After some consideration mixed with procrastination, I finally decided to give writing a serious try. I have been writing since I was 12 but those dashes of words, pseudo poems and naive musings did not translate into anything serious or concrete. In fact, I stopped writing for about 5 years with a feeble excuse that the muse that has left me. Now in my young adulthood and having the opportunity of starting a literary journal for my varsity, I am flushed with envy at the ability of others and realised that the struggles of writing are something that I am willing to go through. The words of others have often lifted me and now I want to try to create something of my own. This summer, I got a sneak peek of what it takes to be a writer as I wrote a short story and a poem for two writing competitions. But one aspect of the process really bugged me.
One thing I had to do which I have not done so far was field research for my works. I knew that I had to be an observer but I did not expect to be an outsider. Anyone would find my assumption silly – if you are observing something, you are standing outside of the action and this obviously means one has to be an outsider. In my defence, I am aware of this implication but I really saw myself observing what is going on as part of the action; like the teenager walking down the street blind because his eyes are on his phone or the tourist running from spot to spot taking pictures of the most mundane things.
Being there at the setting of my story was an alienating experience; I felt very intrusive and was fraught with doubt. What am I doing here? What right do I have to write these people into my story? At that point, writing seemed to be an insidious exercise. While street photography may be more intrusive as everyone will recognise the unwitting subject in the photo, the subject can request for the photo to be deleted. This does not extend to the people in my story; I am invading their privacy expediently. Of course, we all employ artistic licence in crafting our characters but I am still unable to shake that feeling off.
Where do we draw the line between inspiration and intrusion?