I was browsing my Facebook page and noticed that I’ve managed to come up with several words of wisdom over the past few months through my status updates. Some are topical and have lost their punch but there are several others that I thought merited compilation here on the blog. Since status updates are so ephemeral in nature, do “like” the Facebook page if you’d like the updates as and when they show up.
If not, just taste 15 of them here below. If they seem rather disjointed, keep in mind that they were just nuggets (I hope of something akin to wisdom) that appeared scattered over weeks and months.
**1. Read before you think. Think before you write. Think very hard before you hit publish!
The reading police are coming for ’em young minds because they know what’s best.
Raja Bose, almost thirteen now, has another showdown with his mother. That’s because he is not as docile, as good a boy as his younger brother Sanjeev.
Raja insists on spending the long summer afternoons reading his story books. His recent favourite is the Famous Five series, stories of two boys and two girls and one big dog and how they solve mysteries during their holidays from boarding school.
Sanjeev, the younger one, is more clever. He covers his comic books as soon as his mom comes near the study table. The book he usually uses is a big, fat one that proves a very useful camouflage because the words in the title always pleases his mother: Mathematics Made Fun Grade 5.
They do have fun. The boys have exams to take, textbooks to study and carpentry projects to finish every week—mostly those stipulated by the school. Sometimes the carpentry projects are so complicated that the maid has to be sent to the local carpenter’s to do the intricate parts for a few hundred rupees. The carpenter is a good-natured young man, just a few years older than the boys themselves.
A very difficult question with a myriad different answers I’m sure. Merit, context, luck, things outside of the writer’s control. Yes.
But on the whole, popular writing is popular because it’s smart.
Admittedly, a lot of smart writing never gets popular (or even gets unpopular enough to be popular) but all popular, even infamous writing has something about them that sets them apart and makes people want to read them. Continue reading Secrets of popular writers→
Many of us who like to write are also social. Chances are that if you like to write about people or write in a way that talks to people, you know people and like to be around them.
But there are those who are not social because they haven’t tried, are shy or just like it that way. For such people, the social revolution on the internet, which, at first, had seemed to bestow a lot of power on individuals, has thrown unexpected curve balls.
It has also unleashed a lot of us newbies, used to writing, thinking and generally being socially awkward and staying a hundred miles away from anything that says selling, or promoting, or being a part of the crass realities of the marketplace [smiley face here] into social spaces.
On my shelf is a small book about 5 inches square. It has a brown paper cover with my name on the paper cover. I can’t remember who covered it–me or my brother. Until a few years ago, its binding was as strong as the day it must have come freshly out of the bookseller’s box. It’s Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, an anthology of poems. Continue reading Our little book of poems→
I went to listen to a talk at the New School in Manhattan yesterday. But this post is not about that talk. It’s about something incidental I spotted in our aimless wanderings preceding the event.
It’s about books.
But to understand what I mean you have to listen to my whole rambling story.
I had to take an underground train ride below the Hudson river for about half an hour to cross over to Manhattan from Jersey City.
When I entered the depths of the station on the Jersey City side, bright sunlight was still making the Manhattan skyline shine magnificently across the river. I came out back to the surface of the earth on 6th Avenue at 14th Street on the other side of the river, a bustling thoroughfare full of cars and people and chain restaurants.
I’m used to a certain spacious ambiance around school campuses. But campuses here in the city are very different. When I came out and entered the street off of 6th Avenue on which the building with the auditorium was located, I was surprised. Continue reading Possessing books→
Some of us want to write more, and more, and more in 2013. Others would write less, but well. Some of us would like to become famous writers. Yet others would like to hit that jackpot deal with publishers. Many of us would like to win that literary prize or at least see our names in print in that journal that never publishes anyone. Others would just like to go viral no matter what the subject matter.
I was at the Sacramento airport one bleak winter morning trudging up the escalator managing several scraps of paper in my two hands (ticket, baggage tag, ID to name a few) while balancing my roller-board with my elbow on the moving surface.
I am not a morning person from any angle and I always find early morning flights depressing, more so if they are preceded by long commutes in shuttles and long waits in the dark when you inevitably turn out the first passenger to be picked up by a van at 4 am.
So needless to say, I was yet to appreciate the beauty of the morning.
I think that a lot of current attention on teaching and learning writing is focused on attempts at being successful and on how to write well. Not enough focus is given to understanding failure–why and how we fail to compose a piece properly. Continue reading How to fail better at writing (Part 2)→
Rupa is sixteen years old. Rupa has a lot of passion for life. Rupa thinks she is a writer. Rupa keeps a pocket book handy at all times in case her inspirations escape from the leaky recesses of her brain and she fails to catch them in flight.
So Rupa has been scribbling for a while, mostly about love, passion, roses. At social gatherings, her parents often urge her to read out her poetry. It’s probably her imagination but she’s been noticing a lot of people heading towards the food or feeling suddenly thirsty the moment her parents mention her most recent inspired moments. Continue reading How to fail better at writing (Part 1)→
I was at a huge social gathering this weekend where women were dressed in their choicest attire and men were at their blustering best. There was a lot of noise and a lot of good food deftly travelling on huge trays weaving between the crowds miraculously avoiding dunking someone in a bucketful of gravy.
A million children of all ages swished around the great hall and the stairwells and the tent and the garden like schools of fish about to arrange themselves into different colourful formations, engulfing each old shape into a new one as their direction changed, like the groups of fish in Finding Nemo.
For the longest time, we were talking about how the internet was making us unsocial. Rather than socializing with our neighbours and “real” friends and family, we were running after people we hadn’t even met, talking to them, chatting and exchanging ideas neglecting our real social lives (if we had any).
Or if we had a roaring online life it was automatically assumed that we chose internet social as a kind of consolation prize to real social. People were afraid that spending a lot of time online would lead to depression and unsocial, even antisocial behaviour.
Stereotypes of nerds have abounded in our social imagination a long time, of course. Think of Chaucer’s clerk in the Canterbury Tales with his threadbare overcoat, not speaking a word more than he could help, bent down with the weight of his twenty leather-bound books, a very rare handmade commodity back then. Continue reading How reading has become more social→
This is my space for idle speculation. What’s cool about speculation in this space is that it can be really idle in the true sense. My thoughts don’t need to be developed beyond the heated coffee shop conversation stage, nor need be backed by too much evidence.
From that totally secure vantage point, I decided to rattle around randomly through literary history in my battered, quirky time-machine gathering patterns that might tell us which way our stories might go in the future. Continue reading Where will stories go?→
I’ve been waiting a long time for the PATH train at a station in Jersey City. The train will take me under the Hudson river to mid-town Manhattan. It arrives at last and I get in.
It’s not rush hour exactly though not everyone has got a seat. But it’s not so packed right now that someone will trample over your toes or elbow you out of their way to push themselves into or out of the train.
We had some new furniture delivered the other day. As will happen with deliveries, some chinks and scratches appeared on the varnished surface as an inevitable part of the delivery process. The store sent a very gentlemanly elderly man to paint over the chinks. He had a can of spray with him. He cleaned the surface with sandpaper, readied the spout over the scratched area and asked me a very normal question.
We drove to a quaint little town on the banks of the Hudson with nice little roads lined by painted houses with small well-tended gardens and quaint little antique shops that had their wares displayed on the pavement. The town seemed to be mostly populated by the elderly. We had coffee and freshly baked honey cake at a pretty little coffee shop.
I was sitting at a university library in a small, white cubicle a few years ago. Those cubicles were just big enough for one person to sit in with a ledge that served as a table and a shelf above the ledge that held books. Under the table-like shelf were plug points for laptops. These cubbyholes were highly prized and had to be applied for way in advance. Only very few people ever got one allotted to them. The tops of the cubicles were open and there were locks on every door. The keys were the coveted prize. Continue reading Those scholars in our libraries→