Writing is So Long

Image Credit & Copyright M.Q.Naufal
Image Credit & Copyright M.Q.Naufal
Image Credit & Copyright M.Q.Naufal

As a student of Logic in my younger years, the first two examples of absolutely positive and negative statements I stumbled upon were,

(1)   Man is mortal.
(2)   No man is perfect.

So utterly true are these sentences and so often repeated that they stand eroded of all meaning and gravity, and at times I suspect, of context too. I mean, those are naked truths shred to the last molecule of verity. What further disintegration could be possible? Yet, it appears, there is a Boson particle after all, especially to the second one of those timeworn aphorisms.

Unlike mortality, and here I am inclined to reflect on Benjamin Franklin’s compelling insight into human longevity –‘Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five’– perfection is a relative term.

We all know even Achilles was not perfect, and yet he was perfect enough to his subjugated adversaries, overwhelmingly so to whom he chose to chop and dishonour like Hector. To cut a winding argument short, he was perfect enough by all imaginable stretches of reason. Some of you may argue here, and rightly so, Achilles was more than what humans could breed, the son of a man and a goddess. What promise then, what virtue, and what art can I, a man born of a man and woman claim to have, that is so polished and impeccable that it glistens brighter than the very idea of faultlessness?

It turns out though, I do have a proposition, ancient as the planet and mastered in the time-honoured tradition of known strains of Home sapiens. It is hard to recollect when I first perceived the timeless promise of that word called procrastination, but blast me dead if I am not a precocious host to the talent, a connoisseur of the craft of transgressing time and limits, spilling over deadlines by years and miles. Consider this:

I gambolled into this beautiful world full two years late, actually seven hundred fifteen days late if you are of the nitpicking kind, to the immense mortification of my disciplinarian father. It is another matter though that I was put in the rightful date by a deft sleight of hand that only my creator was capable of, but then that is another ballad, often sung in my posts around here, indicating a propensity to self-plagiarism as my detractors would love to confirm.

I arrived at my first ever academic examination full two days late when pupils of a higher race, aka class, were undergoing the trail. Not knowing what to make of the puny visitor the invigilators slapped me with the day’s question paper and the fact that I was none the worse for the experience is an aberration of the laws of Metaphysics and Philosophy, and again not the subject here. The mystery of the extra student unravelled only when the result was pasted on the notice board and the guardians were duly summoned to explain.

I was highly punctual in hitting the playgrounds but usually late for all tournaments of cricket or kind. Indeed, there was the time when I arrived at dusk and having started fielding for the rival team took a spectacular catch off a blazing shot of my own team’s star batsman who was duly shunted off to the pavilion. And the less I speak of the jinx of missing buses, trains and flights the better. Nothing beats the time when I boarded a train one month late and nearly managed to frighten the bonafide passenger off his berth but for the drooling ticket examiner who then slapped me with every fine in the almanacs of Indian Railways.

I hold the honour of crashing out of my Doctoral course at the university, not unlike a skydiver sans a parachute, for refusing to acknowledge any timeline whatsoever. Please do not be shocked if my wife and  in laws claim I was late by a day for my marriage –the clock had already struck midnight and the date moved ahead- although less due to my prodigious talents than the overzealous legion of street dancers.

As I muddle past my mid life, orthopaedists caution me not to miss a set of exercises that will keep my brittle back functional. My arteries and veins are turning into a gutter of bad cholesterol and triglycerides, perennially waiting for that promised brisk walk to begin.

More than the lust for your attention, the events I have recounted above are a testament of a trait, culmination of an enterprise of ennui beyond imaginable blemishes. To be sure, I have gleaned harvests of grief time and again on account of the languorous vein, and there is every sign that I will stay unreformed, but they are more a reflection on this world’s morbid obsession with schedules than a commentary on my own incontinence.

It is highly contextual therefore to mention that high fever called NaNoWriMo –National Novel Writing Month- that binds the participants of a nation to a timetable of spinning off a fifty thousand word novel in a month. To a croaking tortoise like me the ambition is akin to a legless dwarf competing in an Olympian 100 meters dash. But I do adore the humanity for the hurly burly it is capable of. In a Utopian world though, normalised for specially gifted slackers like me, National Novel Writing Decade, or better still, National Novel Writing Life would be more like it.

But, alas, life is short, writing is so long!


  1. Muddling past a midlife? I don’t think so US; certainly not in the creative writing stakes.

    I don’t know about deadlines. Maybe they work in some cases, & not in others. I don’t think there are any rules…..good writing being good writing & all that.
    Cheers, ic

  2. uma, I’ve often boasted no one could match my laziness, but I see I have a worthy competitor-that is, if competition were something persons of our ilk were capable of. Don’t know if you’ve read this week’s aphorism. But you are obviously someone who has always taken the turtle’s advice. An essential precondition, I dare say, for any aspiring novelist.

    1. Marty, you are more like a mentor to me. Turtles’ lives are epics compared to ours that are like short stories. We may only benefit from their experience if only we paid attention!

  3. You’re sort of the “better late than never” posterchild, Uma. Your quandary with meeting deadlines makes perfect sense to me…I have the same problem. I like doing things in my own time.

    1. Kris, the problem with blooming late is that everybody else is ready to fall asleep. Yet, the promise of the mantra of ‘never give up, never let go’, at the heart of a procrastinator’s spark.

  4. Me – I never procrastinate. And to ensure that I do not, I do not take on anything 🙂

    Uma, I turn these things to slapstick and you turn these things to literature.

  5. Great read US ! NaNoWriMo sure seems to tough even for non-slackers..not to speak of my personal reservations on the whole ‘forced’ creativity aspect of such things..
    In spite of all the slacking you claim yourself to be capable of, you have again proved the time tested ‘tortoise wins the race’ 🙂

  6. Ah yes the NaNoWriMo. I did think about it this year too, even though there is no historical record that tells us that Shakespeare used to bunk down in November and release a new play every December. In my case by time I started to stir into action it was mid-November, so I will bide my time till next year, or until I find another worthy month. Just thinking about all the work involved makes me feel tired.

    1. Your comment reminds me of my old professor who would go dreamy talking about the Bard and his folios. I wish you the best in your future enterprise, not a cup of mine!

  7. Very very well said indeed – a novel writing life and that too – as it it was enough. Such a great canvas and so much to write on. Yet so little time.

  8. Nanowrimo becomes easier when you start along with the rest, but instead of aiming to finish the story in a month, you finish structuring it and write at your own pace. After all, it matters more to write a good story than to write a story in one month. Nanowrimo is good inspiration for us slackers to move off our read ends.

    Good luck!

    1. That is what I also feel, Chaitanya -and it is all so personal still- It may just bring the matchstick to the wood. I am glad for the acknowledgement.

  9. Umashankar, I see your blog is snowing now! Nice effect. I am often terrible about procrastination too, so I can relate. But I must say you have rather made an art of it! 🙂 However, better late than never is still getting the job done! Are you entering the novel writing contest?

    1. I hope this is snow of good omen, Madilyn, and inspire the sulking stags of my muse. And, No, I avoid contests like plague! Thanks for the soothing words.

  10. Procrastination – a word that pretty much sums up my undergrad life thus far. But then again, I think people procrastinate a lot less than they lead others to believe.

    1. I guess most of us are given to procrastination in varying degrees. I have found that the outcome is often unsavoury, it can be fatal too. At the cost of repetition, I am Hamlet in slow motion.

    1. And that brings me to my favourite quote, Corinne:

      “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
      Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
      To the last syllable of recorded time;
      And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
      The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
      Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
      That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
      And then is heard no more. It is a tale
      Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
      Signifying nothing.”

  11. Uma – your words are always like a poem, a song, a serenade. As for procrastination, I always think of Tagore’s words about stringing and unstringing the instrument while the song remains unsung. You are by no means leaving the song unsung.

  12. I just discovered your Blog Umashankar & I am enjoying your style very much. But I must say that as a declaration of logic ‘no man is perfect’ leaves us in need of a definition for ‘perfect’…

    1. Welcome to my blog, Paul!

      I picked up that maxim from a textbook of Deductive Logic and I must admit I remain smitten by it. Apparently, even imperfection needs a definition and probably a scale. And then I am afraid where I am going to find myself.

      1. Thank you for your welcome Umashankar.

        I see perfection as Chekhov saw happiness. He said (& I paraphrase) “Happiness is difficult to define as it is made up of a range of greys. What makes you happy today might make you melancholy or angry tomorrow [as a friend who betrays], while unhappiness is easily defined as the absence of happiness.

        Imperfection is equally easy to define (one might argue that mortality itself is proof of man’s imperfection) but without a Socratic definition for perfection, any comparison becomes logically meaningless.

        I submit that your logic text-book is mistaken! (What do you think? 😉

  13. I wonder why nobody speaks of the benefits of procrastination. I firmly believe that laziness is a virtue. This naturally comes with a disclaimer. As all students of humanity have had it dinned into them, too much of anything is bad. So also with laziness. But that doesn’t mean one cannot try to push the ceiling on what defines ‘too much’. One owes it to one’s spirit of adventure.

    Your posts are not only a delight to read for the off-beat thoughts portrayed, but more so for the delightfully fine language. They say opium is more potent when mixed with pickle oil.

    What more can I say?

    1. How could have I missed this beauty?

      Perhaps I pushed that ceiling so hard it fell off into some black hole, Dagny! But we enjoy the damn thing while it lasts, don’t we? And for those kind words of yours, may God bless you with more and more opium with pickle oil!

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