Tonight I feel like taking a break from writing and coming back to the arms of my long-neglected blog -- and maybe write something about writing. There is little else I have been doing or thinking about these days that is worth articulating on Ganga Mail.
I have been writing like a madman; and when I say writing, it does not mean I am producing thousands of words when I sit in front of the computer with a bottle of whisky at my feet every night. There are times when as many as three hours are spent on composing a 15-word sentence. That speaks either very highly or very poorly of my skills as a writer. And there are times when an entire night is spent staring at the screen and nothing writing-worthy comes to mind.
But then, as I have always said and believed, writing is something that comes to you. You cannot go to it. But for writing to come to you, you must be in a state of readiness to receive it. And you can be ready only if you are already at the computer, toiling with words for hours or weeks or months together -- and then the sentences that you've been wanting to write come magically to you.
I can't call myself a writer yet because I've published only one book and another is still being written. But I know well enough by now that writing is an extremely lonely exercise: nobody thinks you are doing anything of consequence until the final product is out in the bookshops. So you are left to your own devices. Friends try to help of course, but you can't expect them to jump up in excitement every time you scream, "Eureka!" They have their own things to do.
Writing, in my opinion and little experience, is not so much about what you write but how you write it. And that's the most painful part: to summon the words that accurately describe the situation or emotion you are seeking to convey to the reader. The simpler the situation or the emotion, the more difficult it is to get the right words and make a sentence out of them. Alcohol sometimes helps, while sometimes it makes you go overboard. Eventually, it is only in a sober state the next morning that you decide how exactly a particular sentence should read. So Eureka again, but you keep the Eureka feeling to yourself when you are sober. And then night falls -- time again to dash naked across the virtual street to flaunt your achievement with words in a drunken state. Eventually, a book gets written. Hopefully, I get to write mine soon.
The title of my second book has just been decided, finally, and 40% of the manuscipt is sitting in a folder on my computer. The remaining 60% is still in my head, waiting to be fleshed out. Obviously, many more agonising months lie ahead. After all, I am not Hunter S. Thompson, the legendary American journalist who made writing look as simple as chewing gum.
Apart from writing, I have also been reading a lot these days. By reading I mean dipping into books that I've been constantly ordering from Flipkart.com. They are books I would like to read cover to cover -- someday maybe -- but since I don't have the time to do so right now, I fish for passages that provide me with the required nourishment to keep me going with the manuscript.
I shall reproduce one such nourishing passage, from The Gonzo Papers Anthology, a 1,200-page compilation of Hunter S. Thompson's dispatches as a journalist, which I ordered recently from Flipkart:
Dear Colonel Giang,
I am the National Affairs Editor of Rolling Stone, a San Francisco-based magazine, with offices in New York, Washington and London, that is one of the most influential journalistic voices in America right now -- particularly among the young and admittedly left-oriented survivors of the antiwar Peace Movement in the 1960s. I'm not an especially good typist, but I am one of the best writers currently using the English language as both a musical instrument and a political weapon...
The last line, oh, the last line.