Facing Fears

I know I need to do this. But this feels so challenging, so uncomfortable and so difficult. Like meeting long lost cousins with whom you can’t make any conversation and so you have to keep stuffing your mouth with food so that you have a genuine reason for maintaining stoic silence. Like sitting in an interview where you are nervous and trying so hard to impress that you end up claiming you know seventeen languages including the three your interviewer is proficient in. Like getting jostled on a crowded railway platform where you’re not sure if you’ll manage to board the train with body parts and personal belongings intact. Like being in front of someone you like on a bad hair day that is compounded with zits and bad breath and smelly stained clothes. This is what writing has come to be- utterly uncomfortable and inconsiderately awkward.

The cursor blinks on the blank page waiting for me to type. My brain comes up with a million diversionary tactics. Should check mail. Should look up a certain book. Should look at that author. Should read up on the writing habits of said author. Should adjust volume or change song on shuffle. Should expand my knowledge base by reading obscure things on Wikipedia. Should get some visual inspiration from things other than cats. Should get some laughs from others’ misery and failures. Should watch that cool video of people doing impressive things. Should watch another video. And another one, for ideas. Should allow the internet to make me a writer while all it does is keep me from becoming one. Should go walk around to clear head. Should drink water and coffee to feel awake. Should do everything possible in my power so that I can delay what I have to do.

Just by another half an hour. By a day. By a week. By a month. By a year. In a year you can come up with such a wealth of excuses. There was no time. Too much work. Friends take up all my free time on Facebook. Hangovers took over my weekends. There are so many books to be read. There were so many movies that absolutely had to be seen for the third time. My neighbours are too noisy. My flatmate listens to nasal singers and makes me listen to it. My office has a no-creative-writing policy. My house doesn’t have the right aura. My laptop’s so slow it takes a day to type a sentence. I ran out of paper. My fingers keep slipping on pens. I have no pens. It goes on and on.

And then you forget. You forget you wanted to write. You forget how to. And then you sit in front of your computer, feeling like a dog might feel in front of a dinosaur. Staring at the screen, willing your mind to think. And your mind does think. About the weather. About things on a to-do list. About that dress you saw in the store last week. About that joke you didn’t understand day before yesterday. About the Modern Family episode you saw today. About Gloria’s accent. About what you can have for lunch tomorrow. About clothes in the dryer. About chipping nail paint on your toe. About every insignificant trivial thing than can keep your mind from staying still enough to actually think about anything.

But why does my brain fear writing? Or is it thinking that it fears? It can’t be the latter. I’m always thinking of things. Things, not ideas, but thinking nonetheless. Then it must be the former. What if nothing comes out? What if my fingers get Raynaud’s disease and I’m left incapable of typing a tome? It might also aggravate that condition where pens keep slipping from my grasp! (I just spent 4 minutes 19 seconds looking that up.) What if I keep forgetting words? What if my computer crashes and all that I would have written gets lost? What if something urgent comes up? Like Notting Hill on HBO or Pretty Woman on Zee Studio. Then I can’t afford to sit here and write!

Enough! I just have to sit down and write. Let it flow. The words will come and fall into place. After a few false starts, words scoot and squeeze next to each other and try to make sense of what they are saying. They keep coming, lining up sluggishly, woken rudely from a deep sleep. Sitting squab, dull and drab. I must check progress and see what can be done to improve this writing experience. Maybe I should do something to remove these green lines that tell me my sentences are not correct. Maybe I should go look up some grammar rules. Maybe I should find a better word to replace this simple word and spend an inordinate amount of time proving to myself how I can use a Thesaurus. Maybe I should do some online research to add more details and lend more credibility to the trumpery put up. (Trumpery: Noun. Usage: Archaic. 1. (informal) statements or beliefs that are untrue or make no sense 2. Ornamental objects of no great value) Maybe I should re—re-re-read the measly two hundred words to see if they “flow”. Maybe I should just keep typing gibberish nonsense bunkum codswallop hogwash to inflate the word count? Like I did just now. Maybe I should just hit myself on the head and write. But that might injure me too much to write. So, without further distraction and drama, I shall carry forth bravely.

Alright, so what am I writing about? So far I’ve been writing about not writing and have done a very good job at not writing. I was supposed to be writing about facing my fears. My initial plan of facing fears by writing about it doesn’t seem to have worked out quite well, but at least I now know that I can waste one and a half hour (alright, two!) typing a thousand words (give or take a few words less- thirty to be precise), something which I had claimed should take no more than half an hour at most.

Now that I have at least turned to face my fears, I am sure with little less of internet (and distractions and laziness) and more of time (and efforts), I can fully face them and begin to become a prolific writer. Right now, I have to go ponder the very important question- what movie to watch tonight?

P.S : 4 years back, I’d written a post about How to get over Writer’s Block. High time I took my own advice, or at least entertained it.  

On Record: Samit Basu

This is my second official interview as such. And this time the man is Samit Basu, novelist, screenwriter, writer of comics and local monster, talking about his latest book Turbulence and writing among other things.

Snippets of the interview:

Samit Basu
Samit Basu

You’ve been part of quite a number of anthologies and collaborations. Which one was the best experience?

Collaborations – I co-wrote a comic, or graphic novel if you prefer, with Mike Carey, who is a writer I’ve idolized since I first started reading comics. If you haven’t read his Lucifer comics or his Felix Castor books, do so at once. For someone at that level, he was both incredibly generous as a collaborator and surprisingly nice as a person. The comic is called Untouchable, it’s a turn-of-the-century romance/horror story about a young Anglo-Indian boy’s twisted relationship with a rakshasi. It’s set in India and England, and starts this doomed couple, both outcasts, one caught between the different worlds of his parents, another caught between different eras and worlds.

Anthology wise, Electric Feather, the anthology of erotic stories edited by Ruchir Joshi. I wrote a story about a bunch of twentysomethings going back to Cal for a wedding and getting it on afterwards. It was lovely, because I got to write a kind of story I wouldn’t have done otherwise, have a great deal of fun, and people responded strongly – most people absolutely loved it, and others were deeply offended, and both responses pleased me greatly.

If you could be one of your superheroes, which one would you be?

Tia. I love her power, the ability to duplicate yourself and therefore essentially never have to make a choice again, because now you can live several lives and experience so many more things.

One book that you’d bequeath to your favorite niece/nephew.

I’d be a fairly sad uncle if I gave my favourite niece/nephew only one book. Lots and lots and lots of really good books. Do I have to bequeath them? That seems to involve dying. Must I die now?

One writer that seriously scrambled your brains with his/her dangerous and exciting ideas.

China Mieville


You can read the full interview here.

You can also read my review of Turbulence here or there.

Review: The Solitude of Prime Numbers

I’ve never had the aptitude for languages. I’ve never regretted it. Except when I pick up books that are the translated versions. I wish I could read the original versions. I have nothing against the translators, oh no, in fact I think they should be appreciated a lot more for preserving the integrity and beauty of the work while making it accessible to a wider audience. It’s just that when I read them and get entranced and enchanted, I feel the need to read them as is, to find out more nuances in the writing, the words that lend more meaning to the story, the private jokes that are endemic to the language.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers- Paolo Giordano
The Solitude of Prime Numbers- Paolo Giordano

When I picked up The Solitude of Prime Numbers, I knew I was going to visit the same old feeling again. Even before I’d read the book, I was intrigued by it. One, writer Paolo Giordano is a physicist who was working on his doctorate in particle physics when he started writing the book.  Second, the title. It is a difficult feat to resist such a title. So, after waiting for a long time, I finally got my hands on it.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers tells us the story of Mattia and Alice, two injured and scarred souls who seem to be destined for each other. Mattia, as a young kid, left his mentally-disabled twin sister in a park to go to a party and returned to find that he has lost her. With an overbearing father Alice leads herself to a terrible skiing accident and then towards anorexia. With their own personal tragedies heavy on their young feeble shoulders, they create an odd alliance.

As a teenager,  Mattia, a math prodigy, studies prime numbers, numbers so soliatry that they can be divided only by themselves or unity. While studying these, he comes across twin primes– two numbers, who are odd and yet similar, separated by an even number between them. He thinks of Alice when he sees twin primes, close yet never completely together.

As they move through the torturous years of teenage to adulthood, fate seems to play with their lives and years. After many years when Alice sights someone she thinks could be Mattia’s lost sister, emotions that they had buried deep inside come resurfacing.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers, is a love story without the need or wherewithal for an ending. It is not a love story in the usual sense of lovers, romantic scenes and gestures, grand trials and passionate return to togetherness. It is a very restrained and precariously balanced tale of two people who are meant for each other but are helpless within their trappings of past burdens and own doubts and uncertainties.

I cannot say I could identify with the characters because it is difficult to identify with a girl who cannot eat and a math genius who cuts himself. You can relate to them, try to understand their pain. Giordano keeps the reader at a safe, slightly uncomfortable distance where you can feel for the characters without pity and feel a certain helplessness on their behalf. You will not even be in a position to blame cruel fate in their case.He has couple of strong secondary characters, but keeps them from overshadowing and usurping. I think Giordano does an excellent job here with character development.

When it comes to plot, the story kind of falters in the middle. The writing reeks a bit of amateurish attempts at something meant to be much more exquisite. In the later parts, it picks up with the deft handling of narrative. His writing reminded me a bit of Milan Kundera’s works and maybe he will do very very well with short stories. But all said and done, Paolo Giordano should write more, many more of his stories.

The book can be called, as it has been many times, elegant and melancholic. But for me it will be a read that left me very very sad and yet gladder for the experience. We are often advised not to judge the book by its cover. But if you are someone who judges the book by its title, and if you felt something when you heard the title, I’d say go pick it up. It’s not like you will miss out on one of the best books ever, but you will regret it if you don’t.


You can also read the review here.