Book 1 of CBC 12X12: DONE!

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Till a week ago, I had not written one word of the book I was supposed to write for CBC 12×12.

I am not sure why. I was busy yes, but more than that, I just didn’t feel inspired enough to write Tracks’ story. I have been actively querying its prequel HOME BEFORE DARK (and getting rejected) and it was difficult to revisit the series, when I was finding it tough to sell the first book.

So, instead of looking at other options, I was just beating a dead horse. Result? Not one word on the sheet.

Then Jan 25 came, and I really panicked. Only one week and I didn’t have a ms! I was going to fail this challenge on the very first month… !!!

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Then I recalled a couple of stories I had published long back. It was about two friends, a timid boy and a rowdy girl, who were always getting into trouble. I wanted to write more stories about the unlikely pair, and as usual, forgot all about it in the mayhem of life.

So, why don’t I write 5 new stories in that collection (5000 words, which is the min. length of a chapter book) for this month?

Now, it may sound insane to attempt to write a story a day… but a first draft is another matter. It usually takes me 2-3 hours max. to write the first draft of a short story, so technically I could do it, if I maintained discipline.

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Sure, the collection would probably need a month’s worth of editing, but CBC 12×12 is about writing the first draft of a chapter book every month…. not an edited draft!

So, fellow writers, I announce you MAANJA MADNESS and other weekend tales of your favourite frenemies, a collection of 7 stories about Chintu and Sheelu, those friendly/unfriendly neighbours who get into various scraps and manage to escape usually at the expense of Chintu!

Book 1 of CBC 12×12 is completed….. YAY!

Moral of the story: When one road is dark, take another  🙂

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One big project

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I’m working on a project this year. A big one.

It’s a novel that I had thought about for years, about a rather obscure Indian teenager who goes to London in 1888 to study law. But I was overwhelmed at the research and the hard work that particular plot would entail, and I was scared (not to mention lazy – all that Victorian details to study! Slang to learn! Locations to visualise! Words to write!).

So, apart from constant daydreaming, I did nothing.

Last year, after the jaundice holiday, I decided I couldn’t die without at least writing that novel that I had been dreaming for a long time. I started the plotdoodling process, arrived at a workable outline, wrote a couple of chapters (had to show something to the visa officers when they asked me why I need to go to UK to write a novel) and spent Nov 2013 in London on live and library research. Finally, I felt ready (and brave) enough to attempt writing a first draft.

Yes, even saying that makes my stomach clench. I already have 12 chapter books and 12 short stories to write this year, so am I biting off more than I could chew? More importantly, am I the right person to pen this particular tale? I don’t know…. but I will never know if I don’t attempt it.

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Last year, one of the my worst years yet, I finished one tiny chapter book. Just 10000 words. It was not my big project though. The big project was that I created an author platform for myself. I had bits and bobs of different webpages scattered all over the Net, it was not doing anyone, any good, and I always meant to do something about it, you know… as soon I got some free time.

Soon after I finished the chapter book and was so pumped with enthusiasm (and aware that my ‘writing holiday’ will come to an end soon), I sat down, deleted all my defunct webpages and created the blogsite you’re currently reading now. It took some sleepless nights and it is not 100% done, but in the middle of personal debris and  bittersweet life lessons, it was a lifeline to be able to say that, yes, I completed one big project. And it felt GOOD.

You know what they say about being thin? It’s the same with procrastination. No amount of LATER feels as good as one day in the NOW.

In fact that is going to be my plan from now on. To work on one big project a year.

To publish anything, you need to have written it first and that’s where I have always failed. Lots of initiation, no execution. So for 2014, my only goal is to write. Not publish.

And so far, I am doing good. As a happy side effect, I am inspiring others too.

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Challenges that ask you to succeed every week or month maybe completely beyond what you can hope to aim for in 2014. But you definitely can work on one big project a year. A book, a blog, a sculpture, that marathon you’ve been meaning to run, a language you always wanted to learn – choose one that’s closest to your heart. If nothing else, it will keep you motivated, interested, engaged. It will keep you drenched in the relief that you have not given up, under any circumstances.

No matter how busy or hassled you are in keeping house, paying your bills or raising your children, one big project – with a time limit of 365 days – will keep your inner muse happy and the Knife content.

Is there a single project that has kept you bright-eyed and excited for a long time but remains unfinished because you are too busy to pay attention to it?

If yes, exactly what or who is stopping you from making it the Project of the Year?

Can you say it without flinching?

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Previously I had talked about being a part of a helpful community. 

Unfortunately most creative artists are already a part of a community. A toxic community that has all the compassion of a rattlesnake, pitches negativity whenever it has the chance to (which is many) and can make a saint doubt his ideals.

Have you ever delayed, hidden or suppressed a dream, just because it is not expected from a person of your age/stature/role in your family/society?

Have you ever flinched or stuttered apologetically when some one expresses confusion over your chosen profession or undermines your aspirations to be a writer/artist?

Have you always felt a little side-tracked in a crowd of near and dear ones, simply because you are a creative person who pursues her dream?

If you say yes to any question, you are the victim of a toxic immunity.

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Periodically I am questioned for my ‘silly’ dreams, ‘impractical’ ideas, ‘useless’ desires.

What AM I doing with my life? 

Do I realize what people my age are accomplishing (great job, purchase of dream house, 1.4 children, etc.) – HOW can I bear to be ‘beneath’ them?

WHY this desire to have a writing blog or hold free workshops and going abroad to edit anthologies for impoverished immigrants? 

WHO really cares if I did all this or not, seriously?

Well, I do.

I care. And it has taken me years to say that without flinching, without feeling ashamed, without feeling like I was disappointing some one, somewhere by feeling the way I do.

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Back when I decided to ditch architecture for writing, the shit really hit the fan. I had to literally stay at home to avoid all insults and brickbats hurled at me. It appalled the middle class junta to see someone turning their back at an expensive college education, and jump into an unknown profession, all in the name of ‘passion’ (to some, it’s a vile word!).

Here’s the clincher. As soon as I won an international fellowship and started publishing books, the nay sayers abruptly vanished. Their bodies remained back, though. The very same folks who admonished me, were now showering me with praises. A “well-wisher” who had previously predicted the sad fate of my parents who had borne such an ungrateful daughter (his words) now was openly telling everyone that he always knew I would be a star someday (again, his words!).

So… by now, I ought to be used to all that. If I quit a well-paying job or moved abroad to study writing – censure. If I get quoted / reviewed on national paper or become a judge in a popular talent contest – compliments. It does take a village to raise an artist child, but this was the pits.

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Truth is, every time the world reads with baffled rage at my dreams, it hurts. I bleed. I am baffled myself – they still don’t get me? I still don’t fit in? And it gets a bit more tough to remain focused on my goals.

But I force myself to remember my past, how just one success made all the naysayers into yaysayers. And I am determined more than ever to succeed and make them recant their words, again and again, eternally, so that they learn to never, ever predict some one’s future again.

The next time some one makes you feel your dreams are less than ideal because they are not what they want them to be, what will you do?

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Why you should write everyday

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Some compare writing, especially writing a book or a novel, to birthing. You carry around these ideas inside you till you become so pregnant with them you HAVE to get it all down on paper, and watch it take shape as a book, with its own universe and people and incidents that you created from scratch. 

There was a time when I believed that too. I don’t think so anymore.

After writing regularly the past three months, I have come to realise that it is like chipping away at ourselves. It more of a self-birth, than an external birth. The more I write, the more the process evolves and so does my understanding of it, and of what is changing in me and why I have been chosen to write what comes naturally to me (and why I should not fight it).

Solar Flower - The Giant Robot of Buenos Aires - (and 24 hours until the unveiling of something really cool)

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Like a sculptor who sculpts herself, writing every single day is like peeling yourself like an onion, little by little, so that you do not go into shock when the sweet center emerges.

Every line you create, every perspective you express, every emotion you put on paper and yes, every book you write removes the debris surrounding your soul and makes you shinier, cleaner, luminous.

The more you write, the better you think, the better you become.

And what they say is true – writing is like a muscle. You need to exercise it every day, to keep it in top shop. Ignore it too long, and it becomes slack and useless…

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I can talk, because I left it for eight long long years and the comeback effort was so mind-breaking (I now know how tough it is for an addict to claw hey way back to sanity) that I never, ever want to go through it again. Just to avoid that pain, I would keep writing every day!

FURTHER READING:

http://goinswriter.com/write-every-day/

http://zenhabits.net/write-daily/

http://lifehacker.com/how-writing-regularly-changed-my-life-and-how-you-can-746865755

MoM of First Meet

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In a previous post, I had announced a children’s writers’ meet I was hosting in my hometown. 

Today evening, a group of writers – some wrote for children, one was an assistant direction and another was an IT engineer who was simply curious – met and talked about our writing aspiration. Eleven RSVP’ed and 5 made it. I am happy with those numbers! (There was once a meet where just one turned up… yes, I am battle-scared and bone-weary 😉 )

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Meetup.com was the origin point. I had posted a call for e children’s writers’ meet up and the five writers answered the call. Venue was Cafe Coffee Day (Sterling Road), that laid-back establishment who couldn’t comprehend why I wanted to book a table for 12 when I was confident only half of that number may turn up!

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Highlight of the meet was when we decided to form a writing group and see where it takes us. Each writer expressed a desire to have a safe and secure community, where we would exchange manuscripts and feedback. So we finalized an online group, with the definite component of a live meet once a month, for a face-to-face session.

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At the end of an enjoyable couple of hours, everyone agreed that it is awesome to meet and synergies with fellow creative minds. I, personally, was delighted – this is what I wanted. Like all INFPs, I live with a quiet horror that whatever I do may not be important enough – but clearly, what I started here definitely wasn’t trivial. It is a potential story birthing group 😉

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If any of you reading this article would like to venture into something similar and need tips, you can contact me any time. Planning your own meet up is also easy – just post a call at Meetup.com. They have a very good membership offer going on, and the pay of is you can meet your next collaborator or publisher in your meet up!

Curse or a boon – your choice

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During my years in the corporate (and then in the magazine) sector, I would frequently get in trouble with written communication. Specifically, emails sent by me to others.

Someone would take offense at a particular word or the general tone. They would storm into my cubicle and ask, “Why did you say THAT? How can you insinuate THAT?” One short-fuse boss, after a particularly thoughtless email, gathered a meeting, announced publicly that I was a stupid hack and induced a resignation from me (and the CEO had to intervene, arbitrate and calm all the ruffled feathers – clearly, I was of some use to them, then!)

I did wonder. What on earth was wrong? In my mind, I was just doing my job – writing a simple instruction or MoM email.

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And it was just not at the workplace. Inadvertently, I would write an email to a friend and she would be reduced to tears (or enraged silence). There would be raised hackles after I reply to a message thread in one of the many writing and travel forums I frequent on the net. It was like I had some covert, deadly intent when I communicated in the written form – but I never did!

Even my husband is a victim (only he is not). We are a typical peaceloving-progressive-but-paranoid-of-falling-into-a-rut couple of this century – we like to have an almighty row once in a while, just to stir up things. But often he gets the upper hand because he knows he will get a scathing email from me THREE DAYS after the event, complete with point by point retorts to his statements during the argument, which he saves in his inbox and taunts me during another future fight 😉

I understood the real reason for this puzzle only after I started writing every day… which has only been the past 3 months.

Words are bloody powerful. For a writer, her words might be her dearest accessory and deadliest weapon. I like to think of it as a razor-sharp knife – something you can use to carve exquisite art out of a pumpkin, or use it to shred skin and bone, causing irreparable damage.

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When I was working full time in a day job and writing perhaps once or twice a week, I think this magical knife – that God or Fate or something mysterious had blessed me with – didn’t get as much work as it should have. It grew listless, bored. It developed ennui. It was frequently starved and it often went on a binge on the wrong kind of fodder, when it should have just lightly snacked.

Since I was not using the knife regularly and intensely to create beautiful stories filled with drama and suspense and imagery, it manifested its power on the drab, mundane emails I was writing on a daily basis to my poor, unsuspecting colleagues.

This is why creative artists do not make good 9-to-5 jobsters, sharp businesspeople, or content homemakers. They live with this knife inside their body, within their soul. If they ignore it or don’t give it the right kind of work it is capable of doing, first it goes feral, then it starts cutting the very flesh that’s hosting it. The artist then is puzzled – what is wrong? Why this disenchantment, this emotional block, this terrible disappointment in work, life, even in the previously joyous process of creation?

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A knife is a weapon, after all. Even its owner needs to be careful. Most creative artists panic when they could not decipher the reason behind their malady and make it worse by overanalyzing it. Or they don’t give it the attention it needs – in our society, material life typically comes first and there are many other things to take of, like bills and obligations. You then have writers/artists falling into disarray, depression, addiction, substance abuse, or worse.

For the past 3 months, my emails and my communication mode have become brief, non-confrontational, even mellow. Finally, my creative knife has other, better work to do.

What has your knife been doing lately?

Progress of my CBC 12×12 – Book 1

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In case you are wondering about the progress of my chapter book 1, here is the update:

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Well, it’s as bad as it looks. Due to severe time management (+ life management) issues, I have not progressed beyond Step 1.

Yes, I am ashamed. Yes, I am hyperventilating. Yes, I know I have exactly 19 days now to write a first draft.

Wait, wait… That means I have nearly THREE weeks left to write a short chapter book….

Yayyyyyyyyyy!!!!!

(Picture a crazy, optimistic, discipline-challenged writer jumping in joy and relief, chanting “It’s not too late, it’s not too late, I still have time, I still have time….”)

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