To BuJo and Back

When I started blogging, I would always write my blog posts first on paper and then type them out. Labour intensive yes, but I just could not seem to think well while typing. My ideas flowed better with a pencil in hand and the scratching sound on paper reassured me that something was happening. I was making progress.

Then came modernity. I wanted to be able to type long documents, not the office communication or the reports kinds but the imaginative ones. The ones that had stories or articles or posts. So I moved from the paper to the screen. Soon, I was doing very well for someone who could only write on paper. Thus started my journey into the world of typing on keyboards and keypads. Soon, even the grocery lists on paper were replaced by the ones on my phone. It was just easier and convenient.

But over the years, I found that I was in need of inspiration a lot of times and I was just getting very tired of looking at screens. One day, while going through my things I came across my journals that I have filled with my scrawny writing over the years. And the itch to write on paper started again.

I like things to be organised and my writing too and of course, I love making lists. That was the perfect recipe for falling for a BuJo. For the uninitiated (I don’t think there are any), a BuJo is a Bullet Journal, which is a simple and innovative journal designed to keep everything in place, aka the notes, the tasks, your progress. It helps keep you on top in terms of assignments, to-dos, the social calender etc. For me, it also meant not letting go of those creative ideas and the little moments in a day that I could write about.

BuJos beckon the artistic and the organised. It is like a person’s mind, on the page. I had always wanted a journal that would carry Everything that I had ever wanted to write and that had ever crossed my mind. There were the lists, the random things that struck me through the day, the useful resources that I discover, the facts that I uncover from long time mysteries. There is the progress on my daily, weekly and monthly goals. There are the new ideas that just cannot go cold. There are opportunities and there is potential waiting to be tapped and I have to write it all down. And yes, there are my emotions and blog post ideas and things I must share with my group of friends.

I tried creating a very beautiful looking, artsy Bullet Journal. But the entire planning process took days. It was more of a balancing act, writing what, where and at the same time to not let it descend into chaos and an overwritten page.

I know that half the world is crazy about BuJos and the other half is just the ignorant lot. But, somehow, the planning took away the spontaneity.

I got back to the ordinary notebook, grateful for the simplicity. I now carry a bunch of them around with me; colour coded into sections so that I can find what I want without the option for a digital search. My pencils are right next to them and I am happy with the scratch of the pencil on paper.

How much do you write by hand? Do you have a journal? Do you do a BuJo? What have your experiences been?

Advertisements

What I have been doing…

Plumeria

Image Credit: Background Plumeria by Jade Moon

I keep getting the urge to yell ‘I am Back‘ on my blog and I really could not let this entire month go by without posting anything. So, at the far end of the month, rather than the brand new beginning of a new month or even a new week, I am trying to make some sense while writing this.

I have been away for some time and I had the usual reasons. I didn’t know what to write, I was busy, I wanted to shake up things but did not know exactly how. I wanted to start the year on a good foot, with an elaborate plan for the blog, planning out content with editorial calenders, posting a number of things, a judicious mix of the serious and the light hearted, the long and short.

But I never got around to making those plans and really, even after all these years blogging, I work more by the seat of my pants, blogging while feeling inspired or intensely emotional or wonderfully elated.

And all this inactivity has led to a deeper disquiet, more than a mere lethargy. It is a sense of boredom, of apathy, or an ennui. Of course, life gets in the way of writing and just too frequently for my liking.

I started the year by having monthly writing goals. No surprises and because there has been nothing posted here, it is safe to assume that I did not meet those goals. They need to be refined for month 2 of the year. I am also getting back to writing by hand, as opposed to be always typing on some keyboard or some screen and got two journals, plain white sheets with colour coded sections. However much I like them, the inertia kicked in and my first few days of the shift was characterised by staring at them in dread.

The stress of the shift to pen and paper, coupled with low productivity nearly led me to binge eating but I reigned myself in, just in time. Now, I am experimenting with healthy meals, which are sometimes so bland and uninteresting that binge eating is impossible.

I am still reading though, many books and yes, here too I should step out of my comfort zone. Perhaps I should read fantasy or sci fi. I am still writing the reviews so that is some writing I am doing, even though I am posting them elsewhere.

I am also wondering if I am a writer and this quote made me sure that I am.

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” -Thomas Mann

I think a change of scenery would be good. I have been traveling and had a good change. On the blog, I need to change the theme and the layout and some change in content.

I am also dipping my toes in social media. I joined Twitter and am loving the brevity and the wit and the sarcasm. It’s a great tool for getting more eyeballs but I am still taking baby steps.

Any tips and tricks for Twitter that you could suggest? (@Writenlive1)

Coming back to the original question, what should I write about? I hope to sort this out soon.

I welcome your suggestions.

And This is Where I Summarise

The things we do for the love of reading and writing! Here are some of the things that I put up on my blog this year.

Book Reviews

I have written a lot of book reviews this year. But the most fun I had was in the months of September and October, when I raced against time to read the Booker shortlist, before the winner got announced. I managed to read five out of six, Paul Auster’s 4 3 2 1 being too long for me, even in the best of times. Reading these excellent books back to back provided me with some great insights regarding the storylines and the plots. I was excited to read these vastly different voices, from the richly imagined Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (the 2017 winner) to the ethereal History of the Wolves by Emily Fridlund (an excellent debut). There was another debut work, Elmet by Fiona Mozley, which had excellent world building. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid has received effusive praise and I would let others do the talking here. Autumn by Ali Smith made me long to write something on those lines; light, contemporary, witty and yet poignant. It sounded from the heart; it talked of things close to us, the ones that touch us deeply in life.

I also marveled at how these adept writers broke the rules and how books are wonderous even when they are flawed.

Listicles

This year, I made public my love for writing lists. Ideally, everything I know or think of can be written in the form of lists. It isn’t just the satisfaction of ticking off things; it is the fun of enumerating things without having to structure my thoughts much. So, I kicked off 2017 with a weekly feature on lists. Those listicles ruled the blog till October when I realised that I was repeating myself and would do so unless I found different things to write about. Most of the listicles were about the writing process and really, nearly all of them are my favourites. Still, I would recommend this one on keeping the writing inspiration strong. And this one on the Muse. Also this on creativity. I wrote one on goodbyes. And why I write.

NaNoWriMo 2017

I completed the NaNoWriMo this year too and saw the difference it makes when one writes a lot, even though initially a lot of it may be crappy. I learnt a lot more about the writing process and what my strengths (obstinacy) and weaknesses (outlining) are.

If we were having coffee…

I wanted to write many coffee posts and have a heart to heart talk with my readers but this year, I was also stuck in the bubble of not wanting to talk much about myself or what was up in my personal life. I wanted to cut out the I, Me, Myself completely but our blogs are essentially a reflection of our selves. I need not have played the hide and seek. Hopefully, in the coming months, I would be able to talk more of my experiences.

Through the Mist

The best thing in the journey of reading and writing came in the form of a collaborative book that got published this year. I got together with four other writers and penned short stories for a collection titled, Through the Mist. Writing with others turned out to be a new and fun experience and having my own published book in my hands is a priceless feeling. Being part of a very supportive team of writers, the editor and the publisher has been an enriching writing experience.

Sunday Trees

This year has also been about the trees. I cannot help noticing them wherever I go. I am incredibly fortunate to be in cities that are teeming with so many of them. And as a blogger friend pointed out, we appreciate and take care of trees and that’s a fantastic thing on our part.

I was also very fascinated with flowers. For some time, I happened to be in a place where the houses are fronted with magnificent gardens, a plethora of flowers in every yard. I was hooked as I saw their colours and forms with new eyes. And then we moved places and there are no flowers in the boxed apartments. I have taken to clicking leaves of the potted plants. But that’s a story for another time.

Thanks and good wishes to each one of you in the blogging community. I wouldn’t be here, if not for you.

The NaNoWriMo Experience

 Why this post?

A month and a half back, nearly at the end of October, I planned a set of posts for the blog that I would do in November. I would be busy doing the NaNoWriMo and what thing can be more wonderful than writing nano related posts? I wanted to write weekly updates. I wanted to talk about what I learnt through writing so much. I wanted to rave about my learnings. I wanted to crib at the inevitable setbacks.

All those plans failed, though. Once I got sucked into the vortex of writing, I did not have the energy to even reply to the comments on my blog (not that there were many).

So, this should have been the last in a long series of posts; instead it is standalone. What have I learnt from trying to fit 50k words in 30 days?

What I Learnt

First and foremost, it is a mind-altering (replace that with mindset) experience. Writing a lot, writing regularly, showing up and pushing at it stretches the writing muscle in unimaginable ways. I found myself feeling very confident of my writing abilities after these stints. It is like taking the angst out of writing and striking out all the romantic notions of the Muse. Writing feels more of a craft than being a mere talent that I am dredging up.

I understand the writing process much better now. I understand the places where I face blocks. I understand which times of the day are good for writing. I know what to do when there are minor conflicts in the plots. (Outline, question yourself and bring up plausible answers). I know how to work around gaping plot holes (go for a walk, the longer, the better. Each extra mile brings a fresher perspective). I have learnt to rewrite flat scenes and make them more layered.

Writing a lot, even when you have nothing to write forces you to bring up words from the very depths of your being and that is actually good and magical because otherwise those experiences and words stay in your subconscious. There have been times when I was simply pushed in a corner regarding a particular scene but I soldiered on, wrote some more, hated myself for writing rubbish, forced myself to imagine the unbelievable, wrote that and found some gems.

This NaNoWriMo, I wanted to be a rebel. There was last year’s MS staring at me and I was trying not to catch it’s eye. I have neglected it a lot but the fact was that I was absolutely terrified of opening it again and look at how bad the slush pile really was. But there was no way I was going to start writing something new. I could not have handled the guilt. So, I put on my cool sunglasses (ahem, the sunglasses were normal temperature; they just made me look cool) and picked up last year’s 50k pile to attempt to make it better.

This strategy made me understand the joy of first drafts. Till now, they have been the source of vexation, the mine from where I was yet to find diamonds. Now I love their spontaneity and their potential and that writing them can be so easy as compared to rewriting an existing manuscript.

I have always loved the idea of writing quickly. Last year, I timed myself and the faster I wrote the better I felt. There is no greater exhilaration than having a few thousand words under your belt at the end of the day. This year has been different. I saw that writing very fast affects the quality of my writing even when I stick to an outline. So, I went back to writing thoughtfully, deliberately, choosing words carefully so that my satisfaction at the end of the day stemmed from writing meaningfully.

And yes, writing buddies are invaluable. Also, the NaNoWriMo forums are awesome. Every once in a while I got frustrated by my lack of progress and I needed to vent. I wrote long rambling angst ridden passages to myself, setting out why I was writing and what things I was trying to accomplish (showing off the NaNoWriMo winner certificate topped the list). Some days, I could not understand what was I doing. Was I writing? Editing? Rewriting? Looking for plot holes and incongruous character development? These were the times when I found that bouncing ideas with my writing friends led to clarity much sooner than a pity party or a rant would have brought. So, I am keeping my sympathisers and critics close to me.

And, also…

There were also things that I hated. I disliked the intrusion of my Inner Editor (IE) very much. The first week goes along fine. That’s the time to ride the crest of your writerly voice. Soon, the IE manages to unshackle itself and show up. Looking over your shoulder, making disparaging remarks; your writing life turns to hell. It’s really important to exercise all your will power and throw the IE back into the dungeon.

I also started obsessing over word count. Usually, I stop writing when I have covered the major points and have said all that I wanted to say and the piece looks complete. Now, I was counting words in my writing and my texting and my talking. I was evaluating every event of my life in terms of how much time it took and how many words I could have written instead.

Being immersed in writing and doing not much else for long stretches of time is my idea of bliss and while I loved every minute of that chance, I also realised that writing too much can and does lead to a burnout. We need breaks. However, this year, I did not have the luxury of doing that because I had spent too much time thinking and rethinking the plot, making some changes in the structure and trying to chase the word count at the same time. Towards the end, I was reduced to talking to myself while walking on the road, alone. I would laugh and frown for no apparent reason, at least not apparent to the people around me. Visualising a new scene put me in a frenzy of writing and after it had been written, I often found myself sitting and typing away in very odd places.

Would I do it all over again, if I had the choice? Yes, of course!

How did you find your NaNoWriMo experience? Please share your insights.

How Chris Baty saved me from going down the rabbit hole of despair

Chris Baty needs no introduction to NaNoWrimers. The founder of National Novel Writing Month, in 1999, along with 21 of his friends set out to write a complete novel of 50k words. He has been an inspiration since, both in managing the November event and in pulling writers out from the depths of despair through his pep talks.

I had the fortune to read his book, ‘No plot, No Problem’, just before last year’s writing marathon. I sped read to ensure I knew everything about NaNoWriMo before getting into it. It is a hilarious, easy-to-read and profoundly informative manual on how to tackle the writing and how to conquer the fears, insecurities, the writing blocks and the inevitably super critical Inner Editor. Chris Baty goes into the entire month, moving from week to week, explaining what to expect and what problems the writers are likely to encounter and of course how to handle them. Through sharp wit and unrelenting humour, Chris Baty holds your hand through the entire process of churning out a first draft of a nearly full length novel.

Post NaNoWriMo, it is desirable that the first draft be revised and edited and rewritten to make it a readable book. But even if that does not come about and you feel that the world is not ready for your masterpiece just yet, doing the writing marathon is an incredibly rewarding experience.

Check out the book and sharpen your pencils.

5 Things that keep your Writing Inspiration Strong

There are so many things on my idea board at any given time. (Now that sounds amazing! No writer’s block ever!) And yet some ideas and impressions slip away, if I don’t act on them soon enough. At the time the creative spark comes to me, it feels like the next best thing to hit the literary world but some time later, the spark turns to ideas that look like hollow shells, with nothing that can fill them up and out.

If that sounds familiar, here are a few things you could do to keep the inspiration to write healthy and strong.

1. Reinforce your mood

A single piece of writing can have a particular mood. A research based article would have you in a rational frame of mind while poetry might see you whimsical and emotional.

If you are writing a hilarious piece, keep the hilarity alive in your mood, otherwise you would lose your tone.

Recently, a friend writing a story about infidelity listened to music that had a theme of being unfaithful. It was to hang on to the feeling, till the time it was spent in words.

Evoking that mood through another media fires up your brain neurons and soon new insights come running in.

2. Connect to your deeper self

Your idea came from the depths of your feelings and your soul. Now go nourish that part of yourself so that you can strengthen it and make it yours and write it. Do things that ground you.

Know what keeps you grounded. It could be surrounded by the people you love or being alone in nature. You have to find what keeps your innermost self vibrant and receptive.

3. Rekindle the feeling

Why are you writing in the first place? Are there any quotes that inspire you? Or a location? That log cabin in the hills? A piece of music or painting that reeks of creativity and the joys of right expression? Connect with them. Immerse yourself in them so that you can find the validation of writing once again.

4. Tap your subconscious

Occupy one part of your brain so that the other part can create. The perfect ways to do it would be to go on a walk or listen to music. Gardening or knitting are other ways that keep the hands occupied and the mind free to muse on other things. Doing something routine and repetitive is known to soothe the nerves and to aid in problem solving or bringing up new ideas.

5. Reshape your muse into other forms

If you have a wonderful theme that you want to explore in your writing but are unable to express it fully, try another form of expression. Move from poetry to prose. Sketch your idea. Paint it. Scult it or maybe just use play dough. Compose a song. You would find newer ways of bringing forth your idea with plenty of insights into the nature of creativity.

To keep inspiration close to you, it is important to be in the right state of mind. The ideas are always there. Half formed. Half baked. Waiting to be picked and polished.

What are the ways you keep your ideas strong and kicking?

5 Motivating Thoughts on Writing by Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit is a San Francisco writer, historian, and activist. She is the author of twenty books about geography, community, art, politics, hope, and feminism.

Rebecca Solnit says it about writing and does not mince words. Here are a few of her inspiring thoughts on what writing is and how we can write better and from the soul.

1. Write

Rebecca Solnit exhorts you to write. Quite a lot. Because it is practice and effort that leads to bad writing becoming good.

“Write what you most passionately want to write.”

“Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.”

2. Typing it out is just a part of the writing process. Often, you think that you need to have a daily word goal. Or a weekly. You forget that writing is not just churning out words. There is a lot that goes into the strengthening of the writing muscle.

“Thinking, researching, contemplating, outlining, composing in your head and in sketches, maybe some typing, with revisions as you go, and then more revisions, deletions, emendations, additions, reflections, setting aside and returning afresh…”

3. Read aplenty, but don’t be influenced by trends. Read a lot to shape your voice and to find your influences. But, be yourself. There is no use going after what is trending and what others are writing, if it does not speak to you deeply.

“Find your own influences… Originality is partly a matter of having your own influences: read evolutionary biology textbooks or the Old Testament, find your metaphors where no one’s looking, don’t belong.”

To not belong is relieving.

4. Listen to others but know when to listen to your soul. You may have to ask for feedback on your writing. Listen to improve and to find new insights. But above all, know yourself and listen to your inner voice.

“Listen to what makes your hair stand on end, your heart melt, and your eyes go wide, what stops you in your tracks and makes you want to live, wherever it comes from, and hope that your writing can do all those things for other people.”

5. Passion and dedication endure, mere talent might not. Unless you live passionately and feel deeply and know that following your joy means obstacles and time, your talent won’t be enough.

“It starts with passion even before it starts with words.”

Dear reader, share the quotes that you find inspiring.