Advice from PaPa Al, aka Grandpa
Perhaps, it is my age, or it is that I love my granddaughters in Myanmar. I will write essays, emails, or chat with them on Zoom. However, I might seem a bit overprotective of them. I will often give them advice from their venerated sage, PaPa Al.
Several weeks ago, I wrote an article about some suggestions for Ti Ti as she celebrated her 17th birthday. The last two ideas that I had for Ti Ti related to writing and memorizing poetry. This is about writing.
Plan to write something each day but write. It can be a short story or just a paragraph. What I want you to do is to create your version of Articles on my webpage. You can also put pictures that you took that relate to your writings. You are creating your own archive or collection about your thoughts and idea. I often look at what I wrote decades ago.
This is my suggestion about memorizing poetry or prose.
Along with prose, write poetry also. Pick something that someone wrote that you like or that helped you and memorize part of the poem. I was required to do that in high school, and I hated it. Nevertheless, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t remember parts of poems that I memorized. That is the one thing that benefited me more than anything else during my high school years. I memorized Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas six decades ago. Today, it is my mantra. This is the first stanza.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Ten days went by, and I added an addendum to my helpful suggestions for Ti Ti. That essay took up the issues of writing and memorizing…again. This was about getting into a writer’s cadence. Pick a time to write and do it every day.
While I didn’t mention it in my article, all the great writers have personal suggestions about writing. Some writers, like Earnest Hemmingway, do their writing early in the morning. Some have a required number of words, like Sarah Waters. “My minimum is 1,000 words a day… Those 1,000 words might well be rubbish--they often are. But then, it is always easier to return to rubbish words at a later date and make them better.” Also, E.B. White wrote, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
As for the memorization issue, I supplied Ti Ti with a dozen of my favorite poems or prose. Those poems and prose would provide a clear picture of my Weltanschauung if someone wanted to know what makes me tick. Also, I added another suggestion to Ti Ti; write poetry.
Sandy is my web administrator and therefore knows everything about my family in Myanmar. She and Ali, her husband, were born in Pakistan, but they live and work in Sweden.
Sandy and I have emailed several times about Ti Ti writing and my pushing Ti Ti to write. I mentioned to Sandy that it is crucial for both Ti Ti and her to write. The following is her email reply. One other issue is that Sandy refers to me as Grandpa. She must think that I am really ancient like my granddaughters do.
I wanted to take time to write back on your comment about writing again.
I strongly believe that a writer is not made. They are born. For me, it’s a communication language to talk to myself or get things off my head. With complex feelings, I find it hard to express in any other way than writing it down. As a teenager, I did write more, and then now, I code more. Coding is also like writing to me. In my free time, when I need to communicate, I feel like coding my feelings. I think coding is my communication language now because it’s hard to decipher. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t write at all. I do write now too, I just don’t do it full time, and I don’t share what I write now.
Now, I write when I am angry, sad, or happy... I can code and write on google docs as much as I want, but whenever I have to really process my feelings or have to do a closure to my feelings, I go back to my pen, and the smell of paper, ink, and some tea fixes it all. So when you say, will I ever go back to writing? Well, did I ever stop? It’s a love language to myself. It’s something that comforts me. It’s a part of me. I just don’t make my writings public now, but once a writer, always a writer.
Here is my favorite one that I write as a 14 years old when I first realized how rushed we all are, in reaching milestone after milestone in our life, struggling to find success, and yet there is no definition of success. It’s like sailing and lost in the sea and trying everything that comes to mind in trying to find a shore and not realizing that we are still not in control of everything. You can pull all tricks to find out where the shore is, but you are still dependent on the wind. In our search for the shore, we never really think about what happens if the wind stops blowing... we only are so sure that the wind will always be there, and we have to find the smartest and quickest ways of reaching the shore. Here it goes:
میں شاعر نھیں کہ غزل کھوں
میں مصنف نھیں کہ لکھوں کتاب
میں جانتی نھیں کہ میں ہوں کس چیز کا جواب
کبھی لگتا ھے منزل ھے بہت ہی قریب
کبھی لگتا ھے ہوں بن ساحل کے سمندر میں مقیم
ہوا کے رخ پہ انحصار کرتی ہے کشتی میری
جس سمت چلی ہوا، وہیں چل پڑی
یوں تو دن رات یھاں چلتی ہے ہوا
گر تھم گئ یہ، کیا رک جاۓ گی کشتی میری؟
پھر سوچتی ہوں آخر ہو گا وہی کنارہ
جہاں اترنے کے بعد
نہ سمندر ہو گا، نہ کشتی، نہ ساحل کی تلاش
بس میں اور میری تنہائ۔۔۔۔
Here is the translation:
I am not a poet, who writes a poem,
I am not an author who writes the book,
I dont know who I am, or what my purpose is
Sometimes I feel I am very close to my destination
The other times, I feel I am in the middle of a shoreless ocean
My boat depends on the direction of the wind
It goes and goes... where the wind blows
Though the wind blows day and night
I wonder if it stops blowing, will I stop moving too?
Then I realize that in the end, there will finally be a shore ....
Where after stepping off
There will be ocean, no boat, no search for the shore
Just me and my loneliness
Here is an English poem that I like a lot:
I also like Still Rise by Maya Angelou
Sandy’s email forced my hand to respond by writing this essay. There are several additional items that I think are important for Ti Ti, Sandy, and everyone. Writing is an excellent means of a self-imposed form of Rogerian counseling. Carl Rogers’ style of psychotherapy was to have the patient explore what is going on in that person’s world. Rogers would simply make comments like, “Well, how do you feel about that?” He was forcing the client to express what was floating around in that person’s mind. Writing is a means by which the writer is the therapist and client wrapped up into one person. When I write an essay, I want to express to the reader my personal exploration and why that issue was important to me.
It is also essential for everyone to write. Not everyone loves to write, nor is everyone a William Faulkner, George Eliot, or Maya Angelou. Regardless, all people must write even a simple journal each day.
I love writing. My website contains nearly three decades of essays. It is a means of recording nearly half my life. We can’t remember all that has happened to us even in a week. I look back on stories that I wrote twenty or thirty years ago and often don’t recall writing that essay. I wished that someone had pushed me to write daily when I was in high school. How many of the important things I saw or experienced do I still remember more than six decades ago? A massive amount of my high school years was lost someplace in the deep recesses of my brain.
Finally, it is imperative to write prose or poetry daily. However, it is also necessary to add pictures to our writing. I have written about holding The Little One several times. Whether in essays or emails, those several moments, which that little girl and I experienced together, would have been forgotten over time had I not written about it and had photos. I also have a short video of the two of us at Set Set Yo, where she lives. My advice to all my readers: Write On.