Culture & Society

Another Day In My Life As A Failing Writer

Shantashree Mohanty writes about a day in her life as a writer. She receives the advice towards the end of the day that it’s better to be a failing writer than to write failingly and that Sylvia Plath and all her friends would be proud of her perseverance and resilience.

Artwork by Sunil Padwal
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Growing up in a very prosaic and chaotic household where needs and expectations always outweighed resources and where love couldn’t save us from all the self-resentment that clung to the rusted walls of our subconscious, my entire worldview and sense of self came from books and the words in songs and movies. 

Amongst other things, reading about artists and their processes fascinated me the most. Especially artists like Syd Barret, Lenny Bruce, or Frieda Kahlo whose lives and deaths became fodder for my creative inclinations. I have always been more at ease thinking about them and about John Berryman and Sylvia Plath too. Even now as I straddle 30, I continue to adore these artists who have bridged for all of us the frightening gaps between existing and not-existing and who, when they had to choose between grief and nothing, chose grief, just so we could feel something in our absurdly hollow chests during our time here. 

Of late, I keep thinking about 21-year-old Sylvia living it up in New York City, guest-editing for the Mademoiselle; maladjusted, talented, deeply in love with Dylan Thomas. How my capabilities pale in comparison to her fire. Even as I walk to work, having read Ariel late into last night, I try to contemplate how intense it has been to annihilate the last decade and how I have fallen terribly short of the intensity with which I planned to be a writer. In my head, Sylvia of 1953 taunts me: Ach du

Be that as it may, this piece, whichever shape may it take, is perhaps my most directionless scribbling in quite a while. Yet I am compelled to continue and gravitate toward an organic discovery of my emotional state. 

The day at work is lighter than usual so I breeze through with the dead still riding my mind. I reach home and fill up my arms with the offspring and my heart with days’ worth of stories. I wash up, instruct the sitter, have some coffee and cozy up with the laptop on the baby’s crib which by the way smells like nine heavens squished up inside the realms of rosewood. I have an urge to write about my suspicions regarding Sylvia’s possible struggles with post-partem blues, which might have taken over her bones and neurons like it did mine. I read up a little on Doctor Horder and start feeling sleepy. So, I put on some music and call my baby’s daddy who is running errands 250 miles away but somehow agrees to talk. I tell him all about my mental situation and lucid contemplations. I also tell him about Sylvia and having baby-brain. He advices me to sleep it all off and that it is okay, even better to be a failing writer than to write failingly and that Sylvia and all her friends would be proud of my perseverance, my resilience. 

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