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Six Stages of the Writer in Me

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Six Stages of the Writer in Me

These are the stages (and some difficulties) I go through as a writer of novels (having written a second one, both unpublished and a couple of partially completed novels as well, the stages been pretty standard every time)

  1. The excitement following the conceptualisation of a theme, building characters, the plot. I can’t wait to start writing the novel. I am so excited that I may even dump other half-done projects quite unceremoniously.
  2. The writing part. The creative energy flows. The characters that had been lurking in my mind comes alive with their many foibles, troubles and problems. The first parts of the jigsaw puzzle pieces come together.
  3. Period of uncertainty. Half-way through the novel, the plot isn’t thickening the way I wanted it to. I worry that it doesn’t meet my initial expectation. This is also the period when a project can go into limbo if another better and seemingly more thrilling story has popped into my head.
  4. I persist. I plod on tapping away on my keyboard. The story has to move on and reach the end I must. I suddenly see that the word count isn’t in keeping with the ideal number of words for that kind of genre. So I ease down a bit. In my worry that this may also be one of those has-been projects, I’ve been going at it too quickly.Hence the shorter narratives.
  5. Another reason I’ve been hurrying up is that I can’t wait to get to the end. It is exciting for me as well to know how the last bit will turn out (although I know it in a gist). Quite a bit of the story has written itself by this time. New thoughts have arrived during the writing process. New characters have introduced themselves with a promise to fill in a certain unforeseen loophole that needed to be fixed.
  6. The end. Phew! Quite a ride it was. I remember a point in time when the whole story and plot had the makings of a best-seller. But I am not so sure about that any more. Only time will tell. Meanwhile I am happy I even wrote it down. It wasn’t all that easy and I managed to get it done. So I pat myself on the back and give myself a treat because I just wrote myself a story.

A mother is born

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When the nest goes empty

The cord is cut and the doctor announces over the silence that follows the din: ‘It’s a baby girl/boy.’

After nine months or more of waiting anxiously, your little one and you are two separate entities. Your carefree life changes overnight, if this is your first baby. You have to schedule your needs and wants around this new entrant’s whims. Your days are never the same again, and mostly neither are the nights. You take on this delightful new life with certain ups and downs, misgivings amidst the zillion highs of motherhood – the first smile, the first word, first steps and so on. Every time the baby becomes less dependant, another invisible cord is cut.

Three or four years down the line, your child is ready to go to school. From the moment, he or she held your hand, you have never let go, unless someone you know well and was responsible enough was taking over. For the first time, you let go of those tiny fingers and hand them over to a total stranger. Another cord has been cut.

The first signs of the child turning independant go unnoticed. By now, they are going down to play by themselves, travel by school bus or walk there on their own, go away for several days on school excursions and finally one day they walk out of your home to create their own life. And you never saw that coming, even when you knew from the first moment that it was a given.

So now what? Waiting for them to visit you so that you can relive the old glory – mothering, pampering, fussing and pretending that the invisible cord still exists and binds you?  For even when the child is free of that bondage, once a mother, you are bound for life. That in its stead will nurture a new kind of love – a selfless one. And when you gave up your carefree life, you also gave up a part of yourself. For it wasn’t just a little human being you gave birth to. It was a tiny bit of your heart that took on life and went on its separate way.

Tempting the Muse

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Tempting the Muse

Here’s some good news. A dead muse can be brought back to life. When I started writing in 2003 I was on a roll. The ideas came faster than I could write them. I still have them all written neatly in not one but two books. I wrote about two short stories a week, could edit them without a problem as well. At the same time, I heard people talk about their own creative juices failing them. Their Muse was missing, they lamented. As far as I was concerned, the Muse was a myth—the excuse of the unmotivated writer. I know now, it is not. Idolize it, worship it, pamper it, plead with it, do what you will — but never ever lose it!!! And if you lose it, reclaim it as quickly as you can.

 hiding muse

So here are a few pointers for those who write or strive to write.

  1. Lethargy is a big enemy. Idling away time is another big one. Recently with so many ways of socializing and staying in touch with friends, we have a thousand distractions especially at those moments when it’s not a great idea to be distracted. Earlier you only had a phone or a doorbell that rang. Now there are so many other things that go ping, beep and whir. And it’s oh-so-difficult not to make that one last comment on a post or send just one email before you wind up. I’ve tried my best to beat distractions. I’ve tried not to be lazy on most days. But the thing is, the more you focus on not becoming a victim to these vices, the more you succumb to the pressure. A few possible solutions –

a)      Keep your things set and ready as soon as it’s possible. Seeing your computer on with the document open on it, your manuscript laid out on a desk with highlighters,  pencils, erasers, post-its or your painting material just waiting to blend into a new masterpiece works like magic!!!

b)      Write an agenda for every week and every day. Try and stick to it as much as possible. Remember on days when you’ve achieved the most success, the sense of satisfaction would be enough motivation to make such days happen more frequently.

c)       Your networking time can happen during breaks. Work first, take your break after that. Spend just about enough time and then get back to work. Never ever tire yourself out with either of these activities though.

d)      Routines are good most of the time. Just make sure they don’t become tedious. If you are easily bored then change them frequently.

 

2.        Most writers started writing not because they wanted to be published. Most writers started writing because of their love of the written word, their need to express themselves or just to tell stories. In fact I feel most people have an inherent writer within, leave aside language skills and vocabulary. To find a channel to get your written material across to others, get in touch with those that are skilled enough to critique your work or even edit it for you, join a writing group. But at the end of the day, remember that you write because you need to write. You love writing.

 

3.       To publish a book, you need more than just talent. There are so many other things that count. And good luck tops the list!

4.      Remember all your friends can’t be trying to please you when they say what you wrote is good. There must be one or two that will have a thing to say about it if it wasn’t. And when they do, listen to them. Your critic need not be a writer either. Sometimes readers are better judges of a good book or a bad one because they just read to enjoy, they don’t read to judge.

5.       If you feel the need to join a short-term workshop or writing class, ensure the credentials of the people conducting the same are in place. Just being an author does not justify one in conducting a workshop. Teaching skills are quite different from writing ones. I’ve been to an awesome, interesting and peppy workshop. And I’ve been to a miserably awful one. The latter took away every ounce of confidence that I had as an author at that point in time. So research them before you join them.

6.      Even Virginia Woolf thought it was alright to ‘write badly’ says Danell Jones in her book ‘The Virginia Woolf Writers Workshop: Seven lessons to inspire great writing’. The thing is you learn from what you wrote wrong. One should never stop writing even if one thinks it’s not sounding good or going the way s/he wants it to. I’ve always realized that while writing longer fiction the first few chapters are what challenge every bit of determination and self-reliance one has. Once you are past that, nothing can stop you. So just keep writing. Don’t bother to look back once that’s done and keep those fingers tapping away on the keyboard.

 Muse coming back

And remember, the keyword is ‘enjoy’ !!!