RSS Feed

How Do We Start Writing?

Posted on

Many of us, who have just begun their writing journeys, are struggling with this question. Invariably, most of us delay our writing assuming that what we want to say would develop in our mind first and then, we would put it on paper. This is also an excuse for postponing our writing. We keep trying to think of something substantial before putting our thoughts down on paper. We fear that without any thoughts we would be staring at the blank paper.
Some other times, we think that we know exactly what we want to write. It is all in our mind, we just need to put it down on paper. However, when we start putting it down, the entire structure begins falling apart. We realize that the structure we thought was reasonable cannot be supported through any evidence or theory. We feel that we have to start again.
In both aforementioned scenarios, we are making the mistake of assuming writing as a mechanical process. We think that it is just about jotting down on pen and paper or on our laptop. We think that we think through our minds and our hands just mechanically process it. This is one of the biggest problems of modern society, which has undue importance to the mind at the cost of the hand. The movement of our hands facilitates the flow of our thoughts. It is our hand that has the capacity to engage our mind in an extensive manner. Maria Montessori (1949), in The Absorbent Mind, has argued that the development of our mind remains stunted if we do not pay attention to the development of our hands.
We can start writing with a blank mind. We might sit on our desk with nothing to write but this act would help us to focus our mind on the task at hand. It would encourage us to pick our pen to write something. This would get the ball rolling and we would get into the writing mode. Once we force ourselves to write consistently for a few months, we realize that the more we write the more organize our thoughts become. Our thoughts develop and shape through writing. We may start with a brief outline or an overview but while writing our thoughts gradually pick up a logical sequence.
Writing everyday is the most important activity for a writer. Every time you think of postponing writing, you must remind yourself that it is you fear of writing and not the lack of ideas and thoughts.

Tongue Twister or Thought Twister….. (The best way out of a difficulty is through it)


(This post has been contributed by Riddhi shah, a friend and colleague of many years. She also writes in Gujrati.)

I was playing with my 4 years old son yesterday. Playing various games with him is one of my favorite activities of daily routine, specially the language games. My son speaks and understands three languages, Gujarati, Hindi and English and he loves exploration of new languages. We were playing ‘tongue twister’, which is known for improving pronunciation.

Betty bought butter but butter was bitter so,

Betty bought better butter to make bitter butter better butter!

We enjoyed speaking the tongue twister with various methods and laughed a lot. It was great fun. After playing this game for some time, my son asked me about the meaning of the sentence. I tried to explain the meaning to him that one girl named Betty bought butter but because the butter was bitter, she bought another butter to add in the bitter one so that the butter will become better or we can say sweeter. After listening to the answer, my son was satisfied and got engaged in another activity. However, after some time he came back and asked, ‘but mama, if the butter was bitter, Betty could have either thrown it or add sugar in it, why did she add another fresh/better butter in it. What if the fresh butter will become bitter too? The entire butter will be wasted then?’ I did not have any immediate answer to his question. I replied to him gently, ‘you are right in a way, my son but there must be some reason behind Betty’s decision. Is it alright if I give you answer after a while?’ His agreement gave me some relaxation.

First of all, I was so amazed on my son’s question. He not only thought about the question but also tried to find solution as per his understanding. Child Psychologists believe that children till the age of five, cannot differentiate much between real world and imaginary world as adults do. Perhaps this is the reason, children can accept complex situation better than we adults. If the entire discussion can be seen with broader perspective, this tongue twister teaches us a lot.

Today, most of the people specially youth are very busy. Thousands and lakhs of people like me are running for something. Some towards their aspirations, some for their children, some for their needs and few might be running just because others are running, but everybody is running. I am also one of the participants of this marathon. We have everything except time. We do not have time to learn from our Past or to learn from the incidences happening around us. Hence, sometimes we do not pause to examine the bitter incidences around us or even in our lives rather we waste a lot of our time in preparing sweeter butter from bitter butter. The reason behind this is we limit our perspective in ‘busy life’ that we don’t think to throw the bitter one and start with the new one. A very well known physiologist, Mr. M. Scott Peck has written in his book, ‘The Road Less Traveled’ that the problems are never that huge as we make them. One requires a sense to look at them and understand them. Many a times we do not understand the problem and also we avoid the pain we might need to face while addressing the issue because confronting and solving problems is a painful process. He also said,

“Our view to reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.”

How true it is, isn’t it? But are we born with these maps? Not really, we have to prepare these maps and it needs to be constantly changed with time and need. But unfortunately, the young generation today has stopped preparing their own maps and that is why they are lost in their own circle. We have forgotten that there are multiple ways of making bitter butter better. And sometimes mindlessly adding more butter may result in all the butter being wasted.

I think I am also lost while writing, experiencing a bombardment of thoughts from all sides. But fortunately till I have completed this blog, my son has forgotten his question. Again I am relaxed as I really do not have an answer to his question.

Was this tongue twister or thought twister? Very COMPLEX ! Anyways you also try to play with this tongue twister tonight ….

Betty bought butter but butter was bitter so,

Betty bought better butter to make bitter butter better butter!

Link to her Gujrati article


From Writing First Draft to Re-writing: Note to Self

Posted on

I began my writing journey with the fear of writing. I would do most mundane tasks to put off writing. Gradually, I overcame this fear by forming a habit of writing everyday. It was an uphill task and it took me more than a year to start writing everyday. This exercise made me comfortable with writing. I am not saying that I write everyday now but I find it comparatively less difficult and I write quite regularly. This was the first milestone in my writing journey.

I reached my second milestone when I began reading Paris Review Interviews. These interviews taught me to perceive writing as essentially re-writing. It is in the process of re-writing that we gain control over our writing. This idea inspired me to begin my first big writing project. My research for this project was complete and I had ideas I just needed to sit down and write. My first draft was prepared with a lot of anxiety, agony and physical labour in two months. I have written about this experience in my previous posts. The joy of being able to put your thoughts in words in the way I wanted inspired me further and kept me going.

By the time I finished, I was drained physically, emotionally and mentally. I could not sit to read and write further. Then I decided to take some rest. During this time, I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I also looked through some other texts but I did not engage with anything. In retrospect, maybe I should have. It would have kept me going. I was still writing everyday, mostly writing my journal. However, as time went by, I became more and more relaxed in my reading writing routine.

Now it is time for the third milestone and I find myself procrastinating. Like the first one, I have been delaying it for two months now. This time I fear it because it is a humongous task. However, it is most essential. It is the task Paris Review Interviews taught me, that is, re-writing. I have to read my work sentence by sentence and edit or rewrite it. I think I am facing two roadblocks. Firstly, reading triggers writing and I am not spending enough time in reading. Secondly, I realized re-writing like writing requires practice. Cultivating a habit of re-writing everyday along with reading and writing will gradually improve my editing skills.

At present, I am struggling to re-write and edit my writing. In each attempt, I struggle with new kinds of grammatical and pragmatic issues in language. Sometimes, I struggle with the use of ‘but’ or semi-colon, or the issue of re-writing the entire paragraph to make it more accessible and coherent.

My writing journey has been slow. Struggle that accompanies each of these milestones appear daunting in the beginning and requires a lot of hard work and discipline. Sometimes, I want to quit. But the silver lining is that reaching a milestone assures me that I am moving in the right direction. It is this struggle that makes me feel alive.

I killed my brother!

I certainly as a doomed child

On my birth, my mother cried

I certainly was a doomed child

On my birth, my brother died

Ah! I certainly was a doomed child.


My mother was not allowed to feed

Sisters were not allowed to pay any heed

My father obviously did not care

Relatives gave venom of their share

Strategies to kill me were also tried

Yes, I certainly was a doomed child.


They say I competed with my brother

Came to this world and sent him to the other

But my bond with him is deeper than their

Even though he is no more here

They asked for him but could not get

I got him but lost to death


We touched each other

And played together

We talked with those unsaid words

He said he feared the outside world

I said I wanted to see that world

The world of light, the colourful world


But am happy you are not here my bhai

This indeed is a cold-scary place

The lights here are too bright for the eyes

Colours are all in shades of red


Post Writing Experience

Posted on

Writing is very tiring. It is physically tiring. I have been chasing a deadline and so writing for most hours a day and it reminds me of Earnest Hemingway’s quote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down on your typewriter and bleed”. I relate more to the last part of the quote more as there are moments when I feel my fingers are bleeding.

In this post, I wish to share my post writing experience. Once the text is completed even if it’s the first draft, it fills me with joy, joy of accomplishment. The joy of creating something after hours of concentrated effort, physical labour. For a few moments, I enjoy this feeling.

This feeling leads to a trail of thoughts about my writing. I begin to reflect on my argument, on the illustrations I used and their appropriateness and the conclusion. How did I tie the entire paper in the end?

Soon, these reflections lead me to dilemmas and then doubts. Did I conclude it properly? Could I have used more threads from introduction in the conclusion? Did the analyses of the situation make sense? Was the analyses properly done? Did I analyze all important points of the illustration?

Then I begin to think of things I could have done differently but worse, I begin to think of things I missed or completely forgot writing. This makes it worse. I am now compelled to re-work on it. It is a good thing if I have not submitted it, but really bad if it’s gone.

In moments like this I remember my teacher’s voice to complete the draft and then leave it for a few days. A fresh set of eyes after a few days will help you improve. This also means planning your writing. If you have to submit something in ten days, you work on it in your mind in the first three-four days, then you take two days to write it, then you keep it on a back burner for three days. Then you pick it up again and re-work on it. This time management always works but I often forget and sit with my paper on the last day.

How is the writing challenge going for me?

I have nothing to write and thats why I am writing on such an inane topic. My challenge is to write 500 words….only 500 words everyday, but I have nothing…no topic…How can that be. I am generally a talkative person. And thats why I have decided to write on this. Truth be told, even this is not my original idea, people had to suggest me that why don’t you just write bout your mental state. Yes, why not!
So, what am I going through, I have this fear about what will I write, right from the morning when I get up. I think about it whole day, its like a nagging mom after you whole day. Not all days are like this though, I wanted to write a story, which I have finished in two days (hope you guys read it) and I write my notes., which thanks to the challenge are written more promptly.
So many a days it is not a problem, but some times it is. Why is that so? We never have to tell ourselves to at least speak 500 words to get into the habit of it. What is so unique about writing. Here is my analysis:
The sense or dearth of an audience: We never sit alone in a room and talk to ourselves, hoping that later on, somebody would hear it.We speak get response and move on.
The pressure to be original: While talking most of the conversation is about here and now and it is not getting recorded, nobody would later on say “Hey Richa, why do you everyday talk about the tortoise in your house” Well I talk about the tortoise to people who are interested in it and want to know what it ate today and we can talk about it everyday. Writing is always impersonal in that sense and you cannot be repetitive. also you cannot write what Jug Suraiya wrote about. Well you can talk about that without any hassles.
The need to be correct: See written word can be read (Ha ha ha), even if it is stored safely in  my laptop, it can be read. (But in this case, I am putting it on the net, so available to everybody who may be interested can read) So, I have to write and then read it and correct it and read it again. I may still be way off from being correct, but I make an effort and that makes the process way more formal then ……well!…..talking.
The need to organise ideas: Since we are talking in comparison to talking or oral communication, you may say, “well thats not unique you have to organise your thoughts and ideas even for talking”. well, thats true but still while talking it is possible to correct yourslef, go back, reiterate the whole point and then link it to your argument. that cannot be done with writing. If you do that, you may end up with a piece of writing will probably no make sense to you yourself, if you go back to it a few days later.
I am sure this is a very preliminary-superficial analysis but it in a lay person’s words places it why writing is not easy.
Happy writing to you and me…

Love story

The stirrings of first love are a fantastic experience. Those who have experienced, and I believe most of you have, know what I mean. The intense desire to see the person again and again, to talk to others about him or her, to write his name secretly, to meet her secretly, may be….may be being able to hold hands. The innocence of first love is often lost with it. So, today I will tell you about the love story of Maya and Lalit.
Maya and Lalit study in class 8th of ABCD government school.It is like any school near any basti. All the children in the school are from the same basti. So, they are all known to each other, have grown up together.
This is a huge basti. It has many castes living together: Khatik, banjara, kalbeliya, rangaswami, rajputs, brahmins and many many more. Mostly the areas in the basti are separated as to which caste will leave where. So, basically there are sections of kalbeliyas and banjaras and rangaswamis and khatiks. The number of “higher caste” households are limited in number and more scattered.
Children play together and fight together. Adults gossip together and fight together. Fighting is as much a part of life as anything else. Fights between children is often physical but rarely lasting. But the fights between young adults if leads to maarpeet then it is hardly forgotten. The rounds of revenge-taking goes on for quiet a long time.
In this scenario Maya Banjara fell in love with Lalit Kalbeliya. They study in the same class and their houses are not very off. He used to some times pass chits of paper with jokes written on them, she and her friends would smile..sometimes laugh too. This had led to many a scoldings for Maya, but then scolding from teachers is a part of being in school, who doesn’t get it.
Some days when Lalit had some money he would buy small chocolates for her, they often ate them together while walking home and sometimes she hid them and ate at night.
Oh and last monday he had written an entire film song on a piece of paper, yes the same Lalit who rarely completes his homework had learnt and written an entire song! And the love letter that he had written to her. It was full of all those nice lines written behind the autos in cities. Maya and her friends had enjoyed reading it for many days.
Yesterday when the school bell rang, Lalit did not leave his seat. Maya and her friends saw this. As they came out of the school, they again noticed from the window that he was still in the classroom.
“Come on Maya, you should go back and talk to him”, said Pooja.
“you think I should? but what if somebody sees and complains to my mother”, Maya, who was dying to go inside said.
“Don’t worry we are standing here, you go in talk to him and run back”, Mahima her cousin sister said.
Maya went back to meet Lalit.
“What happened, why are you still here? why aren’t you going home?”
“I wanted to meet you…alone”
“Why?” Maya was smiling, she also has an idea why a boyfriend and girlfriend need to meet alone.
Lalit came forward and held her hands. What an electric current went through both their bodies. They were both a little scared, excited and convinced that this is the right thing to do.
Suddenly the door outside the room was locked by somebody. It seems Govind, Lalu and Mahendra were laughing loudly. Lalit started abusing, there were return abuses from outside.
“Pooja-Mahima, come inside fast” Maya shouted. Though she was a little scared but she knew that when she gets out she would give a tight slap to all three of them, useless buggers.
Even before her friends could come, they had opened the door. Lalit started fighting them. As all four boys were intertwined in the brawl, Maya thought it wise just to slip out and reach home on time. It was a close escape. She reached home on time and everything was ordinary at home when her mother came home half hour later.
Next day Maya, Mahima and Pooja walked to school together. Maya saw Govind standing on the school gate and giggling.
“Just shut your mouth and go inside, otherwise I will give you such a tight slap that you wouldn’t be able to get up for two days”, Maya shouted as she entered the school.
Govind laughed it out loudly.
Just before the lunch break Sadhna madam called Maya to the staff room.
What a scene! Her mother, Sadhna madam, Aruna Madam, Shaheen madam were all there. Something is definitely not right.
“What happened yesterday, Mahima?” Sadhna Madam asked.
“Nothing ma’am”
“After school?”
“Nothing Ma’am, really”
“What were you doing in the room with Lalit?”
This time Maya kept quiet
“Madam, I was asking her something about the work being done in the last month, as I was absent and Govind and Lalu just came and closed the door from outside, and when I shouted, they opened in a minute madam. Nothing happened” Govind pitched in.
“Why couldn’t you ask her in the school time, huh?” Shaheen madam “And have you become so old to be interested in these things?”
“Even a minute is enough ma’am to ruin the name” the mother said and then she started crying.
“Arre nahi, nothing has happened, why are you so worried, they are young children” Aruna madam tried to hush matters.
“Earlier also there have been complaints about her” the mother said in between the sobs.”She goes out in the evenings, it must be for this boy only”
Some, children had by now started to come to observe the scene.
“Go from here” shouted Sadhna madam.
“Madam, I will take her from the school only, there is no point in education at such a cost”
“Madam, we were only talking” Lalit made a small attempt.
“What was the talk about” Aruna madam asked.
“Yes, tell us, what was so important to talk about” Shaheen madam said.
“Friendship, is it?” Sadhna madam now intervened, “I have many a times scolded both of them”
“you are too old,huh, Maya?” Aruna Madam
“We are not tired of scolding them”
“He is an intelligent boy, he is good n studies also”
Govind – “Madam, I have not done anything”
“But what was the need to talk when the school got over?”
“And that too inside the class?”
“Answer this Maya?”
“Say something now, open your mouth” saying this the mother stood up and slapped her.
“Say something, why aren’t you speaking” and a volley of of slaps. She pushed her on the floor and kept hitting. The teachers were all silent for some time.
“I will kill you, if you do these things”
“Arre, they are children, why are you getting so emotional” Sadhna Madam, finally thought of intervening.
“They are young children Behen ji, they do not have any sense as of now” Shaheen madam.
“If, they will go on this line now madam, they will never be able to improve”
“They will improve don’t worry”
Aruna Madam-“Maya now we don’t have to do any such thing again”
“Say something to madam now, where is your tongue?” saying this the mother gave such a heavy blow that she fell again and the sleeve of her kurta came off.
Mother- “If I tell your father, he will definitely kill you”
Sadhna madam- “Easy behen ji, easy”
“Beta, aren’t you too young, just look at your mother”
“Your mother is so troubled, think of how much she does for you”
“Where all she goes and does work”
“And Govind, for your mother, you are the eldest, your father is not there, it is all your responsibility. Aren’t you sensible?”
“Madam, whatever was the matter, I have told you” said Lalit
“Then what were you doing inside?”
“We did nothing madam”
“Then why did they close the door?” the mother asked. She was troubled, crying and felt that probably her and her daughters name has already been maligned for ever. She wished to understand the situation, to come to terms with why her daughter was behaving like this, was she of bad character?
“What do I do, if somebody closest door, as soon as it was opened, I came out”
Aruna Madam- “Is that why Govind has not come today?”
Govind- “Madam, I gave him a mukka in his stomach and told him that I would call my mother to school today, thats why he may not have come today?”
“Then why did you not tell me anything since the morning?” Sadhna asked. She was troubled by the whole thing but above all, she was unable to understand how Lalit, such a good boy otherwise and also intelligent in studies can be involved in something like this.
“What do I do now madam?” mother was crying profusely, and Maya was wondering whether something so bad had really happened.
“Behen ji, the other boy tricked them and closed the door, its not that the got locked in the room by choice” Shaheen madam said.
“Madam, I had seen shayari written in her copy the other day, they must have written those shayari in the school itself. I am not educated, but I asked her sister to read them to me.”
“What Maya, are we old enough to be engaging in Shayari?” Aruna Madam said, she teaches class 1 and 2. She had taught Maya and Lalit too and was wondering when did they grow so old?
“Madam, I am forty years old, I have never engaged in any of these things.
“you come home, I will burn you, so that you learn a lesson, the moment you will go to the toilet, then I will come and burn you, you wait and watch. I don’t want such children”
“Behen ji, don’t say all this”
“ya, we also take care a lot at school, whenever anybody goes to toilet, we keep an eye, who is taking how long.”
“In today’s world you have to be careful all the time”
“Behen ji, you keep her home only, let her do the utensils and her senses will come back.”
“yes, I think it is right, she should sit at home and leave studies.”
Maya had now started sobbing and was wondering, why was it only her fault. Why was everyone thinking of making her sit at home, why not Govind and also why not Lalit?
So, what do you think, who has decided that the punishment needs to be meted out to Maya, the mother, teachers, community or some one else? Share your thoughts on what may happen next too.