A Day In the Sun

Snow Fell On the Day I Was Born

On a cold December morning, a woman gave birth to her firstborn. She was full of love and excitement, and she held her daughter against her bare chest. The child was small, hot skin against her own, and cried out in the night from the adjacent cot while she stood guard.

The hospital ward was old and infested with cockroaches, which crawled on the ceiling and dropped on the child’s face. The mother flicked them off and did not sleep.

‘How beautiful,’ she said and cradled the small face in her palms. ‘How beautiful and precious my little babe is to me!’

The next day they brought her home. Snow fell that day and swaddled the city in a perfect blanket of silence.

Where Is Home?

The night was old and white. On the narrow empty platform stood a woman waiting for a train she did not want to board. She gathered the sleeves of her jacket in her fists and watched the snow clinging to the tracks.

What Is Yet to Come

The train whizzed past the muddy beaches, past the outlying tide, past the laced trickles it left behind, past the odd watering hole where the gulls, the heron and the pair of mutes gathered, past the young men, knee-deep in their wellies, ankle-deep and elbow-deep in the mud, rummaging for clams and mussels, past the boats, forsaken on their bellies and imprisoned. And so the train went on, past the roads, busy with returning vacationers, until it entered a tunnel of fog, and it whizzed past the whole world, or maybe nothing at all.

Here Rest Byron, Cromwell and Newton

Time and footsteps wiped their names from the stone.

He called from his grave, on which she stood unknowingly. He spoke her name as if to warn her, to tell her she mustn’t go. Her feet covered his mouth, his eyes. She silenced them all, the poet, the diplomat and the discoverer, and only her renouncing gait prevailed.

“On February 7th 1837, God Spoke to Me and Called Me to His Service”

Only a year’s difference between her and her sister. Today they sat together in the lounge while a man brushed them onto a canvas.

She glanced down, shy, sewing a handkerchief her mother had given her just before the artist arrived. How she dreaded the pointlessness of it, the needle poking through the pitiful eyes.

Her sister, pretending to read, did not fool the artist, who captured her fleeting and eager glances. She wanted to tell her she was being difficult and stubborn. She should have been happy as she was that their portrait was being taken. But she saw her perfect line of stitches, neat and equal, and said nothing.

The Art of Me

As a writer, I felt obligated by an unwritten law to lend myself, particularly my perception of my human experience, to my reader. So long, I have debated how to capture myself in my own writing, until I understood, about two years ago, that wasn’t the case at all.

Two weeks after I moved to England for my undergrad, my mum went into the hospital to have an operation. They had found a tumour in her gut. Mum, who had been the pillar of my existence, was being unfastened and rummaged through, in a cold, sterile room, some 1,500 miles away. I was in my room, in student halls overpopulated by strangers, alone. I cried and I laughed, I went through the five stages and then some, all in the span of a few hours. And then everything went blank.

The surgery went well and mum began her road to recovery in Romania, while I remained in England. I struggled to understand who I was in this new world of hers. For months, it felt like I was sleepwalking everywhere. I went home for Christmas that year, and I hated it. I didn’t understand the dynamics anymore, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t adjust to being home again. Standing in my bedroom, which I had inhabited for most of my adolescence, was eerie. Everything before It was obscured. It was like staring at myself staring through a screen, at everything else. The break between me Before and me After was a clean cut.

It was then, for the first time, that I really began to question who I am. It felt so existential, so completely ostentatious and loud, but my parents weren’t noticing it. They were preoccupied with the wounds they could see, and rightfully so. I felt alienated. I felt like the last smudge of my old self had been erased. I didn’t read, and I didn’t write. I didn’t write for a long time. I tried, miserably, to finish my coursework, and through some miracle, I did.

Mum recovered fully. And then life just carried on. I carried on, despite still feeling like I wasn’t there, and like I was looking at the world from afar. I tried to write about the shock and the grief, and I couldn’t. I thought to myself ‘Why can’t I write about this?’ There was so much of myself to lend out now, so much of that human experience that only I was able to tell, yet nothing made it on the page.

Every day in our lives is a sentence in a story. Every year is a chapter. With each sentence, with each chapter, the story changes and, our way of perceiving the past changes too. It’s like we go through a massive edit and come out a new draft. My mum’s cancer had put my last draft through the shredder. Twenty years’ worth of what I had compiled as ‘myself’, gone, and I had to come up with something else.

I’ve found through everything I’ve written, or have struggled to write since It happened, a little piece of myself. I am starting to understand who this new person is, word by word, like I am learning to curl every letter, to dot every and cross every t anew. Like I am learning the art of me, and that it is not through the act of writing that I lend myself to the reader, but to myself.

My Teeth – A Poem

My teeth are the resting place of a hodgepodged smile.

I press my fingertips into my mouth, to feel them.

My fingernails are searching for a shred of my voice

that might be stuck between my teeth.

Instead, I find seeds of doubt sticking to my molars,

and this poem hiding under my tongue.

5 Things To Do Immediately About Creative Self-Doubt

Doubt comes in many forms, and it can arise from a number of different situations, whether you are aware of it or not. Sometimes, when you doubt yourself for too long, you end up losing a lot of your confidence, which can harm you and cripple your creative mind.

The following points are some things I’ve found helpful whenever dealing with a long bout of creative self-doubt.

Give Yourself a Break

You deserve it. In today’s fast-paced world, you don’t always realise how important resting and looking after yourself are, and how much of a difference they can make to your overall mental health, and in turn, your confidence and creativity. Go for a walk, nap, talk to family and friends.

Ask for Reassurance

Loved ones can help highlight the positives in your life, your achievements and the things you are good at, in a time when you seem to only be able to focus on the negatives. Never allow self-doubt to grow a stronghold and isolate you.

Get Inspired

Find something that reminds you of where you want to go. There are too many distractions and temptations around us. By bringing your focus back on your goals and getting inspired, you will be more equipped to fight the voice in your head that says otherwise.

Try Something New

Whenever you try something new, you get a new sense of clarity and accomplishment. Sometimes a shift in perspective and the boost in confidence might be exactly what you need.

Practice

It really does make perfect. Rest assured, every great man or woman who’s ever created something has had their share of self-doubt. But through practice and persistence, they’ve surpassed themselves and come out the other end. You can do the same.

Don’t let doubt stop you from creating. Acknowledge it, take the necessary steps to eliminate/diminish it, and keep going. Leave a comment and tell me how do you deal with creative self-doubt.

 

 

Coffee and Literature Have a Lot More in Common Than You Think

Over the years, coffee has proven itself as one of the most reliable companions to fiction. This has been documented in many instances.

There is a brilliant poem by Richard Brautigan from Revenge of the Lawn. It starts as follows: ‘Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and whatever intimacy a cup of coffee affords.’ I stand by this. But, as Anthony Trollope would put it in The Warden, ‘What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?’ To that, you can’t add much more.

I see the relationship between coffee and literature as a love affair – it inevitably invites curiosity and it provokes obsession. And, as is the custom with all precious affairs, I treat this time with careful preparation. I take my coffee hot, not boiling. I cool it with a dash of milk, and on particularly bitter days, I’ll allow one sugar. My books are preferred to have a well-cracked spine, and you’ll often find annotations in the margins. The curtains must be drawn, to keep the allure and secrecy.

The infographic below, put together by Birch CoffeeSprudge and Signature, which I found it particularly pleasing to go through, presents a wealth of coffee and literature overlappings throughout history.

Book-Lovers-Guide-to-Coffee-Infographic

Is coffee your reading companion as well? If not, what is your preferred literary beverage?

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