23 June 2011

me, myself and.. who?

yesterday, i opened my well thumbed, small notebook, some 13-years-old, filled with the names of books and authors i've read or wanted to read, after a good six months or so. names such as nicole mones, david mitchell, sarah waters, haruki murakami, linda grant jumped out at me. elif shafak, emma darwin, audrey niffeneger called to me silently. hanif kureishi, paulo coelho, joanna trollope, john grisham took me down memory lane to my teen years. i was assailed by the memories of words, pages, covers, feelings, stories and people; how the books made me feel, who i shared quotes and plots with, who i had recommended which book to, who had recommended which book to me. all of this, between the pages of my palm sized book, within the span of a few minutes.

why had i waited for so long to flip through its pages, when previously i would usually look through it at least once a week?

the answer is simple: i do not have access to these authors and books here. so i suppressed my urge, i tried to make do with other books. (as i seem to have done in so many other areas of life..)

but those few minutes yesterday brought home to me how much i am giving up, how lost i am without my familiar markers. if someone were to come see me and my life today, i worry that they might wonder whose presence they had disturbed. ten kilos lighter, with no bookshelves or books to speak of, no coffee, music or tv shows to gush over, who am i? when was the last time i had a conversation about harry potter, house or the coffee prince?

i live amongst people who cannot understand concepts such as lactose intolerance or atheism. this is only funny when i can share it with someone. but where is that someone?

many posts ago, i had feared losing myself -this is exactly what i was afraid of. but i don't know how to remedy the situation. it is so easy to say i need to make friends, but really, the options for that are oh-so-limited at present. and friends who read, who watch intl tv, listen to western music?! seriously, that only happens on some other planet..

21 June 2011

forget writing what you know; believe what you write

the old adage on writing has always been to write what you know. (which is strange, really, because as a child, when I did most of my fiction writing, not only did I not know much, but I always wrote about things I did not know –supermarket trolleys with a life of their own, magical birds that could talk and save you from all kinds of disasters, boarding schools and midnight feasts.) perhaps ‘know’ should not be taken so literally, perhaps it is more about ‘knowing’ the characters and places well enough to bring them to reality for someone else.

according to stephanie mooney, you need to “believe what you're writing. Know it in the pit of your stomach. Make it real.” she notes that this is how jk rowling makes you believe in quidditch and wingardium leviosa, or how jr tolkien convinces you of the characteristics of middle earth. so, you need to believe, and believe with a passion. (for those interested in writing, I recommend you read her entire post, which is quite short, but totally packed with goodies regarding writing your way to genuine characters and plot.)

mel makes a similar point, noting that you can use your own experiences and “slide sideways into something unrelated”, rather than limiting yourself to the biblical sense of what you know. I’ve been stuck with my writing for awhile, and I know it has a lot to do with me not creatively expanding my horizon, mired in the very little that I ‘know’. my characters, places and events are boring me, because they are too close to what I know, there is no space for them to grow into their own skin.

it is a little scary to suddenly throw my characters into unknown territory, to flounder along with them as they make sense of the new. but hey, they say it’s the journey that’s more important than the destination, so let’s see where the floundering lands us!

beyond the fear

'if we lived our lives not doing because we were afraid, what a different life we’d live.'

aisha noted that many of the fears she has today, she had four years ago as well. oh how true. and how human. on a grand scale, this must be why history repeats itself, because we humans never learn, never get better, never move on. being older is definitely not being wiser. at least, not in the sense that we make less mistakes. only that we see our mistakes more clearly perhaps, or we are slightly more humble.

five years later, why is it that we’re still scared about the same things as five years before? most of us probably push aside the fear long enough to do what we need to do, while still being wary and uncertain. the fear never really goes away, we just learn to deal with it, and not let it take over our perspective. and as soon as we’re done, we get scared all over again. it’s like getting on a roller coaster –no matter how many rides I take, and how many times I get off it safe and sound, I’m still scared just before the ride begins. my heart is in my throat and I wonder why I’m putting myself through this, before I’m whizzed off in the air and can no longer form more coherent thoughts than, ‘OH MY GOD’.

i have heard that you don’t regret the things that you do in life, but the things that you don’t. that being the case, rumi's advice seems the most sound here:

"Keep walking. Though there's no place to get to. Don't try to see through the distances. That's not for human beings. Move within but don't move the way that fear makes you move."

if i'm always going to be scared anyways, it's better not to focus on the future, or to worry about any outcome. i will simply nudge aside the fear and do, and then do again. if i'm lucky, i will eventually not be scared. if not, well, i'll still have done what i needed..

introverts are cool

carl king has this awesome list of myths about introverts, based on a book 'the introvert advantage'. as he puts it, "I feel like someone has written an encyclopedia entry on a rare race of people to which I belong." most importantly, the book reveals that introverts are apparently people who are over-sensitive to dopamine, so too much external stimulation overdoses and exhausts them. this is exactly how i feel about most social functions/engagements, and until now i thought t s eliot was the only one who understood:

"In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light.
We are glad when the day ends, when the play ends; and ecstasy is too much pain."

carl king's list of myths about introverts make me feel oh-so-much better about myself:

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days. [yes, this has been pointed out to me in surprise by many an individual!]

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. [again, spot on.]

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in. [friends are good. acquaintances? not so much..]

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts. [excuse me, it's time for my recharge, see you some other time. what a great way to put it!]

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time. [i'm always happier with one or two persons at a time. max three.]

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy. [no, my choice of clothes and reading material has nothing to do with 'fashion'; why would it?!]

16 June 2011

like a brother?

this post on guy friends being like brothers, and the comments it generated, made me reflect on my own relationship with my brother-cum-best friend, as well as other guy friends. having grown up with two biological brothers, i never felt the need for any additional male siblings. on the other hand, i was very much lacking in male friends. i never seemed able to become 'buddies' with guys -there was always awkward chemistry/tension involved. (or they were just too 'weird'.)

according to one of the comments to the above mentioned post,
Friendship with a girl (however platonic it may be), is perceived to come about because the girl finds you fun to hang out with, smart, and a cool company in general.. The moment 'brother' comes into picture, it seems to throw all those flattering adjectives out of the window.. no idea why it happens though.. Also, 'brother' forcefully closes the door to a lot of talk-worthy topics and that occasional harmless, playful flirting between friends of opposite sex, which I think is healthy for a normal male-female friendship..
the indian context also has the 'rakhi brother', which apparently is commonly used to keep unwelcome advances at a distance...

i agree with the above comment, and i think this has a lot to do with the way brother-sister relationships are viewed (particularly in india perhaps). i grew up seeing my younger brother more as a playmate than a sibling. close enough in age, we did many things together, shared many interests and a sense of humour. this continued until today. many a time, my girl friends would remark on the fact that we could finish each other's sentences or that he was privy to my crushes. he was my best friend, who also happened to be my brother--seemed totally normal to both of us! my relationship with my older brother is far more conventional, due to various factors i guess, age difference perhaps being the biggest.

the point i want to make i guess, is that it really depends on the kind of relationship one has--while there is no playful flirting going on between me and my younger brother, he is much more my best friend than simply my brother. the few good guy friends i do have now however--again without any possibility of romance/sex on the table--are also not in the 'brother' category though..

15 June 2011

writing through distractions

it is so easy to get distracted, to stray from your goals, to not write diligently. a recent comment on my last post reminded me that it’s been 15 days since I last blogged –huh, how did that happen? where did those 15 days go? I know that there have been numerous blog worthy instances occurring in the past two weeks, but the time and inclination to write has just passed me by. it’s like if I don’t consciously take note of things and force myself to write them out, they just remain elusive thoughts and ideas floating in the universe. this is not to say that it is difficult to write regularly; it is just too easy to get sidetracked and not write. if I had actually written every time I’d had an idea in the last 15 days, I might have ended up with one post every two days! [note to self: write through all distractions. in fact, distractions can be great topics for blog posts!]

so promptly seems like a great exercise to join.