Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Update

In January when I left my job, I was unsure how things would unravel for me in the near future. I went in to experience free fall. Yes, there was the book (a novel) I wanted to write and I feel a great deal of affection at my commitment towards it. I would get up at 4.00-4.30 in the morning and after writing 250-350 words go for a long morning walk, thinking about the plot and how I could make it more interesting. Some days it was a pleasure to write. Ideas would tumble out of my mind hurriedly and it would be difficult to contain all of them, so I would pick the one which appealed to me the most at that point of time. On other days, I would struggle to write even a sentence without feeling frustrated.  But the book kept me engaged. Someday I would like to chronicle the writing process. It can be deeply satisfying and extremely annoying. At all times, it is all consuming. You inhabit the world of your characters and sneakily look for events in everyday life which you could, with a bit of exaggeration, include in your book. It’s exhausting and at the end of each writing day you might feel a subtle satisfaction, like how a cook might feel after cooking for a dinner party. If it’s working as you intended it to, you do not seek external approval, knowing very well that it’s the best that could be done by you and also may be your effort could be bettered on another day but that’s alright.

Incidentally, those very lines that you write in a – let’s call it fit – of inspiration can later read really, really bad. An indication perhaps that you should not completely trust yourself when you feel inspired. Conversely, sometimes when the writing feels a bit laboured and you are having to think a lot, or the progress has been sluggish, precisely such paragraphs read better the next day and you’re glad that you’re not horrified to read what you’ve written.

But when you read what you’ve written – whether in a state of ecstasy or evenness – after say 10 days, it all reads the same and you feel what happened to your masterpiece. By that time however, you have invested so much effort and time on it that the only way is to keep on writing.

I also attended a Vipassna course and someday I would like to chronicle that too. Suffice it to say that I am glad I went. In my opinion one should attend this course at least once in a lifetime. More on this later.

After I came back from my Vipassna course, I got the bad – but not unexpected – news that my Elder Pishi (my father’s sister) has passed away. The whole family for feeling a wave of sadness because she’d not had the best of lives and especially towards the end she suffered a lot.

My writing was also not going on as I had expected it to. The ideas stopped coming and the writing increasing felt like chore and not as enjoyable as I had experienced when I started. That’s when I started to look for a job, which has been edifying in its own way.

However, tomorrow I have another (6th) interview with one of my previous and I must add best employers. I am looking forward to working again with Hansa Research, largely because the management’s way of functioning and my own are in sync.

I also hope to finish writing my book, however long it takes. Right now I have reached 26,000 words. I am guessing another 50,000 (gulp) words to go. And when I start writing again I hope to include some of my recent most experiences with life, which for all its finger-wagging lessons has been an emotionally wrenching one.

To more life!

Friday, March 6, 2015

First few days

This is my first post after I started writing a story that is unfolding on its own accord. Writing about it seemed unfair, because how can I explain about something I have no idea how it’s happening? How did I reach this far (not much)? It’s like it’s a kind of voluntary day-dreaming. You want to think about your characters all the time, perhaps because they agree to do whatever you will them to do. You feel there is something I can be in control of. You can make them happy, sad, angry, funny etc. You try and find happiness in their sadness and vice versa. It’s vicarious living and it has to be done urgently every day. Of course, you get tired. Tired of all this thinking on behalf of someone (in this case a lot of them) else. Sometimes you wish why can’t your characters figure out their lives on their own and let you live yours. It’s a kind of immersion that is liberating and suffocating alternately. You just wish you finish the story and let it out in this world, but at the same time you feel that you will no longer have these people in your life (who you try and make as interesting, if not more, than your real life acquaintances, friends and relatives) and you feel sad.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

More notes

No story ideas yet, and what ideas are coming to my mind do not have an appeal that might make me want to explore them further. Trying to write fiction, at least for the first time can be nerve wracking, because you are not familiar with the process. You are not sure which instinct to pursue further.
In fact from what I have researched about the “process of writing” is that you need to write a certain number of words every day. So I have been blogging furiously for the past 3 days, but I don’t know if it serves any purpose. May be it is and I don’t know it.

It almost seems like a waste of time, this writing a blog when I should be thinking of a story and carving our characters and make them talk and think and act. It sounds exciting but when I sit down to write, it just falls flat and in 15 minutes you know that something’s not clicking and you are back to blogging. Hell, this is not why I left by job. To blog!

I tell you, trying to write fiction is your subconscious mind’s cunning attempt to gently prod you towards bankruptcy and eventually suicide. Don’t do it.

But there’s that allure that self-destruction has, especially what in the writer’s mind is a higher cause, a finer purpose. It’s a completely different story that no one gives a fuck; least of all the friends who share your excitement and never warn you. Yet, those are the very friends you need to talk often, oftener than you did when you are a full time job to feel that you are doing is somehow worthy of giving up you day job for. I am sure, soon they’d be all avoiding meeting me and taking my calls and have funny nicknames for me, which will be like an inside joke in inner circles.

If I have detected a problem that I need to fix, if I am to go anywhere with my writing, then it is this. I have always been a report writer, even as a journalist or a blogger. You write a certain number of words to tell a story (700-1000) and then it’s over, you move on, to the next story. So you can be very finicky with what you write, how chiseled your sentences are, how self-indulgent your selection of words are. In other words, like a sprinter, you focus hard and put all your energy and imagination in the 700 words report that you are writing and it sounds good, if you have the talent for it.

But writing a novel is something else. It’s an open field and you can go anywhere, you can run very fast or you can choose to hobble and amble and no one’s watching. Unlike a report that will come out the very next day, no one will be reading this immediately. And even if you manage to finish the novel, and then some publisher decides to print a first time novelist, and then you foist it on some unsuspecting reader who has money, you end up feeling really hollow.

So a person writing fiction must have an insatiable appetite to interminably delay gratification. Write it. Forget it. That’s hard. You just have to believe that what you are writing, someone somewhere will find interesting, even if no one’s writing back to say how much they loved reading it. So write when you are feeling inspired, write when you are down, write when there’s nothing to say. Just write it. Most of it will be rewritten anyway by you, when you revisit the manuscript and groan at what you see, if you haven’t decided to dunk it in the nearest ocean already.


Then there is the whole issue of whether you should go with the flow or you should write haltingly, carefully, measuring each word, picking one over the other. But that I guess will depend on how well you know that character you have devised. Do you know him or her as a person and what oddities you plan to infuse that character with. The process can be magical and also very, very misleading. Imagine being deceived by your own self for a good 4-5 months. How can you trust yourself again after this? 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Notes for the myself



I recently quit my job to embark on an adventure about what it feels to be a writer. It intrigued me, what writers do. How they do it. Is there a way or a process of doing it? If there is one, I would like to know it. If there isn’t, I would like to know that too. The mystery was getting too much for me to handle. So I quit. One day. Early morning as I woke up. I remember I was still rubbing my eyes when I went out of the door for what turned out to be a 2 hour walk in the morning. I left home and then I reached home again.

And now I am confused. How do you do something that you wanted to find out how to do in the first place. There’s no way, so you make a way. You walk aimlessly. Hoping something happens along the way that gives you a clue. You looks for clues essentially, like the clues you got, like the voices you heard in your head when you didn’t know how it feels to be a writer. You trust that voice.

But you know, those voices and those clues, they come and go. Sometimes they are gone for a long time, and you have grave doubts. You have already left your job. Were you duped? Was it a literary cupid that was taking aim?

But then they show up, unannounced. Like an old lover, who went away without bothering to say where or why and who lands up at the doorstep one day just like that, you are relieved and happy at the same time to see them. You welcome it. But then you know that the clues and the voices can’t be trusted so much. So you plan to do something about it.

You log on to the internet.

You find writers giving you fabulously vague answers about writing as a craft. It sounds like good fiction, much like their writing and just as convincing.

Trouble is, they are all contradictory, with all sides making perfect sense. So you log off the internet. Perhaps, the best thing you have done since you decided to write. Stay logged off, at least while you’re writing.

But for the sake of those who might be reading this, and who hear such voices in their heads these are some of the things I read, watched, saw…

1.          Writing is not just inspiration but if your own writing does not inspire you to add, delete, edit etc… if you feel just relief having done it, perhaps you are not a writer

2.      Writing is work… it’s like waking up at a designated time and following a routine. You feel the most energized in the early parts of the day and write stuff that is crackling with wit, sarcasm, energy etc. But a book ideally needs to have low pressure points too, where the reader relaxes while reading. Those may be you can write in the dreary afternoons after you’ve had your long lunch and a short siesta… But mind you, you can never get boring. Of course, find out what works for you.

3.       Writing is an all-consuming process. You inhabit a world that you yourself have created. It’s being objective and subjective at the same time, most of the times, in a way that seems fantastical and believable. So you have to believe your own make-believe. It’s cerebral and you have to feel it at all times. You think of behalf of characters, make them interact, give them voice, make them do stuff, kill them etc… This you gotta gotta love doing. The mere idea of creating fictional characters must enthuse you. Draw on a lot from your real life.

4.       You’ve got to write… I mean you have to write. You want to write something that people would love. You must have a plot that interests you, characters whom you want to explore more, perhaps understand the human motivations for doing whatever you are making them to do. Be kind to them, just as you might be kind to a friend, who under circumstances acts rudely. But then don’t cut them too much slack. YOU HAVE TO PUT WORDS ON PAPER.

5.       Words… You absolutely have to love words. While it’s not true for all writers, personally I love writers more who just love words, using them tenderly and cleverly and affectionately. You have to have a feeling for words, where you know why you’re using one word over the other. How deeply you understand words and how sensitively you use them will create the tone of the story. Words like furtive, stealthily, yearn, glide, grimace, pillage, waltz, ravage, gingerly etc… these words should mean things to you, they should evoke emotion and create scenes for you.

6.      I know writers say this a lot and I don’t know yet how to do it but find your voice. I don’t know how you do that but I guess you find your voice when you are true to yourself and the way to stay true to yourself is to discover what you fear and keep it close. Open up and prepare to embarrass yourself. Be vulnerable. Write for yourself but imagine the reader to be a trusted friend.

Happy writing!
  




  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fear Not


The closer we keep our fears, the more we stay true to ourselves.

I have very recently experienced a lot of stress due to external forces and the kind of personal growth I have experienced as a result has been astounding. Fear brings reality home; if not the current reality, then future reality. 

Fear is a maligned term. It's a harsh coach, who cries hoarse, but means well. Fears helps you focus intensely. It helps you cross the line. Fear makes you confront what you really love. It helps you discover or find a refuge, and make it home.

And if you make fear your companion, you will see that it gives you the best counsel. Fear helps your find yourself. People trust you more when they see that your fears do not overwhelm you, otherwise it shows and they avoid you. Summon your fears and embrace it a bit more every day. Walk with it, literally. Cradle fear close to your bosom.

In fact, if you’re the impatient kind, a healthy dose of fear every now and then will make you more patient.

But it's not easy. Fear is not knowing what’ll happen. Fear at first is the raging storm outside; it is the snarling, rabid dog waiting to tear you apart; it's the next step in the dark. It takes faith and desperation to take that step.

Naturally, if fear does that to us, our first instinct would be to keep distance from it. So we try – all of us – to stay away from something that is unknown or makes us uncomfortable and irritable. It becomes the reason for some of us to exist; this avoidance of fear. And so, we stop growing over time.  


So even if it’s a cliché, I’ll say that facing your fears is the answer. Be patient with fear. Walk with it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Can't think of a Headline



I have changed seven jobs in as many years. And if things go as planned, the eighth one is looming on the horizon. Am I nervous because of my track record? More importantly, should I be? I don’t know. After all, I have known people working in the same company for the past seven years and if I were in their place I’d have a lot many things to worry about, which I suspect they secretly do. But since a generation has been brainwashed into believing that working in one company is a sign of (sigh) consistency, it’s against conventional wisdom to express doubts, as you find the excel sheet cell stare right back at you with accusations.      

You truly enter the 30s, when you reach thirty-two. You are then irrevocably, irreversibly and repentantly reconciled to the idea that the 30s can indeed be a much more interesting decade, depending on how the 20s were (mis)spent. For starters, you start being taken a bit more seriously at work, without you trying to look constipated, because there’s another (younger) generation joining the workforce, who are more confused than you and who can be bullied on demand. You start to grey a bit, which in the Indian context means that you have gained wisdom and hence can be relied with having learned the invaluable skill of saving you and your boss’s ass or at least forecast the need to do so.

You meet bright eyed youngsters with pride in their hearts and light in their eyes and you just go poof… and they flicker even as they seem to fade but they don’t die. And you see in them, what you once were and a bond is established, which you hope will carry on in the future.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy New Year!



It’s been a ritual here on my blog, to write something just as the year is approaching its end. I like closures. As a corollary, I also, must then, like new beginnings.

And in our delusional notions of time, nothing gives us a feeling of newness, than the current year – ragged and panting – coming to a close.

It’s that time of the year, when I wouldn’t succeed, if I tried to stop myself from writing something. The thoughts spill out, wanting to be recorded, and I wonder why. Why is it that all through the year, I sit in front of this very laptop and struggle to string together words that make a sentence and a thought. And I eventually give up irritated, at the absolute hollowness that clouds my mind.

But come the last week of December, and it’s as if some secret hormone is being released, inside my head and my fingers clatter noisily on the keyboard, occasionally in tune. I am not so sure, if I am making any sense even now but, that’s what it is.

But I must be honest. It’s all an attempt to keep my blog alive. I promised myself that I would do that, when I started the blog. “A post a month, how hard could that be,” I thought to myself. Well, turns out it’s not that easy.

Ideally, a post of the end of the year is more personal than the others, perhaps because it’s laced with some determination; to make the next year better than this one. This sentiment, I guess would be a constant, every year, till one does not give up on life. After all, there is nothing that can not be bettered.

I think this thought is suitably uplifting, and I hope to write much more than i wrote this year. New years are for resolution, and if I stretch it a bit, even for revolutions.

Happy New Year...