To indulge or rein in?

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Earlier today I had a conversation with a writer friend.

Her: What do I do, during my first draft’s resting period? You know, when I have finished typing THE END and then walk away from the manuscript for a week (or three)?

Me: Ideally, you should also take rest. Authors need rest too!

Her: But shouldn’t I make use of this rest time productively– like, working on my next novel – outlining, perhaps?

Me: I don’t see why. I personally think, after working for months, you’d deserve a little break. Not just for health’s sake, of course, but also so that your mind is completely fresh; when you go back to your rested draft, you can do full justice to the editing process…

Her: But sometimes I get really good ideas only when I am working on one project…


This brought me to a scene I read in some long forgotten novel. The child wanted to keep playing into dinner time, and when his mom protested that it’s too late, he erupts into a howling… and this woman (the adult, with real, justifiable power), terrified of being shouted at or “hated” by her own child, pleads with the child to see reason but ultimately allows him to do whatever the tantrum-throwing munchkin wanted to do…

Let’s forget the fact that there is a whole room of background story behind this plot, and just concentrate on the scene. And substitute ‘child’ with ‘muse’.

How many of us really try to discipline our muse?

Not many. Otherwise my friend would not have felt like she ought to have listen to her muse – which is what we call the talent or inclination that makes on write (or sculpt or paint), without analyzing the pros and cons. Since I myself have been in the same position many times – proof is the N number of unfinished projects in my computer – I now saw what I ought to have seen a long time back.


My muse is not my friend.

My muse is not God.

My muse is… a child.

A brilliant child. A child with astonishing possibilities and magical capacities. But… a child nevertheless, who needs to be taught certain concepts like routine and discipline.

Chiming in here for a good word about Julia Cameron, who calls the muse as the “inner artist child” who must be indulged every week.

Now, indulgence is a very tricky word.

Investing in a Lindt bar, one of the best chocolates in the world, and eating it after a hard week’s work, on a Saturday night, listening to some jazz and reading your favorite author – that’s indulgence. A bloody good one.

Stuffing your face with three bars of commercial grade Snickers, after a heavy meal, feeling guiltier by the minute – also indulgence, but well, sad, too.

You should definitely not let your inner muse grow a hollow stomach. But the problem is when we do not know what the line is, between starving it and over indulging it.

Your inner muse may say, “Wow! You have finished a draft! Submit it asap so that everyone can see what an awesome writer you are and treat you like royalty!”

Your inner muse may say, “Who needs feedback or language classes? You can write a clear sentence that is simple enough for the common man in India to read, that’s more than enough. You can always pay someone to clean up your writing.”

Your inner muse may say, “This project that is half done now is boring! I want to do something else NOW! I WANT I WANT I WANT!”

Doesn’t mean it’s right. Doesn’t mean you should do it.

There is a reason why the artist and her talent/muse/whatever name you give it are fused together in the same body. Each needs one another. The muse infuses the human with the magic of creativity and fills the hole in her artist (the reason why artists are only happy when creating and sour like a lemon when they are not). In return – this is a very vital point, often underestimated – the artist also feeds the muse, by giving the muse the ambience, exposure and nourishing she needs (this includes but not limited to education, travel, creative play, everyday sadhana etc)

Not many practice this symbiotic relationship with the right balance.

Nobody’s to blame here, really. If anything, I blame this society of ours which raises our kids with almost zero respect or practice of their true artistic abilities. There are no special tuition classes or regular workshops in the syllabus for arts, are they? (And no, I do not consider colouring books or clay making to be practice of a true artistic ability.) We are full adults before we discover that our artistic ability needs attention. If by luck, if our profession and passion align in the same field, then great! That’s the ideal scenario, though. Most often than not, especially as writers, we are able to work on our pet projects only sporadically. “Whenever I get time” seems to be the mantra.

No wonder we do not know that our muse needs a regular time table. No wonder we don’t know how exactly we should treat this special talent.

As an aspiring artist, we do not dare to control this muse of ours. We don’t dare to question it, make it sweat, challenge it. We are so grateful to it, we feel so blessed to be gifted this talent, that we walk around egg shells when it comes to demanding our muse to perform regularly. It’s why, when it comes to writing every day or writing several books a year (like many, many professional writers do), we wait like a humble servant for the Emperor to make his appearance, rather than behave like a scowling newspaper editor who wanted the article YESTERDAY.

This is also the same reason why feelings of disgruntlement, anguish, frustration, general dissatisfaction in life and nervous breakdowns are rampant amidst artists and writers (I don’t see this from, say, bank or government employees), because it really is a tough to job to reign in a truant muse or make her perform when you want her too. It’s almost like a cartoon, where you fight with yourself.


But that’s the good news about adulthood. You can learn. Starting now.

Learn good practices of your art. Read. Read crafts books, and articles on the art and practice of regular art, be it writing or painting. Read Eric Maisel’s books. Read Julia Cameron’s books. They are among the few books in the world that actually teach you how to live as a creative artist. Experiment with various genres, techniques and stick to the one that gives you the most joy. Accept that this is hard work, don’t get sucked in the marketing/sales quicksand, and move on to the next phase of creation: using your good sense logic and preference find out the right working methods that work for you.

And be very clear that what the muse needs, is a firm hand.

A Mom who says, gently but firmly, “Enough! You listen to ME now. I make the rules, and I expect you to obey me.”

A Dad who says, “Why thank you, Muse, for that fantastic idea! I am going to make a note of it right here, but I am not going to start working on it until I finish my current project.” Or, “Yeah I know I can write, but I don’t want to be just one among the rest, I want to be GREAT, so I am going to wait for some time before I rush into self publishing.”

Like all spoilt children, your muse may rebel first. She might throw tantrums – just when you want to work, you might get this itchy nudges of “Should I not clean the house before sitting to write?” or “I am feeling so bored, restless… Perhaps I should start another project.” You may even get physical rebellion like headaches or stomach upset. Your mind/muse (sometimes these two are in the same sphere) has incredible power over your actions – it’s perfectly capable of giving you actual pain during this disciplinary process.

If you give in now, then you are back to square one.

All parents know that boundaries work only as long as you are there on the periphery, guarding it. So guard yours.


Remember that you cannot be a one book wonder. Or a one art piece exhibitor. Or someone who can only write (transcribe) about their own life experiences. You are an artist only as long as you keep creating, variedly and getting better. And yes, you need to train your muse to show up regularly and to adhere to the techniques that work for you.

A child disciplined in the right way grows up to be a good human – not a perfect one, but a good one, and sometimes, true goodness is much better than perfection, right? Give your muse the same care, and watch it repay you for your hard work in unbelievable future dividends!


To My Young(er) Writer Friends

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Yesterday, one of my lit friends carpe-diemed and blogged all her inner angst about the unique and mind-bending fears that face a writer these days. Now, it’s always tricky to have a discussion on such a topic, with someone who is convinced that they are suffering the right pain. Often the messenger is shot or beheaded or eaten alive.

Or, horror of horrors, a fate worse than death (apparently, going by what one of my ex-friends did to me recently), unfriended on FB.

But the doubts are ringing in from every corner, from various acquaintances, and I don’t like repeating things, so here is the link I am going to send you every time one of you asks me a similar question! I am also going to borrow some gyan from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, whose awesomest advice on writing can be read here –


  1. Why is writing not making me rich (or make my ends meet)?

I don’t know which moron told these kids that writing is a good way to earn money. Newsflash: IT’S NOT. You want to make money, take up corporate management or architecture or data analyst jobs in night shifts. Or work your ass off as a small business owner (restaurants are doing pretty well these days). Or be a born genius who can create a social media empire and retire at 25.

But please, do not write (or self publish) short stories or novels because you want to earn money. Don’t expect your art, your writing talent, to be a money making machine. It does not work that way. At least, fiction doesn’t.

If you are into nonfiction, then you have cause to cheer. It’s certainly possible to make money from NF, provided you are skilled at it and do all the right things. If you want to freelance for magazines and newspapers, then get a job in the field or start on your own, and approach it like a business – set up a home office, show up on time (you can be in your PJ’s), be disciplined, plan each day, query query query, learn how to balance your sheets, do your 8 hours work every day, pay taxes. This is how people make a living.

People do not make money by passion alone. If anybody says so, they are lying.


  1. Why is writing for money not making me (really) happy?

Well if you are pimping your talent for peanuts, of course it’s not going to make you happy! Come on! Seriously? You have this amazing God-given gift and you use it to write for content mills? Talk about using a Samurai sword for scratching an itch! What a waste. What a crime. What a dangerous act to the soul.

Now, the solution is simple. Just write only the stuff that you want to and love to write, for money.

It’s not a sin, writing for money. We all need and like having money. I write for money. A client paid me a lot of money to write a hundred scripts based on Indian folklore. Another client paid me even more money to edit his novels. The magazine I work for now, pays me to write a travel column. In each instance, I earned money, doing what I love – writing. And so can you.

But you need to know what makes you happy and avoid what doesn’t. The last bit is important (which is why it’s bold and italicised)

Business copywriting is not my forte (I have done it and it made me miserable) so I stay clear of it. Even if somebody promises to pay me a hell a lot of money for it, I will not do it. And this is how I preserve my integrity and sanity. Don’t accept something you know you hate, just because it brings in the money. I know it’s tempting – and in some cases it’s possible to rise up to the challenge and discover you survived the ordeal, but most of the times, You WILL suffer at the end. And it will slow down the speed of your progress. That’s why I particularly abhor content mills. They kill your creative soul.

So, learn to say no to distractions like these when you are shaping the career path you want to go on. If you like certain types of writing, then build your resume to that level. That’s how careers are made. Cultivate the skills that are needed to get you projects you want to work on. You like writing human interest features, go out in the world and look for stories and pitch. You want to work for newspapers? Start as an intern and work your way up. You want to write a novel? Buckle up, read craft books, and write every day. Don’t know how to? Join a class or get a mentor.

Do something, anything, to remove yourself from a frustrating corner. But after all that, if you still are not happy, may be you need to ask yourself – do you really want to be a writer?


  1. Why does quitting my day job for writing seem like a big mistake?

Because it possibly is.

There are only five reasons to leave a job:

  1. If you absolutely hate your job and you can afford to lose it, i.e., you already have another job offer (hopefully, a better one) or going back to college
  2. You have saved up nicely, and you are finally ready to escape the boss-employee world and follow your dream career.
  3. You have somebody to support you financially, so that you are free to pursue your passion (this is a slippery slope, so take care!)
  4. You are unwell, and cannot work.
  5. Your life is in danger (perhaps your next cubicle neighbour has revealed a plan to murder you)

If you didn’t quit your job for any of the above-mentioned reasons, you are in trouble.

Nobody jumps into the sea without a failsafe arrangement! You shouldn’t, too. If you left your job without making any provision at all for your current expenses, without a proper plan of how you would be earning money, then you are a fool. Sorry. You are. I advise you to get another job asap. But first read what Elizabeth Gilbert says:

I have a friend who’s an Italian filmmaker of great artistic sensibility. After years of struggling to get his films made, he sent an anguished letter to his hero, the brilliant (and perhaps half-insane) German filmmaker Werner Herzog. My friend complained about how difficult it is these days to be an independent filmmaker, how hard it is to find government arts grants, how the audiences have all been ruined by Hollywood and how the world has lost its taste… etc, etc. Herzog wrote back a personal letter to my friend: “It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.”

So. Get back to work, either to your new career or old job. But just get back to work… because every minute you spend moaning or worrying is a minute wasted, an opportunity to learn lost.


  1. How will I pay for marketing my book if writing does not pay well?

Don’t pay for it. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to pay for it. My dear Millennials… You are what, 23, 25, 27? Don’t get into publishing now! My goodness, this is the time you should be kicking up a storm and experiencing life, not worrying about marketing and Kindle sales. Trust me, once you get on the M(arriage) wagon, things will change. Once the next C(hildren) train and then the EMI train comes along, all your writing (and non-writing, I am sad to add) goals will go for a toss. This is why you should not waste your single years! Listen to ole’ Radhika aunty!

Ah I know you guys won’t listen. Still, it’s my duty to say this.

And I often suspect that some are so keen on selping because they have a little too much money in their hands. Is that true? You can tell me. I can be discreet. And I will give you some super, free advice. If you do have too much $$, don’t spend it on selping your book and making Motion Press rich. Use it to study advanced creative writing (we know you already covered the basics!), buy yourself a coaching package from a writer you admire or get a flight ticket to Bali or Paris, rent a studio and write. (I especially recommend that you do the last option and take me along with you. You will get the coaching part free!)

Or you can give me some of your money. Really. I will save it for your future. I promise.

Don’t be an impulsive shopper when it comes to your writing. Don’t purchase it, for God’s sake. Don’t blog about writing or speak about writing or dream about writing. Do it. Write. Just write. Bloody hell. Stop the incessant blogging, stop ranting, stop all the time sucking stuff and just write. Do only the stuff that will help you become a better writer. No, that does not mean you hire an editor to clean up your writing – it means, you learn how to write better. It means you take lessons in writing, take lessons in grammar, it means you ask for and listen to feedback from others about your writing, it means you become a Bride of Writing.

Like Elizabeth Gilbert did. She says, “I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this.”

And this is what I say: Don’t kill the budding genius in you by the feeding it the wrong food – and that includes poison.


  1. Should I have contacts then, to succeed – or marry someone who will love me enough to gift me a publishing house?

Um, no. Well, yes, to the marrying a person who loves you, but no to the entire idea of accepting or expecting such a gift. You can be a writer, or a publisher. Not both. Not now. Not in your mid-20s. I know there are a lot of successful self-published authors out there – kudos to them! – but they all had well-written, enjoyable books that people loved to read. Nobody can market and make a bestseller of a bad book.

And contacts do help, but only to a certain point.  That is, only if you have the goods in good condition.

So, the first step is, simply, to learn to write books that can be enjoyed. And that, my friend, can take a lifetime. I have been learning for the past ten years and I am not sure if I have even scratched the surface. That’s why I am so confused why some writers expect their first or second book to be great and well liked and minting money. That’s like a 5th standard student aiming to write a thesis. You don’t grow a tree in minutes. I know Bonsai is beautiful, but still, it will always be stunted. You definitely don’t want to be perceived as a passable, but limited writer.

BTW, I do know a chick who married a rich guy who gifted her a publishing house with her pony tail on its official logo, didn’t get anywhere in life until she decided to be a writer, not a publisher. So there you go.


6. But there are so many bad books out there, earning good money!

Yep. The mafia earns good money too.

Stop comparing, please! If he can publish, why can’t I? If he eats snot, why can’t I? Well, why don’t you cite the examples of folks like Amitav Ghosh or Anuja Chauhan who do write great stories and sell a lot, instead of citing the all the mediocre books written by best selling authors? Shouldn’t we be looking up, rather than down and following them?

I know there are a lot of silly books in the market – but think… is that the kind of fame you want? Then you should not read this post anymore. All you need in some money and a clever PR strategy and you can be an author who gives book reading and book launch appearances, and you can go ahead and kill good literature.

Because that’s what will happen, if anybody with money and some basic language skills can publish a book. Imagine a hospital filled with doctors who did not bother to learn their skills properly, but just rush through the basics so that they can start operating and saving lives asap. God help their patients, right?  Would you go to such a doctor if you’re ill?

It’s no different in the literary field.

Of course there’s nothing wrong in selping your book – I have one myself – but it comes with its own landfalls and responsibilities, just like any other path you take in life. Deal with it. All paths have thorns in them. Just make sure you selp a book that makes the reader exclaim, “Wow, what a loss to the trad publishing, this guy is right to selp it!”, and not, “No wonder he selped it, who in their right mind would have accepted it!”

Here’s the thing – and I find that young writers always are shocked on hearing this – just because you are able to finish a piece of writing does not mean it is good enough to be published (please don’t tell me your friend or relative or dog said it’s so). There is a thing called practice and there is a saying that you have to write a million words before you can be considered good in your language.

Writing does not come in an app on your iPhone. You have to work hard for it, not for a day, not for a month, but for years and perhaps, decades.You want to write a good book, be prepared to spend time mastering your craft. No shortcuts, sorry.

Finished one novel? Start another, instead of spending all your time marketing the first one. Not every word you write will be a gem and anybody who says otherwise is a nincompoop. Keep writing and making mistakes and learning. when you do have a book in your hand, you cannot expect the cushy breeziness of a traditional publishing (Yay Penguin1 accepted my book!) but the ease and coolness of a self-publisher (I want my book published yesterday). It’s always one or the other.

Sorry to sound like your Dad (or Grand-dad), but they are not wrong, you know. You will always realize it, often too late, that they were right on most things. Life always balances itself out. Gain some, lose some. This is a bitter lesson to learn, yes – even I would have the shot the messenger who attempted to tell me this when I was younger. But it’s the truth. The sooner you accept it, the quicker you will climb out of the pit and onto the path.


7. Will I ever get published/bestseller status?

That’s a question no one can answer. Well, they can – they can tell you to go to a vanity publisher and voila! You will be published.

I won’t say that, though. But I can tell you this – Don’t write to get published. That’s setting up yourself to a difficult life, especially in these difficult times. I know this may sound harsh, but it’s what I say every writer who comes my way. Stop expecting the adoration and the fame of being a writer. You cannot buy it with your bank account. You have to deserve it. You have to earn it. And that happens only when you write every single day without expecting to reap rewards later.

I recently lost a big project, one I was working on for more than eight months, commissioned by a reputable publisher too. Not a paisa was paid. I felt sad for a day, okay may be two, but then I moved on. Because it’s not my loss. It’s theirs. I will always have my writing. The book that is now in limbo – it has taught me so much, in terms of research and storytelling. It’s a stepping stone to the next level of excellence in my writing life. And only because of that consolation, I was able to move forward. Otherwise, it would have crippled me.

And that’s why you should not rely on the rewards.

Writing is about exploring the truth hiding inside you, about touching another’s soul with yours, about changing another person’s life with yours. And that’s something that won’t happen to a deadline or can be ‘treated’ by a clever marketing strategy. There are always exceptions, but remember: You are the rule, not the exception. Not until you prove yourself. And you do that by… yes, writing well.

And ask yourself – do you love writing or do you love the idea of being a writer? The latter is okay, really it’s okay to dream, to feel pride in your talent, but without the love of writing, without the discipline and self awareness, you are going nowhere. You may have your brief moment in the sunshine, but it will fade away pretty soon. The Gods of Creativity do not let fakes be in their world for long.


8. Are you telling me not to write anymore? That I don’t know anything about writing?

Heavens, no! That’s not the reason why I spent all this time writing this mammoth blog post! All I am saying is, write for the right reasons.

Don’t write because it makes you feel cool. Write because you love writing and you’d rather not do anything else.

Don’t write because it is in right now. Write because you have a part of yourself that is dying to get out in a creative way.

Don’t write because you (think you) can write good English. Write because you simply swoon in ecstasy when you create worlds and characters.

Don’t write because if A or B can write, so can you. Write because you are happiest when you write (not when you get published – although seeing your published book sure is something else!).

Know why are you writing and then give your writing space to breathe and expand. Not giving enough room to your writing to grow or mature, yet expecting it to shine like Aishwarya Rai or bring in the moolah like a Rajini movie in box office is insane. Don’t be that way! Research, learn, read (good books), ask for critique, and take the feedback without crying or sulking.

Many young writers really think writing is just transcribing (or, as my dear friend Nish would say, vomiting) from your memories or what you feel at the moment and then editing it so that it has a beginning, middle, end. No. That’s not what it is about. What it is, is a doorway – but to where?

To, my friend, a goddamn journey. It’s the frickin cupboard to Narnia. To a lonely, isolated, maddening but incredibly amazing world. No point in asking or ranting or raving why it is so – it just is. Everyone onboard will realize this in the first leg itself. And some quit, but most proceed, because they are too hooked. And like all journeys it will take time. Perhaps – to me at least, writing is the most wonderful journey in the world – so don’t just focus on the rainbow at the end of it. Stop following trends, stop asking for reassurance. Don’t keep dreaming about the colours of the rainbow and lose the beauty of the journey.

About all, listen to what your writing says to you, and it will help you. Everything you want to know, your writing will tell you. And if you give it the help it needs from you, in the form of discipline (writing every day), respect (don’t pimp it please) and nourishment (classes, retreats, critique groups), it will give you every riches you have ever dreamed off, things better than any kind of money.

That’s all there is to it.

Writing—So Easy a Caveman Can Do It

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Kristen Lamb talks about how “easy” writing is!

I admit, I have had my share of the “you mean you write and people actually pay for it?” baffled questions, and some have outright asked me to reveal them the secret of writing a book, because if I can do it, so can they.

While it IS true, in a philosophical and “my life flashed before my eyes” kind of way, that each one of us do have a story inside us, the question is – do you have what it takes to be a writer? Anybody can write. But will they? Will they make writing a Top 3 priority in their life, spend time and money and sweat creating good literature (or bad, but the point is, would you develop the guts and passion to create something like that?), and gladly put themselves out there, nakedly exposed to rotten tomatoes and rejections and criticisms from professionals, editors and audience?

Writing IS easy, I am glad to confess. It’s the part after you type THE END that is the toughest 🙂

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Recently a Facebook friend shared a post with me regarding Indie Musicians versus Indie Authors. It appears our culture has a fascination and reverence for the Indie Musician whereas Indie Authors face an immediate stigma. We authors have to continually prove ourselves, whereas musicians don’t (at least not in the same way). My friend seemed perplexed, but to me it’s very simple.

We’re not even going to address the flood of “bad” books. Many writers rush to publish before they’re ready, don’t secure proper editing, etc. But I feel the issue is deeper and it reflects one of the many challenges authors face and always will.

People give automatic respect to a musician because not everyone can play an instrument or sing. Simple. It’s clear that artist can do something many cannot.

As writers, we have an insidious enemy. People…

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What I learned from JKR

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In 2007, when J K Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay, I was a bit…. confused. What does Dumbledore being gay has anything to do with the story?

I am pro-LGBT and sure, I want to live in an ideal world with equal rights for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation but I just don’t get it why the multi-millionaire author had to reveal that information AFTER the entire series was completed. It’s not like it was going to make any positive impact anywhere, either in Harry’s fictional universe or in the real world.

I have one more gripe – in the above link, it is reported that when JKR made the announcement, the audience broke into applause and later her comment was “if she’d known that would be the response, she’d have revealed her thoughts on Dumbledore earlier.” Really? So an author, even a bestselling one, is under the compulsion to draw a character based on  readers’ approval??!!


Credit: Xandinha/

In my opinion, that declaration was clearly given as an afterthought, just so that the book become politically correct. A very cynical part of me even wonders if it is a clever PR move saying, oh look, we are not ostriches, the Harry Potter books DO have a gay character!  Of what use is post-published trivia?

And (I assume) most of us loved the pairing of Ron and Hermione. It’s a classic case of opposites attract and it also conveyed (young) people around the world that you don’t have to be super-duper yourself to win the love of a super-duper girl (and vice versa of course 😉 ). Underdogs rule! But now, sigh, she has to go and wreck it too.

So what is this? Creator’s remorse? An idea for writers keen on alternate universe fiction? Or a simple marketing ploy to generate some buzz now and then?


Credit: Gogri/

Obviously, there’s a lesson in this. Hindsight. A powerful and alas, often absent trait in most mortals. The other day I had to submit my story thrice to my critique group – yes, THREE documents of the same story on the same day – because I did not check the version properly. If I had done this to an editor, my manuscript would have stayed in the slush pile forever.

There are SO many things that we do in haste and repent in leisure. Wavering between two climaxesSending a query with mistakes. Sending a manuscript without several revisions or without getting it beta-tested. I’ll never forget misreading the deadline of a contest and spend close US$125 on Blue Dart charges, only to have an email telling me that they cannot accept my submission as the deadline had already passed. A costly and bitter experience to impart a simple lesson.

So, next time you write a story, please check if you have done everything you as the author should do, and then submit it. Or at least, after you became a successful author, refrain from alarming your readers with alternate endings!

Are you taking care of your hands?

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If the object you touch most often during a day is the mouse, you face the risk of getting Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

Today I learnt that a close writing friend has been forced to take early retirement due to RSI. This unfortunate update has prompted me to re-visit an article I had written several years ago for

RSI is a non-medical term that describes disorders related to performing repetitive tasks continuously, especially in an awkward or incorrect posture.  It usually begins with numbness or aching in the wrist, hand or arm. In extreme cases, the neck and shoulders are affected.

RSI is not an infection or a communicable disease. It can happen to anyone, with women three times more likely to develop CTS than men. All writers should look out for signs.


Credit: Ngmmemuda /

RSI is not life-threatening but is an extremely painful disorder to live with and can affect your career. If your hand pains or if you have any of the above symptoms, please see your physician immediately.


Avoiding Repetitive-Stress Injuries: A Writer’s Guide, by Geoff Hart. If your livelihood depends on your hands – you may be a writer or a data analyst – this article highlights simple tips to prevent RSI.

Spend most of your time before a computer? Design your workstation with help from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

Ergocise is a free, web-based ergonomic exercise program especially designed for computer users, combining a simple reminder program with over one hundred short animations of simple, ergonomically correct stretches and strengthening exercises.

The Typing Injury FAQ Provides a wide variety of information about repetitive strain injuries, resources for dealing with it, and description of products to reduce injury risk and symptoms.

Becoming a good Literary citizen

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The other day, I read a post online about being a good Literary citizen. 

I have always been a homing pigeon to literary gatherings. I don’t mean the ones where writers air kiss each other, drink delicate tea and talk polite shop. I like the ones where people sit in a circle on the floor and talk about their WIPs, with stars and ever dreams in their eyes. a writers’ meet, where both local and international fare can be enjoyed, dissected, discussed and dissed with equal glee. At the very least, I need a forum, where you can participate as much or as little as your time allows you to.

So, in case it’s still not clear, I like being a part of the community. I hold workshops and writers’ meets whenever I could. I connect with other writers as much as I can, via twitter, FB and plain ole email. I offer (often unsolicited) advice to budding writers. Most of them welcome it, thankfully. I don’t do all these frequently or lavishly, but only when it is possible and practical. As I said, I love to belong and I’d like to think of myself as a passable Literary citizen.


Credit: Linhngan /

A long time ago, I took a vow that I’ll never wind up like some of the writers who appear like the pope once a year, in prestigious literature festivals, and grant their darshan to us humble folks. That view of mine has not changed. Where is the fun in playing hide and seek, if you do not get to share it with others?

How do you actually do that, though? Your location may have zero lit events. You may lead a busy life. You may be an introvert, and you may be a budding writer who thinks she does not have anything “worthwhile” to offer to others. Life is all-encroaching, and limitations are endless when art tries to triumph over routine (though here is a lovely article about how limitations actually are blessings in disguise).

Well, here’s how you too, with your set of restrictions, can be an awesome lit citizen.

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.


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?