Times have certainly changed. In the past there was no self-promotion. Writers spent their lives writing, some were recognised, some excellent authors faded away, hardly known.
Recently, I read a short review of a book [I am not sharing its name or that of the reviewer], that said something to the effect that it was written by undoubtedly the best writer of the 21st century–a brilliant new voice. How is it I had never heard of this book or author? I downloaded a sample. In the very first paragraph there were grammatical errors. Proceeding further, the story meandered in a meaningless way. Unable to continue I deleted the sample. The author was self-published and had paid a new small publisher, first for publishing it, and then for promoting the book.
I am not against self-publishing, in fact I believe it is the best way for an author to retain control over her work. But I am against fake reviews that people are paid to write. I have received several offers myself, Rs 4000 for four good reviews of your latest book, etc. , which of course I would never take up. If the book is good, or if it is controversial, people will review it themselves, without any encouragement or inducement.
Then there are those reviewers who are not paid, but rush to write critical reviews online, of books they have hardly understood–reviews that are again full of errors.
In today’s world, it is okay to advertise, perhaps it is essential, but shouldn’t a reviewer be honest, whether paid or unpaid? And shouldn’t they at least have basic writing skills, and some background knowledge?
For the first time I am writing a biography, and began reading about the best biographies. I found two points to keep in mind, which are immensely useful.
Firstly, every detail of the person’s life does not need to be included.
Secondly, write after identifying with the person, try to see life and the world through his/her eyes. This second point definitely gave me a different perspective, instead of looking at the person through the accounts and views of others. It gave me a much better understanding of the person about whom I am writing.
I have been busy with a forthcoming book on 70 years of independence. Of course, that period is already covered in my Puffin History of India vol 2, but this book’s focus is culture. I keep reading wonderful poets and stories in translation–some may be included in the book, some may not.
These two verses below are from Bidyutprabha Devi’s poem, Dilemma, translated from Odia, the language of the state of Odisha [earlier spelt Orissa]. Bidyutprabha is recognized as one of the best Odia women poets. Only writers know how wonderful writing is.
‘Writing is the balm
for all my pain.
It’s the glory of my sorrow.
Writing is rain-soaked woods.
It’s the music of cloud bursts
during the month of Shravana!
I wish I could speak of
the joy that gathers in my heart.
Like a flame
in the mouth of storm,
A luminous lamp!’
(Translation: Sachidananda Mohanty (First published in Kavya Bharati, 1997]:-
I have been planning to start a newsletter for some time now. What will I put in it? That is a question I don’t yet have the answer to. Should it be on history? Religion and spirituality? My books and writing? Or on a combination of all these?
What should be its format? Now on this I have some thoughts. I get a number of newsletters, and there are many that I don’t read, or that I only read occasionally. I am interested in their content, but I don’t like the format. Below I’m making a list of the type of newsletters, in the order of those that I like best.
- The type I always read, is one that opens completely in the body of the email. I don’t have to click on a link, but can read everything straightaway. I don’t care if there are pictures or not, this is the type that always gets read.
- Those that provide the first para of a topic, and one has to click on a link to read the whole. If there are several such topics, I’ll rarely click on all–maybe just one or two.
- Those that provide a link, with a very brief idea of what it contains. I’ll read this if I am really interested in the topic.
- Those that hardly provide any information in the body of the email. A click on a link opens to a video, where some so-called expert is speaking–and the video goes on and on, with the information at the end. I can never wait till the end of the video, and once having tried it, I never click on similar links again.
What kind of newsletters do you like? And what topics interest you? I’d really like to know.
I have written quite a few posts on writing, and see myself as an eternal writer. A writer is a watcher, a recorder, an analyst, a thinker. All these are intrinsic, and sometimes I refer to myself as ‘a watcher in a dream’. In Advaita, it is said the world is unreal and it often seems that way–people fighting battles, entering conspiracies, hiding their true selves, for what? Then people trying to forget by watching television, meditating, talking, drinking.
Gurdjieff had said that the whole world is asleep. Is the writer’s role to keep one awake? On a more mundane level, I write because I want to share what I know, and sometimes what I think. Knowledge that comes from reading and understanding, but begins with thought. I want to make this specialized knowledge simple, easy to access, and I want more people to know, to be less ignorant, because that too is one way of bringing about change. I’ve written books on history and religion to share this knowledge.
Initially I was more interested in personal writing, in writing for myself. It helped me to focus, plan, understand and forget. Personal writing continues, but nowhere near the same extent. It is still useful, but I can do without it.
‘Write every day, but don’t put your life on hold . . .’ Vincent Mars.
This quote applies to the way I live. Though I love writing I don’t separate it as ‘work’, and the rest of life as ‘not work’. Everything fits seamlessly into a whole, all aspects contribute to life.
There is so much I do apart from writing–taking care of one dog and several cats, walking in the garden and appreciating the greenery and flowers, going to the market, cooking, other household tasks [though I tend to neglect these], playing online chess, reading, thinking, and interacting with friends. It is a real pleasure to visit friends and have them drop in for a cup of tea or coffee, as long as I don’t have a writing deadline.
I write all day, but in between all this gets fitted in. And there is one more thing I do to relax and to get refreshed, particularly when I am stuck with something, and that is Reiki. I won’t go into what it is right now, there is enough on it online, but I may write more about it later. It can be a life-transforming tool, and I think it got me started on my writing career.
If we were having a cup of coffee together…I’d tell you how I woke too early this morning and had that first hot cup, while planning the day. Maybe today my final read-through of my first novel will be done. It integrates religion and philosophy, yet I hope it is still a gripping story. Should I send it to an agent, a publisher in India, or upload it as an e-book? Haven’t yet decided.
If we were having a cup of coffee together…I’d tell you about the short stories I have written over the years, and now I am trying to find them and put them together.
If we were having a cup of coffee together…you may ask me about my other books, and I would tell you about them–each of them could have been expanded into several, each is dense and packed with information. I often read some poorly researched article, and see that a thousand better articles could be written from just two of my books on religion.
If we were having a cup of coffee together…I’d tell you that I have just received an invitation to give two talks to school students at a literary festival on the 26th–still need to find out the details.
And of course, if we were having a cup of coffee together–I’d ask you to adopt one of my rescued cats!
When I started this blog I had certain aims, and they remain constant. Mainly, I would like my books and my writing to be better known. Though I have a number of published books, which are available everywhere, I am quite reticent and withdrawn, and this is also an opportunity to interact with other writers. I don’t have a problem finding a publisher for anything I write, and I don’t have any dearth of ideas. However, I am thinking of self-publishing, to try out something new, and to have more control over my books. I am a good editor, and an excellent proof reader, so I feel I can produce a good book on my own–and this blog may help me to find an audience. I will gradually turn it into a website–I already have a domain name, but am not sure how to integrate it here.
I have other blogs, but the plus point here is the guidance one gets, and the interaction with others.