Thanks 2016… It’s been Weird *

To sum up the year gone by would be to bundle together plenty of contradictory things that happened and to make sense of them. 

It would be like trying to decide whether the totally scary things led to any good, in the tradition of whatever -happens-is-for-the-best or trying to understand that the wonderful, out-of-the-world experiences would have lasting benefits. 

I would have to make sense of all the times I looked over my shoulder, in whether that was to gauge my own mortality or to come to terms with others’. I would have to understand the nature of human fragility, the quirks of fate and the indomitable human spirit as I assessed people’s reactions to the adversities that they go through. 

In looking back, I would be grateful for the knowledge that the Guardian Angels have been looking over me, as they have been all this time, only that I never recognized it to be such. I would be thankful for the people in my life for the constant support and encouragement. 

There were failings of the excrutiating kinds, the ones that made me go omg-how-could-I and then there were the jump-in-the-air moments that made me yell eureka. 

Writing wise, I found my feet. I could write more and in different ways and stepped out of the comfort zone. I could write more on the blog and elsewhere and attempted to write a book length manuscript. I could finally get back to doing what I have loved well. 

In many other ways and at different times, I found equanimity. The swings of fate and the ups and the downs of life did make for a roller coaster ride but I was able to bounce back quicker and get on with the business of life. 

There are a range of emotions in every heart and I could be a part of that range with many people and in many ways. It was a year of reaching out, of reconciliation and of creating new bonds. 

At the beginning of the year, I moved to a new place to live. I was most reluctant to do so but it turned out to be the biggest blessing I have had. In retrospect, I could make a difference to someone’s life. It also prepared me for the inevitability of certain things in life. 

It has also been the year when I rediscovered many of the passions that I had let go of over the years because of busyness or because I had convinced myself that I had outgrown those interests. I got to know how wrong I had been. 

It has also been the year of people, the ones I had all along and the ones I pulled out from the cobwebs of the past. It has been good to rekindle the connections and sometimes disconcerting to realize how people who have been together for a long time can also grow apart. 

In all, it has been a mix as life always is and as all years are. But the experience has been good and here is looking forward to the next weird year. 

*The post title is the tagline from Spotify’s new outdoor global ad campaign. 

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Small Stones 

mild breeze 

the rain of tiny leaves 

from the tree 
​What are small stones?

A small stone is a short piece of writing (any style) that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment for you. The process of discovering small stones is as significant as the finished creation. Searching for small stones encourages you to keep your senses on the “alive and alert” status. Involve yourself with a new set of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, fingers, feelings and mind. This is Mindful Writing at its best. 

Places that we inhabit 

Image courtsey: jimleggitt.typepad.com

My life has been divided by ‘places‘. There are stages or phases in our lives. And we measure life in terms of age. I do all this; only I do it as the places I have lived at, the places I have loved and the places that have challenged me to grow. 
Each place has a different memory. My earliest memory is of the sea, the sand in my toes and my hair; the brittleness of the wind and the shaded yet hot verandah of the house we lived in. 

The other childhood home in another city reminds me of the butterflies chased in the hot noons when the adults were taking a siesta. I remember the cool baths by the tap and plastic pouches that doubled as water carriers. 

The longest I have lived at a place has been the small town and the big house of my adolescence. The house was rambling and it allowed my imagination to wander in the huge grounds and the lawns, behind the trees and the bushes, in the sand pits and the annexe that was my personal paradise. 

Moving to a new town with a completely different character was disorienting after the lyrical paradise and it helped me find my wings. The red letterbox was the tenuous link that connected me to my friends and the shower of letters and cards in the driveway brought much joy as I ran from the terrace down the stairs in sheer delight. 

As I grew older, the places were painted in the colours of my emotions. I struggled for peer acceptance and for the cool quotient. I plodded along, trying to do better in everything and failing miserably. I picked myself up and found new horizons. I found people and I lost them and in the process lost many bits of my own self. Years later, I would be here again and the struggles would be different and the disappointments hardening into something unpalatable. 

There are times and places in life that come around to challenge and teach and help you stretch yourself. Then, there are places that are a balm to the soul. Life may be difficult and life may be giving you lemons but for every trouble, there is an antidote. These are the places that bouy the spirit, that help you take the next step and the next till you are striding away at your own pace. 

I have been fortunate to find many such places that healed me and gave me new hope.

I  have also come back to these places years later, to visit and to muse on them. I have come back to them so as to spend longer periods, making my home there once again. But, the coming again seems awkward and the connection seems lost. The impressions of the places in the mind seem false, garishly colored as if by a child with a vivid imagination. I take a long time to rekindle the familiarity and the love. 

Yet, the places I have been to have defined me and in bits and pieces made me what I am. Through a coming together of the elements of space, weather and people, the places I have lived at have shaped me. 

Conquering the Writer’s Block

Most of us think that writing effectively and clearly is an inborn talent. It is not considered a skill that could be learnt or improved upon much. Either you have the flair for writing or you don’t have it. 

While it is true that most people have a natural inclination for certain types of skills, yet writing well is not something that cannot be learnt. For people to whom it comes naturally, there is a certain joy and they pursue that joy. They do it again and again and they get better due to the sheer persistence and through the learning they get along the way. It is true of writing just as it is true of every other skill. 

But even for long timers, a very real deterrent comes in the form of a feeling of being stuck after a while or being in a rut. It is referred to as the dreaded Writer’s Block. 

When can the Writer’s Block strike? It can strike anytime. It can happen when you have taken a longer than usual break from the writing. And it can happen even in the aftermath of a writing marathon, when the going is so good that you feel like God, the creator of your story, the hand that controls what happens to the characters and who gets born and who does what. It might take only a day to come down from the pinnacle of that writing and go deep in the dumps. 

Feeling stressed about writing or not writing is also a cause for the block to get heavier. 

And a very real reason are the expectations… others expectations from your work and your own. You might want to reach the pinnacle of your writing again and again but it might not be possible to produce everything of the sane quality all the time. 

Whatever may be the reason for the Writer’s Block, it really can strike anytime and it is best to be prepared rather than go deeper into despair and taking a long time to surface. 

Writer’s Block typically manifests itself into ‘what to write’. 

To counter the dearth of topics when you don’t know what to write is to have a list ready… of the things, situations that talk to you, that get you so excited that you cannot wait to sit down and wax forth on it. 

Make the list of the things you are passionate about, make a list of the things that jump out at you, as you go about your life. Know what you like to do, like skating or gardening or sculpting or knitting , things of which you could talk intelligently and possibly can teach others something as well. Think of your favourite foods and make a list. You could probably tell others how it could be done and how to improve upon it. Think of the books you have always liked and you can tell others why and what you liked about them in the first place. You could think of the restaurants you like and why and the places you have traveled to and how they enriched your life. Take them all together and make a long, long list or write them on little slips of paper that can act as mystery subjects that you can pick and treat as your prompt. 

Your very own prompt list is ready and you would not be able to say that you do not know what to write about. 

The next thing is the inability to write well, coherently, cohesively. You may have a certain style that you are very comfortable with. In dire circumstances, which are the times when the block is sitting heavily on you, step out of the comfort zone. The writing that you are doing is terrible already and there is nothing to lose by being even more terrible, so change that style. Go for longer pieces if you normally write shorter pieces. Explore different voices, from serious to a little funny to tongue in cheek to slap stick. Write poignantly or at least attempt to, if you write only funny pieces. 

We all have these elements in mind, the entire gamut of human experiences and we let out only a few sides of ourselves. Write poetry if you abhor it. Write a journalistic piece if you hate news items. Go analytical in your pieces if you like to talk of only feelings and emotions. Be a reporter if you have never been. Write a memoir if you are scared of writing about yourself. 

Another thing is to not care about being judged. It is one of the main causes of the block being there in the first place. You write well and then you get a lot of appreciation and support and suddenly you cannot reckon how on earth could you live up to those expectations. It seems that everything you write is under scrutiny. One sure way to counter this is to tell yourself or to fool yourself into thinking that you are only writing in your private journal and that no one would be reading it. If necessary, think of the pesonal journal having a padlock with the key secure in a good place. Then, write. Some say, bleed. Write whatever is in your mind, is in your heart, makes up your fears and disappointments and fantasies and joys. Later, when you are out of that scary place and in the warm glow of the fireside and feeling cozy and comfortable, you can take out the personal journal, unlock it and read it back to yourself and decide what it is that you want to share with the world. If there is nothing that you would rather share, you are still lighter by a few tons of emotions and thoughts that were a recurring pattern in your mind. 

The best advice I myself have ever received about overcoming the Writer’s Block and I am sure every writer has had it too, is the ‘butt in chair’ trick. In other words, just write. It does not matter what and it really does not matter how and remember there are no devils or witnesses perched on your shoulder as you lurch from one disastrous paragraph to another. Just write and by and by, you would get the flow and voila, your voice too. 

What are your tips and tricks to get the better of the Writer’s Block?