28 May 2013

I Write, Therefore I Am

I can't remember how it all began. It's like trying to trace the beginning of a dream. The first real recollection I have of the reading part of it all, is rummaging through a drawer in my sister's room till I stumbled upon a copy of one of Enid Blyton's books. I don't remember the name of the book, though the funny British phrases in it are still familiar. After that, it sort of just began cascading. I borrowed my first book from my school library in 5th Grade (an abridged version of Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde). Soon, I was reading books on a regular basis. Abridged versions of The Count of Monte Cristo, novels of Sherlock Holmes, even a few Agatha Christie and R. K. Narayan's Malgudi Days.

But I discovered my skill of writing quite unexpectedly. It was during an after school special class on Public Speaking in which a teacher of mine asked a student to speak about elephants. That just set off a chain of images in my head. Images of an elephant named Jumbo, living with fellow elephants in a jungle in Africa. They had a wonderful system, and encountered travelling elephants who mentioned the terror caused by a man named Veerappan. That was, in essence, my first short story.

I remember writing it down in a book, and since it was all done in a shy and secretive manner, two of my classmates snatched the book during lunch break and rushed away to read it. They came back far too quickly, but gushed that the story was good and that I had a future as an author. Now that, would qualify as my first compliment.

Soon after, I wrote a short story and gave it to my English teacher. She liked it, though I now know that it was silly. But the reason why I could start calling myself an aspiring author, was because of a wonderful magazine named Young Times that was published from Dubai. After several tries, they published a short story of mine, 'The Airport Story'. Over the next three or four years, they published five stories. And here's the clincher. In their first and last regional short story competition, held for youngsters from the entire Gulf, Pakistan and Bangladesh, I was placed first. As if that wasn't enough to make me hop in front of my computer, a week later the editor stated that the third placed story was plagiarized from a published author!

From then on I kept writing whenever I could. I started a blog in 11th grade. The same one you are reading right now. And social media really helped me grow, if only because the want for likes and comments pushed me towards churning out material.

Then in my 12th Grade, I won first place in a short story contest held by the Ministry of Interior, Qatar. The story is called 'A Handful of Olives', and it's special to me.

A few months before leaving for college, I fulfilled a small dream and successfully wrote and directed a play for my school annual day. After reaching Chennai, I kept writing more short stories.

Now why did I just tell you a synopsis of my life?

It wasn't merely to test your resolve as a devoted reader. It was also to remind myself.

We've all grown up being reminded that in life, it's only worth doing what you really want to do. That means either discovering what you are really passionate about, or being passionate about what you have to do.

I realized that for the past year or so, I was dangerously close to giving up on my dream. The dream to walk into a bookstore and see my name in print. The dream to have people across the country wake up wanting to know what happens in the next chapter of my story. The dream to fascinate, inspire, terrify, entertain and dazzle an audience. The dream to be satisfied in life.

It's hard to understand why I gave up on it. True, I got brushed off by three publishing houses twice, not to mention curtly turned away from a literary agent recently. But the reason I've had this epiphany is because I looked around me. In the papers, in the streets, in the rooms of my own house.

I grew up watching my sister slog through immense difficulties just to become a doctor. My elder sister faced almost the same battle to qualify for an engineering degree. In fact, come to think of it, anyone who has ever been anyone has had to work hard and long.

And what had I done? Merely tap away on the laptop whenever - and only whenever - inspiration struck me. To drive home the point, a quote in Facebook made me understand it better. Stephen King said, "Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."

I thought to myself. Would I be able to live with the fact that I'll never be a published author? Could I turn 40 and read a newspaper article with a bitter expression, spouting venom at the twenty one year old kid who'd just unveiled his new novel? I wouldn't. It would eat me up from inside. Then what the hell was I doing now?

It's the kind of epiphany that comes most frequently to the fat guy who wants to lose weight. But this time, I'm hoping to make it stick. Which will prove an immensely difficult task, because like my mother often reminds me, I've become wired to procrastinate.

Honestly, one thing that shames me is the fact that I can't think of a single instance in my life when I had to break my back to achieve something. Sure, I worked hard to achieve good grades in my 10th Grade. But apart from that, I've never spent countless sleepless nights with a blurry vision of success stirring me to sip yet another cup of coffee so as to stave off the comfort of a bed. I haven't had to resist the urge to fling my laptop across the room after unsuccessfully staring a white page for eternity. No, it's all come easy to me.

A few days back I asked myself a surprising question. "Would it be fine to let go of it all? Stop writing, stop fretting about getting published, stop dreaming about being a best selling author. After all, being devoid of expectations eradicate any lingering frustration."

I mulled it over. And then realized it was futile. Because - and this may sound slightly over the top - this is a process that wasn't initiated by me. Many who read my stories are under the impression that I hunt for an idea to write about. Thankfully I don't. Instead, they come to me. It's tough to explain. But imagine this. You are sitting in a bus, packed with passengers. As the bus rumbles along, you overhear strands of conversation from the passengers behind you. Little phrases and sentences. You haven't done anything to hear them, but they still enter your head. That's how the ideas come to me. Like little voices uttering a suggestion. Except that they are mute. Else I'd be a schizophrenic.

I've realized that there is inherent beauty in the whole process. How millions of neurons fire off a possibility within my head, without me making a conscious effort. It's like an elaborate production line that involves my brain, my fingers, and a laptop.

I cant stop that. No, I can only do full justice to the process.

That's why you'll see a lot more short stories cropping up on this site as well as my Facebook page. You can watch me trying my best to improve my writing; you can try guessing the plots that I will weave. You can even prod me on with an encouraging word or just a like button. But regardless of all that, you'll see me soon. Either in a bookstore, a retail site, or at your doorstep. That is, if you are a publisher.

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  1. Hi,
    i am visiting your blog for past one month..I read many articles..it was so nice and many of them inspired me.good job.keep rocking..

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  2. yes, you will achieve your dream.
    and there are some of us, who are eagerly waiting for that dream to materialize, too.. :)
    all the best and God bless you!