Posted in Of Writingly

Of What To Write


For once, I am early to a party. NaNoWriMo will soon be upon us and, wonder of wonders, I am aware of the fact.

Only someone like me would call writing under pressure of some time-and-word limit, and failing at it, a party. To save face, I can confidently say that oh, I can bust some moves. Even Madonna would be impressed. Though not right now, not so soon after having surgery. Maybe convalescing has reminded me of this annual gathering of fictionally-driven minds in the first place, though I am suitably bitter towards it, having unsuccessfully attempted it, on and off, for nearly ten years.

There are less than 90 days left to this s***-of-a-year 2016. In November or not, will this be the year in which I write a novel?

I don’t know about writing anything. Anything at all. I don’t know what to write. This has never happened before. Maybe there hasn’t always been an audience, or opportunities. But, there was always the habit. The will. It’s like forgetting to brush your teeth a couple of times, and then stopping altogether because no one notices anyway. Except, I’d much rather let my teeth decay than my brain.

I want to write. But, I don’t know what to write. This time last year, I was writing a lot  of poetry. Some of you are habitual poets, but it comes once in a violet moon for me, so it was surprising that said moon stuck around for two months or so. It was like love – stormed, overwhelmed, swept away. And then cast ashore to this dull side of 2016.

Writing essays is like flogging an absentee horse. Sometimes its ghost comes by to look at me pityingly. It’s corpse has long been subsumed into the earth. In order to write essays, you need to have to two things: an interesting life and a curious, even mercurial, mind. It’s tough business, mind you. It’s looked at with some derision by ‘real’ writers, it is often the chosen form for celebrity bestsellers, and especially in this day and age, when ‘reality’ is the main creative commodity, it is a dangerous path to tread if you desire credibility. There are plenty of don’ts that no how-to-write books tell you about; you can only learn by doing. And since I cannot trump the dullness of my life, nor furnish opinions that are interesting, I am, for the first time, lacking in essay material.

Last, is fiction. I include all fictive forms in this, not just the novel. I published a short story here called The Rakhi Maker a month ago, to which the reception was scarce but positive. I guess the subject matter was remote for some, though maybe others liked it for the very same reason. I rarely publish fiction here, because my fiction tends to tread boundaries I keep myself within in this social platform. Fiction must include everything, but with essays you can choose where you don’t want to go.

I suppose I could give fiction a try. Maybe take a notebook and a pen, or a blank Word document and see what happens. But, I doubt if anything will. Online writing communities say otherwise, but sometimes the muse has to come to you. You can’t conjure her up. She placed that bag of rakhis in the train I was travelling in, which inspired The Rakhi Maker. She made YouTube suggest Ted Talks videos to me, which resulted in me blogging here, instead of leaving long, troll-worthy comments on that platform.

I’ve never been a big believer in destiny, but sometimes you have to recognise how so many things happen to you by chance. That maybe, you’re not as much a product of your personality as you think you are. That, most of your life has been based on being in the right or wrong place, irrespective of your desires and decisions. That you just bumble along, like a leaf against a wind, leading you to a performance theatre or an operation theatre. Maybe it misread your desires. Maybe you didn’t desire long enough. Loud enough.

If I give up altogether (and that doesn’t seem impossible at this point), I don’t know how, or if I’ll get back. I’ve seen it, heard too many stories of people just giving up on their creative pursuits, because it wasn’t going anywhere, or life demanded something else. I felt invincible before; that this would never happen to me. But, I am on the verge of it, on the verge of some change at least, and if this has to come along, it has to change too.

And maybe NaNoWriMo could spark that change. I don’t know. I hope so. It would be nice.

Would you like to read more fiction on Of Opinions? What do you feel like writing these days?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

12 thoughts on “Of What To Write

  1. Sorry to hear of all these problems with writing. I don’t have to remind you what I think of your writing, but I guess I just did again! I can actually see you doing a really good job of writing more fiction.Don’t forget the Bridget Jones posts too, which were very good. I think my problem is getting the thoughts out that swim around my head and sometimes keep me up at night. I struggled at one point this year, as you might remember and I just needed the space to find inspiration. I started off this year with a bang in terms of writing, but I seem to have more gaps between posts whereas last year at this time I was writing a lot more. I do want to get back to making my own bit of fiction I wrote into a regular feature. I also have been thinking of stringing all of my posts together into a book form, using the approach I used in my four part autobiographical series. So that will involve a lot of writing. I’m not tired of my main format yet-and I have some ideas for some cool posts coming up, but lately I’ve been feeling that maybe all of this has been leading up to now, with the result being a book. That has always been my number one bucket list item.

    1. You know, sometimes I think having to write a book – in most cases a novel – just puts you under unnecessary pressure. Someone asked David Bowie why he doesn’t write poetry (to be a more legit writer) and he said it becomes a song anyway, even if he starts with words. I think it makes it more productive to think about what to say, than what medium to say it in. Having said that, I obviously won’t discourage you from writing a book! Nanowrimo just made me think more of length, that’s all.

      I thoroughly enjoyed writing Bridget Jones, but I want to write more original fiction now. I don’t think you read The Rakhi Maker, but I was surprised by its style. Usually, my fiction is more dialogue-driven. Therefore, I don’t know how successful I was writing mainly description. Writing more fiction will definitely help me identify such things as writing essays have!

      1. I certainly don’t want to be under any sorts of pressure, but at some point recently, I thought-you know…I have a lot of words already put together by way of these blogs, and considering they all relate to me in some way or another, I thought if I add more, thats my ‘musical biography’ which is the working concept I would use. I think I read the first Rakhi Maker but I was a little lost or distracted and never got back to the others. I’ll try to some day. But I was surprised how much I enjoyed my little fictional jaunt so I’m glad to hear that you are willing to give this a shot!

  2. Ah, Nanowrimo. The most important thing to remember is it is a competition with yourself. You don’t have to follow any particular set of rules. You can write a fiction novel, a collection of short stories, a bunch of essays, something non-fiction, or whatever you want. The real point is to write a lot of words on as many days of that month you can.

    Considering the length of this post, you clearly have words in you. Your muse does want to come out. The trick is to coax it to do more than play peek-a-boo with you. My advice on that is to try Everything! Word or picture prompts sometimes work for me. There are so many types of word prompts to choose from too.

    Another trick is to use a method you never have. I used to simply sit down and write whatever idea came to me and try to make it into a story. It worked occasionally but I decided maybe it was time to try being a planner instead of a pantser. So I planned a story out as detailed as you can imagine for Nano one year. I failed miserably. Then I learned about using index cards instead of an outline and my world changed. I found that I need some planning but not too much.

    For Nano last year I was introduced to a book by Alexandra Sokoloff called Stealing Hollywood: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. I had already started Nano by the time I got the book but I had stalled out halfway through. So I figured why not just try it since I wasn’t going to reach 50k anyway.

    No one was more surprised than me when, after using the methods in the book, I wrote an entire first draft in 15 days. I didn’t use every single thing listed but cherry picked what I liked and discarded the rest, and it worked. Also, by concentrating on this method I was able to silence my inner editor and just write.

    I’m not saying you need to go out and buy a book. I’m just giving you my example of how changing it up helped.

    One other suggestion and I’ll shut up since this comment is entirely too long. On the Nanowrimo website, in the forums, there is always a post about adoption. As in Adopt a Plot, Adopt a character, etc. People post ideas they’ve had but that don’t work for them. Maybe someone only writes romance but had a great idea for a western or sci-fi story so they share it.

    Whatever you decide to do remember one thing. Your muse does want you to write a novel or you wouldn’t come back to the idea again and again. It will come out someday and if you work at it and are really lucky, maybe this November will be when it happens. Oh and there is nothing wrong with planning a Nano novel before November. Good luck and keep us updated!

    1. Thank you so much for your generous and lovely comment! It is very helpful. I was reading about something called ‘Oblique Strategies’ by musician Brian Eno who would lay out about 100 cards with random creative techniques and whichever you choose, you’d have to try out. I like to be in control too much to do that, but whatever helps!

      I think being a panster will help, because I’m too much of a planner. Having 50k words on paper first will probably work better for me. Though I’ve been more interested in short stories than a novel lately.

      I don’t really have anything to add to your comment, except that I agree and think the challenge this year won’t be right for me. I just want to write, irrespective of how much and in which month. Good luck if you’re attempting it this year and thank you again!

  3. I don’t write under pressure. I can only write when I want to pick up a brush and paint a scene. It cannot be a job, chore or expectation. If I have a block I think I must be going about the endeavor backwards.

    1. I don’t have a solid idea for a novel either. I am trying to work on short stories, though its not for Nano. It’s great that Nano is just about making the effort and not critiquing it, but even then it seems like a lot. But, you’ve done it before and I’m sure you can do it again if you want to!

      P. S. I miss reading your blog. Come back!

    1. Thank you! I recently read an article where it was suggested that making art helps you live longer, because you don’t keep things bottled up. I am glad that writing can help you do that!

      Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment!

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