Day: 29 October 2012

No Time to Write?

“When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘One word at a time,’ and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is.” ~ Stephen King

Are you an aspiring writer whose biggest obstacle is lack of time? Do you find it impossible to spare the time to sit down and write a short story, let alone a novel? Perhaps, you need to examine whether lack of time is a genuine problem or merely an excuse to avoid writing. The real reason that keeps you from writing could be laziness, disorganization, perfectionism or fear of failure.

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Six Steps to Becoming a Pro Writer

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” ~Somerset Maugham

If you think you are a victim of writer’s block, you are not alone. In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield describes Resistance as the biggest enemy of all creative artists and defines it as the negative force that prevents or stops us from doing anything worthwhile.

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How P. G. Wodehouse Saved My Life

“I wish I’d strangled your neck the moment you were born,” Mom yelled at me, and threw the class-report in my face. I picked up the report, ran to my room, and went straight to the mirror.
“This time, she’s gone too far.” I said, glaring at my reflection.
“C’mon, you know she doesn’t mean it. She said this, like, a million times already,” my reflection replied.
“Well, this time, she’s going to be sorry. I’m going to do what she always wanted to do. I’m going to kill myself.”
I went to my desk and wrote a note to my father:
“Dear papa, I am killing myself because I can’t bear mom’s cruelty any longer.”
I returned to the mirror, feeling much more cheerful.
“Before I kill myself, I’m going to read Leave It to Psmith and have lunch at Blue Nile.”
My reflection gave me a beatific smile. I took the hundred-rupee note hidden deep in the maw of my desk and Leave It to Psmith from my school bag and slipped out from the backdoor.
At Blue Nile, I sat a corner table, ordered a mutton biriyani and tandoori chicken and opened Leave It to Psmith. I love every book written by P.G. Wodehouse but this was my absolute favorite.
As I read, I became enthralled by Psmith’s resourcefulness and how he never lost his cool in spite of all the problems he faced. Though I was reading it again, I enjoyed it even more the second time.
I continued reading even after the waiter ceremoniously placed the biriyani and grilled chicken before me. I read it while I enjoyed the banquet of fragrant aromatic rice with the spicy pieces of meat. I accompanied Psmith as he impersonated a Canadian poet to enter Blanding Castle, outwitted the other imposters in the castle, prevented a necklace from being stolen, and successfully wooed the beautiful Eve Halliday.
In Leave It to Psmith, to illustrate the quality of equanimity, Wodehouse narrates the tale of an Arabian traveler who slept on a patch of grass containing an acorn and discovered when he woke that the warmth of his body had caused the acorn to germinate and he was now sixty feet above the ground in the upper branches of a massive oak. Unable to descend, he said, “I cannot adapt circumstances to my will; therefore I shall adapt my will to circumstances, I choose to stay here.” And he did.
By the time I finished the book, it was four o’clock. I was the only customer in the restaurant and felt contented and pleasantly stuffed. The bill included caramel pudding, mango ice cream and ginger tea. I left the rest of the money to the waiter, who had not disturbed me at all while I read the book.
I returned home, feeling the warmth of the afternoon sun on my back. Mom was asleep but she had left my lunch on the table. I went to the mirror and smiled at my reflection.
“Okay, so I flunked Marathi and Hindi. Papa will probably blow his top tonight.”
I held up Leave It to Psmith.
“P.G. Wodehouse says happiness in this world depends chiefly on the ability to take things as they come. And Wodehouse can never be wrong.”
I went to my desk and tore up the suicide note.
15 June 2011

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Victory Against My Anti-Muse

Brandishing a knife that glittered in the moonlight, my anti-muse chased me through the narrow dusty lanes of the village. Suddenly, he materialized in front of me, the sharp point of his knife at my throat. Then, without warning, he plunged the knife into his own chest.
“You win,” he gasped, “but I’ll be back.”
The ringing of the phone awoke me. It was from Tushar, friend and fellow writer.
“Hey, have you seen the Times today?”
“No.” I said, still a little disoriented.
“See the third page of the Sunday supplement. Your article’s been published. Congratulations.”
I grabbed the newspaper lying outside the door and frantically leafed through it. My article on meditation, “Path to Happiness” was in the middle of page three, and below the title, wonder of wonder, was my byline.
My body turned hot, then cold. My head dissolved into a mass of exquisite vibrations. My novice writer self, survivor of a thousand defeats against my anti-muse, died and was reborn as a published writer.
There were more calls: from friends, acquaintances, and finally, the sweetest call of all, from my father. His words, warm with affection and appreciation, melted the bitterness sheathing my heart these past few months.
After his call, I went to my room and lay down. And I had this silent conversation with my anti-muse:
“You have lost, anti-muse. You have tormented me these past twenty months and defeated me every single time. So far you were too powerful and my despair at my failures was your strongest ally.
“Now for the first time, I have tasted victory. I know now what it means to be published, the infinite sweetness of it. I have felt what writers feel when they see their byline in print. Today’s success has healed all the heartbreaks of these past months.
“I know this is not going to make writing any easier. You will continue to attack me with doubts, distractions, anxiety, panic, and the countless other ills in your devilish toolbox. No doubt, you will be there the next time I write, looking over my shoulder and jeering at every word I write. And you will certainly taunt me and call today’s victory a fluke.
“But this success, small though it may seem to you, is the most important milestone in my life. Like the footballer who scores his first international goal or the cricketer who scores his first run, it has given me a confidence that is irreplaceable. Nothing can match this; not all the riches in the world.”
Then I went to my table and started writing. For the first time, in the past twenty months, the words flowed without any pause from my pen onto paper, line after line, page after page.
1 June 2011

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How to Flow in Creativity

“Exhausted by jogging
I stopped near a creek
And took a flowing lesson
From the water
And a sitting lesson
From the rock.”
~ Ngodup Paljor

Have you ever experienced the flow state while writing? Flow was first described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced “chick-sent-me-high-ee”). According to him, you experience flow when you are completely immersed in a creative task that is challenging but not overwhelming.

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The Five Enemies of Creativity

“I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. ‘The first thing,’ I said, ‘is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.” ~ Aldous Huxley
Every aspiring writer will acknowledge the truth of Huxley’s advice. The only way to write a novel or a short story or poetry is to start writing. But days, weeks, months pass; and you find you haven’t started yet. And even if you start writing, your sporadic efforts are usually stillborn.
What prevents you from acting on your dream of writing in spite of your deepest creative urge? The biggest reason is the common perception that creative work is not practical. You laugh when Bob Hope described his early failures: “I would not have had anything to eat if it wasn’t for the stuff the audience threw at me.”
And yet, you fear the same fate. So you heed the words of your family and friends and choose a “real” profession and a “practical” career, though it may be unsatisfying and frustrating. Eventually, even if you decide to write fiction only during your spare time, you still find your efforts constantly stymied by your inner demons.
Five Foes of Creativity 
Most wannabe writers find their creative endeavors blocked by five formidable foes. What makes these foes even more destructive is that they are linked to each other.
1. Fear: This is the biggest foe that every aspiring writer has to face. Fear can take myriad forms: fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of being less than perfect. In the words of H P Lovecraft, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Even established and successful writer have to confront these fears.
2. Perfectionism:When you manage to overcome the fear of failure and start writing, you come face to face with the second roadblock to creativity: your irrational need to be perfect. Nothing you write seems good enough to your internal critic. The enemy of GTD (Getting Things Done) is the obsession with GTR (Getting Things Right). In her novel-writing course, Holly Lisle teaches this simple mantra to her students in her very first lesson: “Safe never starts; perfect never ends.”
3. Procrastination:An insidious way to give in to your fear of failure and perfectionism is to put off writing, day after day. Procrastination can prevent you from starting to write and from finishing whatever you start. The trouble with procrastination is that it can become a habit. You become more and more creative at finding imaginative excuses for not writing!
4. Disorganization:If you fail to set specific writing goals, your writing career may never take off. Without a coherent plan, your creative journey lacks direction and a destination. However, excessive planning can itself be a method of procrastination. So, it is important to strike a balance between planning and action.
5. Lethargy:The fifth enemy is plain-vanilla laziness. You may just be unwilling or unable to do the creative work of writing often because of fear or lack of focus. Laziness is usually due to lack of discipline or motivation.
Every writer who wants to live a creative life must confront and conquer these five opponents every single day. In the words of Susan Jeffers, “We cannot escape fear. We can only transform it into a companion that accompanies us on all our exciting adventures.”
Among these five foes of creativity, which ones are the most troublesome for you? And how do you overcome them?
20 April 2011

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The Power of Positivity

“Ability is what you are capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it.”
~Lou Holtz

Your mental attitude affects and is affected by your beliefs, feelings, values, tendencies and actions. The universe is a mirror which reflects your attitude, which is best illustrated by this story:

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