Issues. Writing issues.

Sometimes I wonder about how much of what I write is my own. Sure, the thoughts are mine (are they? See this and this), but the diction usually depends on whether or not I have been reading, and often on what I have been reading.

If I’m reading Hemingway then my sentences are likely to be shorter and tighter. Bukowski makes them self indulgent, while reading Palahniuk will give it an edge and a didactical tone. Reading Saki makes me write longer sentences and add a touch of humour. Reading Douglas Adams makes me personify inanimate things in the story. Even if I’m not reading, the more I talk to the literary type, the greater the fluency with which I use ‘certain’ words.

Unlike some people, I don’t read much. A few pages into a book, I feel this overwhelming need to write. If I get beyond 20 pages of reading, which is my threshhold, then I usually finish the book. But getting to 20 pages is tough since I read slowly and take it in, word by word. It’s something like sipping tea: a quick gulp never does it for me.

I guess those who write and read often don’t really notice this. They get their regular dose that gives their writing that fluency that mine lacks. So, since I don’t read often, my writing gets messed up and thus I don’t write as much as I’d like to write. You only have to read this blog to see how varied my writing style can be, and how I tend to mess up the important things like tenses and punctuation, which puts me off writing.

Which brings me to the other point that I’d wanted to make. When Jai and I had gone shopping for books in Darya Ganj (related posts here and here), we discussed, among other things, a particular novel. I felt that while the plot was interesting, the execution lacked finesse; that it was surprising that the publisher had okay-ed it when it obviously could have been improved upon. I mean, if I could spot mistakes, did anyone edit the book? Jai said that this is where the editor comes in, and if a larger publisher had published the book, it would probably have been a much better read. So, how much of a writers novel is his own?

When I brought this up at a Caferati readmeet, last month, Anita added that most writers are terrible critics of their own work. She also said something on the lines of – because writing is an act of creation, the creator tends to ignore his own mistakes. Not everyone is like Hemingway, I guess. The editor, according to her, is critical to every novel.

I’ve read the first two pages of the second draft of a friends novel (whose name I won’t mention unless permitted), and quite frankly, this draft could knock out the above mentioned published novel with a single jab. And a third draft has just been started. Crazy, I tell you.

Most writers ask for critique, and at the same time hate it when someone points out things that they didn’t like. What good do positive reviews do, except feed ones ego? I must confess, though, that I continued writing after The Awakening, only because HDHD said he liked my writing. If it wasn’t for encouragement from the Rhymebawd or AJ, I would have stopped trying to write long ago.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath (Quote courtesy Mungo Jerrie)

What does it take to read and write, everyday, or even every other day?

And what does it take to get a book published? If the author of this novel is to be believed, it’s a helluva task. So, kudos to whoever’s been published. Marketing is another story, and we’ll take that up later.

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  1. *) nice post.
    “How much of what we write is ours?” none of it and all of it. ben johnson rearranged the love letters of philostratus to write ‘To Celia’.. one of my all time fav love poems. Is the poem his because he rearranged it, or is it philostratus’s because the original letters were by him? Writing is as much (maybe even more) about expression than it is about the idea. plots are redone and rewritten a million times, styles are copied… its inevitable. and in fact, i can’t trust people who say they write when they don’t read. but you can’t read and avoid the
    ‘influences’ completely.
    and i think you end up writing a lot more when you read something good, because something good would be something moving. we spend far too much of our time feeling nothing, and one cannot write unless one is pushed to do so.

    is it possible to read and write everyday/ well i dont know abt reading, but anthony trollope did write religiously every single day. 😛 its a different thing that his stories are too full of the boredom that such discipline would bring to writing. art cannot be summoned at the same time every day, after lunch.

  2. Thankyew. 🙂

    “none of it and all of it”
    “Writing is as much (maybe even more) about expression than it is about the idea.”

    So how you say it makes it yours? Maybe. But that doesn’t take away the dependence on the editor, does it? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, about what you’ve read and how much of it belonged to the writer, and how much to the editor. What if the idea belongs to the writer and the expression, or the quality of expression depends on the editor? Then whom does the work really belong to?

    “one cannot write unless one is pushed to do so.”

    Agree. I got a mail pushing me to shut up and write. 🙂

    One sentence caught my eye: “The easiest thing in the world to do, is to not write.”

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