At the close of each year it has become customary for me to write about the year that has been, not so much to glean from it some inchoate narrative line or life lesson as to simply have a record of where I am in the journey so far, so here I am.
What can I tell you about the year that has been?
I can tell you that this year I read plenty of great books. I can tell you that I tried to resuscitate a dying relationship, one that meant to me more than any other relationship in my life, and failed. I travelled to some new cities and revisited old ones. I made new friends, lost a few. I suffered a great deal of losses, but earned myself some victories. I discovered new things about myself I did not know, and even more about people and friendships. I learned that there are certain things that stay with you forever, long after they are gone. And I can tell you that I have loved and I have gotten hurt, and I have come out of it battered and bruised but all the more better for it.
Today is the fifteenth of August, and today you turn twenty-seven. Not unlike the previous times you woke up on your birthday, you don’t feel that much different from the person who went to bed last night. You’re still the horny, somewhat angry, pimply, overeager self. Except now when you look in the mirror, you’ve actually grown to love the image staring back at you—or at least, most days. Even the clouds outside your bedroom window are grey and heavy, just like how they usually are back home this time of the year.
Writers, especially young writers, new writers, writers who have not had that much experience with the craft, are often advised to write what they know, write stuff about which they can say something, anything. Although on the whole I do not find it an unsound advice—in fact it is a great way to jumpstart the mind, get the juices flowing—I believe there is a better way to go about it. Instead of writing what you do know, write about the things that you don’t. Write not about falling in love, say, but about how that certain someone makes you feel and why you think it is love you’re feeling in the first place. Don’t write about the beauty of the sun sinking under the horizon, or the tranquil glow of freshly fallen snow on the pavement; write about the visceral responses these visual cues trigger in you. Write about art and death, about feminism and patriarchy and racial inequality. Writing this way forces the mind to engage with a concept, to thread a coherent narrative line in order to make sense of it, render it less obscure, understand it. And there are plenty of things I don’t know.