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ashokbhatia

Mahabharat Krishna ArjunaHad Lord Krishna been around, this is how he might have advised a clueless and gloomy blogger Arjuna:

What you have already blogged, you have blogged well,

What you are blogging, you are doing fine, you can tell,

What you will blog, will also get blogged well,

Live in the present, your heart-felt ideas would eventually sell.

Never beseech someone for a ‘like’, a ‘reblog’ or for a ‘comment’,

Let your soul never be in torment,

For writing what you are passionate about alone you are meant,

Read more, get inspired, get cracking, never get bent.

At times, you may get upset for not having been ‘Freshly Pressed’,

Well, it is not the end of the world, do not feel unduly stressed,

Escaping a deluge of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ instead leaves you feeling blessed,

You are not in a short sprint but in a marathon, you have already guessed.

Be…

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ashokbhatia

When it comes to writing, we are not too bad. Words help us to keep ourselves connected with the Blogging illustrationworld around us. Our inner joys, sorrows, trials, triumphs take the shape of blogs which we keep posting at regular intervals. We can’t help ourselves but write. In other words, we are a bunch of declared Blogaholics. We have no intentions of getting rid of this addiction. And we do not wish to remain anonymous!

Writing is like an internal cleaning process for us. Some of us use it to unburden the soul; some others for spreading cheer. Some of us are here to promote our books, whether present, upcoming or still in the realm of our pious intentions. Some of us are here to make money. Quite a few of us are here simply to educate, entertain and amuse.

We have good days and we have bad days. Often, we…

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ashokbhatia

I extended my hand from under the blanket, and rang the bell for Jeeves. Promptly, he shimmered in, with one of hisPGW HughLaurie-BertieWooster pick-me-ups on a silver salver.

‘Good evening, Jeeves.’

‘Good morning, sir.’

‘Is it morning?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘But it seems pretty gloomy and dark outside,’ I said.

‘Winter is already upon us, sir. In the depth of winter, we learn that within us lies an invincible summer, sir.’

‘Shakespeare, Jeeves?’

‘Albert Camus, sir.’

I sipped the tissue restorative in a mood of quiet repose.

‘Well, what goes on in the great world?’

‘There are several messages for you on WhatsApp, sir. On Facebook, you have messages from Mr. Gussie Fink-Nottle, Ms. Florence Craye and Ms. Stiffy Byng. Aunt Dahlia wants to chat with you over Skype. A blogger oninternet image 1 WordPress desires to have an audience with you. On LinkedIn, Sir Watkyn Bassett wishes to connect with you. Several tweets…

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Most authors happen to be sensitive souls. The kind of cruelty they get subjected to in their routine lives makes one wonder as to how they keep dishing out juicy narratives day after day, despite facing mighty challenges.

For those who specialize in spinning fictional yarns, the basic challenge is that of cranking up a plot and etching out characters which fit into the overall scheme of things. For those who dish out a non-fiction piece of work, the challenge is that of coming up with a novel subject which would provide some satisfaction to their target audience.

Cruelty in the Creative Phase

When their creative juices are in full flow, distractions abound. Social commitments often impede the pace of work. Spouses pop up with some mundane queries just when the proceedings happen to be perking up. Maid servants and postmen come in just at the time when the heroine is about to swoon and fall into the hero’s out-stretched arms. An all too important marriage comes up in the spouse’s family just when the manuscript is being given the finishing touches.

Distractions of this kind interrupt the flow of creative juices. The author develops a ‘block’. To claw her way out of a block, a muse has to come to the aid of the party of the first part. Sanity is restored on its throne. Creative juices resume their flow.

Cruelty in the Publishing Phase authors-n-publishers

Once the creative foray in the imaginary mind space is over, a wannabe author lands on the hard terrain of real life. Publishers of all hues get contacted. The agonizing wait for a firm but polite rejection note, if any, begins. Quite a few publishers believe in the dictum that ‘Silence itself signifies rejection’. Heart-broken, the hapless author starts examining other options. Self-publishing pundits get consulted.

Leads given by friends who are blissfully ignorant of the current challenges being faced by traditional publishers keep getting followed up. The fact that they face an existential crisis these days, what with the barrage of e-books available at the click of a button, gets neglected. Their survival instincts lead them to woo well-established authors even while being wooed by newbie authors.

Surviving in the Publishing Jungle

Keen to share her work with the world, the author finally relents and settles down to a mode of publishing which meets her ambition, her purse strings and the content of the work to be peddled.

The interaction with a publisher – whether of the traditional, the print-on-demand, or the vanity kind – saps the energy of the author no end. Reserves of patience get called upon to answer all the queries raised and the permissions asked for. A realization dawns that nerves of chilled steel are a prerequisite for publishing a work. Exasperation sets in.

Reaching out to potential readers

The mood of despondency gets somewhat lifted when the first copy of the book comes into the author’s hands. But this is no time to sit back and relax. Marketing plans need to be acted upon. Social media updates have to be fed to the virtual world in a relentless manner. Myriad queries keep the poor soul in a perennial state of torment.

Harsh critics pan either the contents or the approach of the book. Dreams of being on the To-Be-Read list of the target audience evaporate. Visions of one being on the Best Seller list in some part of the world get clouded. The art of competing with millions of other wannabe authors to attract the eye-balls of unsuspecting readers gets learnt the hard way.

A Plummy initiativePGWodehouse

Some of you would be delighted to know that Rosie M Banks, the Chair-person of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Authors (SPCA), is recently said to have invited nominations for some of the annual awards conferred by the society in the following categories:

  1. Bingo Little Award: For spouses who provide flexible me-only distraction-free time to wannabe authors and ensure that their afternoon cup of tea is invariably served piping hot.
  2. Aunt Dahlia Award: For family members who keep inviting authors to devour the lavish spreads of Anatole, thereby keeping them in a positive frame of mind and ensuring a free flow of their creative juices.
  3. Bertie Wooster Award for Milk of Human Kindness: Meant for pals who are present only when they are needed, and are part of the cheering squad, specifically when the chips are down and tissue restoratives need to be served.
  4. Lord Tilbury Award: For publishers who display their kindness by responding to unsolicited manuscripts within two weeks, and, when rejecting one, are gracious enough to suggest alternate publishing houses who might be interested in the material submitted.
  5. Florence Craye Award: For intellectual critics who realize the kind of hard work that goes into whipping up a book like ‘Spindrift’ and provide constructive criticism of any work referred to them for a review.
  6. Daphne Dolores MoreheadAward: For bulk buyers who pick up more than 25% of the total first print order of an upcoming book.

Do you wish to nominate someone for any of these coveted awards? Further details can be had at www.plumspca.com. The entry fee is a modest tenner, to be remitted to the bank account of Bingo Junior.

The 19 rejections of Plum

A word to cheer up wannabe authors would be in order.

As reported by the late Norman Murphy in the September 2016 issue of ‘By The Way’, published by the P G Wodehouse Society (UK), during the month of June, 1901, a twenty year old Plum was down with mumps and was at Stableford for three weeks.  During this period, he wrote 19 short stories. All were rejected!

If this is what could happen to a Master Wordsmith of our times, there is much hope yet for first time authors of all sizes and shapes.

Having a chin up attitude, recalling one’s bulldog spirit, and facing the harsh slings and arrows of cruelty with aplomb would surely help!

(Related Posts:  

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/of-writers-and-their-blocks

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/the-confessions-of-an-armchair-blogger)

(Ask Kristen Lamb for more!)

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VACATIONSAh….the unbearable pangs of separation from Blogsville!

ashokbhatia

Dear Fellow Bloggers, Followers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The high and low tides of life are finally about to take their toll,

For some time I am likely to be off the Blogsville radar, sorely missing you all.

Continue with your voracious readings, have fun, enjoy your time,

Yours truly would soon be back on board with prose and verse that rhyme.

I shall be sorely missing the inner joy of writing and its associated pleasure,

Rewards of your valuable feedback I shall relish on return at my leisure.

AWOL I do not aspire to be, hence this request,

Do please grant me a short leave of absence in right earnest!

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While taking a leisurely stroll through the sunlit streets of Plumsville, lined on both sides with trees offering low-hanging ripe mangoes of unalloyed mirth, we come across quite a few authors, editors and publishers.

We get to meet Florence Craye, the famous author of ‘Spindrift’. We run into Oliver Randolph ‘Sippy’ Sipperley, the aspiring author. Gwendolen Moon, the poetess, crosses the street in front of us. George Webster ‘Boko’ Fittleworth bumps into us at the next corner. Smooth Lizzie, a poetess in whom critics might be disappointed, flashes past us in her two-seater. Even Bertie Wooster, our favourite hero, can be seen rushing to the offices of Milady’s Boudoir, possibly to submit his piece on ‘What the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing’.

Daphne Dolores Morehead can be seen headed somewhere in a hurry. Rosie M. Banks can be seen rushing to her humble abode, just to check if Bingo Junior’s bank passbook has finally got updated with the tenner handed over to her loving husband some time back. Bingo Little, himself an editor of Wee Tots, can be seen trying to touch Oofy Prosser for a tenner, so the loss may be made up before her loving wife discovers it. Lord Tilbury, the famous publisher, may get noticed rushing off in a disguise, ostensibly to avoid any manuscripts being hurled at him by aspiring authors from the windows of a passing bus.

A transient state of mental menopausewriters' block image

Though we happen to know most of the authors, writers, poets and poetesses mentioned above, we have no clue as to how they keep whipping up juicy as well as not-so-juicy stuff for their public. We empathize with their feelings of despondency and gloom if they pass a single day without writing at least five hundred odd words. But we continue to be clueless if they ever encounter the dreadful condition described by those in the writing trade as a Writer’s Block. Given the challenges they face in their mundane lives, they would surely be facing a transient state of mental menopause, as it were, at some point in time or the other. But they hide such perils of their profession well.

With one exception – that of Ashe Marson, the hero of Something Fresh. In his case, we get a sneak peek into the kind of conditions which can leave a writer’s sensitive soul all of a twitter, facing a condition which stupefies the brain. The flow of ideas gets blocked. The words no longer pour out, much like a public water tap which goes dry without a warning in a city in one of the emerging economies of the world.

Ashe Marson and the Wand of Death

Residents of Plumsville are aware that Ashe keeps the wolves at bay by dishing out the adventures of Gridley Quayle, Investigator, which are so popular with a certain section of the reading public. He is also known to be a regular when it comes to performing Larsen Exercises in public spaces, having become immune to the no-longer-curious glances of the proprietors of Hotels Mathis and Previtali, few cabmen, some chambermaids and even a cat. Physical fitness is his gospel.1915 Something Fresh collage

But one morning, he gets laughed at by a girl on a first floor balcony. Ashe gets beaten. On this particular day, this one scoffer, alone and unaided, is sufficient for his undoing. The depression, which his exercise regimen had begun to dispel, surges back on him. He has no heart to continue. Sadly gathering up his belongings, he returns to his room, and finds even a cold bath tame and uninspiring.

The breakfast, comprising a disheveled fried egg, some charred bacon and a cup of chicory which is euphemistically called coffee, aggravates the grip of misery. And when he forces himself to his writing-table, and begins to try to concoct the latest of the adventures of Gridley Quayle, Investigator, his spirit groans within him. He rumples his hair and gnaws his pen. He looks blankly for half an hour in front of a sheet of paper bearing the words: “The Adventure of the Wand of Death,” and tries to decide what a wand of death might be.

This is how Wodehouse describes the inner thoughts of his hero:

It was with the sullen repulsion of a vegetarian who finds a caterpillar in his salad that he now sat glaring at them.

The title had seemed so promising overnight–so full of strenuous possibilities. It was still speciously attractive; but now that the moment had arrived for writing the story its flaws became manifest.

What was a wand of death? It sounded good; but, coming down to hard facts, what was it? You cannot write a story about a wand of death without knowing what a wand of death is; and, conversely, if you have thought of such a splendid title you cannot jettison it offhand.

An interruption makes him feel all the more disoriented. However, the intruder happens to be the heroine, Joan Valentine. She de-mystifies the Wand of Death for him thus:

“Why, of course; it’s the sacred ebony stick stolen from the Indian temple, which is supposed to bring death to whoever possesses it. The hero gets hold of it, and the priests dog him and send him threatening messages.
What else could it be?”

Ashe gets back on track!

This is how poor Betty suffers one

So widespread is the silent epidemic of Writer’s Block that even such popular series as Archie Comics has been forced to accord recognition to it once in a while.

Take the case of poor Betty. She has unique qualities of head and heart. However, given her unselfish and helpful nature, she ends up hitting a Writer’s Block. The milk of human kindness sloshing about within her proves to be her undoing. In one episode of these popular comics, she runs quite a few errands. By the time she can please everyone else and hit her typewriter to start pouring out her ideas onto some sheets of paper, the brain refuses to fire even on a single cylinder.

Betty 1 01 (43)betty 2 01 (42)Betty 3 01 (41)Betty 4 01 (40)Betty 5 01 (39)

Even the high and mighty suffer

Present day authors and bloggers can derive some solace from the fact that some of the greatest writers in literature — Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway — were tormented by momentary lapses in their ability to dish out some juicy text or the other.

The sensitive souls that authors are, they are apt to be influenced and distracted by external occurrences. But come to think of it, it is their jaundiced view of such occurrences alone that provides them the fodder for their literary produce.

Imagine an author like P G Wodehouse sitting lonely in a dense forest, trying to come up with some escapades of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. With only a couple of birds and monkeys for company, he is likely to return home in the evening with some blank sheets.

He undoubtedly needs his quiet space. But he also gets in the bargain several distractions. Ethel pottering about in the kitchen. Pets who relish the joys of walking the ramp over some typewritten sheets lying on the floor. A maid who will come in just as he is brooding on his next Hollywood script. A surprise visit by a government official. A postman who brings in some fan mail.

Distractions all, yes. Leading to a Writer’s Block once in a while, yes. But each one is perhaps also an opportunity for him to view a mundane occurrence afresh, with a new perspective. Traits of each real-life person providing him the finer details of some fictional characters he is writing about.

Keeping the milk of human kindness from spilling over

Authors need an eco-system which enables them to strike a judicious balance between their off-society times of solitude and their open-for-interaction times. Successful ones perhaps perfect the art of walking this tight-rope. They make sure they do not exercise in public spaces. They get fed well. They do not get interrupted when they are in their quiet corner, dishing out the adventures of an investigator liked by their publishers and readers. Unlike Betty, they keep their milk of human kindness from spilling over to their grey cells. Their passion for writing keeps them more focused on their journey of creative expression.

Suffering from a Writer’s Block these days? Fret not. Some unique insight is bound to pop up in your mind soon enough. Perhaps, a Joan Valentine is about to walk in and talk about the Indian connection of the mysterious Wand of Death, thereby spurring you on to dizzying heights of creativity!

(Notes:

  1. Images of Writer’s Block and Something Fresh courtesy www.
  2. Archie source: Issue No. 221, Episode titled ‘Betty in the Write Mood‘)

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Why do I Write?

The science and art of expressing oneself in words is captured in this composition very well.

What do you think?

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