Why do You Write?

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why 3

Its a question writers and non writers ask all the time and there are as many replies as there are people. Here is my answer to this very important question.

This little piece was first posted on my blog, then I submitted it, in revised form to Fl;ash Fiction Chronicles and they accepted it. They published it yesterday – take a look -

Why do You Write?

 

Submissions for the Summer Issue

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Submissions are now open for the Summer 2014 issue of World Haiku Review.

whr-smallSend up to ten haiku and the suggested themes are War or Summer subjects but you do not have to stick to the themes.

Please read the complete guidelines HERE and follow them.

The deadline is 17 August, 2014. You have plenty of time so go ahead, get writing and submit your best.

Spring submissions

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Submissions are now open for the Spring 2014 issue of World Haiku Review.

whr-smallSend up to ten haiku and the suggested themes are romance or spring subjects but you do not have to stick to the themes.

Please read the complete guidelines HERE and follow them.

The deadline is 6 April, 2014. You have plenty of time so go ahead, get writing and submit your best.

Cold and Short and Busy

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That is what February was. Cold – it caught the tail of the bad weather up north and got as cold as Mumbai can get. Short – where did it go? Busy – yes, work done, and lots happening as well, enough to fill all the early dusk days.

A good month. My articles ‘Muses have no sense of time’ was published and an interview as well. Several submissions await responses, some overdue by now.

A writer’s life, another month of it, most of the day at the notebook and keyboard, words filling up the hours late into the night.

W1S1 February 2014- Fahrenheit

Interview

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ResolutionMy new year story Resolution was the top story for January, and today Flash Fiction Chronicles carried an interview with me, about writing it and about flash fiction in general.

Check it out HERE

That story seemed to strike a chord – I got such good feedback on it.

The original post is HERE and the update is HERE.

 

Resolution update

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On the first of Jan this year I blogged about Resolution, my story which Every Day Fiction carried as its new year story. I mentioned that there was an actual kitten and put up pictures of the cute and famished inspiration.

The earlier post is HERE.

Perhaps it was the kitten but my story ended up as the story of the month and a lot of people asked me how the kitten is faring, so here is a kitten update. Naturally my sister named it Resolution.

Resolution grows upHe looks so innocent when asleep but innocent he is not. His favorite occupation is leaping on other cats and chasing their tails. He whacks anything which passes, much to the displeasure of my dog Toffee – but he does not put out his claws so no one gets hurt.

So that is the story!

 

 

Are Indian Literary Festivals Relevant?

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When a literary festival hits town I always take those days off and spend them listening to the talks and meeting whoever I can. I have been going to Mumbai’s Literature Live since it began and this year I attended Jaipur literary festival, which bills itself as the biggest free literary festival in the world. It certainly lived up to its billing. I have never stood in so many queues in my life.

Crowds everywhere at Jaipur

Crowds everywhere at Jaipur

Jhumpa Lahiri speaks at Jaipur

Jhumpa Lahiri speaks at Jaipur

Of course, I enjoy it. Listening to writers, discussing books, interacting with the literary community – which writer does not enjoy that?

In the last year or so literary festivals have been booming in India, every small town is proudly holding them. Srinagar had a literary festival. The Bombay Gym club had a literary festival. They are everywhere and extremely well attended. Jaipur had two lakh people this year.

So of course, they are cutting edge, right? Well, no. Not really.

It’s not what they are saying. It’s what they are not saying.

Literary festivals in India – I have no idea about anywhere else – are a closed eco system – shut off from the outside world.

Inside the festivals you have thousands of young writers, dying to catch the nod of an agent or publisher. Outside, in the real world – publishing is in the throes of change and not doing well at all. Privately, even publishers admit to that.

In the festivals every young author who has got a three book deal is invited to grace the stage, but some things are never mentioned. No one talks of eBooks, or the internet – or worse – self publishing. The changes which are sweeping the world are non-existent here.

The bookshops sell physical books, which is fine, but they don’t sell Wink, Infibeam, Kobo or Kindle eBook readers alongside. Here, however, they don’t exist.  

It bothers me when the panelists in a session know nothing at all about the subject they are supposed to talk about. Who choses these panels?

In the Mumbai festival there was a panel on fantasy writing – a favorite read of mine – and at one point the foreign moderator asked, “Does fantasy sell?” What was she doing on the panel if she did not know the answer to that? Well, no one answered that question that day.

If you want to know the answer it’s only too easy to find.

What sells superbly well in India, even though publishers until a few years ago were saying, no one will read it? Mythology.

What sells all over the world despite the mystification of the publishing world? Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings. The biggest bestsellers lists of any time have a very healthy dose of fantasy.

This year in Jaipur there was a session on short stories. I had to stand in queues a mile long, in the rain, to get in and then I had to stand in the back for quite a while. Was it worth my while? 

One writer on the panel said openly, I don’t know why I am here because I don’t write short stories. Another writer, who had published a book of shorts a long time ago, said there was no market for short stories.

And she was right. Publishers don’t publish short stories. There is no print market for them.

That is, if you ignore the internet, where there are hundreds of websites which – gasp – pay – for short stories and whole communities devoted to them.

But, of course, the internet does not exist in the minds of Literary Festivals.

It’s a world of publishers and the authors they publish.

Never mind that publishers are struggling under the costs of bringing out print books which they will then sell to physical bookstores which are cutting back or closing.

The physical book is in trouble under the assault of the eBook.

Bookstores are in trouble under the sweep of the one click shopping sites.

Publishers are feeling the heat from self publishing.

But go to a literary festival and you will see none of that.

 So are literary festivals relevant? For entertainment, yes, always. Just don’t mistake that gated community for the whole wide world.

 

Muses have no sense of time

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I’ve never known a muse who could understand a clock! And yet, hoping for inspiration is a huge part of any writing career, especially if it is fiction or poetry.

So I wrote this article, and yes, the muse came through but not, of course, when I expected. Muses have a sense of adventure, but not of time.

Muses‘Muses Have No Sense of Time’ is up on Flash Fiction Chronicles today. Perhaps the byline should have given credit to the muse.

Do take a look.

Why do you write?

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Why do you writeA friend asked a question, why do you write?

I thought about it and I had no answer. Why do I write?  I have been writing all my life – but why?

It is not a profession which leads an obese bank account.

Most writers do not make a living at writing. To survive you need other work which will pay the bills. Writing is usually a balancing act, caught in the cracks between work and family commitments. Writers must take whatever moments they can, steal time to write, cutting out other pleasures to squeeze a little more writing time from an almost empty tube.

Most writers would love to write full time – but they need to eat. Writing rarely makes any money. Poetry is notorious for that – poetry and money just don’t live in the same town.

Does that ever stop poets from writing? Of course not.

So what is it? Success?

Very few writers achieve success. Their readers are usually their writing friends and writing group members. Writers can struggle for decades without getting anywhere.

In the days of traditional publishing many writers never got published. In today’s age of self publishing you will get published and then just disappear in the flood of other books.

Very few writers achieve fame and fortune. But that has never stopped anyone from writing.

So what is it? What keeps you going, year after year, alone, doubting yourself, struggling with the knives and daggers of rejection, wounded over and over and yet picking yourself up from the gutter again and again. Reinventing yourself when all doors seem to be shut. Loosing yourself in another story while the old ones molder unread.

How do you last in this field – that is a mystery – but you do.

You grow two skins. One is tender and sweet, with the poet’s sensitivity and the openness to the flow of words. The other is tougher than rhinoceros hide – that you need that when the rejections begin. Make no mistake, you will always need the rhinoceros hide – even success cannot insulate you.

Would you last as a writer if you knew what was to come? New writers are blissful in their ignorance and older battered writers usually avoid saying anything. What can you say which will not discourage them so greatly that they will go and wait on tables instead?

So why do you write?

Why?

You do not write for the externals, for the gains. It is something internal. The act of writing itself.

You don’t write for readers. That comes later and who knows whether you will have any readers or not. You can hope but you cannot be sure. Even successful writers are not sure. I have often heard them say that a book they thought would be a great success flopped and another, written in a spare thoughtless moment, somehow caught the reader’s imagination.

So you do not write for readers.

You write to write.

Something magical happens when you write and especially when you write poetry or fiction. You connect to the creative part of you, what you might call the Muse.

It opens a universe. It takes you out of yourself. It fills you with magic quite unknown in this prosaic, unimaginative world. For that magnificence what will you not do?  Everything else is dwarfed by those starry moments.

So perhaps, that is the answer to why you write.

You write for companionship – your own.

You write to meet yourself at the deepest and most profound level. The ancients called it ‘yoga’ – union with yourself.

You write because without words to express it, the world is brittle and prickly and almost unlivable.

You write to survive and you write to become.

Most of all, you write because it gives you wings.

 …

Thank you to Bhavani Ramesh whose question started this train of thought.

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