5 Ways to Find Your Authentic Voice

We all wish to write well. We wish to engage our readers, to influence them and inspire them as well. Through our writing we want to be heard and to connect.
And yet, sometimes we are unable to express ourselves from the core of our being. We may be writing right or writing well but we miss having a genuine engagement with our readers.

Here are a few ways to write in our unique, authentic voices.

1. Add another layer to your subject matter

Whether you are writing of food or of life choices, add a theme or an underlying motif to your writing. You may speak of your life, or your environment, your city or your culture. Any influences that have shaped you and made you what you are today are likely to resonate with your readers because this is what you know and are passionate about. 

2. Be rather than do

This may sound cryptic but when you focus too much on doing, on chasing goals, on planning or executing you lose touch with your innermost core. We are so caught up in rushing and meeting deadlines that we don’t have the time to relax into our being. We react rather than being proactive.

So, take the time to ‘be’, to nurture your self to come back to writing as the unique person that you are.

3. Loosen your emotions

There are so many emotions that we would rather not experience. Pain, anger, resentment, jealousy…we push them to the back of our conscious minds. The emotions fester and bring an unease that we carry with us. Confronting or even simply accepting these negative thoughts and feelings is the first step towards healing. The acceptance of our flawed selves opens us to the beauty we have in the people around us. 

4. Stay honest

At least to yourself. Be brutally honest about your aspirations, expectations and your values. Search within and know your code of ethics. Recognise your strengths and recognise the areas you wish you could improve. 

Authentic writing is more an expression of your true self than anything else. When you know clearly who you are and what moves your soul, you can go after those things in your life and in your writings. You can bring your unique perspective to the writing.

5. Follow it through

Know that creativity makes you express yourself and know that you are doing yourself a favour by following through what you do well. Keep at it and try to drown the noise of criticism…inner, more than anyone else’s.

How to get back to your Creative Endeavours in just 6 days

I write and sometimes I sketch. I know people who scult or photograph or make movies. Ok, the last one is not true; if I knew people who made movies I would have inveigled myself a minor role in a street scene.

But the point I am trying to make is that all us creative types hit blocks ever so often. My personal period of lethargy, ennui and couldn’t-care-less attitude, coupled with mindless snacking and binge watching TV comes around sometimes and there is a real effort involved in getting back to being creative and productive.

My personal quest lasts nearly 6 days. Your’s might be shorter or longer but here is how it typically goes.


Day 1
: Start the day with a renewed vigour and a strong resolution to finally get back to doing what I am mediocre at but want to get best at. Writing!

So, with everything done for the morning, I take out my notebook and the pencils and the highlighter pens. There are post-it notes spread around strategically on the writing table. I like the notebook over the electronic writing because I often visualise the untidy and cluttered desks of geniuses.
It takes nearly an hour to get things looking right, after which I start the process of penning down the masterpiece that I was born to write.

Except that…nothing. Nothing comes to mind and nothing looks good when put down on paper. Words look unfamiliar and sentences look disjointed. After long minutes or hours of doodling and day dreaming I decide to call it a day. At least, I have made a beginning.


Day 2
: Today is the day I feel I would be better in charge. So, the table laying is quicker for I have done it just the day before. I am optimistic and cheerfully put pen to paper. The outpouring seems more natural and I seem to be writing faster when the phone rings.

I have a long heart to heart with a friend and before I know it, the writing time has slithered away like a snake while I was whittling away time. I might be mixing the metaphors but atleast the metaphors are coming. A little progress, it seems.

There is now only very little time left and I decide to do a quick search on the internet for writing prompts and inspiration. A couple of hours later, I get dressed to get to the local supermarket to get the plastic spoons for making the DIY chandelier that I chanced upon Pinterest. Am I repeating words and thoughts today? Could be, but atleast the thoughts are flowing. Besides, getting involved in a craft and decorating activity would help me snap out of the ennui.


Day 3
: It seems I got out of the bed from the wrong side. I feel lethargic and groggy, not unlike the lethargy of a non creative soul. I make myself a huge cup of coffee and settle down with some easy reading. Reading is supposed to kick-start the brain, just as caffeine kickstarts the body. I get engrossed in the book, the double dose seems to be working. But, the easy romance read gets me down the black hole of speed reading and skimming without giving me the feel of the language or the plot or the pace.

Reading this way feels like a high calorie snack without the nutrients of a wholesome meal.

The inspired writing time dissolves into insipid reading time. Nothing fires up my imagination and there is nothing profound that I can write.


Day 4
: I dread my writing time. After three unsuccessful days, I am sure deep down in my mind that this is going to be another disaster.

My subconscious conjures up a list of ‘urgent’ tasks and I go out shopping in a frenzy. The shopping trolley looks like I am stocking for an upcoming party or in anticipation of shortages or a natural disaster.

The putting away of the stuff takes up the rest of the day and I feel productive. If not in writing, then in other areas of life. However, a discomfort gnaws at me and through the non talking, non reading and repetitive chores, I find myself answering to a little voice, soft and gentle, questioning me on my priorities and reminding me of my dreams.

The voice gets stronger and I realise that the reason I don’t feel alive and happy is because I am not doing what I love to do. The feeling stays and it seems that the next day would have a different flavour.


Day 5
: My lucky day! Or so it seems. The fifth try of anything seems lucky to me and I usually crack the code at this time. I chuck the writing paraphernalia and start writing out lists. Then I jot down a couple of rhyming lines. I write the description of a picture I have taken the day before; of setting sun and palm fronds. I feel the words building up. I describe how I liked last week’s restaurant hunt and the ensuing delicious finds at an unlikely place. I write a letter to a friend I talk to regularly but I write the things that I gloss over in our conversations. I ask her and I tell her the things that are inconvenient and embarassing. I pour out my words with compassion and a genuine love.
Feeling those emotions opens up the floodgates inside me and I find so many things that I want to say and share through my writing.


Day 6
: I wait for the writing time impatiently and when there is no other sound except those of the birds and the raindrops falling on the tin roofs, I can write and express myself the way I have wanted to and dreamt of.

The pursuit of a creative endeavour brings happiness and contentment.

Please share how you get around your writing block and what does the process look like?

After Life by Matthew O’Neil: A Book Review

Title: After Life

Author: Matthew O’Neil

Genre: Theology, Philosophy

Publishers: Ockham Publishing

Summary

The author of the book faced clinical death at age 14 because of an unusual medical condition. Resuscitated and limited in his physical capabilities, he yearned to understand his own near death experience. Thus began his quest to understand what happens when we die.

Through this excellently researched and well presented book, he aims to uncover the difference of opinion between the explanation that science offers and the beliefs that religion follows.

The book explores the various beliefs held in the Christian world about the concepts of Heaven, Hell, Resurrection and the Soul. The author then moves on to expostulate on the philosophical arguments for life after death and the scientific take on what happens when a person dies. 

Review

Early in his exploration of what happens when we die, the author discovered that there were many fanciful accounts of near death experiences narrated by people. But they only reflected the person’s awareness of contemporary and popular ideas of afterlife. 
This led him to study the various concepts of Hell, Heaven, Resurrection and the Soul in the Scriptures. 

There is extensive research in the book into how each concept has been shaped by various influences over time. The author dives into Scriptures that span centuries such as the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and traces the evolution of concepts beyond the Bible and through the philosophical arguments of the Thinkers.

The author concludes that our modern understanding makes assumptions that is at variance with what the Scriptures have said.
The book is well researched and in spite of the complexity of the subject, the material and the arguments are presented very well. The arrangement of the book into different subjects that relate to the after life are dealt in detail in separate chapters. The chapters themselves are laid out well, with studies from different texts dealt with separately. Each chapter ends with a conclusion, recapping the salient points which makes the understanding much easier.
In many ways, the book is an eye opener because the author makes clear that the events in the scriptures may not be the historical retelling of the events as some of the stories have been incorporated later in the Christian canon.

For a non fiction book, dealing with a serious topic and in a scholarly fashion, the book is written well enough to be very engaging. Personally, I do not know much about the Christian Scriptures but I was drawn in the retelling of events and the beliefs as they changed over time.
In the book, the author wants nothing but to present ’empirical, testable evidence’ and not merely beliefs based on biblical accounts or philosophical discussions on whether or not there is life after death has occured.
He tries to provide an answer to the question of whether we can come back to life after an untimely death? Is it possible to come back to life with our personalities, minds, experiences and all else intact?
Many eminent thinkers and contemporary philosophers are quoted, such as Dr. Brian Weiss, Deepak Chopra and Ian Stevenson among others. I have read the former two and have been impressed by their philosophy and works. Matthew O’Neil has managed to put their studies into perspective without belittling anyone. He deftly separates anecdotes from hard, conclusive evidence.

Verdict 

The book explains one of the most enduring questions regarding life and death. It is a unique blend of philosophy, scripture study and scientific arguments.

Extremely well researched, cogent and excellently presented, it guides the reader through drawing his own conclusions.
I rate this book 4 stars  🌠🌠🌠🌠

Disclaimer: A copy of the ebook was provided by the book publicist for an honest review.

8 things that happen when you like to read a lot

Reading a lot of books is fun for me. I don’t belong to any book club, nor is there a reading group that meets and discusses books. I talk about the books I read, on my blog but not to show off, as in a social gathering. I don’t have book reading goals for the year or for the month. I read because I want to, because I love the activity. I don’t read to imbibe knowledge, though that is a side effect. I read because it is like breathing.

So, this listicle is dedicated to all my ‘breathing as in reading’ friends who know exactly what I am talking about when I talk of books.

A few things that I found out are:

1. It is possible to finish a thickish book in a few hours. The only thing is to do nothing else, stick to the book even through the daily chores. I personally don’t even look into my plate while eating, all my attention reserved only for my book.

2. Which reminds me of snacks that are a must for munching on for reading requires sustenance. Use only non oily, non dripy snacks that don’t spoil the pages of the books that you are reading. Oh yes, I still read the physical books as you all do.

3. Use the Pomodoro technique to up your productivity. It basically means to read for 25 minutes and look around the room/garden for 5 minutes to rest your eyes.

4. Reading borrowed books can be distracting especially when the owner has underlined a lot and put many notes in the margins. I remember reading a gem of a book but I could barely follow the story for I kept reading the notes and the various cryptic symbols that the book owner had put.

5. If there is a book you have not been able to read or feel reluctant to pick up, offer to lend it to your friend. It would be better if your friend takes up the offer for that would be the time that you would yearn to read that previously neglected book.

6. Dogeared pages and broken spines look attractive because it shows how much you love your books.

7. Bookshelves should have a magical quality of self expansion for the book piles grow exponentially with time.

8. No matter how many books you own and how much you regularly spend money on them; a bargain in a second hand book shop feels exhilarating.

Do share your books related snippets!

3 Ways to get out of the First Draft mess

We all know what first drafts of our writing projects are like. Sh****, rambling, incoherent. First drafts are generally too long at the unimportant places and embarrassingly short at the meaty. In the haste to put down all the points on paper, the mind jumps ahead of the pen and we get typos, incomplete sentences and unexplored ideas.

First drafts can be edited, improved and rewritten. We can polish them into gems. But the task is daunting to most of us. I know, because I have the first draft of last year’s NaNoWriMo sitting heavy on my hands. After I finished the first draft, I took time off for a few weeks before picking it up again. And then it became a huge gargantuan task that I simply could not tackle.

It is easy and far too regular to get intimidated by First Drafts. Here are a few things that I learnt about getting back on track.

1. Strip down to the bare bones

Call it outlining or summarizing, but after everything that is in your head put down,  it is time to sit back and find out the story that you are telling. In a fictional piece, tell yourself that story again. Take away the cosmetic fillings, the recurring themes, the metaphors, the irony and plot for yourself what the real story is. Find out the protagonists and what happens in their lives in your book.

For a non fictional piece, outline your premise, the arguments for and against,  the supporting evidence and the conclusion. Once you are clear about what essentials you are presenting, you would be able to get a hang of where you are going next .

2. Shake things up

After writing the first draft, it might just seem very difficult to get back to it. Inexplicably, you can’t seem to get back into the same frame of mind as you were before. That is just fine because to move to the next level, there needs to be a change in attitude. 

Change that attitude by getting into a different frame of mind. You would have already spent a little time away from the first draft. Now shake things up by changing how the draft looks. Get a printout for a soft copy. Change the fonts. Change the margins. For the text itself, change the point of view. Have the story told by a different character. Examine your narrative from a different angle. 

3. Be ruthless

Be ruthless with the script you had laid out.  You know the story and you are raring to go and embellish and present it differently. Let go of things and characters that you know do not sound right or are not going to work. Chalk out what needs to be elaborated upon and what needs to be cut out. 

Above all, be ruthless with yourself. It is time that the first draft moves to the second draft stage and after that see the light of the day. It is something that you owe to your readers and to yourself. 

Dear Writer friends, how do you tackle your first drafts? 

4 ways (and a bonus tip) to push ahead with your writing projects 

One, know how to juggle the various writing projects that you have on your plate. Scheduling time for them on the basis of priority would be a good idea especially when you are tempted to pick and complete the easiest or the one dearest to your heart. 

Two, know that rotating the projects can be rejuvenating and keep you away from the writer’s block. You would always have something you can come back to and your writing muscles stay flexed. 

Three, know what helps you gain momentum when you are slacking on your projects. When it comes to writing, certain forms may be more conducive to making the push. For fiction, writing short stories could help you compress the process of writing a novella. Writing long form could help you clarify your thoughts for an informative article. Change the form you are writing in currently to kick start your creativity. 

Four, begin with the end in mind. Know what ways and where the writing would end up. You must be sure of the literary journals or publications your writing is targeting. This would keep you motivated and help you stay on course. 

Lastly, know when to step back. Writing can be fulfilling and it can also be tough. Taking a break could be the best way to recharge yourself. 

How do you manage your various writing assignments? I would love to know more ways. 

5 Things that help me get back to Writing

More often than not, I find a slump in my writing life. Things happen, there are minor hiccups, there are major upheavals and writing takes a back seat. Or, nothing happens and a sense of ennui prevents me from taking up my pen. 

I know that I need to shake myself out of my reverie. Here are a few things that I do to get back to writing from the heart. 

1. Change the scene

I might go to a nearby town or a picnic or even a short walk, but a change of scene does wonders to the way I think. I might get back rejuvenated or inspired by a different set of feelings that the new place have evoked in me. 

2. Read more 

Reading leads to writing. Reading is one part of the creative process of writing. Reading others gives rise to newer threads of thought and the words and the tone of a writer can bring forth my own response. 

3. Write of things I absolutely love

There are things I would want to talk about all the time. Those are the things I can write about. There have been books that I could never have enough of. There have been emotions that have evoked a prompt response in my heart. A few things, some places, some foods, art and culture and our response to societal norms are things I use to get back to writing more. 

4. Explore the ways others write 

To know of ways writers write and to understand their rituals and imagine their feelings kicks forth the energy and helps the creative juices to flow. It is good to know that many others have the same struggles and also the same euphoria at a piece written well. 

5. Visualize the end result 

If there is a piece that is sitting unfinished and needs to be pursued, it helps if I think it through the end. For a fictional piece of work, running the story through my mind gets me all worked up to get back to writing. Looking at the structure of the piece in other kinds of writing and creating an outline works very well too. 

Please share the ways in which you make sure that you are writing. Are there any specific rituals that you have before and during writing?