Wednesday, July 16

Harnessing an Idle Mind 

That something can actually come from taking a lackadaisical approach to get past the blind(ing) alley is no more surprising than being in the blind alley itself. After moping desolately over a rejected manuscript (yes, our first in the stack!) and a spell of unproductiveness (if you discount the work deadlines week in and week out), I decided to take things under control - by doing nothing. From active blogger to blog-hopper, and active net freak to tarrier, my status had relegated way below the nadir. But what came of it?

I found my guiding chi. I gave outline and form to the ideas in my head. I stumbled upon some really cool blogs, met some very interesting bloggers (online)…FunHonee was born, then I happened upon the CBC...and before I knew it, I was milking my misfortune and caramelizing it. Could the obstinate crossword not solve itself thus? I wonder. But I digress.

Amid all the idling, I raked up old scribbles and notes from a creative writing class I took years ago. I was reminded of something my tutor in NZ had mentioned - about writers' cars - when you hear a jangling, roaring engine and see clouds of smoke billowing into the air as the car zooms past you at say, 7 mph, you know there's a writer in it; lame bumper sticker notwithstanding (Write Turns Only?) I can’t say that of my car, unfortunately. But that is by no measure a sign that I’m raking the moolah.

Why then, would anyone in their right senses think of writing as a career option? I cannot really answer that, but speaking for myself, I can say that it satiates my inner passion. When I sit at my computer and stare at the monitor, while I hold on to a thought that was sparked by a long-forgotten memory that came rushing by; or a reverie that was so surreal I couldn’t bear for it not to be true; or an unputdownable book I read that overwhelmed me; or a little life lesson I learned from my little girl…and the words come pouring out, aligning themselves within the perimeter of a Word Doc., the pleasure I get is hard to contain in words. Then I am not myself - my joy is not spent in portions, nor does it carefully shroud sorrow. What I experience is like something out of a Ruskin Bond story - the richness of mirth enhanced by the presence of a pure, untainted goodness. Like little Biniya felt when she got her Blue Umbrella.

But what of the writer’s block? Well, when you set foot in the field, you are forewarned of the repercussions of locking yourself up in an airless room for hours trying to get some words out. You’re not allowed to let a writer’s block weigh you down. It's in all the avant-garde books - sit at your desk everyday and hammer away at the keyboard - even if the words make no sense or need multiple revisions and underlined bluepencilling. The pros swear by it. And then, in consecutive pages, they steel you for the spate of rejections you are bound to garner - may as well sit to write when the words come out right, and minimize those chances, right? But no, everyone from Stephen King to JK Rowling to George Lucas insists on following a routine.

Lucas, who sat at his desk for eight hours everyday to create Star Wars, said:

'A writer is, every waking hour, constantly pondering scenes or structural problems. I carry my little notebook around and I can always sit down and write. That's the terrible part, because you can't get away from it. I'll lie in bed before I go to sleep, just thinking--or I'll wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, thinking of things, and I'll come up with ideas and I'll write them down. Even when I'm driving, I come up with ideas. I come up with a lot of ideas when I'm taking a shower in the morning.' "

I have those times too - an idea comes to me when I'm daydreaming, driving aimlessly, staring into space through rain-beaten windows, playing with my little girl, concocting a new recipe, sipping my "adrak chai," and so forth...perhaps somewhere in the ridged folds of these writerly Bibles, they forgot to add, "SuperMoms - hold on to that thought when it comes, for you can only get to it when the baby has been fed, burped, bathed, washed, read a story, played with, washed, cleaned, washed, cleaned, fed, washed, cleaned, read a story, and lulled to sleep.” But that’s when you’re this close to yanking your eyelashes out and fist-thumping the walls. With time, you realize that’s no impediment, really, once you get the hang of it- once you learn, sans the presence of the power of Tai-Chi in your life, to multitask and stick to your commitment to the family, and the pen.

I have received note from the editor who called my manuscript names before tossing it out the window, to stylize my other collection of children’s stories to suit multicultural tastes. But that’s what I had in mind with the first one, but never mind.

Hackneyed as it may sound, idling can sometimes lead to positive things. Taking the time to think, re-strategize, re-prioritize…stopping to listen in on a whisper, to the lonely cricket on a windy evening, a song that you’ve listened to a zillion times or to the music that drones in your head…taking a long walk by yourself, reading a book you left at half, breathing deep to take the essence of a blank moment in, reining your emotions in once in a while, pausing to look for signs, or even groping for new signs, scouring the Internet for inspiration, and heeding the buzz of an idea that has been marinating in your pickled head for a while, and actually doing something to revive it…can actually get you somewhere.

So if you’re anything like me, I urge you to continue to try…to find your guiding chi. Ponder. Blink. Pause. Breathe. Lounge around. And eventually, you’ll WRITE!

Monday, July 7

LOVE, silly! 

Only when one is ready to remain insentient do the shards of memories come in so fiercely. Like sheep traces on dew-laced grass in the backyard that slip away in a subservient pattern with the arrival of the high winds. In fuchsia-tinted fragments, of times when a bottle of Merlot, a half-spent, scented candle from Auroville, and noodles hurriedly topped with lemon zest for gourmet appeal - meant love was in the air; when a midnight phone call, the initial, awkward embraces at the airport, and even well-timed silence...cut warmth through the nerves, the skin breaking into goosebumps...all screamed "love."

Are these memories merely good enough for the scrapbooks? To hold a grip on the fragments, as the fuchsia bleeds, corrodes, and makes way for sepia-toned wistfulness? Does that happen with age? Or can one, at an early stage, by detaching considerably from one's emotions, by steeling oneself to become adequately unfeeling, master the art of feeling the power of love resonate in every gray-tinted moment?

One can, if one looks through an abraded pince-nez, experience the sensation without as much as losing one's mind over, for what it's really worth. But often, the "objects in the rear-view mirror are closer than they appear," and so on it goes...

If one takes love at face value, it can manifest in the most mundane of ways and take one's breath away. It could be changing the baby's diaper in the middle of the night, taking patiently in the pounding on the dough, the clanking of the dishes and the muffled sighs and grunts over nothing in particular, or something as trivial as flipping the dial from BBC to an oft-repeated episode of Sex and the City when one enters the living room looking like half-dead Riding Hood at the end of a long day...

Love, my dears, is overrated. Candle-light dinner? Seven years (no itch), one baby, and an unfathomable-lot-in-between later, I'll take my precious me-time ANY day...Where's the love? It is in the music, in the blanket that mysteriously swathes me on a chilly night, and in the moments that I get to sit with myself and just take in the silence, smiling at the smithereens of memories and fleet of dreams...