The Well-Tended Garden: the story that wrote its own ending

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I have taken a hiatus from social media for the past ten days to knuckle down to publishing my next story from The Purana Qila Stories series. I had delayed it for reasons that were not clear to myself until today, when I realized what was missing. I revised my ending and restructured the story, impelled by a logic that I could not even articulate to myself, but which just felt right.

When I wrote the last sentence, there was a sense of relief that comes with a story that has righted itself, like that moment of ease you get riding a bike, when gravity, motion, weight and direction work together to get you where you want to go, and that infernal front wheel stops wobbling. It is undoubtedly odd that the creative process is mystifying even to the writer. It has always made me feel slightly sheepish, as if I cannot fully take credit for my own writing (I have felt this as a child), because it comes from I know not where; this can also be nerve-wracking, because if I don’t understand fully where it came from in the first place, there is always that fear that I will not be able to summon it again. But then, I sit down to write, and the words take over. It is as if my subconscious is merrily conversing with the world, and leaving my conscious being out of it, as if to say “You wouldn’t understand, just stay out of the way.”

I think this is an explanation as to why there have been many times I have not been able to admire the artist, but have loved his/her work, as if the creative self has a whole different personality that speaks to me, when its owner may be a boor. I’m thinking of some early 20th century chauvinistic British poets, in particular, who were cads to their wives and drank themselves into the grave but wrote poetry that could make you weep.

The creative process and the fundamental schism at its heart are eternally glorified by Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: The Creation of Adam. One Being (God) is passing the spark of life/inspiration into the other (Adam), but it is worth noting that their outstretched fingers do not touch. There is a vast, insurmountable distance between Creator and created captured in that small blank space.

What inspires you, and what surprises you about your own writing/art creation? Do you feel in control at all times, or does the creative process lead you? Do you fully live your art, or is it something you nurture in the hidden depths of you, that people who know you rarely glimpse? Do you like who you are when you write? Do you like who you are when you don’t?

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“My Mother’s Sari” guest post

I was invited to guest post at Rachelle’s Window and I wrote a piece about my mother, the first storyteller in my life, and how memories of her childhood inspired my writing. When my mother talks about those early days of hardship, she radiates so much happiness, that I always had the impression that there was something magical about those times. I feel the sense of community she had in those days, and the joy that could be found in the small things. These were times of poverty and tragedy in India, both on a national and personal level, but my mother taught me about facing adversity cheerfully. I can’t always emulate her, but I recognize the value of the gift she has given. I also learned how education and survival were inextricably linked in her life, another lesson I have taken to heart and tried to share with my own children.

I hope you will stop by and read “My Mother’s Sari.” When I first started my blog, I wrote about why I had called it “Coins in the Well” (you can find that post in the archives). My mother is a practical kind of person and not given to rhetorical flights of fancy–she would probably giggle with embarrassment if she were reading this–but she is a well of inspiration to me.

Nurturing the creative mind

My wonderfully artistic daughter sent me a link to a TED Talks lecture by Sir Ken Robinson about the creative mind and how often creativity is thwarted, with all the best intentions, by today’s educational system. Perhaps she is prepping me for a bad school report…

I was struck by the wisdom of: “If you are afraid of being wrong, you cannot be creative.” Every time we write a story, or draw a picture, or craft something with our hands, we know that we are risking our reputation, our self-esteem, our belief in our own competence. If we are fortunate, those things are reaffirmed by our achievement, but it is a perilous journey, between embarking on an endeavor and arriving at a conclusion that makes us proud. Take a look at the video. It’s worth twenty minutes of your time.