Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Regimenting Life Again

Results = Regimentation + Repetition + Ritualization

- Amir Siddiqui (Check him out on FB https://www.facebook.com/amirofthebody/posts/816216408438322?fref=nf&pnref=story )

While he was talking about training in the gym, isn't the same true for training in writing too? To see any results in writing, we need to have to regiment our day, repeat it everyday and have a ritual that spurs us on to write. Read http://www.copyblogger.com/writing-rituals/ to know more about some popular writing rituals.

"Rituals that bring us together and that help us map out the patterns of our days are far more vital than you’d think. Without mundane time-milestones like breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekends, a yearly vacation, and a periodic raise, we can go crazy. Those who suffer from structure deprivation fill the emptiness of chaotic hours with alcohol, gambling, compulsive shopping, compulsive eating, and even with compulsive picking at every micro-hillock of skin their restless fingers can find and try to pry loose." --- Howard Bloom

I hated being regimented during my childhood. My mother had these strict hours she followed (and made us follow) everyday for meals and sleep. Our study time and TV time were fixed and unchangeable. This bled into the weekends too. While we fought and argued about it with her many times, it did bring in big results in my life and my brother's too. For starters, we were toppers in school and college all through our life. We were healthy and happy. We had various family rituals of togetherness, festival rituals and vacation rituals which are a part of our most cherished memories now. As the years sped by, these rituals became habits and they remained so till we got married.

Suddenly, we were no longer in the military rule. We were completely free. We could sleep in the entire day, have a bath at any odd hour, no one will ask us to switch off the television, we can order in any day, any time we like and we could eat anywhere (even on our bed) at anytime we please. Since my brother and I are self employed, this also means we can goof off as no one monitors the hours we work. This seemed like the ultimate bliss. I did live by this laissez-faire approach for a few years till I realised babies thrive on routine. Either you create a routine for them or else they would create one that might not be so pleasant for you. Rituals and routines came back into my life but were never regimented like before. If they had been, then my writing would have been on another plane now.

I sorely miss the order and routine my mother had got into my life. My brother and I had such perfect habits as children. We woke up at the same time every day, we watched half an hour of television at the same time every day, we studied for the same number of hours at the same time every day irrespective of whether we had exams the next day or not and we went to bed at the same time too. (We got an extra hour on weekends!)

I think it is time I regimented my life again. The last experiment I had tried was to write every day, at least a 100 words, in the current fiction project on hand and I have been successfully pulling it off for the last few months. The mental peace and emotional satisfaction from this achievement have been awesome. Now, the next challenge is to take it further. I'm planning to have a daily routine and structure, that will be followed with strict discipline, for all those mundane every day activities like sleep, meals, etc. so that my time can give way for those life-changing dreams like writing, a fit body and knowledge. I'll keep you all updated on how it goes.

Meanwhile, do you have daily routines, writing rituals, etc.? Share them here to inspire me.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Lessons learnt from Nanowrimo - Wordcount Obsession

‘What is this obsession with wordcount? Does wordcount count?’ I have wondered many times. Did Shakespeare think of it? Did Doris Lessing count her words every day? Does Jhumpa Lahiri do it? Is NaNoWriMo actually making a big difference in the lives of innumerable writers? Are we sacrificing quality for quantity? With all these questions haunting my mind, I picked up ‘Ernest Hemingway on Writing’ yesterday. It has a place right in the front of my bookshelf because I pick it up often, open any page randomly for a dose of inspiration. You can compare this to taking a cowboy taking a swig out of the whisky flask just before he kicks off on his horse. This time, I got this…

“I loved to write very much and was never happier than doing it. Charlie’s (Scribner’s) ridiculing of my daily word count was because he did not understand me or writing especially well nor could know how happy one felt to have put down properly 422 words as you wanted them to be. And days of 1200 or 2700 were something that made you happier than you could believe. Since I found that 400 to 600 well done was a pace I could hold much better was always happy with that number. But if I only had 320 I felt good.”

-          Ernest Hemingway

Then the prolific Stephen King says in his book ‘Stephen King on Writing’,

“I like to get 10 pages a day – amounts to 2000 words – only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2000 words.”

Suddenly it struck me that R.K.Narayan also says in his book ‘My Days’ that he sticks to 1000 words a day every day. Nanowrimo asks for just 1667 words a day. It’s just that we have days when we skip it, laze it and then end up doing 5000 – 10000 words to catch up. When we skip these goals in our everyday life, there is no Nanowrimo to hold us accountable. We should have a Nanowrimo every month.

Writing is a lonely profession with no fixed salaries, recognition or instant credit. It is easy for one to lose focus on the way and go astray. It is easy to grow lazy and hard to overcome the tedium. Every November, a jolt hits us, shakes us up, gets us writing and reaffirms our faith in ourselves. Even today, I had to force myself to say ‘no’ to an outing with friends. Writing needs to shift from my back seat to my front seat. In fact, I think I should allow it into the driver’s seat and take my life in the direction that it should actually be going.

If you have the opportunity to live an extraordinary life, you have no right to keep it to yourself

-          Jacques Cousteau

December has now dawned on us – the month of revisions and editing. I wonder what the new year is to bring and I pray and hope that it is writing, writing and more writing with a bit of publishing (*fingers crossed) thrown in.



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