Monday, January 15, 2018

Writer's block

I kept hearing of this thing called 'Writer's block', which keeps writers from writing, and wondered exactly what it could be. Possibly laziness, possibly boredom and given a nice fancy name so they could feel important about it, I supposed.

I mean, come on, ever heard of an 'Accountant's Block'? Where the figures suddenly danced in front of your eyes and you started wondering about exactly what addition meant and how to do it? Or, perhaps, a 'Plumber's Block'? Now, now, I did not mean blocked plumbing. That can happen all too often and pretty messy it can get, too, when it does happen.

And then I started writing...and now I find myself with this strange beast and understand its nature. The problem is not in being able to write but in a selection of what to write. The Accountant gets his figures and knows what the report he is expected to produce. If he forgets how to get from Point A to Point B, it is a temporary or permanent memory loss or dementia, not a block. Ditto the plumber. The writer, though, has to select point A and point B himself and also decide whether he travels in a straight line or meanders all over the place as he gets there. So, yes, a 'blocked writer' can still write a spanking good piece as a content writer - where point A, point B and the route are all laid out. But when he gets to try original writing, he thinks up a subject, and the thoughts fritter away, jumps to another and find ideas vanishing like the mist...

In my case, I rather think it is more to do with what I could call 'existential angst' if I were to be writing literary fiction. I could say I am in a crisis of  the soul - 'What is the purpose of writing?'; 'What does a blog post (or book or poem) mean in the larger scheme of things?' and so on. But, being who I am, it is more of 'What is the purpose of MY writing? Is anyone reading it at all?' I never really have known whether it is that I am being too honest for my own good and could have acquired a lot more 'literary credit' if I dressed up my feelings in the appropriate language or...

The problem, you see, is in the nature of what I write - Humor. Now humor is something people get forwarded on WhatsApp. The idea of actually BUYING a book of humor, or even reading it for free on Kindle Unlimited, must appear riotously...err...humorous to them, I suppose. (THAT pic at the side with a dog and cat? Yes, that one! THAT was a humor book I wrote before I realized this) You know, somewhat like someone expecting you to pay for a couple of breaths (although THAT I am assured is in the offing...and even in practice in some country or the other.) Forget BUYING, the idea of even having to read more than 140 characters for humor...or, God Forbid, open a link...

Anyway, you get the picture. Me, I am like a plant...I need praise like that thing needs water. Otherwise I droop, pine and generally give up the ghost. (Ah! No! I like life very much, thank you. If no-one reads my writing, I am not going to slash my wrists or any such thing. There is always vodka, music, movies and reading, instead of writing) And when I, as I am drooping, think of writing my next blog post or book, and consider what to write about...

Maybe I should try writing Romance? But, then, a bachelor writing Romance...I never even had a girlfriend. If I had had one, I'd not be alive today to wonder about what to write, she would have shot me long ago. As for a love affair with my mirror...I hate the damn thing, it never shows me looking as handsome as I know I look.

Perhaps mythology? After all, I know how Maricha is the uncle of Ravan. He was the son of Thataka, who was the mother also of Kekasi, the father being Somali, and Kekasi, if you did not know, was the mother of Ravan. Why would anyone be interested when they do not even care to know their grandfather's name? What do I know...I know they are...I know these things but I do not know that I'd be jumping with joy if someone told me anything of this sort today.

So, yes, maybe I should write myth. And, apparently, one should write from a fresh point of view. Ramayan is a bit too dicey what with Ram being deified and people all too willing to burn you at the stake if you set a foot wrong.

So, yeah, the Mahabharat it has to be. Remember that chap Sanjaya? Yeah, the same guy who watched the live telecast of the Kurukshetra war (YES! We got there eons before CNN) and relayed it to the blind Dhritarashtra. I think I should write the Mahabharat from the point of view of Sanjaya's wife's uncle's pet dog.

Any takers for an epic that goes like this?


Monday, January 8, 2018

Another Humorist

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There is this problem with being a humorist. You keep guessing the punchline, expecting kinky ways of describing things and so on, to the extent that when someone says that there is another guy who writes humor, you are almost like, 'Oh! Yeah! Let me see." Not because of any competitive envy but because when you can guess the punchlines, the read is less funny...and, so, it takes a lot more to impress a humorist with humor. At least, that's the way it works with me...I mean, there are those people who start laughing all the more when they guess the punchline, and from the moment they guess it, and there are those who feel bored when that happens. I belong to the latter lot. (Yeah! True! You will find humorists laugh when no-one else does as well but THAT is because of the ability to SEE that joke...)

So, then I get into blogging and there is this guy, calling himself 'The Fool', who is also supposed to write humor. Bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, writing in all know parenting, travel etc etc...but almost everyone claims to write 'Humor', except only those who feel it is a shame to be writing any such frivolous thing. So, this 'supposed to be write humor' always has me approaching the blog with a metaphorical sneer.

Surprise! Here was one guy who actually DID write humor, when he wrote humor; a unique brand of humor - astringent, cynical, tangy - and capable of making you chuckle or even laugh out aloud. Withal, there was this refreshing feeling of an underlying honesty...the strong conviction that the author speaks from the heart.

Take this for example

"Parent Bloggers of the World, Spam me with your blog-links; A new customer is born today"

THIS was his way of announcing on Facebook that his son was born!

I get ahead of my story as usual. When I went into his blog and read this Great Indian Bride HuntI was hooked. You know all that I said above...that honesty, that cynical humor etc...that was what I found there.

We became online friends and went on to conducting a 'Writing Workshop' - a typical case of the blind leading the blind. We, indeed, SAW it that way...that we were there as much to learn as the others...but the fact of running it made it seem to the others that we had it in us to teach...anyway, as in most social media ventures, where the admins are not active on it, the workshop sort of petered out.

Not without causing one output, though. This chap, I and Radha collaborated on and put out an anthology of three crime stories - Sirens Spell Danger. In the process of putting together that one was my next major revelation about my new friend.

One of the things about writing is the process of beta-reading. So, you write something; you know it is absolute deathless prose and so you send it to people for what is called a 'beta-read', where they can tell you if there are areas of improvement; of course, you say that you expect honest criticism because you know your writing is near-flawless and, so, if it is honest, it can only be praise and, if anything, there will be a typo or two; and the damn beta-readers come out with pages of criticism whereupon you make wax figures of them, stick red-hot pins into them and dredge out all the curses that humanity ever invented; and, then, reluctantly change the MS and toss it back at the betas with the implicit 'You better like it or you will not survive the experience'.

I am sure that my friend was not really immune to indulging in waxworks and pins...the point is that he wrote and rewrote four times to get out the final story in that anthology. That capacity in him to junk almost the entire story or huge sections of it, if someone whose advice he respects tells him that it does not work...well, all I can say is that, in most authors' cases, what would be junked is that person and not the writing!

So, it is about time to introduce TF Carthick's first solo book - 'Unfairy Tales' - about which all I have to say is said there

Carthick has the unique talent to look upon the familiar from a strange vantage point and make it appear funny and wonderful. Here he applies it to well-known fairy tales to make them seem hilarious and fascinating. Be warned! If reading this book permanently skews the way you see the world, I am not to be held responsible.