him in person. The generation does it. We want to be "well-informed". And there is so much information available, that imagination hardly has a role to play.

Information is critical to survival today. To leave an ounce of it without consuming, means falling behind in the rat race. However, information breeds familiarity. And therein for me lies its conflict with imagination. We are so well informed, there is hardly anything left to imagine. And this familiarity defines. It defines what is black and what is the point of non-negotiation. If I didn't know what black is...for me black could also be a tinge of grey. This would probably open a new creative field for me which stretches beyond the conventional black. That would be poetic liberty. Today, however, with a clear definition of black and white, right and wrong, there is a sense of stupidity and suffocation as I try to imagine something out of its place. Even as I try to cajole my mind to imagine, it tries to follow a logical trajectory, guided by experience and information.

 And as I try to "Google" a way to end this piece meaningfully (hopefully marking the end of an other "thought drought"), just can't help foresee a new jargon, called "Informed Imagination"!

                                                                                             - 12th November 2015