An Amateur Writer’s Blah Blah on Writing :)

“I think the writer has to be responsible to signs and dreams. If you don’t do anything with it, you lose it.” – Joy Williams

I didn’t get any particular sign or dream as such. Just a lot of complaints from my sister. And, maybe, one article which could possibly have been a sign – On Not Writing.

Whenever I resume blogging, I also make an effort to catch up on posts by bloggers I like/follow and the Freshly Pressed posts. Apart from giving me a sense of getting back on track, it also leads me onto thoughts I want to write about. One such post which I read (the last time I resumed blogging) was Finding your writing voice over at Wanton Creation. The reason for being drawn to it was: I had had the same line of thought and was planning to blog about it (which never happened, alas!). So, I was surprised to see a post on the same topic, with similar thoughts!

There is something I always notice when I read articles or blog-posts – the writing style. Even though I must have been doing it all along, it’s something that I realized very recently. It might be my passion for writing or maybe, just something I’ve grown to do as a result of my reading. Whatever maybe the reason, I’ve come to realize that the first thing I notice and appreciate about a piece of writing is the writing style, the way in which the writer has put forth his views. Also, I believe, that is what helps maintain my interest in the piece. However interesting a concept might be, I cannot bear to read on if I don’t like the way it’s written. Once I realized this, I was curious. Curious about what exactly led me to like a particular way of writing, what factors I looked for in a piece…and most importantly, what was my writing style, how would I judge it, how do people judge it? The latter’s a thought for another day, though.

It’s not easy to write something that engages a reader till the end. And it’s definitely not easy to make it good enough to leave a mark on the reader’s mind or provoke them to think about it. So, then, what draws a person to read a certain piece of writing (Note: I’m not talking about books here)? Let me list out 5 qualities in writing that do the trick for me:

1) Humour – It works every single time. Use humour to present your concept/thought and I bet it will get through to your readers. It works splendidly for me!

2) Simple yet compelling language – I would never want to read something that is filled with complex or generally unused words. That’s not to say I’d like something plainly written either. Attaining that balance between simple and compelling language  is tricky but I believe that is what could reach out to readers. On that note, let me also add : grammatical & spelling mistakes are a firm turn-off when it comes to reading something. (Not that I’m perfect at it!)

3) Keeping it personal – Now, this is a factor that ALWAYS draws me to a piece of writing – the writer’s ability to connect to the reader by maintaining a certain personal touch. Instead of an article that is completely factual and impersonal, I’d opt for something that has a personal element, an article wherein the writing seems to communicate to me, engaging me in what the writer is saying. In short, I should be able to feel that the writer is talking to me through the piece.

4) Short and sweet –  Never mind the ‘sweetness’, but I certainly do prefer articles that aren’t too long. It isn’t really about having time to read it. For me, it’s more about whether a long article will be able to hold my attention, whether it will be worth the effort. More often that not, I have strayed off halfway through a long article and just skimmed through the rest of it. So, the phrase “short and sweet” is highly relevant to me.

5) Flow of Writing – The way the concept is developed from one paragraph to another or, in simple words, the flow of writing is another factor that helps in maintaining my interest in an article. Disconnected or disrupted flow of thoughts usually make me leave halfway through the piece.

So, those are the 5 elements of writing style that capture my interest in an article.

What are yours? Do care to share.

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Let’s Talk Books

Hasn’t it been quite a while since I last did some book-talk? Considering my love for ranting about books, I reckon it has been far too long. So, here goes. I read two books in the past nearly-two-months. ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown and ‘The Secret Scripture’ by Sebastian Barry.

For anyone who has read the earlier books by Dan Brown, Inferno won’t be particularly impressive, I believe. The twists and revelations lack impact. By the end, even the basic plot seems a little vague and over-the-top. Also, unlike his other books, I felt this one had some parts which just didn’t make sense to me.  Inspite of the fact that it is an action-packed thriller which takes you through a beautiful city (Florence), always offering new bits of information and keeping you engaged, I have to say that I didn’t feel an affinity towards it. One possible reason might be the repetition in the main elements that define a Dan Brown book – the 24-hour time span, the action, the narrative, the basic thread of the plot, the interweaving of history, art, places and facts and even the outline of the main characters. Some of the situations failed to excite me solely because of their repetitive nature. Inferno is definitely not going to be on my list of favourites.

Coming to ‘The Secret Scripture’ (a critically acclaimed novel by Sebastian Barry) , it’s a book that surprised me. When I started off, I instinctively knew that I’d find it slow, intense and a tad complicated. Not an easy-breezy read, that is. I wasn’t wrong. I found it sort of dull. I kept expecting it to wear off. But, even when I was halfway through it, the dullness persisted. The book failed to draw me into it; I just didn’t feel that urge to go on reading, to know what was going to happen. That’s when the surprising element of the book came into play.

Sometime towards the second-half, the characters started ‘coming to life’, their situations gaining an intensity I hadn’t perceived till then and I could sense myself feeling for the characters. Towards the end, I was very deeply into it. So much that I couldn’t help feeling a bit reeled by the climax, taken aback by the sudden developments. When I began reading The Secret Scripture, I had my doubts about liking it. But, now, I still think about the characters and their lives, long after having finished the book. Do I need to add that I absolutely loved it?

“It is very difficult to be a hero without an audience, although, in a sense, we are each the hero of a peculiar, half-ruined film called our life.” 

[A note, in case you decide to read it: Have the patience and perseverance to go on reading even if you find it slow initially.]

The book I’m currently reading is the latest book by Khaled Hosseini – ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. It’s amazing, so far. It is emotionally intense, bit more than the previous two books. Or maybe it’s just because I’m too deep into it. Anyway, Hosseini has outdone himself, once more! Another thing I loved about it is that there is a change in the narrative, the way the story is told. More about it, once I finish.

What have you been reading? 

 

Rain, Rain, Come Again :)

It’s night-time. Dark, silent (almost) and a tiny bit eerie. I don’t remember the last time I stayed up to blog. Since afternoon, there have been so many thoughts in my mind that I can’t help but sit down and let them out. Considering how lazy I can be, it surprises me that I’m staying up to write about some random thoughts I had earlier during the day. Maybe the fact that I could not go to sleep without doing this shows how much of an impact these thoughts have had on me.

I had been feeling quite low for the past couple of days.

Today afternoon, while walking back home with a friend, it started drizzling. It wasn’t unusual (it has been raining on and off during the past few weeks) or sudden (it has been cloudy for a couple of days). But it changed something within me. It felt good. I felt an urge to stay out in the rain for a while longer. It evoked a kind of happiness in me that I can’t seem to explain. It was not an overwhelming emotion…just plain happiness. A good feeling within, just a sense of being content and happy with wherever I was at that particular point in life. I went up to the terrace and sat there for a while. The rain had stopped by then but I knew it wouldn’t be long before it returned. At that moment, sitting there, watching the sky and lost in thoughts, I felt a deep sense of contentment with life. Almost like I was living solely in that moment. Even though I believe in the concept of living one’s life fully and in the moment, I have to admit that I hardly ever come across moments like this. And when I do, they touch me far deeper than ever; they leave me filled with thoughts that demand to be let out! (Right now, I feel flooded by so many thoughts, I don’t know which ones to let out!)

Since it was the rain that led to this “outpour” of thoughts, I suppose I’ll let rain take the limelight here. Today, while it was raining, I had so many thoughts going through my mind…and when I paid attention to these passing thoughts, I realized that they were mostly vivid memories, all related to rain. Some of them were almost long-forgotten. I thought I’d list out a few, to pore over on some other rainy day.

Rain reminds me of:

1) How I used to long for rainy days during childhood. I loved floating paper boats in the puddles, getting drenched in the rain (although that rarely happened) or just listening to the rain falling outside. Since rain wasn’t very common, I used to love whenever it rained, even if it meant mess and mud and dampness.

2) Schooldays! I loved going to school on rainy days. Inspite of the fact that I hated getting my feet wet, I enjoyed rainy school days. I used to love the small puddles on the school ground. Not the messy corridors, though. We used to make excuses or happily carry out errands for the teachers, just to get out of class and go out in the rain.

3) Quite contrary to school time, I hated rain during college. Perhaps because there was an excess of it! I dreaded going to class on rainy days. I hated the muddy paths, the drenched uniforms, the cold, everything! One distinct memory is of an instance when one moment, we  (classmates) were all walking slowly, ‘navigating’ around muddy puddles and talking, and the next moment, it started raining cats and dogs, and we ran to find shelter, splashing mud all around (need I add we ended up looking very much pitiable).

4) Songs. Experiences – Every time it rains, the first song to come to mind is Unnai Kandane (Parijatham). It has become almost synonymous to rain. Apart from all the memories of travelling on rainy days or of curling up in the bed, listening to the rain outside, another rainy experience I’ll always remember is the one I had while I was at Kochi – going up to the terrace with a PGmate/friend and enjoying the rain.  Evidently, it was good enough to make me blog about it. The memory and the post, in particular, have immense significance for me!

5) And now, rain will always remind me of today and the happiness it brought forth in me. Because it happened at a point when I badly needed it. Or perhaps, because it made me see things I had been overlooking, like the need to be happy by oneself.

So, what does rain remind you of? 

 

 

Randomly Amusing

I’ve been away for so long that it almost feels like I’m blogging for the first time.

As usual, work’s been eating up most of my time and even if I want to blog during the weekends, I can’t seem to find the inspiration to do so. Although, there’s been no lack of ideas!

Work’s been going fine. Yes, it’s still tiring and leaves me with less time for myself and a sore throat. But there are certain moments of clarity that make me realize how much I love [the major aspects of] what I’m doing.

Anyway, this is going to be a random blah-blah post, about nothing in particular.

On Thursday, I had my first Parent-Teacher meeting. As a teacher. Right when I stepped into school, all tensed about meeting the parents, I saw one of my favourite teachers. It felt great seeing her after so long. She was surprised to know I was working as a teacher.  So, the evening started off on a good note. The meeting went well. I was, literally, gushing about most of the students, trying not to blurt out anything stupid that would belie my serious demeanour. Well, I admit I did have some moments of silly comments. But, on the whole, it went far better than I expected (and feared).

Talking about students, there were a few interesting, amusing comments I heard in class, which I wanted to blog about.

* As part of the special programmes put up for the school’s 27th birthday, there was a skit by some senior students, focussing on the rape-issues happening in India. That day, while having a random conversation in Class 3, I asked them if they understood what the ‘moral’ behind the skit was. A lot of them raised hands, volunteering to answer. Some responses I got were:

“Save the Earth!” (We had an Earth Day celebration two weeks prior to it; so maybe the kid connected both, hence the response)

“We should all be friends, not enemies” (Close enough, in a way)

“Save the girls!” (The kid had no response when I asked “From what should the girls be saved?”)

I just smiled at their reactions. How do you make a 8-year-old understand the concept of rape and the need to stop it from happening? Perhaps, it’s better to keep their innocent minds untainted by the malice of the world. Atleast for now.

Another interesting incident was –

In a particular activity, the students had to rearrange some jumbled letters to form words and then fill up sentences using these words. One sentence was: ‘This is the ________ where Krishna lived. (Hint – a p l c e) [Answer is, obvioulsy, place]

A kid came to me, saying he didn’t know the answer. I told him it’s easy, to try once more and read the sentence out loud. His reply: “Ma’am, I’m Christian (Krishna being a Hindu god).” I smiled at his innocent comment. I explained that religion was not the context and told him how to do it. But I couldn’t forget his reply. It still makes me smile. It will take some time for them to realize it’s wrong to consider religion as a basis of difference.

So, with memories of such seemingly-small incidents, I go on from one day to the next. Let’s hope it won’t take very long for me to come up with the next post.

Figuring Out

Everyday, I open up the ‘Add New Post’ page, thinking the sight of it might inspire me or push me to write out something. But it has been nearly two weeks now. Ann told me that I must blog something today. And then, I found this Freshly Pressed post today, in which the blogger experiences a similar lack of  inspiration to write (due to different reasons, though). In my case, I just don’t find that spark, that inner need to write, to let out my thoughts. I do have stuff to say, but I just can’t seem to find the will to do it.

I’m trying to figure out what I should do next, in terms of a course/further studies. I want to let myself take time and come up with it, but meanwhile, it kind of depresses me to think that I’m in the middle of nowhere, right now…with no idea of where to turn to, what to do next. I’m sure it’s normal, but I’m still trying to come to terms with it. So, I suppose all that inner turmoil is the actual culprit behind my lack of motivation.

Someone once told me that we don’t really need to be taught anything; all that we need to know or learn is within us. It might be true, because sometimes when a person tells me something, I get this feeling that I had already known it, and just needed someone to remind me of it.

I had been unable to understand why I was so moody and disturbed. And then, while reading ‘Like the Flowing River’ by Paulo Coelho, I came across this situation (a comparison to life) in it, and it struck me: “This is my problem! I knew it all along but I needed to be reminded, be told about it (in this case, read it).” So, this was what enlightened me –

“The Persian poet Rumi once said that life is like being sent by a king to another country in order to carry out a particular task. The person sent may do a hundred other things in that other country, but if he or she fails to fulfill the particular task he or she was charged with, it is as if nothing had been done.”

The age-old problem of finding one’s purpose in life. I realized that I’m plagued disturbed. Because I couldn’t figure out what exactly I was supposed to do. That constant feeling of ‘something missing’ or

Found this online. LOVED it! 🙂 Made me smile!

‘something not right’ – that’s what is disturbing me. And I also realize that it is upto me to put it right. And that it can’t be forced. So, while that goes on, I’m trying to enjoy this phase. Trying to get over the sense of loneliness and purpose-less-ness.

I’m sure all of you must have gone through this. So, tell me, how did you get over it or sort it out? 

Another Feather in my Blogger’s Cap :)

Olaaaa! (Merlin effect; Olaa used to be her ‘Hello’ for a while…I miss her). 

Guess what? Susan from mywithershins has nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award! And, like always, it has made my day! Thank you so much, Susan. It’s a great big deal, especially because I haven’t been very consistent in my blogging lately. Heartfelt apologies, readers. But, after work and everything, at the end of the day, I feel so drained. And so not in the mood to sit and write out something that makes sense. Anyway, thanks again, Susan for dropping by often, sharing your thoughts and, of course, for your most generous nominations.

Accepting this award comes with certain rules, as always. Apart from linking back & thanking the person who nominated you, it involves sharing 7 random facts about yourself and nominating 7 other bloggers. So, let’s get going.

7 Random Facts About Myself

1. I love sharing random facts about myself, because then I have to think more about myself, come up with uniquely random facts that I can share out here.

2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Lucky Ali. I’m fascinated by him, his life, his voice, his music, his thoughts…basically, everything about him. It’s something I can’t explain.

3. I’ve realized that I don’t want to restrict myself to one specific career line for a whole lifetime, that I want to try my hand at a lot of different things. After reading The Zahir by Paulo Coelho, The Best Laid Plans and The Sky Is Falling by Sidney Sheldon, I’ve always harboured a love, a secret desire to work as a war correspondent, someday.

4. Some of my perceptions are contradictory to each other, which kinda confuses people when they try to understand me. For instance, I’m not very fond of kids but I love the act/process of childbirth. There was a time when I considered going for obstetrics (even though it didn’t last for long).

5. I can go on talking about books, movies, music and my perceptions… And by go on, I mean go on forever!

6. Ever since I started blogging actively, I have been checking out a hell lot of other blogs. And I have, slowly, developed a love for photography. Kiran and a colleague found it natural that I should be interested in it, but the realization was sort of surprising for me.

7. Kiran shared this quote on Facebook. And I fell in love with it.

“You are the universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while” – Eckhart Tolle

Now, for the 7 lucky nominations. Do check out these blogs! I think they are awesome!

Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices 

Tinkerbelle

Gargi Sharma 

Anarya Andir’s Blog

The Middlest Sister

vagabond-esk

Your Daily Dose

Sleepy & Babbling

I’m disappointed. And irritated. And angry. All at myself. I haven’t been trying to find time for what I love the most. Even when it comes to diary-writing, I wrote something on Sunday, after a gap of almost three weeks. I’m so NOT liking this.

I haven’t had any dearth of topics to write about. There were times when I felt moved to write about some incidents. But, well, that never happened (evidently). For the past two days, I’ve been working on this one post and it hasn’t gotten anywhere yet. So, today, I got tired of feeling bad and not doing anything about it. I decided I would post something, even if it turns out to be random nonsense (like always!).

Life’s going fine. Work is good. I’ve almost got used to the surroundings and started fooling around with people (which happens only when I’m comfortable). I’m not saying it’s all good and happy every day. It does get on my nerves, at times. I miss lazing around. But that’s ok, I suppose I’ve done more than enough of that during my three years at college. 🙂

During these three weeks, I’ve learnt a lot. I have observed people, understood a lot about some, realized some painful truths and yes, learnt some lessons, gained some experiences. One basic lesson is : Do NOT trust anyone blindly; take your time. People can be really weird and I’ve realized that I should take my time before I decide to trust someone (Exceptions possible). I think I have heard and seen enough to get it into my head.

Apart from that, I’ve had a lot of thoughts (nothing new there!). Serious thoughts about what I’m doing, my future, the people in my life, what I want in life… Yet to find answers, though. By the way, have you noticed? The Freshly Pressed posts have been awesome, during the past two days particularly. Very thought-provoking, beautiful posts.

Today, I was sort of moody. So, on the way back, I got into this bookshop near my home. Having a lot of books around me helps in lifting my spirits. Works always, worked today. But I think I’m back to the moody phase. I’ll get over it, I’m sure. Meanwhile, thanks to all the strong emotions in my head, I have been writing a good lot of nonsense stuff in my diary. 🙂 Am I rambling too much? Maybe I’m just sleepy…