In search of distraction from my low mood, and the month of foul headlines that created it, I turn to the library of familiar books recently arrived to the shelves of our Mumbai flat. Narratives on writing by V.S. Naipaul catch my eye.
The author’s self-indulgence aside, he shares my way of thinking when it comes to philosophy of authorship.
The ways of my fantasy, the process of creation, remained mysterious to me. For everything that was false or didn’t work and had to be discarded, I felt that I alone was responsible. For everything that seemed right I felt I had only been a vessel.
Just two weeks ago, in discussion with language department students at Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, this point exactly answered the question: as an author, can a writer escape his own self while creating literature?
In response to the student’s inquiry, I drew from a comment by an Indian writer I’d met just a few weeks prior. He expressed a sentiment that resonated deeply though it contrasted with my existential sense that deliberate force of personality drives narrative creation.
In fact, it was a legal matter that drove this writer to assert that writers don’t own the stories they create. There is no copyright on ideas. More philosophically, the writer described authors as channels of those events that define human existence. We merely express them, however artfully or in artfully, however universal or narrow.
The expression alone, not the tale, belongs to the writer.
The fact remains that storytellers are mere vessels, channeling messages from the universe. We merely breathe life into that which already exists.
When recently-deceased Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul wrote For everything that seemed right I felt I had only been a vessel, he was saying that writers’ stories belong to all of us.