One afternoon in August last year, I sat down with my laptop and decided to pen down some thoughts. It was a Saturday and there were dark clouds looming in the skies of Bangalore. The weather exemplified the state of mind that I was in that day. It had been a terrible day for me on many counts.
I could have punched the wall a few times to vent out my frustration but previous attempts at the same hadn’t resulted in anything productive, except for a few bruised fingers. But then the decision to go for my laptop instead of the wall was purely instinctive. However, as I started writing I realized that I wasn’t really writing about the causes of my current rage but about a certain incident from my childhood!
Once I was done with the first paragraph, I stopped. Since, there was no one in the house I decided to read it aloud. I did so with full fervour. When I heard the words, it dawned on me that it sounded like a short story. There was then a sudden surge of energy which propelled me to keep going for the next few hours. I was determined to not stop until I was done with the story. I succeeded.
My previous attempts at writing had resulted in miserable failures. Hence, I wondered: What was different this time? Moreover, I hadn’t written an article but a short story. How? Why? I asked myself. The mystique of it all urged me further. I decided to keep at it. Over the next few weeks, I penned down a few more short stories. Miraculously, there was no dearth of ideas and no hindrances to my imagination. The words flowed languidly. It was as if a dormant corner of my brain had just become active.
I didn’t feel stressed during this whole exercise and penned down more than ten thousand words within two weeks. Also, making time for writing didn’t feel laboured despite my work and family commitments. This was extraordinary because I am usually guilty of uttering these famous words: “I don’t have time!”. Well, I was now done with five short stories inspired from certain incidents from my childhood. Writing was secretly filling a certain void in my life. What that void was? I will explain later.
Now, I needed a medium for validation. Hence, I got introduced to blogging. It provided me the ideal platform to reach out to my audience in an instant and seek feedback. The marketing and analytical tools that blogging websites provided were an added advantage. But I was an accidental blogger at that stage. A novice. My only intent behind blogging was to find the right people to critique my work and to test the waters.
What followed were long phone calls, WhatsApp chats, coffee table conversations, focus groups and subsequent deep introspection. The stories had managed to strike a chord with many of the readers. Yes, there was criticism as well. But then I didn’t get into this being delusional about my abilities. The intent was to get better with time.
I kept on writing and finding content wasn’t difficult because the stories were inspired from life. Hence, all I needed to do was to observe. Then it was a matter of recollecting, re imagining and expressing myself creatively. Thus, a conversation with dad, visit to a hospital, exploring unknown places, a chat with a random stranger or a late-night drive were all potential content for a story.
Past life experiences deeply en grained in my subconscious mind guided every thought. The only effort I made was to let go and explore like a child. To be instinctive and not overthink. The editorial effort to clean up the excesses could happen later, I reminded myself. The focus was to tell a good story.
Over time I made new friends. My network grew. The stories contributed to that. I even got an invite to conduct a blogging workshop for kids at a school (do check out my article “Back to school” to know more). Initially, straying off the beaten track and stepping into uncharted territory did feel like venturing into wilderness with just a backpack and a steely resolve. But eventually the joy of discovering things on my own, prevailed over apprehension. Although, there is still a very long road ahead, I made it a point to celebrate my small achievements in this journey. Every time I read out a story to my wife or my four-year-old, it felt very fulfilling.
I must admit though writing was a very lonely process. It is just you and your thoughts. But you must persevere and not waver. The only question you must ask is,
“Is this the story that I set out to write?”.
If the answer is no, then make the corrections and get back on track. If the answer is “yes” then keep at it and continue. Try and make it better. Unfortunately, “better” does not have any boundaries. There is always scope for improvement. Constructive feedback from friends helps a lot here. So, build your network of ten friends to give you honest feedback.
But seek feedback only once you are done with your piece. Seeking feedback half-way through is not advisable since, people might not get the message of your story and things could get lost in translation. That said, always be open to ideas and be ready to rewrite. It could be exhausting but it is worth it. But don’t compromise on the concept and the messaging, because that is what compelled you to write the story at the first place.
I had earlier mentioned about a void that writing managed to fill. The void is nothing but our inability to express in our daily lives. It is not a hidden fact that we are all actors. We act to survive. When we deal with family, colleagues and community in general we are forced to be diplomatic. There is a lot of talking that we do, but are robbed of our right to express our thoughts truthfully. Let’s face it, we live in a ruthless world where truth has no place. Opinions do. In writing I found a medium to express my real and naked thoughts.
Hence, through my characters, locations, atmospherics and plot twists I was able to express myself fully. Yes, I did conceal the thoughts under various genres, fictional characters and settings. This way I could say what I wanted to and still get away with it. It felt, “Bloody good!”.
But then, writing also gave me the opportunity to relive certain moments from the past, correct the wrongs, learn from mistakes and grow as a person. Hence, it became a process of self-discovery for me.
So next time you read my story, you might find me concealed within the words!