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? 

 

How A Soliloquy (nearly) Saved My Blog from Becoming Extinct

I realize that it has been a long time since I blogged. Some of my closest friends did ask about it and urged me to resume blogging (Once, Kiran told me I shouldn’t get used to NOT blogging. But then, I think that’s what happened, eventually). The problem was not lack of will or desire. I wanted to blog, yes. But I lacked the inspiration – that uncanny sense and ability to string together words and form a sentence, and to create a bunch of sentences like that, which make sense, ultimately. I got away with that “excuse” for a long time. Until I had to give an answer to myself. The conversation with myself went something like this:

Why are you not blogging?

Because I don’t find the inspiration for it. 

Is that reason enough for not doing something you enjoyed so much?

Well…

Did you never have thoughts that were worth blogging about?

Hell, yes, I did!

Then why did you never do it?

I don’t know…I just didn’t feel that urge to sit down and put those thoughts into words. 

Did you try?

No. 

Did you try to find the inspiration somewhere?

Umm..not really, but, at times, yes. 

And…?

Well…(clears throat)…All I can say is that what I found wasn’t enough. 

Do you even realize how stupid that sounds?

Yes. 

Without ever genuinely trying to find inspiring thoughts or using what you found or even trying to write something, how can you blame everything on the lack of inspiration?

Ok, maybe I was also lazy.

Makes sense. Do you know that you have a responsibility to yourself, to do what you love and enjoy? The responsibility to do what you’re passionate about? Because that’s the only way you will ever contribute anything!

Yes, I know that.

Great! Now that you have come clean and knocked some sense into your head, please get down to doing what you do best. And no, I don’t mean lazing around!

* * * * * * *

And that conversation is what brought me here, to this page, after so long. I love talking to myself. I do it at random instances but most often when I’m in extreme moods (extremely angry, happy or sad). And it always helps me clear my head in a way nothing else does. Whenever I’ve spoken to myself, I’ve always come out of the mood with some thought that was powerful enough to make an impact. And I love the fact that I have the power to change my state of mind. 🙂

When I started off with this post, I had no idea about what to write. I just wanted to start with it, just try to do it instead of complaining. And I must say I’m very glad with the outcome. Even though it’s really nothing more than a pointless, stupid conversation with myself. Now, all I need to do is make sure that I don’t fall back into the ‘Lazy Mode’ and leave this space to gather dust until the next time I get some sense into my head. *Fingers crossed*

A Not-So-Equal and Opposite Reaction

There’s so much that I want to write about. But, for some reason, I don’t get the words when I try to do it. I get it in my head, at times…while at work, while trying to sleep, at random instances. But rarely when I try to write it out. What disturbs me most about the situation is – it never used to be like this. I could get the words so easily and put my thoughts across in the exact way I wanted.

For a moment, I wondered if I’m losing touch. But no, I think I’ll know it if I lose touch with something so integral to my being. So, I guess it’s probably because whenever I’ve sat down to write, I have been too tired (mentally and physically) to take a substantial effort to write.

It feels so suffocating when you have so much in your mind but cannot bring it out completely. Which is the reason I decided to try writing in the morning, when I’m much more relaxed and alive than during the remaining part of the day.

So, I’m done with the boring job at Dubai. Finally! And now, I’m going to do something that’s been on my wishlist. 🙂

When I came back to RAK, one of the first suggestions I got (in terms of a job opportunity) was to join my school (my alma mater) as a teacher. I was told that I could, probably, teach English or something in one of the lower classes. I was very happy with the idea but kept that as an alternative and continued searching for other opportunities. Which eventually landed me in the boring job.

Since I have had enough of office jobs, I have decided to finally take up the job at school. So, long story short, I’m going to teach! I love teaching. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do although not as a long-term career. Well, I’m excited. Very much. Obviously!

While basking in this excitement, something happened last week. An incident (or rather, a comment) that infuriated me. And, you know, writing is the most effective (and paractical and satisfying) way of taking out anger, for me. Especially when the person on the receiving end is going to be my (recent ex-) boss.

The background situation: I was offered a permanent position at the place where I was working until Thursday. But I turned it down because I wanted to teach.

What happened: It was on Monday. I think. The Boss said, “I had told [the concerned person] that you could work here in the media section but he told me you’re going to teach.”

Me (beaming face): “Yes, sir.”

Boss: “People who don’t want to do anything, teach.”

Me (I don’t know what my expression was, but I think I tried to keep smiling): “Why do you say that, sir?”

Boss: repeats same line. Adds “It’s like that.” (Or something as weird as that)

“Oh, I didn’t want to do anything in life. So, well, I teach. What else would aimless people do?” :-/

And, from that moment, I’ve wanted to tell him a lot of things. When he said it, a lot of emotions crossed my mind – amusement (I wonder why he said that); curiosity (Why would he say something like that?); rage (Why the hell would he say that?); intense hatred (WHAT THE FUCK DID HE JUST SAY?).

I had a lot of respect, admiration and liking for this man. He is intelligent, very much capable, likeable, approachable…all that he should be in order to run a successful company in Dubai. But the comment sort of drained everything I had for him. I’m not judging him, I’m not saying he’s a bad person just because of this statement. He is still a good man. Just that I’ve lost my liking for him, whatever reason he might have to justify what he said. I tried to list out possible reasons, too.

a) He was trying to provoke me, I don’t know what for. Maybe to make me think my decision was stupid.

b) He just likes saying such stuff. You know, kill your happiness.

c) He was trying to discourage me (and ended up enraging me!)

d) That’s what he really thinks

Well, none of the reasons seemed good enough to serve as justification (to me, atleast). So, I have irretrievably lost whatever liking I had for him. And there’s a lot I’d like to tell him (yes, that does mean there’s going to be another post, very very soon).

How was your week? And if you have had similar situations, I’m all ears. Always am. (Even if you just want to go blah blah about something random!) 🙂 

Intensely Lucky

While some books are a breezy read, there are some that move your mind…perhaps with a slight shudder or a tremor, or it may have the effect of a rough jolt on your mind. The book I’m reading right now falls in the latter category.

Since I moved to this new place in October, my mornings start with a cup of coffee and some time of peaceful reading, sitting out in the balcony area, while the neighbourhood wakes up around me. When I opened Lucky by Alice Sebold, one morning, recently, I never thought I’d have to rethink about the phrase used earlier: peaceful reading. 

LuckyLucky is not an easy read, not the kind of book you can breeze through. It tugs at your heart, firmly clutches on to your thoughts in a way very few books will. If I had to describe it in one word, I would certainly use ‘intense’. On the morning I started reading it, right after the first couple of pages or so, I was disturbed, pained and moved. Like, by those few pages, something had changed in my world.

Lucky is a memoir by Alice Sebold, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed The Lovely Bones. If you have read The Lovely Bones, you will know how powerful Sebold’s writing is. It is bold, open and distinct. No tough words or phrases, nothing complex. She does not use subtle synonyms to describe a situation; she says it as it is, plain, straightforward. Lucky recounts her experience of beingalice sebold raped when she was in her freshman year at college and goes on to describe how it changed the rest of her life. The book was all the more disturbing for me because of the fact that it’s not merely a story; it details exactly what a young girl went through, for real.

Sebold has portrayed the emotions and situations so intensely that I couldn’t help but feel the 19-year-old Alice was a part of me. I could feel her pain and confusion, the joys of friendship, the problems in her family… Her writing is intense, it pulls you into the book, implores you to try and feel what Alice must have gone through. I had loved Sebold’s writing style after reading The Lovely Bones. And it’s no different this time.

Lucky is a powerful book; a raw, intense read. It has moved me, touched me…and, like The lovely-bonesLovely Bones, I know this is one book that will fail to leave my mind. Highly recommended. And, if you haven’t read The Lovely Bones, that is yet again another highly recommended book.

Some lines I really loved, from the book.

“I live in a world where two truths coexist: where both hell and hope lie in the palm of my hand”

“Since then I’ve always thought that under rape in the dictionary it should tell the truth. It is not just forcible intercourse; rape means to inhabit and destroy everything.”

 

Someone And Me

 

I always have weird moments of revelation. Like, one moment of sudden clarity and I see something I’ve been overlooking.

I came across (more like stumbled across) someone. I don’t want to say someone ‘special’ because that would be so cliché. Special is no longer very special, I guess. So, like I said, I’ve come across someone. Someone I knew for a long time. I used to see this person on a daily basis (or so), once upon a time. And the first time we communicated was two weeks ago. It’s super weird. But life has its own ways of bringing people together, when the time is right.

So, this someone and I have been exchanging mails; started chatting recently. And we have realized how similar our interests and thoughts are. Our conversations are unique, amusing. We talk about thoughts, beliefs, experiences… We share bits of new information, send each other interesting links and songs. And he introduced me to two awesome sites! One of them is 8tracks.com and I’m already in love with it. 

So, what drove me to write this post? I was wondering what to blog about, while listening to songs (in the above mentioned site) and reading a post (the ‘someone’ shared the link to the post – What others leave for you to keep). It talks about relationships, the role people play in our lives. And it struck me – all that I was doing was somehow connected to this someone. The song, the article, the thought. And I knew I should be blogging about this.

About how people come into your life. And leave, someday, sooner or later. When they leave, you retain a bit of them; you know they have changed your life. Sometimes, when someone steps into your life, you know they are bound to leave. Yet you let them become a seamless part of your days. You make it difficult for yourself to let go, to let them leave.

I’ve made some new friends. And the best one (among them) has chosen to leave, already. We no longer have awesome conversations or share experiences. The friendship we had has come down to occasional smiles and random greetings, sometimes extending into a “How are you?” I can’t explain how it happened, but it did. Perhaps, the person was meant to leave, and all I can do is let go. Let go of a person who has touched me in ways beyond comprehension. But then, when you think about it…maybe people leave to make way for others to enter your life.

I don’t know when this ‘someone’ will step out of my life. For now, I love the bond we share. The links. The words. The music. The thoughts.

Why I Love The Solitary Reaper

A couple of days ago, I read this post in Amit (Personal Concerns)’s blog – The Solitary Reaper. In fact, I’m writing this post, based on an idea that he (Amit) gave me. I studied learnt this poem when I was in 9th or 10th Grade. Even though I don’t remember when I studied it, I so clearly remember the poem, the beauty of it and how much I loved it. Sometimes, mostly while travelling, when I see random but interesting/amusing sights/people, I let my mind wander… I think of what one person must be thinking about, what kind of life another person must be leading, why someone looks happy, where someone else must be going to. Well, you get the idea. William Wordsworth, in this poem, has done something akin to it. Maybe that’s why I love it so much. Picking out a random but beautiful sight – a solitary reaper in the field – and weaving thoughts about her…wondering what she must be thinking, what she must be singing… It was just a sight, on the way. But look at the beauty of the thoughts!

And the imagery used…absolutely splendid! I LOVE (LOVE LOVE LOVE) the way Wordsworth has compared the solitary reaper’s song to some other  wonderful melodies. What struck me so much is the way he has described these different songs. The lines are written so remarkably that I could picture it all so easily. And the comparison is excellent. Imagine a song that sounds like ‘nightingales singing welcome notes to weary travellers in a shady haunt, among Arabian sands’…or a song ‘in springtime from the cuckoo bird, breaking the silence of the seas’. Can’t you just see it in your mind’s eye? And, well, he (Wordsworth) leaves no doubt about how good the reaper’s song must have been! 🙂

Then, he moves onto try a hand at guessing what the song could be about. Do I have to tell you how amazing the lines are? I’m sure there are people better qualified than me to talk about its artistry and elegance. But I can’t stop feeling awed by the sheer perfection of those lines…and the way he goes from one possibility to the other – the song could be about old, unhappy things, battles of the past or it could be about a familiar matter of the present, a natural sorrow, loss or pain (‘That has been, and maybe again’ – I LOVE that line!).  Battles and natural sorrow? Both are such distinct images  but he brings them together, seamlessly flowing from one to the other with mere words!

And, at last, after all the comparisons and conjectures, the poet continues on his way, bearing the song in his heart. What an incredible ending! Even after all these years, I still feel the same awe that I felt when my English teacher first explained this poem to us, in school. Guess that will never change. 🙂 When I sat down to write (read: type) this post, I had another idea in my head. But, once I began talking about this poem I found that I couldn’t stop. And well, this is how it ended up! 🙂 I know I’m no  great poet to speak so authoritatively about a poem by Wordsworth! But these were just my thoughts on a poem I love, what I felt when I read it.

So, which is the one (or more) poem(s) that you love so much that you can’t stop talking about it? One that never ceases to awe you?