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Mujhse pehle kitne shaayar aaye aur aakar chale gaye,

Kuch aahein bharkar laut gaye, kuch nagme gaakar chale gaye,

Who bhi ek pal ka kissa thei, main bhi ek pal ka kissa hun,

Kal tumse juda ho jaunga, lo aaj tumhara hissa hun…’ *

 The ‘pal do pal ka shaayar’ has enticed me for long. The urge to create, to adorn innumerable books with words has always got the better of writers. They need not be mainstream. They may just be lone weavers of words, chanting their personal memoirs in private journals. A lot of this writing is cathartic. But more than that, I say, it is the irresistable charm of words; the magical pull that is hard to forgo. The moment a word nosedives into a piece of paper, it tows several others to drift along. And thus, are born millions of poetries and stories. Some of them perish without ever having been read. They gather dust in huge libraries or at the best find a home in poetry salons. Few are savoured by a handful, fewer by many.

And yet, the shayar, the poet, is unable to counter this hunger to create. Even after convincing themselves several times of the futility of it all, they sneak back to their writing desks, spilling their hearts out. Namratha Vardhrajan asks poets about this chronic obsession in her beautiful rendition, At the Funeral of the Poet’s Dream’.

I remember a quaint conversation that I once had with someone about writing. Reading Namratha’s poem took me back to that strange conversation I had over a cup of tea. My acquaintance, sipping from her cup, asked me if I made more money by writing or through my regular job. With all the best-sellers making so much noise and with public knowledge of some authors having enviable stacks of cash swished off in their bank accounts, it somehow seemed natural for her to ask. I told her my writing catered for a very meagre portion of my earnings, which of course is the truth. She didn’t look surprised as I had so expected. Instead, she left me confounded with her response, “Well, I’m not surprised. Writers are mostly stony broke!”

Before I could talk of opulence in terms of its figurative existence in the lives of writers, my acquaintance came up with a successive question, “So, why do you write?”

Tell me, writer, what makes you wield the pen? Is writing the stardust you hope to sprinkle on the world for its possible purgation? Or, is it because the world is too much for you? Is writing the taste of life you would rather have linger on in your mouth, when all of reality has made it bitter? Or, is it simply an untold story you’d rather get rid of?


Even when you know that your words perish sooner than a fish out of water. Even when you know many a folk pass by your words without even batting an eyelid. Even when you know that a lot of your poems write their own obituaries. Which reminds me of a well-meaning suggestion I’ve often been given. Poetry is not good for business. Tell me, writer, do you write for business? Or, do you write because you must?

You do know that sooner or later your writing shenanigans will be put aside to make way for others. Library shelves will make space for other dilettantes… maybe for the more stellar performers. And yet, you get back to your writing desk tossing the lone penny in your pocket that you made with a piece from your pen.

As I wait for you to tell me why you write, I leave you with fleeting thoughts from the second-half of the evergreen number ‘Main pal do pal ka shayar hun...’

Kal aur aayenge nagmo ki khilti kaliyaan chunne waale

Mujhse behtar kehne waale tumse behtar sunne waale

Kyu koi mujhko yaad kare

Mashroof zamaana mere liye kyu waqt apna barbaad kare…’*

I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

*[For my English readers, the lines in Hindi are from a popular song. To paraphrase them in simple words, the poet says that his essence as a poet is nothing more than a fleeting thought. Several poets have lived before him and several others will follow him. He might be a part of your existence today but he shall perish soon to make way for others, just like his predecessors did. ]         

21 thoughts on “WHY DO YOU WRITE?”

  1. For me writing is cathartic.. my way of escaping into the stories I weave . People ask me .. so when will you publish a book .. that’s not even in my mind … I write because I have to I think

    1. We are so used to seeing things culminate and publishing a book is seen as the culminating point for a writer. I would say getting published isn’t difficult, not today. Writing, yes that is the tough part.

  2. Writers are mostly stony broke!” I relate, you relate and I guess every writer relates. Most of the people have asked such questions to me, and most of them have had such opinions about me too. But writing and reading has become just as important to me as eating, so be what it may, I have too much in me which I couldn’t live with if I wouldn’t write, even if I was not a good writer.

  3. Sonia, the same applies to art as well. I write as well as paint/draw and I feel so restless if I don’t. It’s a part of my life. My tagline is “I art, I write, therefore I am” and I mean it totally. Since you have asked specifically about writing let me tell you that I started writing when I was in high school but only 3 people knew about it. That was years ago! In 2016, during one of my major art shows, I combined it with my poetry since my words reinforced my images. It was then that a lot of people asked me to publish my poetry and I felt encouraged and finally lost a bit of inhibition. It was only two years earlier that I sent my first submission and got selected for an anthology and since then I have started contributing once in a while.
    I write simply to satisfy my inner urge. As you know “the sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought” I need to vent out or else I feel suffocated. Most of the time it’s “stream of consciousness”, once that flood is let out…I feel inner peace, no matter if someone reads or not. It’s just like Liz Gilbert says it’s a force outside of yourself and yet something that dwells inside. It’s a tug and pull. Sometimes I read what I wrote after a couple of months and think “did I really write this?” I become the detached reader/viewer!
    Does all this make any sense? 🙂

    1. Hey Deepa. Thank you for adding your thoughts here. I think the only reason one must write is because they cannot do without writing. Because it’s as essential as the air you breathe, even if it seems like a far-fetched comparison. All other reasons simply follow up later.

  4. You have given something for every author to ponder over. Of course I have also given a variety of readymade answers on many previous occasions.Maybe instead of trying to find any readymade answer, every author should ponder over this to get a better perspective. By the way poet Charles Bukowski has an interesting perspective on his poem ‘So you want to be writer?’

    1. I read that poem in poetry parlour some weeks ago and it made sense to me. I totally feel it.
      I hope writers think about it. It helps give a perspective and an aim, both.

  5. A thought provoking post Sonia. Like a movie, that we watch at the cinema hall and when it ends, we feel that the story has not ended. And we continue to think about the story and the film. Just like this. Tell me writer, why do you write? Ahh, something so deep. When I asked myself this question, the answer came ” Because writing is the escapade”.

  6. Oh how much I love this song… It’s one of my favourites. I write for myself… For my own mental peace… To escape to that safe haven… And for a very long time… Almost 15 yrs (of course with breaks) I did that with no one knowing (except for my spouse among the known) that my blog/ my writing existed somewhere 🙂

  7. Yes why indeed….why do I write? When i know for sure most people don’t want to read. In this fast paced times nobody has the patience to read more than a few words and then they move on to the next …….
    Why do I still go back to my little book and jot down points for a future post? Why…..?

  8. I started writing to pull me out of grief and soon it became a way out of whatever I think..as you said it’s therapeutic for me …

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