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10 January 2019

Book Review: Do the work: Author:Steven Pressfield

The objective of the book 'Do the work' by Steven Pressfield is to help a budding creator on the journey of his creation. 

This book is a part of Domino Project. It is a platform of self published books with the objective of getting people to read which will create a 'Domino Effect'. The cover of this book has the drawing 'Man with a hoe' by Vincent Van Gogh. This drawing was a part of his lifelong pursuit to 'give happiness by creating beauty', an objective that Domino Project shares.

This small book of about 100 odd pages packs a punch. It is a creator's companion. It covers all aspects of the creation process. The insights provided in the book makes you question your assumptions. It acts as a mirror to any creative person. Being currently in the process of writing my book, I found myself saying 'Hey, this is happening to me too'

The word 'Creation' as used in this book should not be conflated with 'Creativity'. Creation is the art of creating anything new. It can be writing your book, directing your movie or starting a business, or even writing this blog post.

The only condition? The creation should be close to your heart.

There are three forces arrayed against any act of creation. These are Resistance, Rational Thought and Friends and Family (Really!). We can call these three as the 'Enemies of creative work'.

The first one is Resistance. Any act of creation will face resistance. That is the rule of the nature. 

What is resistance? How does it manifest? What are its characteristics? How do we identify it?  How do we overcome it?

Resistance is the force that pulls the creator away from his creative work. It could manifest as fear, self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, timidity, ego and narcissism, self-loathing and perfectionism. All acts will not elicit resistance. Only creative acts do.

These acts could be:
  • Pursuit of any calling in creative arts
  • Creating any new business
  • Any health regimen
  • Any action to drop a bad habit
  • And others 
Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity will elicit resistance. Any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower will elicit resistance.

What are the characteristics of Resistance?

Resistance is invisible. But it can be felt. We experience it as a negative energy field. We experience it as that 'wanting to sleep for five more minutes before I hit the gym' or 'wanting to post one more tweet before I start my writing'....

Resistance is insidious. It will tell you anything to keep you from doing your creative work. It tells me for example, 'ditch the swimming today. Water will be very cold', and even worse, 'what is there to write about? All your ideas are prosaic and bland'

Resistance is impersonal. It doesn’t know who you are and doesn’t care. It is just a force of nature. It doesn't care for you or your creative act.

Resistance is infallible. It will always work on that action that is close to one's heart. We can use this to our advantage. By identifying those activities that we face the maximum resistance to, we can identify those that are important to us.

Resistance is universal. Every creative act faces resistance.

Resistance never sleeps. Every time we perform an act of creation, we will face resistance, no matter how old or experienced we are. Fear doesn’t go away.

Resistance plays for keeps. Its objective is to 'Stop' us from the act of creation. Not delay, stop. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on this earth to give and that no one else has but us.

Next to resistance, rational thought is the creator's worst enemy. It comes from the ego. We don't want to work from our conscious thoughts, our ego. Best acts of creation arise from the Self, that is, from instinct and intuition, from the unconscious. The deeper the source we work from, the better our stuff will be—and the more transformative it will be for us and for those we share it with.

The third enemy of a creator is Friends and Family The problem is that they know us as we are. The act of creation also creates a new you. F&F do not know this new you, heck, even you don't know this new you. They are the enemy of this unmanifested you, this unborn self, this future being.

But, do not despair. In our creative journey we also have some Allies. These are Stupidity Stubbornness, Blind faith, Passion, Assistance (the opposite of Resistance)  and Friends & family (there are always exceptions.

Stupidity and bullheadedness is the greatest friend of a creator. Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.

I can relate to it. Back in 1998, without any knowledge of IT, and just by going through the user manual, I installed Oracle Apps 11i in our Server. I was one of the very few people to achieve this feat. I had not known the challenges that I could face. I just knew that I was intelligent and that I could do it. Later I came to know that what I did was a huge achievement. 

So I know the benefits of being stupid. I have been there.

Second friend of creator is stubbornness. It’s less lofty than “tenacity” or “perseverance. When we’re stubborn, there’s no quit in us. We’re mean. We’re mulish. We’re ornery. We will sink our junkyard-dog teeth into Resistance’s ass and not let go,

Blind Faith is a creator's great friend. It is different from confidence. Like petrol does to oil stains, blind faith wipes away any self doubt. You know that you will succeed in the end.

Passion another friend of the creator. You may think that you have lost it or you have not found it. But it will present itself every time one starts an act of creation. Fear and self doubt saps passion. When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.

Assistance. It is the opposite of resistance.

Friends and Family is another friend. The history of creation is replete with families that supported the creator's endeavours with wholehearted enthusiasm. Only two things will remain with us across the river: our inhering genius and the hearts we love. All acts of creation are aimed at honouring these two things.

Now that we have identified the enemies and friends of creative work, the next questions is When is the best time to start the work?

We should START NOW. We should start before we are ready. Our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is resistance. Until one is committed one has the option to draw back, to be hesitant and to delay action. The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. 

Begin it now. Remember Goethe's couplets, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

A creator might want to do some research before committing to the creative work. Author says that research can become resistance. He recommends reading only three books before we commit to the creative work. It is better to let the ideas percolate and let the unconscious do its work. Work on instinct. Instinct leads to inspiration.

A creator must consider two things before he or she begins. One is to stay primitive. Do not look for beauty as you create. The creative act is primitive. Its principles are of birth and genesis. Any new creation is covered with dirt and clay. Don't worry. You WILL refine it and it will become a thing of beauty later. Don't worry if your first draft is ugly. They always are.

Second is to swing for the seats. Come up with big ideas. We should not let ourselves work small. Start playing from power. We can always dial it back later. If we don’t swing for the seats from the start, our work will always remain insignificant.

How do we begin? 

We begin by dividing our creative work into three parts - beginning, middle and end. Start with the end. How do you see your story ending? How will you know that it has ended? For example, if one is planning to start a small business the ending could be 'I created a business with employee strength of 20 and a monthly turnover of 5 Lakhs'. 

“But how do I know where I want to go?”

Author suggests to start with the question what is this project about? What is your start up about? for example. You may say 'By the end of the first year I want to have five customers with a satisfaction rating of 4/5'. That is the end state. 

Work from the end state and then fill the middle and then finally the beginning. 

For example, if I am writing the story of my friend Joseph, I will do it as follows.
End: How he is running a company employing 120 workers with a turnover of about 10 Crores a year.
Middle: His struggles to start and establish the company
Start: When he resigned from his job as a medical representative at the age of 39 with no prospects for future and a young family to look after.

Now that we have got our beginning, middle and end, the next step is to fill the gaps. This is where we should start our research. It is important not to allow research to impact our work. Do research early or late. Don’t stop working. Never do research in prime working time.

The first draft is the most challenging. They are always imperfect.  Get that first draft quickly. Remember that ideas do not come linearly. Ideas come according to their own logic.  We may get the end before we get the beginning. Be ready for this. Don’t resist it.

Follow the process of action followed by reflection. Never act and reflect at the same time. In writing, “action” means putting words on paper.“Reflection” means evaluating what we have on paper. For the first draft, go light on reflection and heavy on action. Keep working.

How do you reflect? The author says that at least twice a week, he pauses in the rush of work and have a meeting with himself. The agenda is to answer the following questions “What is this project about?”. "What is the theme?" and "Is every element serving the theme?". This lets him keep refining his understanding of the theme; keep narrowing it down. This is the most difficult part of any creative work and one that evokes the fiercest resistance

There is one point in time that every creator must be wary about. It comes somewhere into the middle of the project. We have invested our hopes and dreams into this project. We are looking at success and we freak out. 'You suck' voice howls loudly in our ears. We’re poised at the brink of a creative breakthrough and we can’t stand it.

If you have faced this situation, it is time to understand the Seven Principles of Resistance.

One, there is an enemy. There is an intelligent, active, malign force working against us. Step one is to recognize this. This recognition alone is enormously powerful.

Two, this enemy is implacable. This enemy is intelligent, protean, implacable, inextinguishable, and utterly ruthless and destructive. Its aim is not to obstruct or to hamper or to impede. Its aim is to destroy.

Three, this enemy is inside you. It is those peripheral opponents like fame and ego that hampers us from doing our best work.

Four, the enemy is inside you, but it is not You. You are not to blame for the voices of Resistance you hear in your head. It is not your fault. You are not bad. You do not 'suck'. Your work is divine.

Five, the “Real You” must duel the “Resistance You”

Six, resistance arises second. What comes first is the idea, the passion, the dream of the work we are so excited to create that it scares the hell out of us. Resistance is the response of the frightened, petty, small-time ego to the brave, generous, magnificent impulse of the creative self.

Seven, the opposite of resistance is assistance. It is the universal, immutable force of creative manifestation, whose role is to translate potential into being, to convert dreams into reality. Your work started with a dream. The love is the passion and enthusiasm that fill your heart when you envision your project’s completion. We can align ourselves with these universal forces of Assistance—this dream, this passion to make the unmanifest manifest—and ride them into battle against the resistance.

Resistance puts us through two tests. The first test is “How bad do you want it?". Are you passionate and totally committed to your idea? The second test is "Why do you want it?" If your answer to the second question is anything other than 'the beauty' or 'because I have no choice', you will fold under resistance. When you are in the creative zone, you should remove your ego, anger, hope, impatience, fear and sense of entitlement. The only items you get to keep are love for the work, will to finish, and passion to serve the ethical, creative Muse.

Somewhere towards the end of the project, we face the  big crash. We are stuck, we are desperate, we panic, we can't see any further. The Big Crash is so predictable, across all fields of enterprise. The worst part of the Big Crash is that nothing can prepare us for it. It arises organically, spawned by some act of commission or omission that we ourselves took or countenanced back at the project’s inception.

The good news is that crashes are good. Crashes are hell, but in the end they’re good for us. A crash means we have failed. We gave it everything we had and we came up short. A crash means we have to grow. A crash means we are at the threshold of learning something, which means we’re getting better and are acquiring the wisdom of our craft. 

When we face the crash, we go back to our allies: stupidity, stubbornness and blind faith

Finishing is the critical part of any project. If we can't finish, all our work is for nothing.Finishing is difficult because we fear our success. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that we fear the most. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are we not to be? We are the children of God. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

In mountain climbing there is a term called 'exposure'. When a climber is 'exposed', there is nothing but thin air below her. That is what happens to a creator when he ships. He is exposed. He has lost control over his creation. He cannot modify it. Once he ships, he can fail. He can be humiliated.

Remember, failure happens only if you try. When you are in the arena, you take a few blows. That is the nature of the game. Once we realize that fundamental fact, we have arrived as a pro. From the day we finally finished something, we will never have trouble finishing anything again.

Congratulations ! You did it. You have created something new. You have become a member of a select club of creators. You have produced something that was in your mind and gave it wings and you are happy to see it fly.

Now get working on your next creation.

03 January 2019

A Universal Theory of Getting Things Done...

Everyone wants to get stuff done. Right?

If you are like me, you have ideas that you want to get done, but you lack a structured approach to doing it. I am guessing that you will need help.

It is not that ideas are not available out there. The problems are two. One, they are disparate, not integrated. And two, sometimes they are contradictory. 

Steven Covey asks you to prepare the list of your 'Urgent / Important' things to do, Another author tells you that just a 'To Do' list is useless without a 'When to do' list. As per the conventional wisdom, you have to schedule your tasks in the To Do list. That is not correct, says David Allen in his book 'Getting Things Done'. As per Allen, you have to group your To Do list by the location where they

26 December 2018

What is Yoga? What is meditation? My thoughts.#Yoga #Meditation

 Today morning I had a philosophical discussion with a friend of mine. I started when she told me that in the last two days, she had to spend time alone. She found it very difficult to handle the loneliness. 

I ended up discussing my idea of Yoga.
“The word Yoga means Union” I told her, “It unites the various elements that form a person. There are 25 key elements which are divided into 15 Murtya and 10 Amurtya elements. Yoga unifies all the 25 elements into a single entity that we call as ‘Individual’ or ‘Person’. The three key broad aspects

05 November 2018

Book Review: Closed Casket: Author:Sophie Hannah

They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. But if you are imitating the writing style of an author like Agatha Christie who is widely revered across the globe and you compound it by 'purloining' Hercule Poirot, her adorable hero, to tell your story, then imitation is more scary and intimidating than a mere flattery.
In case of flattery you have only one person as your audience. When you imitate Agatha Christie, and write her name boldly in the cover of your book, it is an open season out there.
In writing the book Closed Casket, Hannah stayed very close to Christie style. The typical play of words is there, the neat deflections are there, even the cast is Christiesque, set in an isolated country house, few suspects each having a motive and opportunity to commit the crime, a mysteriously appearing Hercule Poirot and a murder. It is classic Agatha Christie.
Hannah has not just followed Christie to the 'TIE', she has introduced her inventiveness as well into

01 November 2018

Mard ko Dard Hoga and other sesions: Bangalore Lit Fest 2018 Day 2:


On day 2 of Bangalore Lit Fest 2018 on Sunday 28th of October 2018, I attended the following sessions. I was occupied in the morning and could attend only the afternoon sessions.

Mard ko dard hoga: #MeToo: Sandhya Menon, Sister Jesme, Tushita Patel and Vinta Nanda with Barkha Dutt
I reached late for this session. All of us who follow #MeToo in India know the panelists, except I did

31 October 2018

The Cows of Bangalore and other stories: Bangalore Lit Fest 2018 Day 1

Over the last weekend I attended the Bangalore Lit Fest 2018 held on the lawns of Hotel Lalit Ashok, Kumarakrupa Road, Bangalore on 27 and 28 October 2018. This is a summary of the sessions that I attended and my views on the same.

1. The Cows of Bangalore: Shoba Narayan with Rashmi Menon.
At the top of the post, let me inform you that Shoba is my cousin. I try to not let my affection for her cloud my observations. 
Having got that behind.....

30 October 2018

Bangalore Lit Fest: General Observations

I attended Bangalore Lit Fest 2018 over the weekend of 27th and 28th October, 2018. The event was held on the lawns of Hotel Lalit Ashok, on Kumarakrupa Road. It was an exhilarating, tiring, inspiring, fascinating and educative weekend. Now that the weekend it over, it is time for rest and reflection of the events of the past two days.

Lying in bed at home on the 29th, I went over the events of the weekend. I listened to a number of authors, each of whom stood out for the kind of inspiration they generated. Shoba Narayan (she is my cousin btw, and I am so proud of her), for example, weaved a simple act of giving a loan to a lady to buy a cow, into a beautiful story that linked the modern with the ancient, the city with the village, the rich with the poor and the literate with (not so) literates. She took a controversial topic of Cow and deftly and compassionately created an evocative story and presented it beautifully.

Book Review: The Reluctant Millionaire: Author: Joseph Birchall

The Reluctant Millionaire tells the story of Michael Irvine, a thirty something ordinary young man, living a boring life, working in a boring job and living with his parents.

Going to the shop to buy two lollypops for his nieces, he ends up being forced to buy a Euro Jackpot ticket. When the results are announced, he is astounded to find himself to be the winner of Jackpot worth about 200 Million Euros

His life changes all of a sudden. Relatives whom he has never seen throng his house. Car dealers are

12 October 2018

The case for Bouganvilla Leadership


As per Wikipedia,  ‘Bougainvillea’ called as ‘Bouganvilla’ in India, is a genus of thorny, ornamental wines, bushes and trees with flower-like spring leaves near its flowers. It is salt resistant, heat resistant and drought resistant and it is evergreen flowering plant is dry tropical climates. Its bright coloured flowers make it a decorative plant in many countries.



My apartment complex in Bangalore is surrounded by Bouganvilla plants. These thorny crawler plants are planted near compound walls to prevent trespassers and unwanted pests. While the flowers (actually it is the leaves, but hey, pot’ah’to, pot’ate’o) are brightly coloured, they are odourless and a little rough and feels like tissue paper.

You see this plant wherever you look. Due to its omnipresence you hardly give it a second glance and you don’t respect its flowers. It stays there like an ornamental, necessary nothing. You do not give it any attention if you were like me.

For example, you go ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’ when you see a beautiful rose flower. You stop to look at its

29 September 2018

Who are you thankful for?

As described by Eckhart Tolle in his book 'The power of now', there are two concepts of time. One is the psychological time and the other is the physical time. 

Psychological time could be related to past or future. If you spend time thinking about 'How it used to be', you are living in the psychological past. If you are continuously thinking about your life's regrets, you are living in the psychological past. On the other hand, if you spend time worrying, you are living in the psychological future. 

27 September 2018

The lost purse...

Sometime in early 2015, while cycling in the Kopar Khairane area of Navi Mumbai, I found a purse lying on the road.

I picked it up. It contained a voter id card, about 40 rupees and a paper with a few phone numbers written on it. The voter id card said that it belonged to one Ramesh Prasad, son of Ramcharan, belonging to the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

I tried calling a few numbers on the paper. Some of the numbers were no longer available. Of those available, some answered, but most of them did not recognize Ramesh. Others who did, said that he was working as a helper in some truck service in Mumbai. One guy who claimed to know his family told me that he will inform Ramesh about my call an ask him to call me back. I left my number with him.

17 September 2018

Confessions of a hopeless perfectionist....

About four months ago, I got an offer to write a sponsored blog post in my ERP Blog. The topic was 'ERP Market in India'. I asked for two weeks of preparation to deliver the post.

I quickly got down to researching on the topic. I read voraciously, took notes copiously. I exhausted the Internet looking for relevant material. I sat in front of my computer surfing the net for three straight days !! By the end of three days I had almost 10 pages of handwritten notes.

(This blog post by Tim Urban explains how procrastinators get things done)

You could say that I had enough and more of material for a 1000 word blog post.

But that is not how I felt. I felt helpless. I felt that I don't have any material to even start the blog post. I felt that my research was pedestrian and amateur. This drove me to the Internet with more vigour in search of more relevant material. I checked the websites of product vendors (Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Epicor), implementation partners (TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL Tech, Accenture), top three consulting companies (EY, PwC, KPMG) and Government websites. I downloaded pages of PDF documents, read and made notes...

Book Review: Manage your day-to-day: Editor: Jocelyn K Glei

This is the review of the book 'Manage your day-to-day - Build your routine, find your focus and sharpen your creative mind'. 


It is a challenge to maintain and improve your creative potential in a world of incessant information availability. This book is a curated collection of articles linked around four themes - building a solid daily routine, finding focus in a distracted world, taming the tools and sharpening your creative mind.

The book provides a complete set of practical insights delivered by an eclectic group of expert minds. The contributors include Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield, Gretchen Rubin, Leo Babauta and others.
Truly creative achievements require thousands of hours of work. This cannot be accomplished without a daily routine. Routines set availability expectations and align our workflow with energy levels and get our minds into a creative rhythm. The articles in Chapter 1: Building a rock solid routine, help set a framework to create the routine.

05 September 2018

Notes: On Being a Writer: Author: Stephen Faulds

These are the Kindle Notes from the book On Being a Writer by Stephen Faulds

On Writer's Block

When the brain becomes attuned to engaging in a particular way at a particular time, the result is continuity, the antidote to writer’s block. If you write at the same time each day you can pick up the thread of your narrative almost instantly. In a very short time you can develop the habit of writing effectively for every minute you are at your desk.
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Writer’s Block is not just being unable to write; it is doubting that what you write is any good; it is writing and deleting; it is wondering if your story is worth telling, or if you have a story at all.
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Writer’s block is like muscle cramp.
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Writer’s block comes from the irrational fear of being unable to write.
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Time to let the story go where it wants to go, formerly known as writer’s block.
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Writer’s Block is a lack of faith in the connection between conscious and subconscious when the conscious mind struggles in vain to create without the raw material of subconscious ideas.
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Writer’s Block is just, not knowing where to look next. It can become a state of mind. Take a risk. Introduce a new character or make something disastrous happen. It takes movement to free a blockage.
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On Writing

Writing begins with a love of reading.
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Sometimes words flow, sometimes they drip. The writing process is one of constant adjustment to the supply of words. I have stared at single sentences for hours
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I have never written a novel that was fully realized in the planning and drafting. There are always surprises.
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I write every morning before breakfast. On weekdays, that means getting up at five am.
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When I am not actually writing I am recording words in my memory to describe what I see, hear and feel.
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On Characterization

My characters often begin with people I know but usually evolve very quickly into people I have never met.
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Character voice is the most important part of my story writing. When I hear my characters speak I can clearly visualize them.
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I get to know my characters by what they do.
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A physical description of a character sometimes gets in the way of the reader visualizing the person for themselves.
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On maintaining journals

In my journals, I reflect on my dreams, my thoughts and my life. I write them for myself. I have dozens of volumes and it is unlikely anyone else will ever read them.
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All writers should keep journals. Writing without purpose, reflecting spontaneously without trying to shape the outcome is therapy for the working writer.
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To me style and genre in writing are simply moods.
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My handwriting style deteriorated when I began writing with a keyboard because I learned to think faster and now a biro can’t keep up with my thoughts.
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The writing process is often purely intuitive and can be described only in vague terms – for example the naming of a character
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Proofreading is an art. It is essential to have others proof read your manuscripts.
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My main character usually starts as a kind of alter ego of myself. As the story unfolds I allow him to grow through his experiences to become a person in his own right. He only emerges fully once I take him beyond the limits of my own experience
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I try to write for the most intelligent and sensitive readers in the universe.
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My characters arrive visually, usually saying or doing something that shows me who they are.
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When writing a review I try to be objective and describe the book the way I think the writer sees it.
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In some ways a review is for the author. It should encourage and reinforce what the author has attempted to do. A good review leads a writer to write something better because it helps them see more clearly what they are trying to achieve. A review doesn’t have to tell the potential reader whether or not they will like the book, just what it is they can expect to read.
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There are two writing exercises I find valuable. The first is to write everything that comes into your head - the stream of consciousness technique. The second is the Zen Koan, reducing ideas and descriptions to the barest minimum.
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Time away from writing allows the pressure of ideas to build in the psyche and a return to writing opens the floodgates. For those who write every day, this works on a microcosmic level. If
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Visualizing a setting is essential to allow your characters to behave realistically. The writer must see the chairs and the doorways and the dirt on the floor.
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I write to remember, I write to forget, I write to engage, I write to escape, I write to live, I will write until I die.
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The key to writing is the dissonance between experience and understanding. Fully realised beings don’t write. Only the unenlightened need to write. When I am a Buddha I don’t expect to be writing at all.
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Writing is a combination of imagination and technique. If it is dominated by technique it lacks life and is boring. If it is dominated by imagination it is undisciplined and confusing. Good writers combine the two elements in ways that both enable and challenge the reader. *
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Time is the warp and weft of a novel. Years, weeks, days, hours and minutes are the fabric on which events are stretched or shrunk to create the texture of the story.
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A writer is not a journalist who documents events. He is an interpreter who translates them.
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Imperfect writing from the heart is more engaging than perfect writing from the mind.
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Good fiction is underpinned by the writer’s understanding of real events and real people.
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Fiction is more than the original observation. The experience and the character are the foundation and must be understood before they can be transformed into something new.
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Successful writing has to tap into something vital, something that engages the reader more than merely clever words.
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Punctuation is the musical score of a story. It should be used sparingly to guide the reader into the rhythms of the prose.
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If you didn’t want your personal characteristics embedded in an archetypal evil character you should have behaved better with the writer.
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Writing isn’t work. It is rewriting that is work. Hard work. Don’t become a writer unless you like hard work.
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A writer does not mind being alone because he always has words for companions.
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Writing is both craft and art. Passionate expression requires disciplined editing.
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Writing is a commitment to words. A writer is judged by the words he writes and the ideas they represent.
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When your emotions come dressed in words and words are dripping from everything you see, you are a writer.
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The first draft is a block of marble into which subsequent drafts are finely chiseled.
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It is the responsibility of every generation to listen to the stories of the previous generation and ensure they are recorded.
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A writer should approach language with respect, like a craftsman with glass, or timber or clay. Language is capable of expressing the highest
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A writer should approach language with respect, like a craftsman with glass, or timber or clay. Language is capable of expressing the highest and finest of ideas.
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A day spent wandering somewhere interesting - observing, making notes, sketching, photographing - is money in the bank
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If there isn’t a pen and notebook in his pocket he is not a writer. A writer would not want to risk wasting the ideas and observations that constantly trickle
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The structure of a novel should be finalised by the penultimate draft. The final draft is about presentation
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When a reader describes your novel in a way that mirrors your intention you feel a profound sense of vindication.
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When a character says or does something you don’t approve then it is safe to assume you have given your creation a life of its own and
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The task of a review writer is to improve the understanding of both the reader and the writer.
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The task of a review writer is to improve the understanding of both the reader and the writer. It is really a teaching role and should only be done by those with a deep understanding of writing and genre.
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When writing of desire the adjectives must be controlled.
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A writer respects words. He takes the trouble to spell them correctly, arrange them in syntax and punctuate them so they sing a song to the reader.
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There are some days when a writer is not trying to write a bestseller. He is just working on his craft and enjoying his relationship with words.
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The Inner Writer is always working. When you are very still and quiet he will give you your next idea and tell you where to begin.
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A prolific writer is a disciplined person who has made good use of a talent for words.
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A fully realised character should at some point dictate to the writer. The best characters own their stories. They
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There are three things that nurture a writer: reading, writing and experience.
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It is rewriting that makes a writer.
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Characters should never get what they want without loss. A writer must be quite Machiavellian with characters, make them suffer.
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Advice For A Young Writer: Choose a time of the day when you know you will not be interrupted for one hour. Turn off your phone and all social media. Sit down and write whatever you can. If you don’t have something you want to write about just describe places, people and events in your life until you are able to invent something. Do this seven days a week without fail. Don’t judge how much you write as long as you spend the full hour at your desk.  You will soon find that ideas will emerge and your hour will become more productive.
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Character description in a novel should be sketched rather than painted in detail.
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Full characterisation emerges through the behaviour of the character in the story proper.
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Stories don’t happen. They must be told. Even stories based closely on actual people and events must be stitched together with the conventions of storytelling to make them of interest to the reader.
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Characters should struggle to know themselves. The reader must see the flaws in a character, before the character is enlightened or redeemed. It
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Even stories that write themselves - the ones that just flow out of your head - need the nip and tuck of a rewrite.
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Transforming real life into a credible plot is more difficult than writing pure fiction.
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Real life often lacks the verisimilitude that fiction requires.
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Language is like water; it flows into empty spaces.
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Writing every day is like leaving the tap dripping so there is always water in the pipe. If the tap is off too long it takes a while for the water to come through.
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Transforming observations of reality into fiction requires reflection and synthesis with other ideas.
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Writers go where they themselves fear to tread.
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The connection between everyday consciousness and the ideas that flow into writing are through the subconscious.
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Knowing your characters is essential. When they become involved in a conversation, you just have to
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Knowing your characters is essential. When they become involved in a conversation, you just have to listen and they will write half your story.
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The most basic kinds of writing are autobiographical journaling and spontaneous poetry. This is where writers discover their love of words. To develop from here to serious writing requires effort and persistence not all possess.
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When something is not ready to be written it gestates in the subconscious until it is ready to inspire the writer.
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A writer must be boringly disciplined before earning a licence to be creative.
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Writing directly from impressions and observations is best done promptly and quickly before the fiction process takes over and turns them into a story.
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Write for yourself because the Reader is hypothetical.
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All writers should have same New Year resolution: write something every day.
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Writers travel to the past and the future to discover the meaning of the present.
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The aspiration to write fiction must be accompanied by dogged persistence and the ability to absorb frustration.
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The name of a character should resonate with the personality.
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Plot and time rarely have a straightforward relationship. A simple linear narrative is too transparent for most readers.
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When a story demands to be written a writer has no choice. He must sit down every day and write until it is done.
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Writing only flourishes when the subconscious is engaged.
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Rewriting is the art of removing foliage that does not enhance the flower.
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Most people are too one-dimensional to be interesting characters in a novel. Writers have to combine people to create characters that will engage readers. That is why no one should get too excited if they recognize themselves in a novel written by a writer who knows them.
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One difference between good writing and ineffective writing is the interconnection of ideas,
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When you hear a character talking in your head, don’t interrupt. Wait for another character to answer.
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Write with passion, rewrite with intelligence.
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Writing is a process of transferring images from the mind of the writer to the mind of the reader.
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A writer turns images into words. A reader turns words back into images.
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An effective plot should consist mostly of what your character does not want.
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The difference between reflective journaling and autobiography is the element of narrative. A life must become a story to be of interest to others.
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When all else fails, keep writing.
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The characters in a writer’s head must speak more clearly when the narrative is a script.
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Is writing simply following a trail of words to uncover a story that already exists?
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A good review doesn’t praise, or flatter. It identifies exactly what the writer tried to achieve.
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A good review is more rewarding to a writer than a royalty payment.
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Verbs are the powerhouse of narrative and adjectives are the rudder.
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When you need metaphors for your writing, pay attention to your dreams.
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Changing a character reaction can reroute an entire story.
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An incongruous minor attribute of a character in the exposition of a story can become exponentially significant as the story unfolds.
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Inconsistencies in characterization should be diagnosed early.
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Good writers avoid clichés. They aspire to write things that will become clichés.
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Write fast, revise slowly and proof continuously.
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Write on the crest of an imagination wave.
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Autobiographical writing is a process of recovering the things you didn’t know about your life.
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When a character dictates plot, you know your characterization has been thorough.
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Inspiration is a kick-start pedal, not an engine.
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Setting must be visualized by the writer. The more clearly it is visualized the easier it is to describe its essential elements so it can be visualized by the reader.
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When phrases appear fully formed in your mind you know you are engaged with your subconscious, the source of all good writing.
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When crossing the dividing line between conventional syntax and an individual style, a writer must maintain communication
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When crossing the dividing line between conventional syntax and an individual style, a writer must maintain communication
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When crossing the dividing line between conventional syntax and an individual style, a writer must maintain communication with the reader.
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The shortest poem and the longest novel both begin with a single word.
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A book opens a window for the reader. A review opens another window for the writer. Hopefully they offer the same view. *
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A book opens a window for the reader. A review opens another window for the writer. Hopefully they offer the same view.
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Write like a mercenary hunting the enemy. * Write like a detective seeking the facts. * Write fearlessly, like a warrior. * Write like a child seeking the heart of a butterfly.
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Characterization is the art of balancing motivation, behaviour and consequences to complement plot.
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When I write a story I feel I owe it to my characters to find readers for them.
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Characters, unlike people are designed to live forever. Creating someone who is going to live longer than you requires thought.
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Good characters misbehave.
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The ability of the brain to construct meaning makes proof reading a never-ending task. You
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If a picture is worth a thousand words a book cover must be worth a thousand novels.
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A writer must care more about his story than his characters.
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Don’t let your characters get what they want.
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Your first draft should take no prisoners. * Your second draft should slash and burn. * Your final draft should cut and polish.
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The way a character changes as a result of experience is the greatest challenge for the writer.
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As a writer you must care about your characters enough to make them suffer.
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The first line of a novel must intrigue the reader with possibility.
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The name of a character is integral to the character’s persona.
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Read lots of first lines in good novels.
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When you are not sure what to do with a character, focus on the setting, where the character is. A character will always find something to do there. Once characters do something, they develop.
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Plotting is discovering the inner potential of your characters.
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Why publish on Kindle? It doesn’t reject you.
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Submit relentlessly to traditional publishers and agents because the feedback you get will be invaluable. Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your
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Submit relentlessly to traditional publishers and agents because the feedback you get will be invaluable. Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your work is no good.
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Once you begin publishing on kindle, be meticulous with your formatting and proofing.
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You have to be fascinated by your own characters.
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They must be multi-dimensional and have a history, which is not necessarily told but informs the character’s motivation.
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There is a saying that everyone has a book in them. But do they have the perseverance to write, proof, publish and market it?
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The basic ingredients of a story are an intriguing exposition, engaging characters and something to make the reader care about what happens next.
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Vindication: when a reader or a reviewer describes your novel precisely the way you would describe it.
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Book Review: On being a writer: Author: Stephen Faulds

I purchased the book, 'Being a writer' written by Stephen Faulds, on Amazon after seeing a recommendation in Twitter. It was worth it. 

While writing a story recently, I was stuck with a writer's block. I knew what I wanted to write about, I knew the sequence of events, I knew the characters, their struggles and their ultimate success. I knew all of these, but I found that my writing was pedestrian. It was uninspiring. I was labouring writing each word and I was not able to visaualize the complete story in my mind. 

I had all the ingredients and the recipe, but I was struggling with the basic task of cutting and blending the ingredients. 

That is where I took to reading books on writing. The first book that I read was 'You are a writer (Start acting like one)' by Jeff Goins. That book covered the basics of writing and publishing, but it was more process oriented. I needed inspiration. I needed books that told me that what I was facing was quite normal and it was quite okay to be frustrated. I wanted tips on how the other writers have overcome writer's block. I wanted to read about the inner workings of a writer's mind, not a user manual or a 'How to' book on writing and publishing.

That is when I discovered this book.

It is a very small book, almost half the size of the books that I normally read (about 1200 page locations against 3500 page locations). The book is a collection of random thoughts of the author that he documented in his blog. The beauty of this book is its broad brush coverage. The author has touched up on all the topics that are important to a writer. In addition to Writer's block that I discussed above, the book covers aspects like the book title, cover design, characterization including what to name them, how they arrive and how they evolve, syntax and punctuation, importance of consistency in writing, how journalling is important for a writer, how to write book reviews, dramas and screen plays, how an autobiography is different from a fiction, why traditional publishing is better than self publishing (you get feedback from expert editors who know the market pulse), how to handle rejection and finally that much hated topic, importance of marketing.  

Since these are a collection of notes from the author, the topics are not arranged in any particular order. However a discerning reader can identify blocks that I mentioned in the previous paragraphs. 

Book title and the cover page are the first things that a reader sees. It is the reader's window into the book. It is very important that the title and cover design convey the gist of the book and kindle an urge in his mind to continue reading the book. The cover design should be inviting. I can't agree more. One of the aspects that I see in Indian writing in English is the fascinating cover designs that I see on the book shelves. They invite you to open the book and give it a decko. It asks the reader to check out the author's profile and give her the benefit of doubt. So yes, I agree totally that the title and the cover design are very important and a writer will need professional help to create one. 

Character is the story teller. The name of the character is important since it sends subtle messages to the reader. Indian names are particularly tricky. For example name of 'Rahul' suggests youth where as 'Shantanu' could suggest a serious demeanour. This is one area which is usually neglected. For example, while growing up I used to read mystery novels where the key protagonist was 'Detective Pushpanath'. The name 'Pushpanath' suggested to me an middle aged clerk in a government office and did not sound like a crime cracker. As in real life, a character in a story should introduce himself through his words and actions. The reader should identify with the struggles of the character and should suffer and in the end exhilarate with the character as he achieves his goals. 

Since I review a lot of books in my blog, Faulds' views on how to write a book review was particularly important for me. He suggests that the reviewer should not add his interpretations and a good review should convey what the author wanted to convey in his story. The end objective of a book review is to generate a consensus between the writer and the reviewer about what the author wanted to communicate through the book.

I disagree. The readership of the reviewer is different from that of the author. They want to make their purchase decisions based on the views of the reviewer. They have come to trust his views. Just as you go to watch a movie after reading its review or go to a restaurant based on a good review, people buy books based on a good review. With so many options out there, the people use the reviewer as the initial filter. In my opinion, while a reviewer should no doubt tell what the author wanted to communicate, she must also tell if this is the kind of book that her readers would want to peruse. 

Faulds also covers the importance of writing journals. While that is the first step in the path to becoming a writer, the act of dumping your thoughts on a piece of paper without being forced to by the rigours and structure of a story is cathartic. In addition, writing a journal creates a continuity in your writing regimen. I should know. I have been writing journals everyday for  the last one year. While I don't have anything to write on some days, on some other days, I end up writing for more than an hour, inflicting on the universe my views on everything under the sun.

Writing consistently at a specific time everyday is a great way to overcome writer's block. Consistency ensures continuity in writing. In addition, a trick told by Earnest Hemingway, is to always stop when you know what happens next. This will ensure that when you restart your writing you have ample material to write about.

Author's suggestion to young writers is to ensure consistency and continue writing at a specified time everyday. A writer needs to be very disciplined in his writing. Consistency wins over inspiration every time. 

Writers can use either of the two methods, In the 'Stream of Consciousness' method, you write whatever that comes into your mind. The paper acts as an unstructured dump of your thoughts. In Zen Koan method, you break down the ideas and descriptions to the barest minimum, allowing the reader to discover the meaning out of your words. 

Can a writer have different styles? Each genre calls for a different style. It is important that the characters exhibit different styles based on the genre. While it is possible for a writer to write in different genres, I suspect that each writer will gravitate to a favourite genre over time.

How do you know you are a writer? A true writer is always walking around with pen and paper in her pocket and is constantly writing down ideas and observations. 

This is a great short book that should be in the arsenal of all aspiring (and even seasoned) writers. This book inspires you to keep writing. As the author  says somewhere 'Writers write'

You can get more detailed pointers on all aspects of writing by reading the Book Notes.

04 September 2018

Are you not happy in your life?...

Are you not happy with what is happening in your life? And you are not even aware that you are not happy?

Read on....

Being 'Not Happy' is different from being 'Unhappy'. When you are unhappy you know it, probably your family and friends know it too. But when you are 'Not happy', perhaps even you are not aware. Your life will be coasting along, fitted into neat little blocks - Morning activities, Going to office, come back, watch some TV, go to sleep... The cycle continues.

No time for reflection, no time for self development. No time to realize that you are not happy.

It may take only very small adjustments to your life style to reverse that and become genuinely happy. Perhaps you are not even aware that the solution is out there. 

I can give an example from the world of cooking.

I am a Tambram. Dosa is our favorite food. My mom, like all Tambram women, loves making dosas.
Dosa
Dosas are made in a frying pan, known as 'Dosa Kallu' or 'Dosa Tawa'. The batter is poured and flattened on the pan and fried with little oil. For a long time, over three to four years, my mother was using the same pan. It was contorted in some places but it was working. It was producing the expected result. She might have had to pour little more oil than necessary, but she attributed that to her style of Dosa making.

She was not unhappy, mind you. She had made thousands of Dosas in that pan.
Dosa Batter being flattened on a Dosa Kallu

In the meantime, the technology had evolved in the making of frying pan. New materials and kitchen friendly pans were out there in the market. She was aware of these but did not feel the need for change. 

Three weeks ago,, we decided to exchange the old pan with a new one. 

In the new pan, dosas are coming out awesome. They are more flatter and hence more crisper, they pop out of the pan with the least amount of effort, the dosas that come out have that beautiful captivating golden brown hue that make you crave for a dozen of them, those new year resolutions be damned! They are crisp as a piece of glass but melt like butter as soon as they are in your mouth. 

If 'Dosa making' were an Olympic event, my mom would win a gold for India.

Boy, is my mom happy!!. You bet she is. She is ecstatic. She can't stop raving about the new 'Dosa Kallu'. It needs less heat, less batter for a bigger flatter dosa, less oil..... And because it uses less oil, the dosas are healthier. And less oil produce less fumes and so they are soft on the chimney too...

The smile on her face as she serves Dosas is priceless...

Till now she was not happy and she did not know that she was not happy. That all changed with the new 'Dosa Kallu'. Now she is genuinely happy. Her quality of life has gone up. 

A new frying pan. That is all it took.

Another small example from my personal life. Every morning I would like to prepare my morning cuppa. It could be java or it could be the good old chai. I love the feeling of washing the sauce pan,  pouring in the right amount of water and milk, adding the right amount of sugar (may be a teeny bit more !!) and tea, lighting the stove and watching it brew.

I have been using the same sets of pans for over the last five years. Over the years, the pans have developed small issues. The handle is heavier than the pan in one case. So every time I keep the empty pan on the stove, it falls down due to the weight of the handle.  The handles had broken in one or two of them, screws were missing in another, the handles had become loose in some others....

Every time I prepare tea, I had to use external support to lift the hot pan. Sometimes I use the cloth and burn my fingers (ever so lightly, but hurts all the same), pour hot tea and scald my fingers at others or sometimes spill on the ground which adds the effort to clean. 

I never bothered. It was working. That is all it mattered.

This changed last week when I got new handles fitted in all of them. Man, my tea making experience has undergone a transformation. Now while making tea, I love the feeling as I pick up the pan and give it a couple of tilts to mix the concoction. Earlier I used to do it with spoon and I had to wash it  after use. The feeling of cold water falling on your hand early morning while washing the spoon is very irritating. I love the feeling of tilting the pan to pour the tea on to my cup. The handles have rekindled and reinvigorated my love for tea making. 

Nowadays, I am genuinely happy as I prepare my tea. I never knew I was not happy till I fitted those handles.

A new frying pan brought happiness in my mom's life. New handles on sauce pans made tea making exciting for me. In the case of both of us, we were not unhappy with the status quo. But we were not happy.

Big difference.

So, try bringing small improvements to your life. As a first step, focus on the physical. Replace the bulb or tube light that is not working. Replace those cups with broken handles. Replace the old stuff with the new. For example, just by replacing a light bulb that was getting fused regularly with a brighter LED lamp has lowered the electricity consumption and brought smiles (the light is brighter) in my mom's face...

So simple, no?