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by Minal Hajratwala

Editor’s note: The following post is being republished from Hedgebrook Writes!

Far away from Hedgebrook: the other side of the planet. Spoke with B, N, and M — there are four of us alumnae in India, that I know of! — but our idea to meet across our distances and excitements did not work out. 

For me, I will squeeze my writing into a too-busy weekend. I don’t have Hedgebrook-style physical or mental space right now; I have a pesky landlord whose presence makes it difficult to write at home, and this weekend also features India’s largest queer film festival which makes it difficult (movies! parties!) to stay home anyway. 🙂

This is how life is, and it’s a good life. It’s a writing life.

Even not writing, I am a writer.  Thinking about writing.  Collecting ideas.  Taking notes.  Immersed in several projects: the novel, unicorns, crossdreaming, and editing an anthology.

I try to meditate, and fail.

I dream the newspaper prints a cut-out pattern with instructions: how to make your own unicorn costume.  I am delighted and shocked, and feel a slight tinge of shame, a bit of fear: the way we felt when gays and lesbians first started making the news.

Exposure, success, visibility, vulnerability.  Writing.  The terrorizing intimacy of being seen and heard, after a long period of mystery.

My writing projects don’t jostle one other for time.  Nor do they feed each other, not exactly.  They are modes; manifestations of the self in different forms?

Blogging, tweeting, Facebooking: new verbs for newer selves.

I have been thinking of the idea of a cyborg self who is out there, working for me, even when my physical self is resting or eating or writing or otherwise pleasuring itself. I don’t have to treat my web self (we can call her a cyborg only to appear theoretical & fancy) as an interloper, a drag on my time.  She’s working.  Maybe someone is clicking on my website now, and will hire me to coach or teach, or is just looking something up so that I don’t have to email out my bio, my picture, my event schedule.  On Facebook I am getting input into what’s important to me, and maybe some long-distance love.  On Twitter, perhaps a quick hit of attention or feeling clever, an ego boost.  Hey, we writers need that too — absent a pat on the back from the boss…  And more practically, she is internet banking, holding money in a Paypal account, keeping track of numerous aspects of my paperless nomadic life, even waiting in line — grant application in hand — at the government office in charge of money for writers.  (Virtual fingers crossed.)

And here she is, reaching a tendril across to Hedgebrook.  Writing.

Last week I had a few days of illness; this week, two days of stillness.  I felt I wasn’t writing. But I was.

In just ten minutes of journaling, a flash of insight came:  All art as re-creation of trauma. The novel as re-enactment.  What are my characters re-enacting as they live their stories?  What story am I re-visiting, re-telling?

Trauma and its re-enactment as a substructure for plot.

One of the festival films is “Elena Undone” by Nicole Conn, who nearly twenty years ago made a film rumored to be set at Hedgebrook. (“Female authors gather at a small northern coastal retreat to work on their writing skills. A first-time guest who lives for the moment finds herself struggling with her sexuality after…”)

This time a main character is half Indian (played by an Iranian American actor).  The plot is more complex, the settings more varied, but the story is the same:  a straight woman falls for a lesbian.  Romance, lust, bliss, and heartbreak ensue, not necessarily in that order.

Does any artist have more than one story to tell?

Do I?  Or will everything be the drama of diaspora: scatterings, loss, leaving and arriving, splitting, yearning, liminality?

This could be either profound or tedious.  An ever-deepening spiral of magic — or a post-traumatic act of OCD.

“Obsession is the most durable form of intellectual capital.”  —Eve Sedgwick

I think of making a writer’s clock that shows the true use of time that it takes.  My ten minutes of revelation came in the context of two days of solitude, in which, to an outsider, it might look as if I were doing almost nothing. Lying under the fan, heat, lethargy.  Not answering the phone.  Eating mangoes.

Instead of numbers, my writer’s clock would have hieroglyphics (emoticons?):  Time to procrastinate. Time to weep. Time to nap, and hope for a revelatory dream. Time to pick up the pen and put it down again. Time to buck the pressure of self-imposed deadlines (false time). Time to putter. Time to tend to my cyber self.  Time to create order. Time to sit and look out the window.

The gulmohar blazes red. The watchman below plays a Bollywood song on his boombox.  A cat slinks between parked cars, dog feces, fallen petals.

Tick, tick.

Time to bow.


Minal Hajratwala
About Minal Hajratwala

1 Comment

  • Shimi Rahim
    9:10 PM - 6 July, 2011

    I bow to you and your beautiful words. How elegantly you capture the spirit of being a writer. I hope India is inspiring you in new and magical ways!

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