The Science of Thriting

The art of writing requires discipline of thought. However, do not be a captive of thought. Instead learn to control it. Writing is an art. Its also a science. Like science, it has formulae. Try to go beyond the formula you’ve discovered. This is how physics became quantum physics because an anomaly about energy and matter had to be reconciled. Its the same with thought and circumstance. Thoughts lead to action. Action to circumstance. Circumstance to conclusion blah blah blah.

So, start thinking. By thought I mean singular. Every writer, especially while starting out, has a lot of thoughts. Is oppressed by them. Like a harvest of apples. Or strawberries. There will be a few rotten ones. Some would be unripe and unfit for consumption. Some might have a blemish or two. Separating the best out of the rest is the art of writing. And having identified the lead thought, look for corollaries. The mind is more disciplined that you think unless you are on mind-altering substances. Even there, some like Coleridge, manage to pill it off.

Maybe the process will start with a single image. An image is always identified with a thought. For example, a man in a burning house. Then the next step: the thought becomes a circumstance. Hey, where is the house? Why is the man burning? How did the thought cross your mind? Is it something you saw in a movie? Or read in a book that strongly influenced you? Or stood out in a raconteur’s narrative? Leave the mind to dwell on it. Let it grow. It will crystallise. Explore its expansion. It will be like new skin growing around a wound. Yes, every idea is a wound. It thrusts itself into your brain. You develop it by only healing it. The skin that grows around it is the body that was there but you didn’t see. Like a voyeur you start examining the body.

So, Think. How many corollaries have you identified that relates to the original thought?
Thoughts are the matter of ideas. All writing starts with an idea.

There is a story waiting to be told in all of us, goes the adage. True. But most of us are voiceless. Or too noisy. We do not have a proper conversation with ourselves. Perhaps this is because we are afraid of where it might lead. My suggestion is, follow it. Then one stream of conversation will isolate itself from the rest. That is the current leading you to the idea waiting to be reaped. The subconscious is the writer’s real granary.

Carry I around. Don’t try too hard. Allow it to develop. Allow it to breathe the world. See the sighs. Let it eavesdrop on conversations. Remember it’s a part of you like a parasite using your mind as the host. Watch it until its time to shake it loose. Or kill it, but that’s another story we will come to another time.

This is not stream of consciousness writing I’m talking about. You always wanted to be a writer. Are you willing to start with the burning man? Maybe your book will be titled The Burning Man. Or the Mystery of the Burning Man. Or the Fire that Cleanses. Wait, where did that come from? Cleanses? Cleanses of what? Sin? Retribution?

Lets do a simple exercise. Write an outline on the man’s story. For example, you think the burning man has died unfairly. Or is a victim. Whatever. Hold that thought try to connect it with the other thoughts. Then you’ll have an idea about the circumstances of his burning. Maybe its not a man. Its a woman committing sati, whose hair was chopped off. Or the man is Joan of Arc’s best friend. Sounds ridiculous. Go on explore it and you’ll find it may not be all that stupid. The idea will be what you wish to narrate about the burning man or the situation or the times. This is the start of the plot of your story.

This is a process I call Thriting. Thoughtful writing. Mail me the plot. Lets work on it together.

Happy Thriting.

The Art of Haunting

This is my first blog on writing. Treat it as a cloud.

There comes a time in a writer’s life when the clamor is suddenly over. He feels like a pilot who has flown through rainclouds, skirted a couple of thunderstorms, hit a few air pockets until he has got the craft above it all, and is now swimming through the stillness. The world is spinning far below; engaged in its chaotic velocity of wars, genocides, betrayals, love stories, elections and the sundry activities that continue as real time history.

From his cockpit, the writer looks down.

Does he see a little boy drawing a boa constrictor, which has swallowed an elephant?

He tries to recollect Saint Exupery.

No. That part is over.

He simply remembers what he has read, seen and happened.

Effortlessly.

The writer is now ready. The effort at remembering is unnecessary now. The stories are all there, clear as stratospheric light, waiting to be told. That’s when he realizes at last he is a writer. Has become a writer. Like a swimmer who knows he has finished training and is ready for the Olympic pool. Or a fighter who suddenly knows he has become a warrior.

This ledge of arrival doesn’t mean there is nothing more to do. The sword needs constant polishing and sharpening. Know, the pen is a sword; it is as mighty. Words are the weapons of engagement, books are gauntlets to be thrown down to the world to be picked up and engaged with in a war of ideas.

Personally, I don’t see quietude as the necessary climate for creativity. That’s for people who cannot concentrate. Self indulgent and weak, they’re unable to banish white noise at will. I need the tumult of memories, events and ideas, the vertigo of epiphanies, the power of hurling a sentence into the void when I write. And hear the echoes as they spin away, like confetti from a spacecraft.

The writer is a storekeeper of lost souls. He is able to create a lonely room for himself, and listen to their chatter. They are strangers. Sometimes friends who are strangers. Or vice versa. Sometimes I wonder; are all writers haunted? Where do the characters come from? Biography and autobiography in fiction are easy ways out; the writer just plunders his memory bank and scribbles away like a creative munshi. But does he ever wonder where the dialogues come from? Who puts the words in the nib or the keyboard?

These are my rules.

I believe a writer cannot escape his past or the continuous present. But he must examine it mercilessly.

He has to learn what he should keep and throw away.

He must allow himself to be possessed by the spirits of his characters. Writing is a séance with the inhabitants of an imaginary world. No recollection is totally complete. Nothing is authentic.

Be vain. Be surprised at things that suddenly appear. Sentences that suddenly flow. Phrases that pop up. These are the vitamins of the creative ego.

And above all, be dishonest. All the crap about being honest to yourself and your writing is a load of Coelho type of crap. A writer is a pragmatic soul. Once Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow’s father, a rabbi, asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“A writer,” Saul replied.

The rabbi disowned his son, saying writers are liars because they make up things. He was aghast his son wanted to be a liar.

So, this is all for now.

Happy lying. Keep your teeth shining.