A small town with stretches and stretches of concrete. Shiny cars parked in the sun in clean parking lots with not a soul in sight. Plazas with huge edifices of departmental stores and chain restaurants displaying happy signs with overly happy mascots dozing in the sun with no one to see. Continue reading Settings
Why do you read blogs?
I’ve been wondering. I’m not sure why I read blogs myself!
Why not read articles by established opinionators, stories by reputed writers, whacky visuals on established ads, photographs taken by friends rather than unknown people, instructions on how to do something or solve a problem from established players in a field?
What desires in us, what needs does the blog form satisfy that other forms can’t? What is it doing differently? Continue reading Why read blogs?
Why is storytelling important? Why is it important to learn how storytelling works?
Never mind fiction. Never mind other people’s stories.
Never mind the manipulations of truth that we are subjected to everyday as news.
Never mind those stories that are silenced around us.
No matter what we feel about stories, or how much we hate reading stories, or don’t want to listen to stories, we are constantly subjected to at least one story. We cannot escape the one story that is constantly with us.
Continue reading My stories
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.
So one needs to keep in mind the following bloggers’ maladies: Continue reading Five drawbacks of blogging
Continued from How to fail better at writing (Part 1)
Why examining failure is important
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
I write well. Therefore I must be a writer.
No, that’s not enough.
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
As I noted yesterday, I’m not feeling particularly clever these days. Or as Americans would say, feeling particularly smart.
This was a source of great discomfort at first. Particularly since I’m here in the States now, where everything is so smart. You have smart phones. You have smart washing machines. You have smart apps for grocery lists. You might even see a smart car parallel park itself far outsmarting you very soon.
All this smartness makes a person feel rather dumb. But feeling dumb was not helping as I was trying to write. I was still the writer-frog staring at the big green leaf-blank page in expectation of the fly-words to come by when a thought struck me.
When everyone else is smart, perhaps the smart thing to aspire to is dumbness.
Perhaps dumb is the new smart.
Continue reading On dumbness
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.)
When the blank page wouldn’t go away, I blinked and started thinking about the nature of being clever itself. In a a blog post.
Continue reading Coming up with something clever to say
Social media has been around for some time now. It’s brought many changes in the way we inhabit our social world, in the way we communicate with others, on what being a friend means and on how we get back in touch with people. We find out about what’s going on in people’s lives on a regular basis without actually knowing them much on these platforms.
How do we manage to do this? Continue reading On learning writing from social media
Comments. They have really been around a long time in many other avatars.
Continue reading Five kinds of comments
Continued from: Telling Stories:(Part 1: The Confusions)
The little blind lane on which my parents’ flat is located in Calcutta is very narrow but by no means sleepy. As you pass by the other flats you notice a mixture of old and new buildings. The new buildings rise up perpendicularly–straight from the road–while some of the older buildings have benches made of cement in small verandahs adjacent to the street beyond which the actual rooms start.
As I walk by my eyes glance over the verandahs, the curtains slightly ajar or the doors half open. A woman sweeps her balcony behind the metal “grill” of the railing. A green curtain is half closed behind which I see an elderly man sitting on a wooden bed in front of the TV, his head hidden from my view by the wooden shutter. A section of an old painting shows itself on the wall through a half open door. Voices float out of the homes in various different sharps and flats. I hear pots and pans clanging in the background as the domestics talk loudly to the women of the house as they clean the vessels. A voice floats out. Someone practising singing at dusk with the singing master. [Still has a rather long way to go, I think, that voice, as I pass.] A dog with four newly born puppies lies curled up on a cement bench on a verandah waiting for the domestic help to come out with a bowl of rice.
All bits and pieces of complete stories waiting to be told.
Continue reading Telling Stories (Part 2: The Arrangements)
How is it that you tell a story?
What stories do you tell? What stories get left behind?
A myriad questions come to mind when I try to think of a story. Or stories. To tell.
Ultimately, I stand befuddled in tongue-tied confusion. Wanting to tell all and able to tell none.
All those stories in my head.
Recently, I’ve been able to figure out why. It all dawned on me in a single moment.
I’m getting out of the train at the World Trade Center PATH station. It’s waves of people rushing out the doors stepping out with me meeting waves of faces waiting to get in. It’s waves of arms, legs, backpacks, boots, elbows, yellow caution lines and discarded metro cards on the floor (being trampled on incessantly by boots), a confusion of emergency phones on pillars, maps and defibrillator boxes all rushing at me in the crowd as I move forward.
Then, the feeling of moving up flights of steps and ramps and wide concourses, rising with the tide of people all the while saving my feet and elbows from getting jammed against suitcases on wheels and pointy heels and sharp corners of cardboard boxes. Finally the lightness of being deposited like a cork with the tide at the turnstiles.
Then moving up, and up, and up on the great escalators towards the surface from the bowels of the earth.
It’s then, when I’m very high above the turnstile level that something happens to me and I turn back. Always. Continue reading Telling Stories (Part 1: The Confusions)
Continued from On Writing and Complexity (Part 1)
How do we react to the following writers who might be trying to say they’re happy?
Person A: Awwwww. How sweet. That’s the best thing ever! Red roses are my favourite.
Person B: The flowers made me so happy.
Person C: My felicity was assured by your gesture of goodwill expressed by the earlier mentioned red roses at my doorstep.
Believe it or not, person C’s do still exist amongst us in the twenty-first century.
But usually, in the everyday world, C’s are really A’s or B’s rather insecure about what to write or trying to get an edge over A’s and B’s. What else can they do? It’s a competitive world.
But no matter what their intention, what do these styles make us assume about the people behind them?
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)
Have you ever scrolled through what seemed like a million blogs before you managed to come up with one that seemed worth reading? Have your various feeds been bombarded with numerous posts so that you have wondered if you needed to “unfollow” or “unfriend” someone while the whole time being aware of an uncomfortable feeling that you might be missing out on a few good posts by removing the blogger completely from your feed?
There are bloggers who post too much. We simply don’t feel like seeing them again. And there are bloggers who post too little. They get buried in the avalanche of the prolific post-ers.
It’s not the blogger’s fault. My limited experience with blogging has revealed an inherent contradiction embedded in the very genre of the blog .
Continue reading Blogging: Quality vs. Quantity
When it comes to writing, different people do different styles well. No style is easy be it reflective or expository or informative.
Writing to entertain can take various forms but the most challenging to pull off, according to me, is the humorous.
I’ve been thinking about how to become a more productive writer. Here’s six ways I came up with that could get the creative juices flowing:
Continue reading Six ways to become a more productive writer
I learnt a lot about writing through this blog this summer. But what left me rather awestruck was how meaning travels and takes a life of its own in the blogosphere because the audience is so heterogeneous in every way imaginable.
Continue reading Blogging, writing, meaning
There are many ways that people seem to be using the medium of blogging. What I’ve been attracted to here is mostly the more creative and reflective blogs. By looking at them, I’ve learnt from what different folks have been trying to achieve through blogging. (In what follows, I’m not thinking of the informative, expository kind of blogs.)
For me, this is mainly an exercise in self-exploration to see where I might go with blogging myself. Looking at what other people are doing is a great way to learn and increase the possibilities of my own blog.