Thursday, January 29, 2015

A post and a commitment


Time and again I’ve read advice from various bestselling authors to wannabe bestselling authors about the art of writing. Well, actually, the craft of writing, because apparently it’s more a craft that can be learned than something artistic that is innate. Anyway, the advice is that if you want write, the only way to get writing is to get writing. What the famous ones differ on is the how and when of writing – some of them say they write as and when the mood takes them for as long as the mood takes them, while others treat it like any other job and have set hours of the day (or night) in which they write, like it or not. Pretty much like you would go to work every day, like it or not – especially if you wanted to earn a living.

So far so good.

(Aside: Am I the only one who feels that the previous paragraph reads like a sample from one of those “essays” on common topics that school students in 1980s/1990s India would “study” for exams?)

The thing about that advice is, I’ve always wondered just how one would “just sit down and write”, when one has no clue what to write about.

To which the answer, apparently, is: “Just write”. Oddly, it is the act of writing that takes top billing – making sense is not the aim. This just seems like so much bull doodoo, because what’s the point of writing if what’s being written isn’t coherent or understandable? I know how to write crap, thank you very much, but it’s not what I want to do. What I want is to write not-crap in a non-crappy sort of way – i.e, something interesting written succinctly and coherently that appeals to readers, whether that writing is fiction or non-fiction.

A few years ago, a friend of mine, who’s always bubbling over with creative enthusiasm and comes up with great ideas in all sorts of spheres that take her interest, came up with a competition for her blog readers. Basically, she would provide a “starter” storyline - say, something like “Padmaja’s most treasured possession was a little wooden box with a ball of wool in it. Why?”  - and people would then expand on it and send in their stories.

I really enjoyed that project of hers, because it exercised my writing muscle every week and forced my imagination to work as well. There were no prizes or anything, apart from the satisfaction I got from using her creativity to fuel mine. All of my stories were pretty short – admittedly, I may have a problem with sustained writing – but some of them were actually really good (in my defence, I can recognise good writing, whether my own or other people’s). At any rate, I was very proud of my little babies. 

That project, unfortunately, only carried on for a few weeks – otherwise I might well have become a successful published author by now with an extremely sleek and well-exercised writing muscle. And if you’re wondering, of COURSE it’s her fault that I’ve not been writing creatively! Well, you don’t think it’s mine, surely?

*sigh* Of course I’m kidding. It’s nobody’s writing block but mine. However, I’m going to make a public declaration of the kind I normally NEVER make (because once you state your intentions aloud - or in a manner visible to others - you’re forced to follow through or look like an idiot… right?).

Anyway, I’m going to find a prompt on the Internet that appeals to me (if nothing occurs to me from within) and write a post on this blog every week to build up my creative writing ability once again. That it will also more or less resurrect this blog will be a happy side effect. Hopefully a reader or two will come along again to appreciate my effort (or not – I’m not expecting to be universally loved). You wouldn’t want me to be my own best fan or my own only critic, would you?