Tag Archives: Inspiration

C for Crying

CI was going to slack off on C which is the real letter of today’s April A to Z Challenge. But then I read this and it pushed me to write what I did. Not even a tenth as good but it is poetry.

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I stopped at 16
It was time to leave the tears behind
But I really only pulled them in
They ebbed and settled under my skin
In goosebumps when a different him touched me
The tears I didn’t shed for him, rose up and whispered SUBSTITUTE
And heat blisters on my back spelt COMPROMISE
Creams and lotions pushed them away
and I bought myself a new pen that day
So now they come pouring forth
Like pushy, bashful children
in inky stains and paper cuts
Still, my pen can’t take the tears
of twenty years
So the older ones, slower, sluggish
Stay behind to hold on and die
In the graves of stretch marks
on my body
But I pay them no heed
I have a lot of crying left to do
Enough to last a lifetime
This is just April

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Follow the April 2015 AtoZ HERE.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Magic In My Soul

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing the guilty random-online-surf-to-avoid-work thing, when my video chat icon began flashing with a call. I looked at the clock. It was past 3 a.m. I answered the call to find this guy at the other end, yelling,

“Tu kya soti nahin hain, kya??!”

Then he turned to his wife and said,

“See, I told you. She never sleeps!”

I laughed, he nodded sagely and she shook her head at the absurdity of it.

It occurred to me that I belong the privileged generation that has these magical experiences. The generations before ours scoff and think we’ve lost it, that we haven’t known closeness, that we don’t understand life since we spend it behind glass screens. The generations after us, having been born into a digital era, don’t see anything particularly remarkable in this.

But to me, with my single Doordarshan channel and landline telephone 80s childhood, my adolescence that proved its cool with cable TV, Khatiya songs and Indipop and my young adult self that saw the dreams of the future in chatrooms – all of this is magic. Talking to somebody in a different country, with such ease (and I can even see them!) feels like magic. Being able to see bright daylight outside the window of the person I’m speaking to, while it’s past midnight where I am – this is magic. Relationships that have vanquished time and space – how can they be anything but magic?

My online association with Devesh began in June 2008, when a common friend wrote to me asking if I’d speak to her friend who was looking for some information about my industry. I was still mostly anonymous then, visible only as Ideasmith, a blog, Twitter, Facebook and an email address. I agreed and we connected and had a chat. We followed each other on Twitter, he occasionally commented on my blog and I responded. He was a slight acquaintance that it was not unpleasant to converse with.

In August 2010, I was going through my annual Facebook Friends list pruning, when I noticed a familiar name and face. I remembered him from that chat conversation but I couldn’t place why he looked so familiar. Finally, I shook off that nagging feeling of ‘Stupid, it’s all in your head’ and I wrote to him.

“This is probably a far shot but were you ever in XYZ college, Mumbai? You look a lot like someone I knew back then and he had the same name.”

“I was for 1 year! Did we hang out? I literally just knew 2 girls then

Bingo. I was a science student but with enough teenage angst to keep me out of the classroom and in the canteen. I used to hang out at that window on the ramp and was often seen with a girl called A. And if this helps, I used to call you Dave.

Jesus! Yes! It was the 3 of us that used to hang out!!!

Now cut to February 1997. I was in my first year of college and hating every moment of B.Sc. I loved reading, music and art. Nobody around me did; they were more interested in beakers, parallax removal and calculus. I’d drift around the open space in front of the canteen, in a semi-daze that only teenagers can pull off. And I’d go in and out of surreal, intense conversations all day. One of those conversations led me to Dave. He was a friend of a friend of a friend. I don’t remember what we spoke of. I barely remember him as a stranger being introduced to me. But I clearly remember him as a close friend then.

Then summer vacation came along and we drifted back to our homes. When college begun again, I didn’t see him. I didn’t know his last name or anybody else in common. This was before everyone had an email address. And in 1997, only super duper rich kids had mobile phones (well, actually it belonged to their dads and they brought it along to show off to their friends). I never forgot Dave but I had no way of reaching him again. Somebody told me that he had shifted colleges, someone else said he had moved to Australia.

In 2010, that reply from him sent tingles down my fingers. It still does. Reconnecting with old friends over Facebook, I know everyone has one story. This is mine and it’s special to me. And since we’re part of the generation that experienced half our lives without digitalia and the other half with it, it will always feel like magic.

I wondered what he was like, 13 years later. I found out a year later when he came to India for a visit. I figured we’d have a coffee together and chat about old times for, oh about an hour? How long does one need to catch up on a 14-year old friendship that only lasted two months? We ended up yapping through coffee, another coffee and one more. I paused wondering if I should tell him I’d only thought I’d hang out for an hour and I should call home to explain why I was late. He pulled out his phone and said,

“Wanna grab dinner and talk a bit more? You know I thought we’d only talk for about an hour or so.”

We ended up talking about life and work and relationships and friendship and technology and so many other things. It wasn’t like meeting a great new person. It was exactly like meeting an old, old friend. It felt like we were teenagers in college again, a notion that was laid rudely to rest when a bunch of ‘cool’ teeny-boppers walked past us, making a lot of noise. We made fun of them and talked about how much better we had been, at being teenagers. Then we laughed and told each other that we’d gone old.

We don’t talk often. There’s a message now and then or a tweet. Occasionally he calls and hangs up. I know it means,

“Hey, I was just remembering my friend but I don’t have anything to say right now.”

Other times we talk and he tells people that he likes listening to my ringtone more than he enjoys talking to me, so he prank-calls me.

On that videochat two weeks ago, we ended up talking about the directions our lives have taken. He told me he used to enjoy reading my blog but that he doesn’t anymore. Then things only a friend should tell you! I say ‘should’ rather than ‘can’ because the internet is full of presumptuous people and trolls. But I only take it seriously when someone whose opinion matters to me, says so.  He also told me that I was wasting my life away stuck in a deadened situation. But he didn’t say it unkindly. He said it in the same breath as,

“You’ve got people who believe in you. Everybody needs a push sometime. And I’m giving you one.”

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. And I don’t think it’s got anything to do with geography or medium.

His words made me realise that most of what I do stresses me rather than invigorates me now. Blogging, once a welcome reprieve has become a ball-and-chain around my neck. Social media, that seductive beast that once promised grand things for what I was already doing? It’s now a crass, pretentious beast full of the vultures that I thought I left behind in the corporate world. Enough now.

Last week I cleared out several social apps that I was keeping active on, ‘because I’m a social media/content professional’. I decided to stop letting my Twitter followership have anything to do with my self-esteem (so loserly, no? I know) I still love writing, even if it is not soul work. But my readers, (the real ones, not the ones like the new Twitter followers who follow me for a day and then unfollow when I don’t follow back), the people who find something about my writing resonates with them, they come here for me. Not for the snazzy template or the shareable content. They come here to connect with a human being, me. And that is what makes my world of Ideasmith, magical for me. It took a friend to point that out.

This completely unedited, messy, meandering, less than perfect post is for you, Dave. You can prank-call me now.

I’m Not A Real (Something Something)…

Do you know the number of times this sentence trips us up?

I was watching ‘Julie and Julia’ last night. It reminds me of the beginnings of Write Click. And it takes me back to why I do what I do, how much I love it and why I’m so blessed, privileged to have stumbled upon something that makes me feel that way.

This scene, like so many other resonates with me. I don’t know if other beginning bloggers feel this way. And if you do, let me say, I’ve been blogging for 9 years now and I still feel this way. We cripple our own flights of fancy, injure our fantasies and maim our desires with that sentence that starts with ‘I’m not a real (something something)..’.

I was lucky, so lucky, that I chanced upon blogs when blogging wasn’t a ‘thing’, when nobody was talking about it and feeding me their impressions of what it should or should not be, imposing their quality expectations on me. Blogging happened to me the way love happens – unexpectedly, suddenly and forcefully. And just like love, I don’t know how I lived without it before. Well, that’s probably more writing than blogging. But blogging took me down that adventure which led to the treasure chest of a love of writing. I am glad I had the opportunity to discover something without ‘I’m not a real (something something)’ standing in my way.

Then there are fulfilled dreams that get in the way of new dreams. Steve Jobs in his famous Stanford graduation address said,

“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.”

Every now and then I wonder if the chance that I took in the last 4 years has been a stupid one. Then, when I hear or read the above sentence, it makes me remember why I took it – I wanted an adventure. And I got one. The lightness of starting again gave me wings.

BATRetreat-63

BATRetreat-63 (Photo credit: MammaLoves)

And finally, there’s thwarted expectations. The movie Julie & Julia, is based on two real stories – the better known life of Julia Child, chef & cookbook writer and the lesser known Julie Powell. Julie Powell is a real person with an ordinary life and regular wishes. She wrote a blog, it turned into a book (how ironic that the movie starts with her lamenting about her not being a ‘real writer’ because no one wants to publish her), which turned into the movie. Along the way, the real Julia Child was asked to comment and her indifferent response disheartened Julie Powell (at least in the movie).

I find getting started on a new pursuit relatively easy but when people whose opinions matter, seem less than moved, where does that leave me? Passion but also validation and appreciation fuel my drive. I guess that’s when it’s time to remember another line from the movie.

“The Julia Child in your head is perfect.
The Julia Child who doesn’t understand what you’re doing, is not perfect.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is, ‘something something’ and everything else is just that. You are as real as your dreams.

Writers

Writers are sad people,
stewing in the acrid juices of their own guilt
and frustration and shame and impotence
hoping to turn up a spicy marinade or a fine wine at the end.

Writers are pathetic people,
who put their lives into deep freeze
from fear or distraction or misplaced notions of grandeur
to live vicariously through those who only exist in their imagination.

Writers are difficult people,
often moody, never consistent
flitting forever between the brutal compassion of undivided listening
and the cold precision of collecting material for their stories.

But writers are never lonely,
for who can can have the time to ponder one’s solitude
when the mind is an overflowing warehouse of ideas past sell-by date
and the heart, a valient but failing backup of fermenting emotion?

Those ideas,
Our saviors, our jailers,
our muses, our burdens,
our poison, our panacea,
our steadfast, unshakeable, unbreakable companions,
Oh, those ideas!

Reverb 10.8: Beauty Is The Difference You Make

I absolutely hate this Reverb 10 prompt because it reminds me too much of the feel-goodey self-help books/seminars/talk shows. I can’t see what it possibly has to do with writing. And that said, I will still do it because I’m stubborn, because I’m annoyed and according to my writing circle, any strong emotion is fodder for a writer. So here then is a prompt that sparks off the ‘irritable’ energy in me.

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)

What makes me different? Nothing at all. I am not one of those people who strives to be different. I am the person who manages to say or do something that makes people around uncomfortable. For the Harry Potter fans, I am the Luna Lovegood of my world (in the ‘had a curious habit of saying things like that which made everyone uncomfortable’ way).

When I was a kid, I was called weird. Children don’t take too well to a kid who questions the method of selecting the ‘den’ in a game (it’s biased too badly in favour of the bigger, stronger kids). The kids I grew up with did not like change and hated my frequent suggestions to reverse game rules, mix-and-mash games (football on bicycles, hide-and-seek where everyone looks for one person and hides with them when they find them) and other variations. ‘Weird’ was a well-earned tag, I suppose.

Then I grew up a little more and stepped into adolescence. But I hadn’t developed the badass attitude to be called delinquent, misbehaved or troublesome. Instead I became ‘inexplicable’. I mean, who gives away their lunch in return for being left in peace to stare out of a window? Who makes a beeline for the skeleton in the biology lab to go shake hands with it? Who answers a Foundation Course question of ‘What is your identity?’ with ‘I am unique’? (Yes I did that. Everyone else had used up the ‘I’m Ms.so-and-so’, ‘I am the class topper’ answers). Who cuts physics class to sneak into psychology lectures? Who gets to college early to watch a sunrise? Inexplicable, indeed.

I dropped a year in college because I couldn’t bear physics. Then I made life miserable for the head of my math department by questioning every thing she said. I called my placement co-ordinator, a pimp, because she insisted on sending me to a dubious company (whereby she retaliated by banning me from college placements). I sat unemployed for six months because I didn’t think the jobs that were on offer were worthy. And then, I quit the prestigious job that I did get, a year later with nothing else on hand. Mysteriously three months later, I landed another (and even more prestigious) job. Three years later, I made a career move that surprised everyone in the company who heard of it and every mentor I’d ever had (one of them said I’d plain lost my brains). I quit that a year later to write. Without a publisher, without a job on hand and right in the middle of recession. Brainless? That’s me.

I’ve never been prouder than when following my own quirky, mad, unpredictable choices. They’ve always worked for me. I can’t always explain how and why but many of those times, I just know that something is right for me, even if the world seems to think otherwise.

And I’ve never been happier than when I’m able to live as weirdly, as inexplicably and as brainlessly as I want to. That happiness comes from freedom but also the peace of mind that no one has ever been burdened by my choices. I’ve always borne the consequences of my decisions and really, really, not a single one of them has been bad. The only difficult things I’ve had to face have been the results of following what people around me felt was right (uninspiring education, unsuitable workplace, unlovable love interest).

I can’t tell if it that any of this makes other people happy. But here’s something – Because my own life is so offbeat, my choices so inexplicable and my self so ‘weird’, I have a near irrational hope in other people’s dreams. I’ve been told by at least a few people that my belief in their abilities gave them the courage to pursue what they really wanted. That’s an aspect of beauty I would be proud to stand for.

Nobody really wants to be born ‘different’. It’s so much easier, better to be born smart or attractive or popular or steady. I spent long enough ruing the fact that I couldn’t be the girl my family wished I would be, the ‘right’ kind of girl for the men I loved, the ‘perfect’ employee that the perfect workplace demanded. Now, I think I’ve just reconciled myself to the fact that I never was any of those things and never will be so I may as well enjoy being myself. After all, nobody else is.

Reverb 10.2: Redundant Habits

Yesterday’s Reverb 10 prompt had me thinking for awhile without a satisfactory answer.

December 2 – Writing.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)

Could I really be that efficient? My days aren’t all the same but most of them involve the following activities:

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Hygiene & grooming
  • Swimming
  • Email
  • Facebook/Twitter
  • Blogging
  • Writing for deadline-based assignments
  • Working on the novel
  • Phone conversations
  • Meeting friends
  • Cultural activities (movies, events, literary discussions, festivals)

Even when I’m not writing, I am doing something that either triggers off ideas or rekindles inspiration or relaxes/supports my system in being able to stay creative and energetic.

And this is a tremendous realisation. Last year, after I quit my job, I agonized a great deal over the inefficiency of my schedule. Being used to as I was, to a tightly-packed day with at least 8-10hours of work ending in tangible deliverables, it was a paradigm shift. I found it very difficult to accept the idea that I could not, try as I might, write for 8 hours a day or even daily. I could not set a daily word/chapter goal and hope to realistically finish it.

It’s been over a year and I’ve made my peace with some of that now. I do something involved with writing every single day. Some days I’m just bursting with new ideas and I spend those just listing them out or spinning unfinished pieces. There are odd moments, concentrated bursts of creativity where I can see a story or a chapter or a post literally materialize in front of my eyes. Since I now have the luxury of time and a computer at my disposal, I usually get up and jot it down immediately. These don’t happen often but often enough to keep me hooked to the pursuit of the creative spark. And finally, the majority of the days see me able to write a little, think a little, talk a little and work a little. The bulk of the boring stuff like fact-checking, housekeeping, mail management, editing, cleaning up and actually posting happens then. It’s a more fluid rhythm than I was used to in the corporate world, but it is a rhythm nevertheless.

I guess I don’t really have a redundant habit that doesn’t contribute to my writing and that I should drop. Which can only be a good thing. 🙂

The Girl At The Bus-Stop

I particularly remember the details of a particular journey. It stands out in the multitude of other daily routes and frequent destinations that would checker the rest of my working life.

I used to take an AC bus to work each morning where I was spared of the usual Mumbai crowd. My favorite seat was the last one from the back, on the right side. Its window was not interrupted by a frame, the seat itself didn’t lend itself to additional bumpiness on account of being situated over a tyre and it was far enough from the initial seats which would get taken by the occasional non-regulars.

These were my early days of employment and all I had was a battered Walkman to keep me company. In fact on most days, I didn’t even carry a cassette, choosing to listen to the radio instead. Yes, I didn’t even have a phone with a radio on it.

Once I sat down and bought my ticket, I’d settle my handbag to a corner, arrange my Walkman on my lap, adjust the blinds just the way I wanted and close my eyes. The music and the motion lulled me into a gentle semi-slumber, of the sort that I, like most other Mumbai commuters would perfect over the next few years as a substitute to the regular sleep we missed. Exactly three stops (and 7 minutes) away from my destination, my eyes would fly open and I’d awaken fully refreshed. Just in time to switch off and pack away my Walkman, gulp down my entire waterbottle, tidy up my appearance and make my way to the door. The routine never varied.

On one particular day, I couldn’t sleep. Traffic jams and the ensuing horns blaring, even if they were much filtered by the capsule I was in, kept me awake and irritable. And then we passed one of the bus-stops on the way and my head jerked around, almost 360 degrees. At the bus-stop across the road, I caught a passing glimpse of a tall, slim girl with long hair in a ponytail, clad in a bright red top of some sort and jeans. I absorbed all of this without fully realizing why I had turned. It took me a few minutes to piece together with memory before coherence happened.

The ex- had spent much of our time together, playing mind-games and one of his early techniques was ‘My ex-girlfriend was hotter than you, thinner than you, smarter than you, better than you’. It was the most torturous routine I have ever been subjected to and its memory lingered on far beyond the death of that relationship. For every minute in that relationship and a long, painful time after that, I felt ugly, undesirable, unimportant, unintelligent and unlovable. Inadequate. I had never met her and she made me feel terrible about myself.

I struggled to make my peace with my past for a long time after. But I found I couldn’t stop obsessing over what I had heard about this girl. I even tried to get in touch with her, tried calling her just to be able to hear her voice. I wanted to hear a lisp in her speech, one mispronunciation or perhaps spot just one single mole on her face. Anything at all to let me know that she was not perfect. It haunted me for a long time.

All of these memories came flooding back. One time, when we drove past this bus-stop on his bike, he had whipped around and with a practiced solemnity declared that he thought he had seen the love of his life standing there. He refused to turn back or say anything more and after all this while, I suspect it was no more than a ploy to keep me troubled and under his control. Yet, I succumbed to every one of his ploys and tossed about in the black sea of self-loathing and worry.

The girl I had spotted fitted his description to some extent. What was she doing in Mumbai? Was she still living with her aunt as he had claimed? I sank back in my seat, the flood of unwelcome memories overwhelming me. And suddenly I just felt very tired. Very, very tired of hurting so much.

I closed my eyes in despair.

And that’s when I was suddenly conscious of the sound in my ears. The radio had been playing all along, only I had been too caught up in the moment to notice. And the words I heard as clearly as if someone was telling me gently, very gently,

Jin zakhmon ko waqt bhar chala hain, tum kyon unhe chede jaa rahe ho?

(The wounds that time had undertaken to heal, why pick at, all over again?)

When I finally opened my eyes, I realized that it could not have been the same girl. Or perhaps it was. Either way, it did not matter.

In the past two decades, I’ve had a troubled relationship with faith and God. There have been turbulent storms that have broken my belief. And then there have been islands of reprieve such as this one. I have no other name for them.

The hurting didn’t stop immediately. But at least I stopped continuing to hurt myself. I think I just needed someone – something – to let me know that it was okay to stop punishing myself. I made my peace with it at one level back then. But closure happens in stages, little by little every minute, some visible, some not so much.

Some time ago I thought of her again and made contact. She didn’t reply. And it occurred to me that if I had been in her place and received such a letter from a stranger, I would have responded out of empathy or at very least, pity. I know I would have because I already have, in another case. She didn’t and I think that makes me a better person than her. It may be very weak, it may just be rationalization but for what it’s worth it makes me feel better.

In a life starved of belief, when you’re being tossed about in confusion, you grab onto whatever you find and hold on for dear life. Sometimes even a stray line from a song will do.

From Ashes

This is for Dee, the editor I’d like to have, who quite literally showed me the way.

~O~O~O~O~O~

Where do stories come from? she wondered. Her editor had told her that her writing had a quality of finesse in it. But, he said, the spark was missing. She wanted to protest, it had been such an effort to get to here after all. But anticipating just that, he had moved his hand in a wiping gesture, as if trying to clear away a fog around her.

“It’s that madness, that raw energy that used to make one want to read. Bring that back. It’s you. Unleash it in your writing.”

She brooded over it for a long time, all through the book-browsing date and the high tea that followed. Then she decided to take a walk. Taking long walks and watching people and noting down what one saw seemed to be the right things for a writer to do. The sea had always held appeal. But somehow, the effort of crossing the road, dodging bratty rich kids in their oversized cars only to scrounge a garbage pile of people on the other side, for seating space…wasn’t an appealing thought at all.

The city is no place for an artist, she told herself. How was one supposed to be inspired by this relentless struggle? It didn’t even have the elements of drama like a war or a revolution or an uprising, a famine or a flood. It was just everyday, niggling grievances. Who would want to read about those? Who would want to write about those, she retorted inside her head. Then she shook herself. Arguing with oneself is the first step into insanity and she’d be damned if she was going to live up to that pathetic stereotype of a writer-gone-crazy before she was even published.

The girl hopped off the last bogey, the one that she had just managed to jump into as the train pulled out of the station. In one hand she clutched a little notepad and a magenta pen, her chosen colour for the day. She did have one thought that should be captured before it vanished into that abyss of forgotten inspiration. One hand holding down the page, she expertly popped off its lid with her mouth and twirled it around to cap its end with practiced efficiency.  Rapidly she wove a messy magenta web over the ideas that had caused her to almost miss her train.

Mumbai Metaphors

I stood on the opposite side of the road that runs along the seaface. It was the wrong side, not the one that had the seating parapet along its entire length but the junction of the seaface road and the arterial conduit to the station terminus.

I stood under the tree that has survived attempts to build bigger and more buildings, broader roads and wider pedestrian walks. The same gnarled tree that stands on the side of the road like a senior citizen with memories of a slower, more human-paced city but no energy to brave the pace of today.

The sky was just turning that indefinable shade of evening like the colour of the last dregs of black tea in a chipped white saucer. Sepia, the colour of nostalgia, that one extra element that changes the picture of a dirty, overcrowded metropolis to the magical visage of home.

A rare wind was blowing all around me. February in the city picks you up as gently and playfully as the waves and takes you to the edge of the shore of winter. I felt like I was standing in the middle of a swimming pool, only it was filled with moving, insistent air around me instead of water.

When she looked up, she was standing at the threshold of light, surrounded by darkness. The very edge of a station, flowing slowly into light at the other end. A rusty carriage sat on incomplete tracks, a long discarded project of the metropolitan train network and peered at her through unpainted metal bars. On the other side, across the tracks and the other well-lit platform, high over their roofs rose the skeletal inner beams of discarded mills. Like a will being contested over the rotting body of a dead person, the future of the land they stood on was being dueled over, with no thought to the buildings that still were.

Places have memories, don’t they? Memories of lives that have passed, of habits that were housed under these roofs, hidden behind these walls. The paan-stains, the half-buried cigarette butts, sneaky but woeful reminders of escapes, of stolen glee. And then the finality of ashes that came from burning who knows what? Paper? Cloth? Oil? Human beings? There were stories that led to the ashes but there was no way to trace them back. This place had its endings but not all it was in ashes. Everything else was memories that could be traced by anyone who cared to listen, to pick up those strands and imagine where they led. They were stories to be told.

She looked down at her book again, an abrupt swooshing action. The white pages even with their magenta words glared back at her in defiance. Those words meant nothing and in her mind’s eye, she imagined the magenta whorls and lines slide off the pages. Blood, the only thing that would stick. Hold a pen to a nerve and write, he had said. So she turned a page and begun,

Something was burning.

NovelRace Week 5: The Lone Runner

Okay, weekly NovelRace update time. First of all, congratulations to Angad Chowdhry and shomeshome for having completed the race at 1,67,934 and 74,000 words each. These are the first novels to be completed and they signal the start of a new phase in the race.

A conversation with my dad earlier this week made me rethink what I was setting out to do with this race. It isn’t a word race where the more words one has, the better it is. And then there is the pacing. Obviously different people write at different speeds. Mine has been going up and down and I’ve been agonizing over it. But really, it was just a matter of getting my own individual pace right.

I’ve always been an organized person and the whole ‘creativity doesn’t follow a schedule’ idea is one I don’t really buy into. My one terrible late-nighter boosted my wordcount by nearly double but I couldn’t write a word for nearly 4 days after that. It is probably true that at least in the start, when the ideating is happening, you need to give yourself the flexibility of time. But now, I’ve got the ideas more or less in place, it’s about getting them down on paper. For the past few days, I’ve been following a loosely-set time schedule and find I’m quite happy with the way things are progressing.

In terms of actual progress, I’ve managed to ‘tighten’ the book a bit. Some people seem to be going all out to write and plan to edit later. However, my style always involves alternating write-edit-write-edit patterns. I use it in everything from blogposts to presentations and I don’t see why it shouldn’t work now. Each time I return to my draft, I re-read some section of it and rework it in parts. This usually extends a string of thought that I can pursue and write even more from there. It ensures continuity at least in my mind. It is probably the reason why my progress chart goes up and down while most other people’s (yes, I’ve checked!) goes straight up.

While on the progress chart, here’s one reason the NovelRace is really great. It’s not so much about benchmarking myself against others, since writing is a craft and individual to each person. But this is giving me a certain discipline to follow by providing a frame of reference. The deadline, the wordcount and the other players in the race are all part of what’s keeping me going, even if I don’t follow what they’re doing. After all, you need a track, a starting and ending point and other runners to be able to be an athlete. Else, you’re just running.

In terms of what I’ve learnt (isn’t there always a lesson?)…firstly I had a sudden revelation in the form of a new character. This character, the creation and integration into novel of whom took up the better part of my late night, has given my entire novel a new spin. The story and theme don’t change but somehow this person’s inclusion has added a whole new quality to my novel. I’m very happy with it as I’m aware that inspiration does strike suddenly and can be like a jackpot in its results. Still, I’m not going to run after jackpots, I’ve had one already and that’s as much luck as I hope for.

I’ve actually spent far less time writing this week and much more talking about it, thinking about it and just walking around. Walking seems to stimulate my brain processes while also de-cluttering them. And I found when I came back to the draft, I was approaching it with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. What’s more, it is not important to keep writing all day long and all the time. A major part of story-telling is letting the story grow in your own mind and that’s just like gestation. Sometimes you don’t do anything, you just have to wait and let it grow. The actual doing or writing is only one of the many activities associated with the creation and expression of a story.

And finally, a nugget of wisdom again from my father (subject to my “I can’t do this!!” panic attacks and quite used to having to steer me back onto the path after all these years). At one point of time I found my morale really sinking (it must have been burnout from that single late-nighter) and I said,

It’s not like I’m writing a Lord of the Rings. I mean, I’m not bringing the world something really new. And what’s more, I’m not creating most of these characters. They’re all inspired by someone or something I’ve seen in real life. Where’s the creativity in that?

He just smiled and said,

Even Einstein said, “I stand on the shoulders of giants”. No one person can be responsible for any major shift of consciousness or thought, no major endeavour can succeed because of a single person. There are some roles that are more visible than the others but almost everything is done by the collective effort of a group of people. It’s difficult to say why a book turns out well but brand new ideas are not the only reasons it does. Sometimes you just like the way something has been said, some stories you like because you can relate to them so well. You need to decide what it is you want to say and you need to write because it is your passion to, not because you’re trying to please an audience or reach a goal.

Thank you, dad, I really, really needed that. I was approaching the race the way I approach work, with goals and competitors in mind. I had forgotten that I write not because I have to but because I can’t help it. There is a shade of a difference and actually it makes a world of difference in the experience. And I’m not writing this to prove a point, I’m writing because there are stories to be told. Even if they’ve been told before, they’ve never been told in my way, before.

And lastly, my own status. I stand at No.16 with a wordcount of 17,625. After much agony over the unrealistically huge cast, it’s come down to a manageable 13-15. The order of chapters is also falling into place. The best part is that most of these things created themselves. That is to say, certain characters were just not strong enough so they faded away and some emerged stronger than I had conceptualised them. I only really know ‘how the story ends’ with two of these characters and even how they get there is hazy. The others, I’m now just going to trust since they shaped themselves, will go through to the end of their stories as they get told.

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Other NovelRace updates:

  1. NovelRace
  2. Adventures Galore!
  3. If You Fall, Get Up & Run Again!
  4. The Lone Runner
  5. My Characters Are For Real!
  6. The View From The Shoulders Of Giants
  7. So Much In A Name!
  8. Taking A Stand
  9. Everything But The Novel
  10. The Long, Dark Teatime Of The Writing Soul
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