I simply decided to write for writing’s sake today. No ideas, no context, no organization with little attention to style. While the rest of the world seems to demand a topic, an awareness of an audience, perhaps a point to the whole exercise, my blog is the only place I can breathe a little, think of as my own little corner in a largely point-driven world, literary or otherwise where I can simply chat, if only with myself. Continue reading To myself→
There’s a lot of advice out there on how digital writing differs from traditional writing. Whenever a new way of expression is discovered, our response is exuberance and wonder at what current technology can do. Often, that kind of discussion spawns a myriad other discussions and rightly so.
In my early days of blogging, I was often overwhelmed by a sense of wonder at how far my writing traveled. When I saw the names of all those countries listed on the stats page about where people were reading my blog from and sending me heartwarming comments, I was amazed. I expressed my new-found wonder in a post called My Blog Audience where many readers shared similar feelings about their writing.
As I progressed with my blog through the months, I got more and more used to the fact that while it was my day, my reader could be reading at night. While it was summer where I was, my reader could be shaking off snow from his boots somewhere. While the country I was in might be at peace or engaged in a distant war, my reader might be not be in such fortunate circumstances.
Getting used to the novelty of an experience is inevitable but it can be very dangerous for one’s writing. Leaving aside other considerations where a sense of wonder aids the writing process in today’s digital age, failure to remember the diversity of your readers and their backgrounds can take away important nuances from your writing and prevent it from reaching its potential for readers.
But here is a paradox. As a writer you must be comfortable showing who you are or where you’re coming from or what your own concerns are because there is nothing so boring as a colourless, generic piece of writing. The writer’s identity remains important in digital spaces while the potential reader’s identity needs to be given more of a free range than earlier in our digital age. Continue reading Digital Writing and Diversity of Audience→
It’s a rainy day today. The river is gray, the air is dense and foggy and the drenched people huddled under their umbrellas also seem bereft of colour. It all reminds me of a line from O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi when the young woman saw a “grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard.”
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.
One of the biggest challenges of writing a good blog is the challenge of catering to different kinds of readers.
I don’t know if everyone would agree, but the act of writing a blog itself implies that the blogger is someone who believes in democratization of knowledge, especially with regard to access to reading and writing and cultural practices that are understood as important.
In other words, this means the writer cares about reaching a wider audience through their blog than simply being restricted to a select few with a taste aligned to that of their own. The blogger has respect for and aspires towards appealing to a wide audience. Continue reading The Neapolitan Blog for Different Audiences→
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 things just become better with practice. I never realized the importance of this dictum until I started this blog myself.
There were some tenets of writing on the web that I knew theoretically but never really felt the importance of until I put those ideas into practice myself.
Through numerous trials and errors and experimentation, I’m afraid, on my extremely generous readers, who have always been ready with their good words, I’ve come to make the following observations about blog writing specifically and writing on the web generally: Continue reading Improve your writing on the web→
In an earlier post, On learning writing through blogging, I wrote about the benefits that blogging has brought me. I still stick by my idea that blogging is beneficial overall. But having said that, once the exuberance of maintaining a blog has subsided, I do think there are a few caveats related to the blog form that regular bloggers need to be aware of. This might be even more true of new writers who might be getting into a mould through repeated writing that will set their habit for life.
Imagine a place where all roads are numbers. Imagine a school where all the kids sit in order of their heights and all kids greet each other in alphabetical order. Imagine a neighbourhood where kids no longer play but only have play dates. Imagine a country where all tunnels are the same height and all bridges are the same width, where all buses are numbered and all underground trains are tagged with alphabets. Imagine a river with clearly cut banks in straight lines and trees that bend on cue with the wind. Continue reading Writing efficiency→
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)→
A while ago I was trying to dream up a story. In the story, my young hero’s sister has an arranged marriage and moves to the United States from India. I could dream up the humdrum of the colourful wedding, of the bridal finery, of the perspective of the female protagonist’s reaction to the whole cacophonous affair. But as my mind travelled to the inside of this sister’s head, I drew a blank.
What was going through our sister’s head moving to a new country with a strange man? Did she feel powerless not being able to be the engine of her own destiny? Did she feel empowered by the social status that a good groom and a good marriage bestowed on her? Did she feel lost? Did she feel regret at not having pursued her studies or training further on her own? What would she do now? Continue reading Characters from the inside of your head→
Those of us who may still be young enough to think about our career approach towards writing and bold enough to believe that we can make a livelihood out of it (or at least a life by which I mean derive satisfaction in or find a vocation through writing) need to focus on our writing persona as early on as possible.
It’s not enough to believe we can write and have some proof that others enjoy what we write. Being able to entertain or inform others is a great sign of encouragement no doubt and certainly helps us along on the path to good writing. But we all know what an uphill battle it is from the point we find out we are good to the point where others are willing to take us seriously.
We need to explore who we are as writers very well before we invest a whole lot of time and emotional involvement on a path that provides very few tangible rewards most of the way. By exploring our own writing persona I mean finding out what we want to do or enjoy doing and what we can actually do and achieve through writing. Continue reading Explore your writing persona→
I’ve been trying to come up with something clever to say for a while. Something that will make readers either go “Wow! Why didn’t I think of that!” or “I’ve always thought of that but Bottledworder said it first. Shucks! ”
In case you didn’t figure it out yet, I’ve been trying my best to be smart, funny and presentable all this while. Sometimes presentable light. Sometimes presentable intense. Sometimes presentable knowledgeable.
If I was a natural, this would be easy. But as you’ve also probably figured out by now, the presentability slips frequently for I am none of the above in reality. So obviously, I’ve had to think a lot and think hard about being clever.
But instead of my words coming out witty or funny or intense or heavy or whatever it is that I am, I was staring at a bit of a blank page. Like the frog that had seen the fly on the big leaf in the garden. Waiting. A long time. (Is there a story like that? An Aesop’s fable? If not, there ought to be.)
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.
I had the good fortune one of these days to help a friend edit his dating profile. He is a good looking, normal enough, fairly interesting guy but this is what he had as his killer writeup. He was sure that the following would have droves of women impressed:
I am a goal oriented, driven, optimistic, hard working, funny individual. I like hiking, biking, travelling and reading. Favourite book: Life of Pi.
Now, when he told me his favourite book was Life of Pi, I could not deny it. I had seen a copy of the same on his bookshelf in his living room. The goal orientedness probably came from the objective statement of his scintillating resume. As for the rest, well, he did have a sense of humour. When people laughed at his jokes. Continue reading On Writing and Complexity (Part 1)→
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→