A writer’s biggest struggle

Sometimes I sit in front of my computer, fingers hovering and sort of shadow typing only millimeters above the keyboard as if a long sentence is on its way the very next instance. Instead, what happens is a long – very long – dry spell where the ideas that were just flooding my brain and about to flow out have just vanished into oblivion. Seconds turn into painfully long minutes which test my patience and I tell myself that now was probably not the correct time for it. But, when this happens almost daily, when you always have ideas but never the words, it might force you to think if writing is for you or not. Or am I just lacking the discipline?

I guess, I have to keep reminding myself that writing is for everyone. How could it not be? You don’t have to be successful at it, even if you write a few sentences every now and then, even if you don’t post them, maybe it is good enough. I think, for a writer, the bigger struggle is not on the paper, but in the mind.

Isn’t it? What do you think?

Just Write!

writingOne of the biggest problems I face when about to begin my next book is that I need to have the plot, the sub-plots, characters, etc. all figured out already. I need to know how my story is to be setup and how it is going to progress and my mind keeps wandering from the start to the finish. But since not everything is figured out yet, I start feeling as if I’ve not thought through it sufficiently and thus am unable to start. This further makes me feel as if my imagination is just not good enough to be a writer and I end up shelving that book even without having written a single word. I know it’s crazy!

But, the desire does not die away and after some time, I am back with my pen and paper thinking about some other plot which I can perhaps develop a little better. But that too often meets the same fate. I spend so much time thinking about the book but never much in actually writing it down.

The solution to this problem? Just write!

I discovered this last night. Struggling with the same problem for about an hour, I finally decided to try a different approach. I told myself that I will not worry about the book or its plot or characters. I decided that I will simply write a scene that I would love to see in any of my books and not think about what has happened before it or what will happen afterwards in the story. I didn’t even name the central character, I just called him (or her) ABCD. So, I began by writing a thrilling chase sequence in about 200 words only. It was extremely short but when I finished it, I realized that I could think of one scene each before and after the present and connect them together. I feel if I try this approach and keep going one scene at a time, I might end up inventing more about the story than I could with a pen and paper and just hoping for the perfect idea.

And in case I get stuck anywhere yet again, I can simply close this story and start writing a totally independent scene just like I did above. I might, for instance, start writing a horror scene and think only about that scene and nothing else.

What I found when I followed this strategy is that even if I had no plot in mind while starting to write, it does surprisingly gives me many better and smaller ideas that I can use to develop bigger ones in the future. Also, the fact that I am able to write down the scenes that I someday want to see in my books takes away the pressure of those ideas remaining in my head and haunting me to be written down. Completion of even a 200-word scene makes me feel a lot more positive and I can finally stop feeling stuck and start exploring more than that single scene.

I guess what I am trying to say is, the more you write the more it starts to get you. Writing is like a habit. Sometimes, it will come to you automatically but for that to happen, you need to start now. I am not a professional writer but an amateur but I recognize that the only way for me to have ideas is to write down whatever comes to my mind and not worry about the end result. As it is, writing one short scene is much better that writing no big ones. (Maybe that is why my first two publications have both been very short stories.)

And once you write that short scene, it makes you feel much better and more confident. Try it.

How do you deal with not having a completely figured out plot? Do you also give up or try something else?

An excerpt from ‘Taking Down Bob’: Meet Dan

This is an excerpt from my first short story ebook: Taking Down Bob. This introduces you to an important character in the story, Dan:


Dan was one of the stupidest folks we knew. And his stupidity was popular all over. One time, I had quietly entered his room at midnight (thanks to his roommates) and moved his clock forward to two minutes before his morning alarm time and vanished. Soon enough, the alarm went off and Dan got up and even went to the washroom to brush his teeth, whereupon he realized it was still dark and the joke was discovered. Another night, while he was asleep, a handful of us lifted Dan’s bed along with him, carried it out of the room and to the end of the corridor and left it there. He woke up in the morning and was left wondering how the hell he ended up there.

But today, it was different. We spoke to Dan and explained the plan to him. All he had to do was pretend to be asleep in his bed with a blanket over his face. We would bring in Bob on the pretense of attacking Dan and once inside, someone would throw a blanket upon Bob and Dan could get the hell out of there while the rest of us took the Psycho down.

Dan was a little apprehensive at first but finally agreed. He was a good sport.

Discover what happens to him next by reading the full story for free from Smashwords. And if you like it, don’t forget to leave a short review.

Taking Down Bob: A Short Story

Falling – A Short Story

As promised yesterday, I have completed and published my second short story, Falling, now available as a self-published eBook from Samshwords.com.Falling_ThumbnailFalling is the story of Roy, a man who feels he has a miserable existence and is in a continuous need to challenge his life in order to feel alive. Today, that need has brought him to the top floor of an 18-storey building where he finds out that the only way to rise above his misery is to first do the unthinkable – Fall.

This eBooks can now be downloaded for free in the following formats from Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/286652):

Kindle (.mobi for Kindle devices and Kindle apps)
Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others)
PDF (good for reading on PC, or for home printing)
RTF (readable on most word processors)
LRF (Use only for older model Sony Readers that don’t support .epub)
Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Writing My Next Short Stories

Cover_Taking-Down-BobAny writer always fears injecting his own self into a character and thus polluting the story. Even bigger fear is exposing his own feelings to the world through fiction. Would the character’s actions expose his own insecurities?

After having self-published my first short story, Taking Down Bob, as an e-book available for free download through Smashwords, I am now looking forward to writing two more short stories withing the next couple of weeks. Whereas Taking Down Bob was a plot that moved forward quickly through its sequence of events, I was not faced with the daunting task of developing deep feelings in any character, which is something that I have always dreaded because it requires the writer to become one with the story.

My next short stories will be:

1. About a character who is depressed and bored with life and risks his life for some excitement.

2. A young boy falling in love.

Both the plots require completely opposite emotions and I would consider that a good challenge for an amateur writer like myself.

The Quotable Mark Twain

marktwainquotes

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

“A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.”

“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”

“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.”

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Taking Down Bob – My First Short Story eBook

Finally, I have managed to write my first short story, something of an achievement considering the fact that I’ve been toying with the idea for a couple of months now.

Bob is the hostel psycho, a brash fat giant who often loses himself in enthusiasm and whose idea of fun often meant suffering for others. Most of the hostel inmates are tired of Bob’s bullying and their inability to return the favor. Tonight, a weird shoe fight riot has broken through the hostel and Bob has already been dominating the entire proceedings by beating the crap out of most inmates with his heavy boots. Though scared of him, they ultimately hatch a plan of getting him alone and attacking him in a group. The story deals with how 18-year olds of this Bob dominated hostel work together to catch him in a spot through conspiracy, risk, teamwork and double-crossing.

Taking Down Bob is a story that is close to my heart as it reminds me of the great time I’ve had in our college hostel and, though it is a piece of fiction, it will certainly seem inspired from a series of events sometime in 2005, to those who spent their time in the same hostel as me.

The story has been published today as a multi-format ebook by Smashwords.

I hope you will read it. It’s completely free and available at:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/243973

And if you like it, don’t forget to let me know by leaving a short review.

My profile page at smashwords is:
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/shitijbagga

Writer’s Block??

The thought bothered me a lot. I was sitting in front of the computer, going hard at the keyboard. It was office hours and I was trying to finish writing this email to our client. It has already been long enough to fill my entire screen and I knew it was only another couple of sentences. I finished that too and went through the entire draft once again for a sort of proof-reading.

I sent the mail but then the thought returned. I know I have the stamina to write long emails with consistency of thought. I even write 20 page and 40 page technical documents from scratch and write them effortlessly. But damn! When it comes to writing a short blog or a short story of 2 pages, I am hopeless. Utterly hopeless!

Then my mind started wandering. Sometime back, a colleague at office asked me what I thought I would be, had I not been a consultant. I know the kind of clichéd question that it is. And I hate it, absolutely. Have you ever asked this question and seen the kind of frivolous replies people give? One time, I heard someone say, “If I hadn’t been an engineer, I would have been a fighter pilot!” And what is my response to these answers? “Bullshit! Really? So if you were not doing your current job, you would have been a pilot? You mean you were THAT close?” Then, another senior at office said, “I’d probably be a Film Director.” Don’t even get me started on that one.

What I’ve observed is that people usually answer this question with something they know they could never become and yet it needs to sound something fabulous as if it were already a secondary achievement of theirs. It is as if merely by saying “otherwise I would have become so and so,” we are making our present sound better than what it really is. As if wishful thinking is something to be proud of.

Anyway, coming back to the present, the reason I was feeling bothered right now, during work, was that I attempted to answer that question myself. And the way to answer this was by asking myself what was the next best thing I want to do with my life if I had the time and resources for it. And I realized that in my case, the answer is very simple: I want to be a writer.

But then, do I also not make the same hypocritical mistake of saying that I would have been a writer had I not been what I am today? I mean, the two are not related at all so it is not as if being one automatically disqualifies you from being another. Also, have I written anything during the last 2 decades that even qualifies as good writing at any level? No, I’ve not done anything of that sort, but just read hundreds of books. Then how dare I say I want to be a writer, when I don’t know the first thing about writing? That was wishful thinking on my part as well.

The truth is, ever since I read my first novel (Jeffrey Archer’s ‘A Matter of Honor’), I had known that I wanted to write my own book one day. Now, 14 years and another 200 book-reads later, I know that the ambition is still the same. I just have to.

But I can’t! At least for now, I am not good enough. First, I have some ideas to begin, but none of my ideas is complete and that’s why, if you look at my blog, you will find very few posts (5 out of 25) actually contain me writing something. Most of them are either photographs that I’ve taken in the last couple of years (another hobby of mine) or short reviews of some of the books I’ve read, but nothing that I can call a substantial writing.

Everytime I decide to sit down and write a short story about ANYTHING, I invariably end up feeling miserable at my inability to do so and repeatedly feel distracted with my shortcomings.

Then, I read though dozens of blogs and realized that I too have been suffering from what is called “Writer’s Block”, a state in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The reasons can be many but for me it has mostly been the awareness that my writing will not be good enough. And this is a feeling that has discouraged me from writing for I don’t know how many years now.

Over the past few weeks I’ve also become aware that there isn’t a level of “good enough” that one needs to meet to be able to write. I mean, my desire is not to gain appreciation or recognition from the audience. In fact I don’t even care if nobody reads what I write. That is not the point. I could never write for that since it would be unfair to my own self. But then, what my girlfriend always tells me is that I must write for myself. Write free, whatever comes to mind. Write something that I would myself like to read again and again.

And so, I realized that the only way to do that is to start right now. And what topic do I pick up? Pick up the first thing that comes to my mind. The first thing that then comes to my mind is that even though I am working right now, I cannot but think only about my inability to pick up a topic and think through enough to start writing about it without the fear of failure yet again.

Well, well! I just looked at my word processor and find that expressing this inability to write has already made me compose 850+ words and it is a big achievement for me, considering that 99% of my works end within 2 sentences and then I give up.

So, what I basically mean is that I don’t want to say I would be YYYY, if I weren’t XXXX already because whatever I did has always been my own choice. Nobody and no situation has taken away my desire to be a writer one day and so I want my answer to that stupid question to be that if I weren’t what I am right now, it wouldn’t matter much because my 2nd love – that of writing – is something that I am already doing side by side. Just that I am not a professional at writing, but that hardly matters to me now, does it?

The other day, I read a story by Guy de Maupassant. It was just a 3-4 page short story of 2 Frenchmen who sat at the shore of river Seine fishing and they get caught and executed by the invading army. That’s what I remember of the story and I might be slightly wrong. But the point is that by reading this, I realized that even the most simplest of writings can be beautiful simply if the author connects with the story and writes it from his heart.

All this, in no way lifts the writer’s block that I guess I am suffering from. It merely raises a corner a little for some of the thoughts to escape and find words by themselves, but I know that the moment I publish this, another calm will prevail that will not let me write anything for some time. How long? I don’t know but maybe 2 days, a week, a month? Who knows?

Still, I hope I start with something short but nice very soon..

P.S: Dear Reader, have you ever suffered from such frustration of Writer’s Block? How was it when you first broke through it? Do share your experience with me in the comments section.

Related article by a fellow blogger Christian Mihai:
http://cristianmihai.net/2012/10/04/overcomin-writers-block/

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