anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,

On the Necessity of Writing

I have been immersing myself in literature lately, more than I have done in the past years. I'd just finished Plath's The Bell Jar - and it proves a truism about literary classics (a truism that I find to be true, anyway): many times, the reputation of the classic novel precedes the actual quality of the novel by miles. I found this to be true of The Lord of the Flies (unoriginal, flat writing, terrible cardboard cut-out characters, plot-driven and thus boring, and too didactic), Wuthering Heights (ridiculous third-party point of view to tell the story between the lovers, hence rendering implausible some of the recounting of the events; thoroughly unsympathetic characters; did not finish), and Slaughterhouse Five (I simply didn't get it; did not finish).

The Bell Jar is, unfortunately, one of those novels that have been overrated by the passage of time and notoriety of its author. This is not to doubt Plath's writing talent; this is only to say that I expected a poetic novel that really delves into the inner workings of a mental breakdown, but instead found myself reading a pot-boiler, written in a pedestrian style, that merely told the details of the said breakdown. It felt very detached, very matter-of-fact, ironically impersonal despite 1) the first person narrative point of view; and 2) the semi-autobiographical nature of the novel. I didn't find Esther Greenwood relatable for the most part; I couldn't understand her, her motivations, the reasons for her depression.

I am definitely more interested in her poetry, and so I am finally going to buy Ariel. Perhaps I will pop over to Waterstones tomorrow.


I am currently reading Graham Swift's Mothering Sunday. I am amazed by his ability to drag out a scene of the lovers in bed over 50 pages. I am liking it so far.


These days, I feel an urge to write in a way that I have not felt in a long time; over the past decade; since I was a teenager. The on-going angst over my PhD and the career path I have ostensibly put myself on by starting this PhD has brought to the fore a truth that I have always known, but which I have, for some reason, preferred not to think about: nothing sustains me the way writing does, and nothing has captivated and spoken to me the way literature has.

I want to write, I need to; but oh, it is so hard to get started. I am stuck in my head, stuck turning around these stories that I want to get out, turning them over and over in my head, trying to figure out the sequence of events, the best opening scene, the perfect opening line. So I theorise about the stories I would write but I have not sat down to put pen to paper, let the words flow.

But I have to do it. It is the only thing that matters. It counts even more than my Cambridge PhD. It is the only thing that I care for.


I am sure that I have said this before, probably multiple times, but it does not hurt to say it again: I would not be where I am now if I did not write well. Bland ideas are more palatable when presented with some flair, a linguistic sleight of hand. I convince people that my arguments and ideas are better than they actually are because my writing plays tricks on them, dulls their otherwise sharp analytical skills.

I am either propping myself up with that paragraph, or not giving enough credit to the people who have assessed my academic work so far. Regardless: I may be exaggerating, but not by much, really. I say this while being convinced that my academic style is boring; and so these days, I try to amuse myself while writing my PhD by writing a bit more flamboyantly, just because I can. It's probably futile, though. When the time comes for me to reduce my word count (and that day will come, for I always over-write), the first cuts that I make will be to superfluous words and phrases that sound really good, but do nothing for the argument.

Academic writing is so boring. But hey, it's still better than being in a law firm, so at least there's that.


There's also Cambridge, of course. Let's not get too caught up in this pointless angst and forget where we are. We are in Cambridge. This isn't some random city, some random university, in the world; it is Cambridge. My PhD has to be up to scratch, even if I eventually do nothing with it.


On a lighter note, the punting didn't happen yesterday because it rained the whole day and there was even some thunder. BBC Weather issued weather warnings. Heavy rain, it said. Possible thunder.

It is so cute, isn't it, how a mild thunderstorm and random patches of heavy-ish rain garner 'weather warnings', how temperatures reaching 30 degrees celsius qualifies as a 'heatwave'. I suppose the rainfall yesterday was heavy, in the sense that the rain fell in higher amounts and at a higher speed than the light, feathery watery droplets that float around the sky, eventually making their way to the ground because gravity, that is characteristic of a rainy day in Cambridge. But a torrential rainstorm a la heavy rain in Singapore, it wasn't.

I went to the gym in the morning when it rained 'heavily'. I didn't care about getting wet as I was going to sweat anyway, and so I lifted my face to the sky, felt the rain on my face; the combination of the coolness of the water and of the air on my skin almost made me feel pure, almost as if reborn.

Anyway, I had a quick drink with Matt in lieu of the punting. He was stuck in town because of the rain, and I didn't feel like writing my PhD. I asked him if he knew of where I could alter a couple of dresses at a cheap price because the shop in town charges 18 pounds. 'That's the price of a new dress,' I said. (It was, in fact, the price of the dress that I want to shorten.)

He looked really surprised. 'But you're always so well-dressed!' he exclaimed. 'Your clothes look expensive.'

Of course, they're not all 18 pounds a pop; my winter coats definitely cost something. Still, I tend not to spend more than 50 pounds on a dress, and generally don't like spending too much on a single piece of clothing because I like variety (due to my propensity to get bored quickly) and I can't have variety if I'm spending too much on one item, right?

Nonetheless, I was really pleased when I heard that. Not just because he said I dress well, but because I create the impression of expensiveness when I shop on the high street. Not just that - these days, I go to the sale section of an online fashion store and buy nice and inexpensive things. I really like clothes. I like looking good. I like putting together a good outfit. It makes my day that much more bearable. If I ever went out in sweatpants and some random baggy hoodie, that's when I would need an intervention - it would be the first sign of depression. And I'm not even kidding about this: the day that I stop caring about my appearance is the day that someone needs to drag me to a therapist. These days, when I find myself wondering if I'm slowly sinking into depression, I am assured by my continued fastidiousness to my appearance.

What was also quite cute was when I told Matt that my parents are visiting in July, and he had this look on his face as he said, 'Are you going to bring them there?' 'There' meaning Fitzbillies. That was also the first thing that he said, and he said it with some exaggerated apprehension, as if facing a potentially nerve-wrecking event.

I like Matt. He's cute and nice. He makes me happy when I'm feeling sad because he makes me feel special when he gives me free things. I am also not at all in the mood to date; these days, I don't even feel like socialising with others, not even having a drink with an LLM student in my college, a Greek girl whom I actually like. But I like talking to Matt. He puts a smile on my face. And so I really don't care if he fancies me or not; it is immaterial to me right now. He is one of the few bright spots in my life, and I don't want to ruin that. And so I'm looking forward to hopefully finally go punting on Friday.
Tags: books, cambridge, clothes, literature, matt, personal, phd, writing

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