20 Aug 2014
I haven’t written much this past year. More specifically, I haven’t written much that has made it to this blog. I have been writing messages to friends, emailing & drafting working documents at the office; but there has been little in the way of writing about how I see the world.
Over this time period I have largely been a sponge to the situation. More of this past year has been about absorbing the world, in the hope that I will begin to make sense of it. There has been little thought about how I could change things beyond the systems that I was obviously part of: my workplace and my friends, although largely the former.
It has been strange to learn to live in new systems, and even more so to grapple with the knowledge that I am now supposed to create systems, or that the choice of which systems I am part of is now completely open and in my hands. The latter has always been true, more or less, but there has been very little need to make any big choices.
I took the approach of trying to wade through everything that came my way, trying to absorb things and assume personal growth in the process. There were interesting phases along the way, learning to be a single ex-pat, learning to be a participate in a large team. But as the stereotypical grind becomes a more looming part of the everyday conscience, the need to dream up a new vision of the world has become more apparent to me.
I am convinced that dreaming up movement and progress requires creative output. There is some unconscious creative output I produce every day, as we all do: coming up with a run on the soccer field, cracking a snarky comment, formatting a status report for a work project in a new fashion. But there are two problems with letting this be the only form of creativity in my life. The first problem is that I don’t really see this as a creative process. I don’t start to think about making a run on the soccer field by saying right, I’m going to make something awesome. As a result this form of creative output drowns with the rest of life, just another thing that happened in my day, just another thing that I will forget. The second problem is that no one else sees this as creative output, which means they too, will forget it. I have my best ideas as I get feedback from other people, and a by-the-by creative process does not generate this conversation.
So the time has come for more conscious creative work.
Part of this will be to form ideas and write them down. A friend once told me that writing is the only way to become immortal; my writing is partly a means to this end. But it is also an act in gratitude to two groups of people to whom I am most indebted: my parents, and the donors who paid my way through college. Both sets of people wanted to raise someone who wanted to write. They have their reasons for why my writing might add to the world; their generosity is one of mine.
This stage of the argument begs the question of what it is that I will write about. I have no semblance of a clue.
I’m still trying to find a beat. My inability to settle on a theme so far has convinced me that it is probably best not to wait before I start writing again. Acknowledging that I often think best when I have some feedback from other minds means that I will likely have a better time of this decision if I start writing and gauge people’s feedback. So I plan to start writing things down as a means to find a new voice.
Part of what I think has made it hard to figure out what to say has been the baggage of what I have written in the past, and perhaps also of who has read it. My changed circumstances mean that there is less that I obviously share with my past audiences, in terms of interest and common experience. As a result, I have often found myself at a loss as to what to say to them.
This blog does not have a regular audience, as it did at least for small periods in the past few years. But the idea of who I was writing to has in some ways been defined by what it was four years ago when I first started writing Beggar at Ghazi Chowk. This blog was/is about music. Largely it was about presenting the story of Pakistani music to the people I met in America, and also to the people I knew were interested in Pakistan. I wrote about other things too, and I often posted articles I had written for other publications that weren’t about music (most notably the Prince). But the character of this blog was made by music.
My interest in Pakistani music as a beat to think and write about has dwindled somewhat in the past few months, in part due a change in my own interests and in part due to the lack of interesting things to write about in the Pakistani music scene, at least from far away as I have been.
I imagine I will write about music still. I can’t imagine a life without music, and I can’t imagine not having something to say about it at some point in the future. But there are other things I want to think about, other things I have been thinking about. Beggar at Ghazi Chowk was a great adventure, but I think a clean break would help get the rush of starting something new again.
Here’s to great times, and to new works. Thank you very much for reading.