On writing by Rishi Dastidar


Don't write what you know.

Because you know it. And where’s the fun in regurgitating that? If people bought exam scripts between covers someone would have worked that out by now, and captchas would be a way of life not an annoyance.

Write what you don't know.

Because you’ve got a mostly empty brain. Fill it.

Because you’ve got a definitely inflated ego. Tamp it down.

Because you’ve got a planet-sized dose of vanity. Satisfy it not with punches or speed or good fucking, but with the tingle of knowing that you’ve made something that didn’t exist before, and now it’s made an eyeball twitch, a heart flutter, someone breathe faster.

Words are bio-mechanical FX pedals disguised as language.

Write what you should know but don't.

Like what it feels like to sleep on the surface of the sun.

To free dive into the nearest ocean of bread sauce, and emerge again, alive.

To fall through the atmosphere at a velocity which renders consciousness a mere footnote to your being – before the cord snaps you back into the now, where you will find that you can live again, if you’re humble enough to trust those you love, and tryst with those who might destroy you, because even in the moment of your destruction you will learn something about yourself too.

There are no tips to writing this of course, apart from being brave enough to be alone, outside of yourself and others; strong enough to go through life armed only with your skin; and always using a cheap notebook, because you will be writing lots, and expensive paper is a Veblen good only bought by people who say they are writers but aren’t.

Write what you will never know.

Like how it would have turned out if you did actually have the courage to ask her to kiss you that night.

Or if you’d punched that guy like you should have done when he started racially abusing you outside a club in Amsterdam on a stag you shouldn’t have gone on.

Or if you’d voted and in doing this small act of civic duty, you actually triggered the Butterfly Effect to activate an alternative timeline so that in 2022 World War 3 didn’t break out.

It isn’t wrong to dream. It is wrong to be scared of dreaming.

Write knowing that what you know isn't actually what you know, just the appearance of knowing it.

What does any of this matter? Nothing of course. Life is a terminal condition, someone told me today on social media, and they are right; and while I am minded to tell you to believe it, that is only the pity in me talking, as I have been overlooked for yet another award, another virtual handshake from someone who doesn’t know me, all so I can feel like I’m a *writer* and you know, fuck that because that it is getting everything the wrong fucking way round, like the approbation is more important than the act of putting a disordered world into some sort of frame so someone else, who you’ll never meet in space and time, feels less alone, more likely to live than to give up on the whole fucking chase of this game. A story – I was reading in Berlin once, one of those cool arty venues that you stumble across if you’ve been brave enough to go into a courtyard, and it was November and freezing, and I was the only person in there with trousers that covered my ankles, and I read a 20 minute poem for only the second time ever, and after I’d finished and come off stage to silence, and went to get a drink, the guy behind the bar was crying, and asked for the copy of the poem I’d read from and for me to sign it, because I’d moved him unbearably. I should have quit then as my writing *career* will never get better than that, I wish you that kind of success once, just once.

Write to know.

About the world. About you. About others. About the stuff you give a damn about. About the stuff you don’t.

About justice, time, being good, being bad, how to life a better life, how to leave it well.

About where to find the god of your choice, which generally is on the N98 about 2.48AM on a Friday morning. Don’t ask me why, it just is.

Just write.

Just write. It’ll be wrong, first time, second time, seventeenth time. What does that matter?

You are writing for you. You are writing for the world.

The two sometimes coincide and overlap. And if they do, you get rich.

JOKES. You don’t get rich. But who cares? You’re not a banker.

Just write. Just write. Just write.

Rishi Dastidar’s poetry has been published by Financial Times, New Scientist and the BBC amongst many others. His debut collection Ticker-tape is published in the UK by Nine Arches Press, and a poem from it was included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018.  A member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, he is also chair of the London writer development organization Spread The Word.

Buy Rishi's book


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