Sajal Choudhary

I tell stories

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The idea of being a writer

Wish I had clicked a picture!

Wish I had clicked a picture!

I am in love with the idea of being a writer, the image.

The idea of sitting on a table overlooking a giant window. The view outside the window keeps changing, but the table, and the chair, and the image of a writer, they stay.

As I said, I am in love with the idea of being a writer.

I am not entirely sure, who the first one was, but over time, there has been this one sentence, this statement, going around in my world. It says this:

Nobody pays for the idea. Ideas are abundant; actions, few.

Okay, I said it.

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All the motivation you need!

Motivation

“You are going to make an awesome Dad!” she said.

“What?”

“Yeah. I mean you can stick to schedules. If you want to write, you write; if you want to run, you run!”

In life, it becomes real easy at times, to relinquish control, to dole out blames to things that exist, or not. I went to the hills a few days back; lost my purse, and on the way back, was stuck in a jam because of a land-slide just a kilometre from us. Once back, I found my mind going back to blaming the gods. I caught myself a few times, I reprimanded myself a few times, but time and again, I went back to the gods.

We give too much importance to ourselves. I mean seriously, consider this: ‘The person running the universe, surely has more important tasks at hand than you!’ But that’s religion. This is not about it. Maybe later.

So, getting back to it then.

I have done this a lot many times. Whenever I’ve been unable to do something I’ve doled out blames: to the traffic, the weather, the people, the shitty luck, the gods! But, what she said, even without it occurring to her what it might say to me, she gave me something, which I know, but conveniently choose to forget, almost all the times.

I do what I want to do.

Seriously. If I am not writing, that’s because I chose to not write, for there were better things to do. Better? Yes.

Writing is important, but not urgent. Not all the times!

I guess it’s important to consider this, but then again with a certain balance to it, as always. You can’t for example, be so obsessed with you being the cause of everything that you feel nothing else can affect your life. Okay, that does not bode well with the general scheme of this piece. Still.

Life is not the choices you make, but it isn’t in complete isolation of it either.

The therapeutic act of writing

Writing

“What I do” she said,” is that whenever I am in a shitty mood, okay, shitty might be an understatement, but still. Whenever I am in a shitty mood, I take a blank piece of paper, and write, furiously. Then, once done, I tear it to bits, and sleep”
“Why?” I said.
“What why?”
“Why do you tear it up?” I said.
“Because if anybody else saw it, I would be in a position of disadvantage”

I remember, once, while looking back at my diary, I noted that most of the entries were mapped to the not-so-good events. I remember coming up with something on the lines of: ‘I only need to write when things are shitty’

It was bad.
And scary.

It meant that I would write only when I was in a bad mood. Back then, all the writing I used to do was in the diary. So I guess the fear was well founded. Because, it sort of did cramp, limit the range of emotions, or rather, the things you could write. It could either be a rant, or a semi-philosophical piece.

So, yeah.

All through life, this current phase, one question has always kept wanting new, and improved answers. That question is: Why do I write?

The answers have varied mostly, and that is not to say I have revised the answer at one point, or the other. No. It has been a rather stack-based approach to things, with a certain polishing aspect to things. I have added. I have also refined.

I write because writing is being. There is no other way of existing.

Sometimes, when I write, I go to places, I had no clue existed. I start with something, and I end up with something. When the something I began with happens to be a problem, a not so great situation; I most of the times end up with at least a little more clarity. And most of the times, that is all that is needed.

So. Yeah.

Yesterday, and yes, it’s yesterday because it was three days before, that I had written this post down, up till the ‘So. Yeah.’ Today, I’m writing the rest of it.

So.

Yesterday, post shower, after perhaps a gap of, okay, not perhaps, but rather exactly, eight days, I made another entry in my journal, #18, with no title to it. During the shower I had been angry, or at least had rather wanted to be angry, wanted to shout, wanted to rant; but couldn’t. I was in this semi-confused, and irritable state when I sat down, my breakfast growing colder by the second. And I wrote.

I miss writing like this, in a flurry. Writing when things hit me. Which is I can’t be sure, but, is bad. But more on that later.

So. Yeah, I wrote, and I wrote about how it was a bit of an issue, being able to step into other people’s shoes, because, then you couldn’t even be angry with them fully. It turned a bit philosophical, and I considered whether cramping an emotion, as anger, was really an issue or not. In this case, I ended up with more questions, than answers, but, I was angry no more.

This, is not a one-off incident.

This has happened many a times.

Incomplete

Incomplete

Why u end abruptly?

She has impeccable grammatical skills, but when she texts, it all sort of goes down the drain. I had sent her the Life piece I had done a few days back. That was her reply, no, not the reply, rather the evaluation of it.  Quick note: these are all different hers, I just don’t want to keep naming them again, and again. So. Yeah.

I feel that’s what describes my work these days. Not just these days. What I write, has evolved in time; from pieces with faltering structures, from pieces with holes as big as, well, you know, as if tanks had just rolled down the streets; to stuff that has some semblance, some structure, some idea about tense. Back then, I was just starting out. I never, never, read what I had written down; if I had, half of the ebbs would have ironed themselves out. Practice. And experience.

I also remember talking to her, about the stuff I wrote. It was all short. Really short stuff. I remember the longest one I did, stretched for around six or seven parts, with each part growing in size, and the whole series being around three thousand odd words. I remember looking at it, and thinking I could have done it better. But that’s always there, isn’t it?

Also remember something that I did as an experiment, an interesting one at that. I had done it in a jumbled up, Memento style. Weird shit. I guess I just did not have the balls back then. To sit down, and work through. To get something polished. They were all first drafts, not that I had any idea about drafts back then!

Now, is a little different. Now, I can’t write in the metro, in transit, or in office. Now I need to get in the zone. The time I get, elsewhere, is just not enough. And once through, there is this hurry, to get the thing completed. Get it up on the blog. Because it has happened, and with enough repetition, to make me believe that picking up these essays, once I’ve stopped is quite hard. And so, at times I don’t soften the edges, at times I let it hang, or end abruptly.

Abrupt endings, though, are something I like.

How important is grammar to a writer?

good_grammar

The following was written in response to an edx assignment for a course I am part of. Shared as is.

I write fiction, most of the times. I can’t be sure if I’m good, though I figure I must be reasonably good, for the most credible comment I ever received was from a senior in college, a senior I had no idea even existed! There’s a bias associated with the people who know you; unless you ask them seriously they are always bound to say, ‘It’s good’. That however does not happen with strangers, I mean what’s the motive?

The prompt for the week was about discussing your writing process or discuss something you found interesting in Professor Fred D’Agostino’s video. This will be a bit of both.

One of the things I struggle with, more so since I started writing longer stuff is converting what’s in my mind to what’s on the paper. The conversion rate/efficiency is not that great. I am not sure if it’s because of lack of impeccable grammar, or vocabulary. I think both of them do complement each other.

I never had what you’d call impeccable grammar. I am not a scholar. The last I had of grammar was five or so years before; back when I was in school. And even then, I had graduated to writing paragraphs, and stuff. That was all the creativity I was allowed. But then an impeccable grammar should not really be a requirement I think.

Scholarly people have their place in the world, and they should be there too, it’s just that Grammar shouldn’t be binding. Grammar should be like Legos, providing you with just the basic tools, allowing you the freedom to construct your world, tell your story the way you want. Grammar should not be binding, should not be a burden. It should not make you not want to write because you’re scared of the grammatical outcome.

I might be the only one thinking this, but I don’t like when somebody tells me this word does not exist. I mean how do you think new words are added each year in the dictionary?

Grammar is important, necessary even, but only as long as it does not obstruct writing.

P.S. I think I used too many commas, can’t help it!

Writing about not writing

writer's block

Before this, I sat in front of the monitor, staring at the almost completed sixth chapter of my work. I decided to give it half an hour, half an hour of pure, undisturbed, writing. I stared at the blinking cursor for the first couple of minutes; then I decided to give it a read, all that I had managed so far in the chapter. That took another fifteen or so minutes. Then I wrote a line, a line, looked at it for a while, and decided it will have to do.

I had hoped it would work; turns out half an hour isn’t nearly enough time!

The last I wrote was, on my last day of job. I had to take another job, and in preparation of it, I resigned a couple of weeks back. Turns out, having to go to a job helped maintain some sort of a schedule, something that is perhaps the most important thing if you want to write, even more important than a peaceful space. The brain works that stuff out. You do not really need to lock yourself up in a room, and write. The brain can do the isolation part of the deal. It takes some practice though; practice, and some luck with the boss not caring what you were jotting down in your diary.

The past couple of weeks, I have been trying to get this one little remaining portion of the sixth chapter done, I haven’t been able to gain much ground. I write a line, a two, a paragraph, and then that’s it. I guess, that’s what you get when you break the rules. The rule I’m referring to here, is about not jumping the queue, not jumping ahead in the story. Doesn’t work. I am done upto the seventh chapter, but haven’t been able to type those portions up because, guess what, I thought this little portion could be done later. Again, I was wrong. This little portion has been a pain in the butt for the past couple of weeks.

Sucks to be me right now!

I was talking to a friend, and when I told her about the issue, she said it could be because there’s so much stuff on your mind right now. I turned the clock back a few days in my head, but all I found myself doing mostly was sleeping, eating, and watching stuff mostly. There was also Quora, and edx.

Maybe there is a lot of stuff going on right now, or maybe I’m just being lazy, but here’s to hope, and words. Fuck.

Surprises, and good stories

Death Note

Before you begin, the following is bound to contain spoilers about Death Note the anime series, and The Mist.

I finished up with Death Note yesterday, it came highly recommended by a friend, and rest assured it did not disappoint. I also watched The Mist, and before I began I had no idea it was based on a book, and after I was done, it felt like the fact had been staring at me from the very beginning. I don’t usually do reviews, this could be a part-beginning. Part-beginning because unlike conventional reviews, this would mostly be focusing, on the story, and telling-it part of the complete project/product.

From Wikipedia: Death Note centers on Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook that grants its user the ability to kill anyone whose name and face they know. The series follows Light’s subsequent attempts to create and rule a world “cleansed of evil” as “God” using the notebook, and the efforts of a detective known as L to stop him.

Death Note was ruthless. Yes, ruthless, unrelenting, and other such synonyms combined. There were two things in particular I loved about it. The first thing was obvious from the very beginning: the absolute disregard to conventional storytelling. I mean the moment I began to root for a character, any character, it was killed off. Yes. Be it the dead FBI officer’s fiance, or eventually, the protagonist L to our antagonist Light. The series never really stepped off the pedal. Just when you began to root for a character, just when you thought, yeah, L/Light is winning, the other would bounce back. Killing off characters, well-thought, and developed characters is hard, believe me, I know but the rate at which the series kept killing characters, and introducing new ones, and at the same time, staying true to the central theme, was frankly unparalleled. I haven’t read, or seen, any such work. Okay, maybe Harry Potter, killed them at a healthy rate too.

The second thing, was something I realised in the last episode. I mean it was there from the beginning, too, but the ugliness of it, is only made obvious in the last episode. Maybe it was because we were told about the antagonist/protagonist’s view from the very beginning. Maybe. Or maybe it was so obviously out in the open, that I did not really stop, took notice, and thought about it. Like if you lived in the mountains, the scenery, the air would be routine to you, but for somebody not from there, the scenery, the air would be divine.

The corruption of character, the way the decay in Light’s character is shown, it was beautiful, really. There was this thing, I had read somewhere about heroes turning into the worst of villains. Also, there was Batman (You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.) You do not really feel that  bad when Light is killing off the criminals, or even the other not so bad guys; but by the very end, when he gets desperate, and when really all he cares about is killing off the opposition, that’s when you realise the ugliness of it all.

Enough with the death note. No, not really, go watch it if you haven’t yet. And once you’ve done that, come back and we’ll talk.

From Wikipedia: The Mist (also known as Stephen King’s The Mist) is a 2007 American science fiction horror film based on the 1980 novella of the same name by Stephen King.

I did not know it was a King adaptation to begin with but by the time it was finished I had no doubt! I have not yet read the novella. I might at some point in the future, I’m not sure. The Mist talks about a lot of stuff, with monsters, and blood being the least of the interesting subjects. Seriously. And even though, it was an interesting study of human nature under stress, the part that really stood out for me was TWD’s Melissa McBride’s small part in the beginning, and end. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the movie/read the novel, or not, so again WARNING BIG FUCKING SPOILER COMING. In the climax, Melissa’s character is shown riding off in an army truck with her kids in tow, while our protagonist has shot his kids, and three other people who stuck with him through the shit-storm. There were only four bullets left, and so he did not shoot himself. Yes, that’s brave. You want to know why this incident is important to me? The thing is it isn’t; at least in isolation. At the beginning of the movie, Melissa’s character asks the people present in the store, to help her reach her kids. Nobody obliges. So, when she’s about to step out, on her own, she says, ‘You’ll all go through hell for this’

And through hell they did go through. I’m not sure if it is in the book. I hope it is. Because it is one of those things, that you can not really plan when you are writing your first draft. It is the sort of thing that happens, when you’re editing the draft, and it seems like one of those awesome things you could do.

P.S. I haven’t really written anything fresh for the week. Heck I haven’t even typed out the parts I have written on page. There is a reason to it. It was turning into a bit of a job. I had sort of begun to not want to do it. So, this is I don’t know an unwanted rest. Also, SURPRISE! (Because it was in the title, but not in the post. Too lame?)

We are all inspired!

Inspire!I was doing this thing on, and with First Time Novelist, where I was posting stuff related to writing in general. At the end I’d put up a postscript stating my current progress on the novel. This is that post.

There is this theme of generalisation that does go with post of this sort, something that I have an issue with. I don’t like generalisations. It just reduces all the conversations, the discussions, the complexities to a singularity, a generic statement. It sort of undos all the good work.

Anyways, no work of ours, is absolutely ours. I mean pick up anything. We are taking stuff from others, mixing it with with some of our stuff, and presenting the product as our own. I guess our short life-spans, short, yes, as a race make it inevitable that none of us will be able to put a full-stop to the work we are doing. It will always be continued, modified by somebody else after we are dead. It just is. Take for example the work our scientists do. It is all a collective effort, even inside teams working on the same project, and then the work of one of the teams may be cited by another team. Thats just how it is.

There was a moral dilemma I was facing a couple of weeks before. I am writing a post-apocalyptic something; something because you know less than forty thousand words makes up a novella, more than that a novel. I am sure about the current classification, which for all purposes is a novella; I’m on the eighth chapter, and I’ve maintained on average around two thousand five hundred words per chapter. The dilemma I was facing was this: How do I ensure that what I am writing is, I don’t know original? You know mine? I can already see themes from Stephen King’s The Stand, or AMC’s The Walking Dead appearing in parts. I mean how can I say this is mine?

There was this conversation I was once having with my friend back before I had begun work on this thing I am doing right now. It had centred on the walking dead. I had told him that zombies as they were, were just a prop. We watched, and loved to watch TWD not because of the zombies, I mean yeah all the blood, and bashed heads was fun, but we were not watching it for that! We were watching it for the men, the women, and even the children. We were watching it for the people. We were watching it for their struggles, their stories. Because, at least to me, it was an interesting example of how people could behave in a lawless, society-less society.

And this was what I thought about when I was facing that dilemma. Actually, I thought about the damn vampires!

I mean, we are all continuing something, when we decide to write something, which has already been described before. But then, the phenomenon does not remain important, or of much value, in such a scenario. And yes, in my story, my people are, well, my people.

Wait, does that make any sense?

P.S. If you have been to the about page of the blog, you would have noticed, that there was supposed to be a post on Friday, which did not happen. This is that post. I guess I’d try to be more punctual. Peace.

P.S.S. I love postscripts. If you’ve faced similar dilemmas, I would love to hear your story!