On creative surrender and recovery

Yesterday, after waking up from my evening slumber but still snuggling in my quilt, I asked my husband to make me Maggi, please. There’s something very comforting about having hot Maggi, soup style, especially on a wintry Delhi evening. He agreed, though fiddled with his new phone a bit before he proceeded to the kitchen.

I waited contentedly for my Maggi as I heard him puttering in the kitchen. Soon, he called out that he couldn’t find the tastemaker for the Masala Maggi. Now, what? It was Tuesday but I’ve been feeling increasingly ambivalent about the no-non vegetarian on Tuesday rule, that many Hindus follow and which I had voluntarily adopted a few years ago. I asked him to make the Chicken Maggi and waited in anticipation.

Soon he brought me my Maggi. It looked a bit different. I tasted it – definitely different. I felt an irritation creeping up in me, much like a small child, who doesn’t get what she wants. “Do you like it?” he asked. I semi-smiled and nodded. After all, I wasn’t a small child. “Let me taste,” he said and took my fork, curled up the noodles around the fork, and tasted.”It’s really good,” he said, delighted. “I added a little bit of black pepper and some soy sauce.” So that was it – that’s why Maggi didn’t taste like the Maggi I had imagined. I paused. And then, decided to embrace the moment. I closed my eyes and focused on tasting the Maggi. It was tangy because of the soy, with a hint of the pepper and the spices that came from the packet. As I let go of my expectation, I began to enjoy my experience.

I thought about my husband freewheeling in the kitchen, peering into the steel masala box, that houses all the spices, thinking about what variation to cook up.  Wasn’t this exactly what chefs do when they create food? Mix and match and freewheel? This was probably exactly what Nestle would do if they needed to come out with a new variant. Here was my husband being spontaneously creative, something I’ve been struggling with recently.

Others in my creative writing class seem so much more creative. They write about meeting God on Mars, ghosts in the hills of the north east, and wardens of girls hostels who are closet lesbians. I feel an awe and a wonder and fear I can’t imagine like that.

But what I learned from my husband’s experiment in the kitchen yesterday was that I need to stop trying to be creative, and just be creative. I’ve decided not to waste my creative energies wondering if my education has ruined my imagination. I’ve also decided it’s no use comparing myself with other writers, all made up of a sum of experiences very different from my own. It’s time for me to stop thinking about writing, or fantasizing about writing, or looking for the magic spell that will make me write exotic romances, whimsical kidlit, or nuanced non-fiction, depending on how I am feeling that day. I will write. That’s all. And I hope and trust that in the process of writing my creativity will flow.

As Brenda Ueland puts it:

Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness…You should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten –happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead after another.

Happy Writing!

Would love to hear how you are doing in your own writing journey!

(Note: I wrote this post about a year ago, when I had just started my writing and creative recovery journey. It’s nice to read it now, a year later, and see that I feel more more creative than I have for years. As I walk in the park in the morning, wisps of ideas float in my mind and I capture them in my little notebook that I carry with me. I am starting to see what Brenda means when she says “Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time.”)

flowers

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