Rosalyn D'Mello: Rediscovering the pure joy of writing
Inscribing my thoughts onto paper has always brought me immense pleasure that cannot be shared with anyone else
Some months ago, the person to whom I'd dedicated my book gifted me a stately black Sheaffer ink pen. Despite my loyalty to the silver one I owned of the same brand, which my brother got me for my 30th birthday, upon my request, my fingers took to this new implement unwittingly. Something about its width felt perfect, as if it were designed specifically for my grip. Alongside was also a bottle of blue Sheaffer ink. Until then I'd always had a noted preference for black, usually sourcing Parker's relatively inexpensive Quink. But there is a precious density to the pigment-like blue in the Sheaffer bottle. It transforms my handwriting, even my hurried notations into artful transcripts.
It was a package-deal kind of gift that impelled me to love this person even more. I realise as I write this that every little or big thing he has ever given me in the ten years that I've known him, from my first Moleskine to the goat leather satchel I'm currently using, has shared a common motive: to endorse and empower my vocation as a writer. This time around, his timing was impeccable. This pen became for me a magic wand that helped un-block my writerly voice; its liquid velvet ooze unclogged my brain. I started to write once again in my multiple books. I felt no longer intimidated by process, by self-doubt. I rediscovered the utter pleasure of articulating the written word with an unabashed fluidity.
I'm old-fashioned, that way. I believe, still, in long-hand as a technique; in a more laborious method of inscribing my thoughts directly onto material, so that you could measure time; so that the gesture of erasure leaves a trace in the form of strikethroughs, cancellations; so that even the plight of a fallen tear makes a puddle out of ink. I derive immense satisfaction when I turn over a fresh page because I've exhausted all available space on the previous one; and then I delight at the feel of a stuffed notebook; because I witnessed first-hand and even effected its transformation from a new and empty object to something swollen in size.
Sometimes I am convinced that its weight increases; imperceptibly, but surely, because words become a conglomerate of flesh; they assume dimension in relation to each other. It is the meaning they generate that gives them heft. What did I bring back from Italy? A heavily pregnant notebook full of observations, notations, direct recordings of whole passages I'd either read voluntarily or was exposed to. The pages were un-ruled, and my writing sometimes seem slanted, but because it is cursive, it retains a semblance of ordered beauty. Some excerpts leap out at me when I comb through the pages. Like this one, from Simone Weil's Gravity & Grace: "We must take the feeling of being at home into exile. We must be rooted in the absence of a place." Writing is a way of doing exactly that.
Three terms have been repeated consistently; phrasings I found myself muttering aloud as I was walking through the streets of Berlin one day in April. "The Entitled Body. The Untitled Body. The Un-Entitled Body." It is a form of code that I devised; shorthand for an entire essay I know I have already begun to write, on the bodily anxiety of the post-colonial subject as it travels Westwards and its very private, untold experience of internalised inferiority and racist hostility. The night before I wrote down these words for the fourth or fifth time, possibly, in this particular diary, I was in half-sleep on the bus from Firenze to Bolzano. I noted down the dream I had, one in which I discover my inkpot is empty. "I cannot decide if it was an omen or a nightmare," I wrote in my book.
Early Sunday morning I will return to the unique sanctity of my apartment; a space I've inhabited for six years where every notebook and diary I have ever written in (save for one, which I lost) is stacked along the length of an entire shelf in my bedroom, which is where my writing desk and workstation also is. I cannot wait to be reunited with these objects that are extensions of my inner life; which, in their pure form, I can never quite share with anyone, at least not yet. On the same shelf is an exquisite glass pen my brother gifted me without my asking; and just across from it is the typewriter I bought myself. The more final act of writing takes place between these old inventions and the new, such as my laptop and laser printer. This is why, I suppose it is said that writing is a lonely act, because it's difficult to share this pleasure with anyone else. It is so privately fulfilling that it cannot really be fathomed by another.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to email@example.com
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