… For the Craftsman in Us

Thinking back, that thought came not because the story was fascinating (it kinda was, but the plot had enough holes it’d house a dinosaur) but because I enjoyed wasting so much minutes.

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​”This day would come. You’d complete a task and slouch in the seat and consider how soggy the task seems, yet, you would be powerless to ignore the fluttering of your heart, the aches in your finger, and the numbing feeling that you enjoyed what you did. The day you feel this way about any craft, it is then that you’ve found what to do” – Michael Emmanuel. 
I remember with stunning clarity the morning I knew I would be a writer. It came like every other sunrise. Dawn broke at 6:15am. A soft wind swept our compound, and by the next hour, there was a thousand chores to tackle. The sink stunk of unwashed dishes, crumbs of spaghetti dotting its interior. Two mugs lay face-down, butts smeared with liquid soap. A row of ants crept in and out, having a fill.
In the bathroom, half a dozen round-necks were stacked against the walls. The tiles could use a scrubbing. A broom, parted at the middle, stood at the entrance, considering the mess and making mental notes. It would file a complaint with the chief.
Question was, how? How would it reach the chief but through me?
Oblivious to the discontent, I sat by the window and chewed a pen cover, suddenly feeling dumped. Before me was a new note, one page filled. As I stared at the tree behind the fence, I concluded I had judged wrong. Perhaps everyone could write, so long I wasn’t a part of everyone. 

Thing was, I wasn’t green in the field of writing. My first original story was an assignment. I got nine of ten marks with a ‘See me’ addendum. The examiner wanted to be assured the story was my brainchild. Yes, I said, flushing. Two years later, I found a small note and wrote three – or two – pages of an intriguing novel and forgot all about it. Three years from that first submission, and with age beginning to chisel my face, I learnt how to write a story that wouldn’t have you puking. My resolve lasted a week 

In fact, I grew certain it was my last try… 
… Until this awkward morning. Watching the trees and wind, I felt I could do it. So, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote, till my fingers stiffed. A bucket of relief soaked me when I let the pen rest. Finally, the bestseller had come. 
Thinking back, that thought came not because the story was fascinating (it kinda was, but the plot had enough holes it’d house a dinosaur) but because I enjoyed wasting so much minutes. 
The clothes still hadn’t been washed. One row of ants had become a thick black mass attacking the kitchen. The sun had reached its peak. My stomach was groaned and growled. I borrowed comfort in the hope that the story would make gazillions of crisp notes. 
It obviously didn’t. I’m clueless as to the location of the aforementioned note. But one thing has remained – my fingers still ache from writing. 

Writers don’t put up this type of posts till they are well grounded (that is, sold respectable copies of books, snagged a few awards, spoken at a busload of events, etc…). I did this because, 1) it didn’t feel wrong and 2) my next birthday is under my nose and 3) someone needs to see this.
That person may be me. 
Since that Monday two years back, I’ve studied a couple books on writing, read novels till my eyeballs shrunk, typed and typed, dug up story ideas and flipped them out, followed some blogs and opened one, applied for a handful competitions, grown up, gotten this disturbing beard, made new friends, and written…
Summary: Being a craftsman is unlike planting. If a woman drops six seeds of maize in the ground, she expects a matured plant half a year later. Anything else and she’d get on her prayer gears. Writing, like singing, like painting, like photography or designing, doesn’t work that way. Some achieve success quickly. Others learn to queue. 
But, if we do it right, and do it well, and do it with intent, we won’t always remain unknown. This, I firmly believe. 

P.S: I’m nursing the thought of putting fiction here for the next few posts. Thinking of consistency. Pray for me, reader. I’m entering a new age. 

The Joy of Finishing

Yay.

Whoo-oh!

Whoop-de-doo!

Eureka!

Ever had one of these moments? When time ceases and a lungful of air lasts a minute and your eyes, heavy as wet blanket, become wings, flapping into the cold night. When your back snaps in a bid to sit up yet you pay it no attention. When your mum calls that dinner has been ignored enough but you do not mind her.

Those moments.

images

I had one thirty-seven hours back. I finished my first full-length novel. I did not yell. I did not scream. I did not sing Eureka. I did not bob my head to the left and right like a happy-go-lucky child whose mom has obliged to his long-standing request. I did not dance.

I smiled.

A wide grin.

It’s been eighteen months plus since I picked a Big pen to jot my first real writing words. I wrote five pages that day. Six months later, the manuscript was complete. I duly typed it, and… forgot about it.

It is an accepted belief in the publishing word that your first work isn’t the one you publish. Sometimes, not the second.

Between then and now, I’ve absorbed knowledge. In writing books, I’ve studied eight. In novels, over a hundred and counting. Blogs, I could not bear to keep count. Summary; I stand way better than I was last year.

That may or may not mean I’m prepared. It depends. Not every day do we see Santa. All that said, it’s good to be diligent. To put efforts. The overnights. The doses. The laptop carrying. While I haven’t earned a monetary gain, I’m joyful. I have a finished work.

In this short journey, I’ve come across a lot of advice. Two that contend for top-of-the-list award are: Write who you are, not what you know. And. Write when you are drawn and can’t not write. In ignoring the former, I should be writing about living in a Close with neighbors who commence vigils at daylight and finding that you have a crush on a girl four months after you thought you did not.

But I obeyed. And it’s all good.

There are three types of writing exercise.

One. Writing when it’s like an inspired play, according to Stephen King. Or when you are drawn. Or when you’re in the flow. They all are the same. It’s on these days that you are so immersed in the characters – who essentially are you – that you do not notice your love interest entering the room and sneaking up to you. You do not notice the chattering of your siblings.

Two. Writing when you do not feel like, until you enter the flow. On these days, you have to write. Because everyone knows you as a writer. A storyteller. An artiste. And you do. Though your fingers are like bamboos and the laptop screen feels like a zombie’s mirror, you sit. And write. Twenty-five words per minute fall to twelve. To eight. To none. Then the boost. The flow. You get lost.

Three. Writing when you do not feel like, and the flow is on leave. You sit. You remember that a writer writes. You have a deadline. A submission. The alarm bell warning you to write. So you draw near the pad. And stare long at it. And the page stares at you. Winking. You cannot wink. Your heartbeat’s rate is twice Usain Bolt’s after a 100meter dash. Ten minutes tick into an hour. Three hours later, you swipe a look at the measly five hundred words. And hiss. A long hiss.

Take a poll. Ask creative people. They have more of three and two. One is a scarce commodity that can be bought. For two weeks now, I’ve tried, and not succeeded, to write an article. It took two hours to write a three-hundred word editorial. That is not me. But it is a part of the work I do.

Having said all these, two things. One. This post should actually be The Joy of Finishing A Novel. Two. I want to engage your help. In the following paragraphs, I post excerpts – not more than a hundred and ten word each – from the first three chapters of the novel. Note, I have not given it any edit. I have a book on self-editing, but I have not even opened the page.

So. Judge mildly. Leave comments. Share. Like.

Thanks for reading.

Excerpts

Twenty three minutes. That was how long he had.

The first time Martin faced a countdown to survival, he failed miserably, and it cost him more than he ever thought. The countdown had been coordinated by a voice who introduced himself as Roger. Roger. Copy. The price for failure was Luke, his dad. The price for failure this time would be Anne, a blonde, whom he had talked – or rather coerced– into the storage. The notion of failure didn’t settle well with him, yet a way out proved evasive.

“If there’s an emergency?”

#          #          #          #          #          #          #

Miles away, in a modest Starbucks, Davies Stanford watched the Secret Service Agent drop two perfectly cut cubes of ice into a cup of cappuccino, like he always did. The agent took a pen-size teaspoon and stirred thoroughly, took a sip, then placed it back on the table. He was ready to discuss.

“This doesn’t make sense, right?”

The agent, James Holden, raised his head from the table and gave his trademark smile – flat nose growing a bit, cheekbones extending outward, lips tending a bit inward. “It does not have to, Davies. So long is something we should be running.”

#          #          #          #          #          #          #

Roger opened his eyes and beheld his face in the mirror, the one he’d specially erected in a third room the estate agent had called ‘guest room.’ He knew, without reflecting, that he hadn’t shaved in two days, that his black cropped hair was growing beyond the nape of his neck and curling at the fore, that his nose was well defined, not too pointed or too flat.

He knew he had blue eyes, those pale eyes that seemed to spoil a master work of art done on his face. If only he had brown, or hazel green, violet, or even black. Not pale blue. He removed his eyes from the mirror before voicing one last thought…