When man looks into a mirror he sees himself. When man looks into a book, what does he see?
When man writes a book, who is he speaking to–to others or to himself?
Why do most people write anyway, when it isn’t a school curriculum, a job requirement or something that provides a living?
Is writing entirely an act of speaking to others? Is there any part of writing that involves listening as well?
I don’t suffer from hubris large enough to claim to have an answer to all of these questions as big and complex as they are. Speculation will only prove my amateurish ignorance within the writing community and so I’d better maintain a discreet silence here.
Writing and I
However, one thing I do know is that a lot of inexperienced writers, myself included, view their own writing as self-expression and self-exposure of one kind or the other.
The simplest of these authors view writing as a way to gain recognition for themselves, be it to millions of readers (as a sort of alternate career dream), or to be valued by friends and family (to gain social stature) or to find value in themselves (as a means to find meaning in their lives). All worthy goals with a single underlying thread.
What makes some quality pieces of writing more shareable than others? What makes some writing go viral while others stay quietly dormant where they started?
Good content is a must for a strong chance at being shared (I can see some rolling their eyes here and I agree. “Good” is a term subject to interpretation. Good here would be a measure of how far the writing has met its own goals which might not not necessarily be aligned with a universal standard of wholesome writing.)
There are too many “how to write viral content” articles out there for me to rehash here again. What intrigues me today is not so much the writing itself but the people involved with the writing in some form or the other–the readers who read, discuss and share–with or without having read the article.
The desire to share
Where does this desire to share come from? Do we gain anything from sharing an article written by somebody else, most often a total stranger? Could we understand the shareability factor of writing by not just looking at the writing itself but at the people who share? Is this new phenomenon really as new as it sounds? Continue reading Why we share and what can go viral→
Many of us just know we have it in us to produce some good writing of value. Yet, either anxiety doesn’t let us get there or makes us so slow that there’s no progress over long periods of time.
Some of us lose ourselves in the rituals we develop around writing–getting coffee, cleaning our desks, decorating a study room. Others wait for the perfect moment when writing will appear with the muse.
I’d say the only thing that can exorcise writing anxiety is a few pages of writing itself. And the only thing that can make you better at writing is more writing. Lots of it.
I’ve been meaning to find a topic to write about that will make people sit up immediately and say, “Here! I can’t ignore this. I can’t scroll down. I have to read this. You can’t stop me from reading this!”
But alas, as I’m rummaging through topics, turning them in my head, checking them for possibilities, I can’t think of a single one that can prove to be the common denominator between me and other people. Continue reading Topics that make you popular→
Imagine a moment in a story in which the protagonist finds his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. Imagine a story in which a woman falls in love with a guy through chats and comments and pictures and fantasizes about the rest of her lover in her mind. Imagine a story involving an online stalker who is everywhere and nowhere. Imagine a story of artistic melancholy where life feels fragmented and fake like a Facebook wall.
Would these stories be comprehensible to a reader without any online experience? As Lloyd Alexander has said, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” While our fantasies stretch beyond our imaginations, their raw materials have to have their foundation in experience. The sensibilities that the above stories depend on can only exist because our online worlds exist and we have some experience of it. These experiences can hardly be separated from the form and content of these stories. Continue reading Writing and online experience→
I was looking to widen my horizons through reading literature recently and look what I found outside the book!
A stretched world that’s already shrunk so small that I don’t know where to look to expand my mind anymore.
I saw people in Washington Square Park yesterday eating South Indian dosas wrapped like a Mexican burrito from a street vendor and I read in the news that they got 3G on top of mount Everest at last. Continue reading Why I don’t read literature→
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.
Is it possible to deal with a topic in depth in a single blog post and still be read by a substantial number of people on a blog platform? Or is a blog post meant to be short, striking, entertaining for a moment, even intriguing, merely pointing to something more extensive and detailed? Is it meant to just keep people updated, a “Hello! I’m here” as opposed to “Hey! I’m here to visit and here’s my luggage. I plan to settle in for a while.” Continue reading Short blog posts or long ones?→
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→
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→
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air. (from “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray)
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→
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?
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.
I, like so many others, have been affected by hurricane Sandy although I was touched much, much more lightly than most. I just got back my internet connection (at least it seems so at the moment). I’ll resume my blog posts as soon as I can.
Thanks for the overwhelming response to my previous post.