Oh, I Juggle!

Home, Family, Success, Peace… Can a woman really have it all?

Archive for the tag “Writing”

Conversation with My Six Year Old

“Amma, what do you want to be when you grow up?” She asks.

“I am already grown up.” I reply.

“But, what do you want to do?” She clarifies.

I think for a while. “I am a mother.”

“No, no. What work do you want to do?” She is getting a little impatient.

“I used to work in a bank and now I stay at home to take care of you and your little brother. Taking care of the family is work too.” I smile.

“Like I want to be a cake decorator, what would you like to do when you grow up?” The influence of watching Masterchef. Also, I clearly needed to brush up some parenting tactics. She refuses to register that I am a grown up.

“I am trying to be a writer and hopefully soon, a published author.” I change course.

“Will you be famous?” She is all bright eyed with excitement. “Will you make lots of money?”

I don’t want her to have high expectations and be let down.

“One can never say. I will do my very best, but someone has to agree to publish my novel. Then, many people have to buy copies. I want to be a writer because I love to write, not just to make money. We can never be sure of how things will happen in the future…”I trail off, thinking of all the complexities of marketing and luck working together.

“Will you be famous or not?” She still expects a clear answer.

I quickly make up my mind, “Yes, I will be famous.” My eyes mirror the shine in hers.

Yes, dreaming is much more fun than being realistic. It makes this long journey of writing a novel more pleasant.

Just as I start wondering how I can slip in a lesson on acting and not just dreaming, she sternly asks me,

“So, how many words have you written today?”

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Writing with Distractions

I like to write with as little distraction as possible. That is one of the primary reasons I decided to become an early riser. No other part of the day can have the calm and stillness of predawn. At 4 am I am in no rush to enter the kitchen and start breakfast and pack lunches. I know I still have a few hours to myself before I need to meet the day head on.

What defeats the purpose of waking up early is the internet. It constantly beckons me. And I give in. Just for five minutes, I promise myself. I check mail and some of the blogs that I follow. And soon the five minutes turn into twenty. Some time back, I created a fan page on Facebook. I am not calling it that, Facebook does. I certainly don’t qualify for fans. Yet. I have clearly chosen ‘writer’ not ‘author’. I have also created a Twitter account. These have added to my morning distractions. Now I check mail, my blog stats, Twitter and see if there are any new ‘likes’ for my FB page. And just like magic two hours vanish and I haven’t made a dent in my word count target.

Sad, because once the day starts I have other, bigger distractions. Ones I cannot choose to avoid. The biggest is the baby, who is now officially a toddler. He has many things to say to me and doesn’t like being ignored. My beautifully organised plans and lists don’t have a chance if the little one decides that he needs to be carried all the time.

Focus is key to getting anything done and writing is no different. I am disciplining myself to have just one word document open while I write. Even checking the dictionary interrupts the flow. I have left that for the second draft. Sometimes the right word doesn’t come to mind. I just describe it and move on. It is so important for me to just get the flesh and bones done first. If the structure is stable, refinement will only be easier.

I now have to figure out some writing discipline for the blog. Dear blogger friends, How do you plan your posts? When do you write?

 

The Importance of Writing Voice

A writing voice is just as unique and distinctive as a speaking or singing voice. If you want your reader or audience to be compelled to read/listen, understand and maybe even enjoy what you are saying, you have to exercise and develop your voice. With a deep and unique voice carrying through your writing, you can aspire to gather readers who will want to return to listen to something new you have to tell.

The writing voice is more than language or style. Somewhat like the spoken voice is different from accent or inflection. To free up the voice one has to train it. I find that my blog voice is different from my fiction voice. Like my Sanskrit chanting voice is different from my English country music voice. All singing helps my voice, but to sing better I spend time practising both of these separately. Once a voice is developed we can hope that our writing does not sound phony, hollow or (heaven forbid!) like someone else.

Try as I might, it is not possible to isolate my writing from myself. My writing, fact or fiction, will reflect many aspects of who I am. That thought in itself is quite scary. But bringing out my real self onto paper is a learning experience. I don’t like to destroy even the worst of what I write. I may not share it with anyone, but everything I write transforms me and helps me grow. I am grateful to technology. Can you imagine how cluttered my house would be if I were to retain every scrap of paper I wrote on?

It is also important to understand why I want to write in the first place. All of us want to be understood and appreciated (and paid 🙂 ). But if that is the sole motivation to write, I don’t think it will carry us through the tough times. The primary reason has to be the joy that writing gives. Yes, I want to write well so that people can pat me on the back and say “well done”. There is still time for that.

I haven’t found my voice yet. Just like in the classical singing that I was taught, riyaaz (practice) is key. The more you flow, the more you grow. Holly Lisle’s article gives ten steps you can take to find your writing voice. The writing games are great as exercises to help train your voice. They free up not just the words, but also the heart. When the heart marinates in emotion, it cultures thought. The voice deepens.

Finding my voice would probably be one of the most important things I do for myself as I begin to walk on the writing path. I might be able to fool others by pretending to be someone else. But, I have found that it is never a good idea to try to fool myself.

 

Mechanics of a Story

Amy Deardon’s ‘The Story Template’ arrived by courier last evening. I am super thrilled!

I have always been fascinated with learning about how things work. The mechanics of machines, food, life, relationships, happiness, anything. I want to break down the processes which go on within. See how they connect. Learn what makes them work together as a whole. The workings of a successful story, I feel no differently about. Even though spontaneous creativity must be valued and cherished, there are certain invisible laws at work which make a story attractive or not. And that is what seems to separate the successful ones from the also rans.

Randy Ingermanson’s book with Peter Economy, Fiction Writing for Dummies is a wonderful book which summarises the essentials of fiction writing. I read and reread the book. I was so much in love with the ‘how to’ aspects that it took a fair amount of willpower to actually create a consistent writing schedule and get started with the actual work. Things started looking up when I decided to become an early riser. It has been nearly a month since I began waking up at 4 am. I cannot begin to extol the benefits. As any busy mother can understand, two solid hours of focus time without any other distractions (kids, doorbell, phone) can make so much difference to a cluttered schedule.

As I work along any project, I keep looking for new inspiration to motivate me. So, instead of spending time writing, I took a break to look for inspiration ;-). I found Amy’s blog. When I learned that she took apart twenty entertaining modern novels and films to study story progression and determine common pathways, I knew that this lady was one after my own heart. I had to have the book in which she captured that learning.

So, here I am, holding it in my hands, excited as a child with an unopened present. Can’t wait to begin reading, doing the exercises and then seeing how I can implement them in the novel, a third of which I have already written.

And if indeed storytellers are born, not made, I will just pretend that I am honing the skill I already have.

Hyderabad Indiblogger’s Meet- June 2012

Stay at home motherhood is a lonesome job. I thought writing would cure that. Found that writing is lonelier still. Wondered if blogging would be the remedy. Even though I write primarily for myself, it does feel like stepping out into the world. The endless possibility of meeting wonderful people. What more could one want?

Dreams turned into reality on Sunday when an in-person meet was organized by Gautam through Indiblogger. I wanted to acquaint myself with all the bloggers registered for the meet before I went. With important guests arriving and my son falling ill, I did not have time and just skimmed through most of them. I knew I had to go. Even if it were only to establish that I still had a life of my own, other than caretaking and homemaking. 

I am fairly new to blogging with just seven posts published. Imagined I would meet a tight group of people who knew each other’s blogs and nothing to say to me. I was wrong. They welcomed me with open arms and hearts. Thank you, Gautam, Crack the Sky, Subho’s Jejun Diet, Gardener at 60, Tilling the Earthwoman, Gaming Garage, Cool PC Tips and Restless Fingers!

Subho said it was fun putting faces to blogs. For me it was more putting blogs to faces once I got home. Maybe it was just as well I did not know that I was among mini celebrities. Instead of basking in the warmth of the good company, I would have been mentally planning how to improve my own writing.

“Kindred Spirits” I smiled to myself as I rode back home.

Are we?

I don’t know.

It will surely be fun finding out!

Handwritten Letters

Ah, the joys of reading a handwritten letter!

My sister and I loved sending each other handwritten letters. Long before the internet revolution touched our lives. Maybe even years after it did. We have now migrated completely to email, Facebook and online chats. Technology keeps us in seamless touch with each others’ lives even though we live on different continents.

But, I am nostalgic thinking of the letters I have got from my sister. I would hold them in my hands and imagine her mood when she penned the words. Looking at her handwriting I would know whether she wrote at leisure or was in a hurry. She would sometimes write down a few spontaneous lines of poetry to end the letter. Draw lips and kiss them. I would press that picture against my cheek and imagine a kiss. Then I too would kiss the letter and as I did I would breathe in the scent, thinking about the journey of this piece of paper. The letter was so much more than the words on it. It was such a wonderful experience.

Communication is the whole package, isn’t it? Emotions expressed so completely that the other understands you. Choosing words to best convey the emotion one feels is an art on its own. And with letters we did put in much more thought. The letters would take time to reach and the next one would be sent much later. Emails reach instantly. We don’t try and make them poetic. We know we can always add new information clicking on ‘reply’. The message is conveyed. Clarifications sought immediately. Replies sent. All in a matter of minutes sometimes.

Yes, I am nostalgic. But not regretful. Because although I miss the good old letters, I know I couldn’t possibly have known what my sister had for breakfast each day if I did not have the internet.

For that I am ever so grateful!

 

*Image credit to True Stories, Honest Lies

The Perfect Alarm Clock

I was at home taking care of my five year old when I decided I needed to find my passion. I was searching for clues to find the one thing I would love to do on a daily basis , possibly make a living out of. The major condition it had to satisfy was, it should wake me up in the mornings. You can guess how difficult it is for me to wake up early in the mornings. This would be the perfect test. If the work excited me enough to make me want to wake up earlier on a consistent basis, I had a winner.

Books have always been the love of my life. I love to read. I love how a page feels between my fingers as I turn it. I love the smell of books, old and new. I love to see row after row of books on shelves in a library. It is not just the words. It is the entire experience of finding something good to read and then reading it.

But when I looked for some pointers for finding my passion, I never thought about books. Although I loved to read and even sometimes wrote to express myself, I didn’t think I would like to contribute in any way to the making of a book or even reading to review it. Putting my writing on display to impress and be judged seemed to take the joy away from it. Analysing a book by splitting hairs certainly did the same for reading.

So, I kept looking. Didn’t find anything worthwhile.

Finally I have decided to give words a try. Conceive, execute, polish and perfect a full length work of fiction. A novel. As I work on it I realize what I had feared. I was afraid that inspirations don’t last. I know now that they don’t. Brilliant writing is rarely pure inspiration. It is the work which goes into polishing the first draft that makes a written piece truly shine.

I ask myself not if I would love to write, but if I would love to revise.

And the answer is, Yes!

 

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