February 20, 2007

Written/ Off

The writing tip I ever got was, 'write or be written off.' Writers, I think, would perhaps be the laziest lot that you'd come across. Many of us would like to know how the people we admire functioned; maybe we could get inspired, improvise and get done!

I, like most things that are me, have a strange way of writing. I am a sucker for good stationery and spend many hours just going through writing instruments, pads, notebooks and other tools of trade. I love the feel of paper and sharp pencils. I spend hours running my hands over the paper before selecting a writing pad. The days I'm hitting the keyboard like a monkey all I can see in my mind's eye is a nice pen making love with paper. Then the days when I'm allowing words to flow through the nib of my lovely Sheaffers ink pen all I can think of is, 'how the hell am i going to type all this.' Choices...ah to be a human...

Am a recent convert to Moleskines. My friend Sudhesh introduced me to the legendary notebook. The classy looking thing is the same book used by Hemingway to pen his thoughts, Picasso to nibble and Van Gogh to sketch. Also Bruce Chatwin travelled with a shipload of the darn thing when he travelled. The were lost for a few years in between but now some Italian (they know how to make 'em classy!) has started making them. They are a rage and trust me once you use one of them you'd not live to use anything else. Initially Moleskines may seem a little steep but is a good value. It is very portable and very convenient. The utility and durability make up for the heavy snob factor. Though the marketing lays it on a bit thick (you aren't Van Gogh no matter what notebook you write in), the Moleskine is a favorite not just for the snob appeal but for true practicality. The Moleskine is thread-bound, acid free, and has 180 blank pages of acid free paper though you can get grids, lined, and thicker sketchbook pages as well. It has an accordion pocket in the back and an elastic fastener. Once i saw them I fell in love and anyone coming from US (till now my aunt Triveni, my cousin Arvind and my dear friend Rohini, thanks a million!) is hounded to get some for me!

So what'd you prefer- the touch of the pen or the click of your keyboard? There are many among us who want to go back to writing longhand. A recent survey done by someone somewhere might gave an interesting insight- the gentleman who did the survey said that people who have bad handwriting end up concentrating so much on the process of writing that their brain can't process words, sentences, etc. So people who have a pathetic hand can't think while writing. Well guess good pens and great writing paper can't be enough. So according to the survey it's best to leave keyboard comfortable people on the keyboard. So the question that pops up in my mind is that, are there any differences- in thinking, writing it down and creating something- between handwriting and typing?

Back to writing methods! The thing is that I'm a lazy writer and before I can put anything down I have to plan it out. And before planning I have to get rid of the TV remote, avoid the DVD calling out for me, disconnect the Internet, etc.! I'm getting better with age; some years ago I used to play an entire telephone call before making it! I don't like to make many changes, I revise, polish but maintain the basic structure; that's what attracts me to a story in the first place. At times I have felt this to be a nuisance but most often than not it works for me. Many won't agree but that's how it suits me. Hemingway once said that the first draft of anything is shit! I usually write late in the night. I don't like the nagging phone calls, the doorbell hailing me or anything else. Silence. Just me and my thoughts. So much so that I've locked up all my watches and clocks that are loud enough to catch the ticktock. No annoying sounds anymore.

Every writer has his/ her way of working. Some crazy trade secrets of many great writers. Hemingway always stood while writing. My girlfriend thinks that's the real reason why he was a master of short sentences! Always wrote in long hand on onion paper (the real thin ones) and then typed. While travelling always trusted Moleskine. Murakami wakes up at 4am and types on his Macintosh till 11am. He becomes anti-social as he comes close to finishing his book. He writes fast but takes almost an year to revise most of his books. He sleeps by 9pm. The great screen writer Paul Schrader (he wrote TAXI DRIVER) never starts anything till he has a beginning, middle and end planned out. Wong Kar Wai, the master filmmaker, never writes his films! So does Takeshi Kitano; they both land up and shoot. Their films don't look any different, most of them play better. The other day someone told me that most Indian filmmakers also believe in the same practise and by the sheer numbers we can beat any Kitano or Wong Kar Wai any day and twice on Sundays! The great Indian master Satyajit Ray wrote everything down. Rumor has it that if he decided that an actor would pack up at 5pm then nothing would change that. If he had decided not to become one of India's greatest directors, he would have been an Army General!

Whatever the kink one thing is for sure- one has to write every day. Writing anything. I write letters in this day and age to make up for lack of fiction!

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