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Archive for the tag “creativity”

How To Write A Novel In 30 Days – 5

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A writer’s eye looks at things in a different way than a layperson’s would. Hence her head is full of ideas and it would take lifetimes to actually use them all in the writing. But sometimes, this faucet seems to be tightly closed. And try as they might, the writer is not able to wrench out a single word. This situation is fondly called, Writer’s Block. But this need not be a permanent state of being.

(If you are a writing your first novel, the first draft would mostly flow out. As is popularly said, everyone has atleast one story within them. Make the most of this beginner’s luck).


The most common reason for a block is not knowing enough about the subject you’re writing on. If it is fiction, then perhaps you are not completely clued in to your characters, their likes and dislikes and their propensities. Going deeper into their psyche could give you enough matter to break any blocks in your mind about them.

Yet another reason for the Block is not believing that you have a story to tell, especially when you read the books written by the writers whose writings you idolise.

But the fact is that if you felt within you a spark (to write a novel)that wanted to burn bright then that is a sure sign that your story is worth writing.

Sometimes the writer gets into the rut of misconception that every word that flows out of his pen into the page must be brilliant and final.  Every writer knows that words have to be written and then re-written a number of times before they flow and you know you’ve got the best words that will work for you story. This is VERY HARD WORK. So avoid the self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviour which prevent you from writing, and blaming ‘Writer’s Block’ for it.

Stop thinking about what the world will think of your story, whether they will like it or not, whether they will approve of it or not, whether they will still respect you after you write your story or not (hey, do you really need such people in your life?).


Just write the words that excite you, that want to be written by you.

Write like no-one is going to be reading what you have written.


A practical way out of the Block is by free writing. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about a subject of your choice, perhaps the character who’s causing you distress or even your story. Write uninhibitedly and soon you might find gems that could give you a breakthrough.

 What are the methods you use to get over Writers Block?

 (Read How To Write A Novel In 30 Days – 1, 2, 3, and 4.

How To Write A Novel In 30 Days – 4


“Anything you do deeply is very lonely. There are many Zen students here, but the ones that are going deep are very lonely.”

“Are you lonely?” I asked him.

“Of course,” he answered. “But I do not let it toss me away. It is just loneliness.”

~ Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. The visualization and the capturing of the inspirations and the impressions, all need to be done in quietude. But many times, we need a certain push that only another writer can understand and provide.

It is a proven fact that accountability can make the difference between the success and failure of a venture. Going on a diet? Going to take 10,000 steps daily? Going to write daily?

Accountability will make you feel like taking action even when you’d rather just watch television or surf the net.

These are buddies. Gym buddies, diet buddies, walking buddies, writing buddies.

Identify one such friend, or two. Whose writing strengths match yours. Then, fix up the time and amount of writing you will do.

It could be timed writing. Or even timed editing. Buddies remind you of your writing goals when you forget them. And they goad you to follow up on your promises you made to yourself and to others. They read what you’ve written. They tell you what is working and what isn’t. When they give a patient hearing to your ideas, the vision becomes clearer and the story becomes stronger. We can never be objective about our own writing. Our buddies point out to us our weaknesses, whether it a skewed POV or a rambling text or even a sequence of plot events which is implausible.

In the earlier days of publishing, editors at the publishing houses took on the role of writing buddy, in a way. Through encouragement and regular but constant goading, they ensured the writers completed writing their books. In fact, well-known Canadian author, Mark Anthony Jarman, in a writing workshop by Avid Learning held at the Kalaghoda Art Festival, revealed it was thanks to this unceasing badgering by his editor that he was able to complete writing most of his books.

Mark Anthony Jarman

Writing buddies are invaluable. If you don’t have one, you need to get one ASAP.

But remember, worthwhile relationships are never one-sided.

Will you be a great writing buddy, too?

Read How To Write A Novel During NaNoWriMo – 1, 2, and 3.


How To Write A Novel in 30 Days – 3

Like I promised last week, here I am with some light to throw on PHYSICAL CREATIVITIES.

Ask hundred people the definition of creativity, almost eighty would say it is about “thinking out of the box”.

All this while one would have thought that this box referred to must be some hypothetical box, which one had to jump out of if one had a wish to be creative.

But what would happen if you were actually put inside a life-sized box? A sealed box. Bet you’d try all the creativity at your disposal to get out of that box. Besides of course, hammering on the sides with your fists, hoping SOMEBODY would hear you.

Jokes aside, according to research done, those outside the physical box scored more points on creativity, than those inside it.

Here are some ways in which physical actions can jog your creativity into higher gear:

  • Write standing up:
    Ernest Hemingway did it. So did Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf. Have you tried it?
  • Write with your non-dominant hand:
    The discomfort and unusualness of using the non-dominant hand opens up untraveled pathways in the brain, giving you a piece of writing that might either be utterly worthless or a super-precious gem. At least it allows you to bypass your oft-used clichéd words, phrases and ideas.
  • Lie down under the stars:
    On a dark, starry night, go to a quiet, open space (preferably a garden) and even if you don’t lie down, atleast throw back your head and savour the unending vastness of the black night interspersed with the sparkling stars. You’ll forget all your worries and stress when you realize how microscopial they are in the face of the gorgeous beauty of the Universe. This letting go ( of control/worry/fear) is what will allow your creativity to manifest – not just in writing, but in every aspect of life.

  • Go for a walk, but CARRY a voice recorder:
    No, not that sort of a walk where you burn 300 calories per mile (or whatever the exact figures are). More like an amble. An aimless walk, gentle steps, your mind travelling all over the world, especially into the world of the stories you’ve written or even plan to write. Stopping to stare at a particularly intriguing flower, or a bush that sprouts fragrant flowers only at dusk. All the while, talking into the recorder. Allowing the words to come to you instead of trying to drag them towards you. Talk without judgment. You will soon know which words you must keep and which you can delete.

Which is your favourite creativity-inducing physical activity?

Read How To Write A Novel In 30 Days – 1 and 2


There are two types of people in this world:

  • Those who like a well-ordered, disciplined life and
  • Those who always crave excitement and a routine life bores them almost to death.

We will talk about the second group because the first group has everything planned out and doesn’t really need any further inputs. Mostly.

So the people who crave excitement try to find it in dangerous sporting activities such as bungee jumping, river rafting or even sky diving. The more adventurous ones even take it up as a profession. Such as bullfighting.

And if you are an Avenger or a Superpower-person, you get your thrills in kicking the a** of those mammoth antagonists that more often than advance towards you from the horizon, stomping over buildings and buses and scattering  laypersons like ants whose piece of candy has been snatched away.

Those who cannot physically access these activities try to find excitement in activities like substance abuse and other type of addictions.

These are the Excitement-Junkies (EJ).

These activities can be life-threatening (except if you are an Avenger or Super-power person) and most of us don’t want to lose our lives in pursuit of excitement. What options do most EJs have, then?

Here is where NaNoWriMo comes in.

Coverpic banner

Photo Credit: NaNoWriMo

If you are a creative person and ever felt the call to write a novel (which is also why you are reading this article), the ‘Deadline’ is the device that will bring to you all the excitement of a battle without endangering your life.

30 days of writing, a minimum word count, not doing your daily minimum, the word-backlog piling on, the approaching deadline and the thrill of validating your novel a few minutes before 11:59pm on 30th November. Slaying a dragon couldn’t give you this kind of a high. EJs of the world, rejoice.

Conversely, writing to a deadline is also ‘being in a Zen state’ or ‘being in the moment.’

Okay, let us try an experiment.

Open a New Word doc. Or a blank page in your notebook.

Now write 500 words of a story using these words:

crash, crumpled paper, straw, gravel, ochre.

There is no time limit. Begin now.

Finished? Not yet? Why?

Okay, let that go.

Open another New doc or blank page, as the case may be.

Set the timer on your phone for 15 minutes. Ready?

Now, using these words: social worker, mop, hotel room, beeper, write a story of 500 words within 15 minutes, beginning NOW.

With a deadline looming ahead, your inner editor does not get an opportunity to barge in with its deprecating words. And with limited time at your disposal to finish the story your mind gets totally involved in the task, relegating all extraneous thoughts to the back- burner. Isn’t that what meditation is all about. And really, if after a gap of time, say a few days or months, you read what you have written, you’d be quite pleasantly surprised. “Have I written this?” is one of the most common expressions that describe what you feel.

But if words like meditation confuse or scare you, then consider deadline being the weapon that can wipeout the curse of “one day.” According to Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, the world is full of “one day novelists” – those people who proclaim to the world that ‘one day, they will write a novel.’

That day is the 1st of November. Get ready for it.

P.S. The prompts given above are from It is a very good idea to write to prompts (within a time deadline). This exercises both both your physical and mental creativities. Try it.

More about physical creativities next week.

Hopefully, you have signed up at NaNoWriMo already. If you are on Facebook, check out the Wrimo India Page too.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please feel free to share this post (Go on, share it) but only with relevant attribution and with a link to this blog. Failure to do so will invite the evil eyes and you know how tough it is to get rid of those!!!



Writing is an act of praying. Or at least an activity that connects one to an energy that cannot be named or even defined but can be considered to be ‘other worldly’. Don’t we often exclaim at something that is immensely creative with the words, “out of this world”?

And having faith in this universe/muse/divine energy is the only way in which NaNoWriMo (nanowrimo[dot]org) can be won.

One comes into NaNoWriMo usually with just a desire to write a novel. Very few are well-versed with or even trained in the art of writing a novel when they attempt NaNo for the first time. Inner editor, writer’s block, outlines, plot points etc. These words form the jargon which the first time writer is lucky not to be acquainted with at that point.

Unfettered creativity and enthusiasm are the oars that will help the newbie writer to traverse the sea of words that will one day, hopefully, coalesce into a manuscript.

Do this, utterly unfettered, once, twice, three times, during NaNo in November or in any other month of your choice and be unsurprised when you notice the tremendous improvement in your writing skills as well as an ascension in your self-confidence as a writer because when writing is unfettered and authentic that is when the magic begins.

Writing tip # 21

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. (Jack London)


This post is part of A-Z Blogging Challenge 2014


The Artist's Way

The Artist’s Way

‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron is an iconic book which helps artists to unblock and find their creative groove once again.

The Morning Pages, which Cameron advocates in this book, for all, blocked or otherwise, is a form of Journaling as well as a form of meditation. For those not aware of it, morning pages are three pages of unedited writing you do as soon as you wake up. These pages are read by no-one, not even by the writer.

Morning pages can be a helpful tool to prepare for NaNoWriMo. If one has been dwelling on the story in the mind, then there is a good chance that insights might crop up during the writing of the morning pages. My morning pages are a jumble of words and if such an insight occurs I make it a point to circle or underline it so that I can retrieve it later.

Journaling in its simplest form can be taken to mean free writing. Many misunderstand free writing to be aimless writing. It actually entails writing non-stop on a particular topic for a fixed time or number of pages. This gives the conscious mind a chance to move out of the creative mind’s way as the ideas begin to stream in. This works wonderfully for character sketches and world-building for novels.

What has been your experience with journaling for NaNoWriMo?

Writing Tip #10

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” (Sylvia Plath)


This post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2014

Pic courtesy:

Under The Magnifying Glass: Who is Arjun Choudhuri?

(Television. Social. Blogs. Words. Sounds. Images.
The reader could be forgiven for feeling drowned in this vast Media-Ocean, the bearer of both poisons and panaceas, even as he tries to assimilate the sensations and information that assail him. Through the quarterly series, “Under The Magnifying Glass”, I intend to churn this Ocean and bring forth to you, in their entirety (as much as is possible) some gems that rise to the surface, those magicians who lure us inside the irresistible webs they weave with their art and their craft, be it with words, sounds or images.
Presenting to you, then, the first in the series):

Who is Arjun Choudhuri?

This is a poem that once was my body
or thought or remembering.
Recesses of uncertainty, like spiders,
like roaches, like never blossomed flowers,
hid these lines from blackened eyes.

This was once the poem I was.
Now, it is not much of a disorder,
not even a careful song dissipated
into the heart of a nightly mist.
Now it is just another bit of word.

 Word is that we were all poems once.
Now that the new science of forgetting has come,
we are no longer those, poems, or disorders.
Now there are only recesses with roaches in them.
No word has yet arrived as to when

we might just be poems again.
(By Arjun Choudhuri. Private Collection, September 2013)

Dipping into his mother’s memories of his childhood, Arjun Choudhuri tells of his very first book of ‘writing’ in which his four-year-old self wrote his very first ‘poem’: “Shillong is beautiful./ Silchar is not./ Silchar is my home./ Shillong is not.”

That infant verse has today blossomed into a poetic voice that is fresh and bright, evocative and  sensuous, unique and contemporary.  Into poetry that draws you again and again, vivifying, even as you try to cajole out its meaning, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not.

Twenty-five years after that first verse, this prolific  poet/writer/translator/researcher is no stranger to awards, whether it is as a topper in the University exams or receiving the Kavyanandan Award by Suranandan Bharati in December 2010, for his contribution to poetry and translation from Northeast India or even the Nirnawye Medal in 2012, for contributions to Literature, from the Nirnawye Shilpigosthhi.

Northeast India is where Arjun Choudhuri lives, specifically in Silchar, which is part of the Barak Valley which has been witness to a turbulent, strife-filled history.

The Bawrobawkro River, that runs through the Barak valley is as dear to Arjun as is the Moon, and the trees and the rain and Equality.  And so he says in ‘METROPHOBIA’ (April 2012): My eyes bathe you, engendered river,/ in showers of knowing created for you/ with the minute seas of known bodies./ I am – Bawrobawkro – I am you.

‘Home’ which is yet another recurrent theme in Arjun Choudhuri’s poems is further epitomized in “BORDERING POETRY” which is perhaps the first anthology of translations of the poetry written originally in Bengali by poets from Barak region.


That train which never left, I had been a passenger on it.

Those kisses at departure were re-birthed as legend
like the great hearth-snake beneath the homestead.
Those rapt waitings invoked the cow-dust hour
with the incessant clatter of their hooves on the highway.

Many a train arrived and left after that. Many a slumbering eye
in innumerable compartments opened at the silent station.
Yet that dream devoid shadow that never leaves, and
the departing after that, were delayed, and delayed still.

All my departing, burdened by that sole non-departing,
become ceaseless returns through the period of a lifetime.
All our sayings, burdened by that sole non-departing,
search for small, cheap hotels on the dismal roadsides
and for succor, for life’s main, for the fates that be.

Between departing and non-departing, there are unmoving bridges
that sooner or later, and quite gradually, turn into confining prisons.

That train which shall never leave, I had been a passenger on it.
(By Amitabha Dev Choudhury. Translation by Arjun Choudhuri, Bordering Poetry).


Coming Next: Arjun Choudhuri ko gussa kyon aata hain?
(What makes Arjun Choudhuri so angry?)

(P.S.: I’d love it if you shared this blogpost – everyblogger’s dream – but please remember the copyright to the poems rest with the poets).

Online Literary Magazines Decoded – Open Road Review

Landscape by Ira Joel Haber

Landscape by Ira Joel Haber – Courtesy Open Road Review

On the Home Page of the Open Road Review (ORR), you click the ‘blog’ tab, eagerly, because ‘blog’ is your second most-favourite word after ‘creativity’. Yes, you are a wee bit surprised to see a blog hosted by a lit-mag, but then you realize you shouldn’t be because isn’t a blog-post about writing too as are poetry and prose? Your eyes alight on “How do I know which story will be accepted and when will be the right time?” – the title of one of the posts. A wry smile is your answer to Fiction Editor Shanti Perez’s response to that question: “simple answer: you don’t.” Are all Tamil-Brahmins Fair-skinned? Understanding Web Statistics; Rape happens: these are some of the other titles that intrigue you.

ORR has a lot to offer. In the very first issue (May 2012 and then published every quarter), founder-editor Kulpreet Yadav, says, “if we can’t change the world with the money that we don’t have, let’s give words a chance. This is the beginning of a new journey.”

And the journey, no doubt, has been exciting and eventful, you presume, as you notice the lively editorials which provide snippet-sized peeps into the founder-editor’s personal experiences/adventures. And the fun doesn’t end. ORR has arguably many firsts:

  • Audio recordings of some of the stories and poems for those who prefer to hear rather than read them.
  • Praises, comments and questions from readers merit their very own “Feedback from Readers” section.

Guest editors for the poetry section in the past have included Amit Dahiyabadshah, founder of the India Poetree Foundation who aimed to host the biggest single city Poetry event ever: Dilli Kavita Kumbh – The Thousand Poets’ Readings and The Great Poetry Marathon- a world record event.

ORR publishes the best from India and around the world, works of both published as well as emerging writers. As you salivate over the amazing artwork by Ira Joel Haber, you know you can’t hold yourself back, and with a steaming cup of cardamom tea you are ready to give yourself up to the pleasures of the other offerings of the current issue (August 2013/ Issue 6) of this lit-mag.

Do check out the Facebook fan page.

If you are a writer:

  • ORR pays Rs.1000 for all solicited works of fiction / poetry / artwork / creative nonfiction while on the other hand there is no fee for submissions.
  • Submissions are open for short fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, visual art and even blogposts.
  • The editorial team really prefers you to send your submission in the body of the email, except for fiction which you have to submit as an attachment, too. Please read the guidelines carefully for the complete information.
  • Though there is no specific theme, the editors are “looking for literary work that is influential, yet elegant in a subtle way, fiction that effortlessly takes the reader to a deeper level, revealing the human condition without sloshing the flow of consciousness over its banks.”
  • Submissions for Issue 7 will remain open from 20th August – 15th October, 2013 while the issue is expected to be out on 1st November, 2013.


(Written by Sonia Rao and first posted after NaNoWriMo 2011, but is still very relevant)

Having finally come out of the post-NaNoWriMo stupor I decided that being a three time winner of the NaNoWriMo and an ML during one entitles me to do a post-mortem of the writing event.

And this is what I have discovered: ‘NaNoWriMo is a head fake’.

It is a well-known fact that the ‘funda’ behind NaNoWriMo is to complete writing a novel of at least 50K words in the 30 days of November. Lakhs of people all over the world attempt it and almost tens of thousands of people complete the challenge and are declared winners. Many Nano-novelists are born and many of them are published (one or two of them have even gained prominence in recent times).

NaNoWriMo, while encouraging us to write a novel in 30 days, also teaches us a lot of other things some of which I have enumerated below:

1)    A novelist or a writer must maintain a regular schedule of writing everyday (not only in November and not only 1667 words- even though that itself is a good start too). Many of us might attempt it even haphazardly; write a lot on one day and then slack off for a few. While this might work, well-known published writers have had a simple credo: Write everyday; because that is what a writer does!

2)    Everyone has a novel within them and the Nano novel is that one. Once that is done, the writer has to start exploring other sources of ideas and genres of fiction to write in.

3)    50K words are sufficient to be declared a Nano winner but in reality a novel could be anything from 60K to even 1,20,000K depending on the genre your novel belongs to. A writer has to write till his story is told and the number of words might not fall in the standard bracket. Word count matters to a newbie author as publishers would not be willing to experiment with new – author novels.

4)    Even if you have read truckloads of novels and continue to do so you will still need to learn the craft of novel writing to ensure your final product is of the highest quality. It would thus, not be a very good idea to send your Nano Novel, in its first draft avatar (pantsed or planned but not revised or edited) to the publisher.

5)    You might have completed any number of writing courses but unless you have actually attempted writing a novel (and even better, become a Nano winner) you will not really get the feel of what novel writing entails.

6)    Many writers of yore wrote by hand and they wrote delightfully too. But the first time I started writing a novel, I actually got bored of writing by hand, the hand moved much slower than the mind. Many months later when I read over the first few pages of the hand-written draft I almost puked at the heaviness and dullness of the prose. Nanowrimo helps us to avoid this lethargy in our script by giving us a deadline which can only be completed if typed on a device though it can be attempted by hand too, but is it fair to put your hand to use for one month only and then leave it to recuperate for the rest of the year?

What new and unexpected things have you learnt while attempting the NaNoWriMo?

“Sweeten thy soul,” they say!

“Devil in Pinstripes is semi-autobiographical,” said award-winning author Ravi Subramanian aka The John Grisham of Banking, but there was nothing devilish or even pinstriped about him on that rainy Saturday afternoon in the delightful, first-ever OPEN BAR( Blogger-Author Rendezvous) at Chocolateria San Churro in Bandra.

What’s your good name?
This event was an outcome of the unceasing persistence of the Signora of Style, Vinita Bahl aka BlogwatiG aka The Indiblogeshwari Head Honcho. Now, one of the characters in The Bankster is Vikram Bahl so it was amidst hoots of laughter that Ravi negated the idea that Vinita was the inspiration behind that name. In fact, Vikram Bahl was named after his boss. This set all the enthu bloggers present there thinking after whom they would name their characters.
Talking of names, Ravi has a penchant for using brand names in his books, most obvious ones being those of well-known banks (so that readers know that the bank in the story is not any of those banks, he clarified) and that of Café Coffee Day® (the one in Vienna, in a stellar cameo).  Can this create any problems with the brand? Apparently, it hasn’t so far, and in fact, it could be good publicity for them. Talking of Vienna, yes, Ravi has been to that CCD outlet, but what if you want to write about a place that you haven’t been to, someone asked (I think it was me).  The chorus reply of the other bloggers was deafening, “Google it”.



What do the numbers say?
Between bites of nachos, one re-learnt the basics of writing a novel. Yes, you gotta write a lot and write it regularly. Yes, you also have to revise and polish your manuscript even if you have to do it more than twenty times before you submit it to a publisher.  And since you cannot take computation out of a banker, here are the stats for writing a 75K-word novel. Thousand words a day, 4K on Saturdays and Sundays each, you can easily finish a book in three and a half to four months. With five best-sellers under his belt (If God was a Banker being the first), this is advice that apparently works.

Why write?
Nobody said it is easy. So why do it? Ravi is a successful banker. So why take up writing? He wanted to do something with which he would be remembered. Yes, writing has given him recognition and fame. But more than that, it has sobered him, he said. There was a thoughtful pause then, as we bloggers took a moment to go within and seek our reasons for writing.

The Bankster and The Bloggers

The Bankster and The Bloggers

Have you bloggered (yup, new word and quite an important one) your book?
You can’t put bloggers down, especially those who are also aspiring authors. And Ravi believes in the power of bloggers to help promote a book.  He does attribute the success of his latest, The Bankster, to bloggers reviewing and writing about and promoting it.  And err…umm… social media presence is important, too. Whether you are traditionally published or self-pubbed.

Words of wisdom


Gold and Silver


Better to have enjoyed and made a mess than to never have enjoyed at all
This was the message printed on the tissues at that fantastic place, Chocolateria San Churro. So, we enjoyed and we didn’t even make a mess (I think *eyes screwed up in thought*).  Delectable sandwiches and rolls, desserts and shakes, superlicious (not supercilious, ha ha ha) coffee. A veritable feast. Networking with some awesome fellow-bloggers. Fascinating. And if this meet was about ‘The Bankster’ then could numbers and currency be far behind? An exciting game that Vinita had arranged was for all to judge the weight of a box containing a cake. The winner was the one who said the weight was 250gms (other answers included 275gms (most popular), 300 gms and even 265 gms)!! As Vinita enlightened us, the cake vendor actually told her to take the one weighing 250gms as no one would guess it. Hmmm! Group pics later it was time for thank-you’s even as Vinita thanked Ravi Subramanian for being such a generous host and we thanked Vinita for those cute pouches of gold and silver sweet coins.

Vinita says 'Thank you' to Ravi Subramanian

Vinita says ‘Thank you’ to Ravi Subramanian

When insightful words, fabulous food and scintillating company have sweetened your soul, the experience can only be called ‘priceless’.

Thank You, The Indiblogeshwaris and Thank You, Ravi Subramanian.

(A special thank you to BlogwatiG for the pics).

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