I’ve been blogging, on and off, for almost
seven four years now that I think about it. I guess, when nothing else counts, years count; because sometime back Mahendra called me a veteran blogger somewhere. In reality, though, he looks much more of a veteran (it’s just been half a year, and he’s already blogging like a pro). Anyways, the same Mahendra has tagged me. The meme is: strengths of a writer. Now I see multiple takes on it by others who have been tagged: “my strengths as a writer”, “strengths I’d like to have as/in a writer”, “what are admirable strengths of/in a writer” and so on.
Being a compulsive egomaniac, I’d have picked “my strengths as a writer” theme, but that would be too much of a problem! I’m trained in finding weaknesses and faults (ask anyone, if you can’t take my word for it). Trained by myself, of course. Suddenly finding strengths, and that too, in my own writing, which has been the most unorganized hash of whimsical outpour that I’ve ever seen (yes I know I rock), is a job that I don’t have a heart for (sue me for ending a sentence with a preposition, but I won’t stop doing that, ever). Besides, I’d be kidding myself, if I actually listed my (alleged) strengths. My writing is, kind of, in the closet. It hasn’t gone through the grind of publishing industry, crowd’s acceptance/lack of it, and so on. So what use, is a so called strength, that hasn’t really been tested in the real world, so to speak of (there, again!)? So what I will do, is discuss what I find as strengths in writers, the real writers — writers I admire for one reason or the other.
Goes without saying, that those are precisely the strengths that I’d like to have in my writing. How I wish.
1. Personality: I have always enjoyed authors who tend to make their presence felt through their writing. Like Umberto Eco, Marquez, Kundera, even Rushdie. You can feel the author smiling that condescending smile here, that chuckle there, that raised eyebrow somewhere… It’s intimate. That’s what makes reading them fun, even when the content itself gets depressing at times.
2. Sense of humor: While I’ve enjoyed, once in a while, someone like John Steinbeck, I rather prefer authors who have a natural sense of humor, a sense of irrelevance/irreverence even. Of being able to laugh at the world at large. Of course, there has to be more than that, in a book, for me. Still, this is bare-minimum. A controlled sarcasm would be ideal (more so, because I don’t know how to control it: sarcasm is the easiest thing in writing, it’s the control which is the hardest). One book wonders like J. D. Salinger (OK, he’s rumored to have written another, even better, book but that’s for literary historians, looks like), or his present day American counterpart DBC Pierre, also fit in the shoe.
3. Poise: It’s hard to describe poise, but then we all know it, don’t we? If you don’t, read Hermann Hesse‘s Peter Camenzind, or James Jyoce’s Portrait of Artist… or Pamuk‘s My Name is Red, or Vijayan‘s Legends of Khasak/Infinity of Grace, or Ghosh‘s Shadow Lines… It’s when the author seems sleepwalking, sure of (him/her)self. There is a sense of calm that emanates from that self-assuredness. It rubs on you. It even rubs on your writing in that period, is what I’ve observed. I guess it cannot be manufactured. It’s one of those “states” that comes to you, or it doesn’t. That’s one strength, or quality, that I’d die for.
4. Perseverance: Damn, it’s the other one. We’ve heard it so many times, that it’s become a cliche. But not all cliches are outdated. This one will never be. Pamuk writes about it beautifully, in his Nobel acceptance speech (a strong recommendation):
A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words.The writer’s secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience. That lovely Turkish saying – to dig a well with a needle – seems to me to have been said with writers in mind.
5. Erudition: I guess we all love what we don’t have. I love Eco because of the expanse of his medieval scholarship, if one can call it that. Same with Arthur Koestler — not medieval, for sure, but his ability to summon references at will. And it’s not Encyclopedias that they’re writing. They create their own meaning out of it all. That’s what erudition is, to me: the ability to seamlessly weave a thread of meaning from jumble of facts. Pamuk also, again, does that so well with the history of a neglected world, so does Ghosh, in his own way, making connections.
The five are randomly chosen, more or less. Yesterday I might have chosen a few others. Tomorrow, I’m sure I will choose a few different ones. But however random they might be, I’d feel I’ve surpassed myself, if I manage to have these strengths. It’s a long haul, sigh!
And now: time to pass on the meme:
Gaizabonts : feel free to duck this one, too; no obligations, as always.
Anumita : I don’t think you remember me, for I rarely leave comments on your blog, but you make writing look effortless.
Red : Ditto (about the effortless part, I guess you would remember me, or should I have said hope?).
Rajesh : It might look like I’ve forgotten you, but this just might convince you I haven’t.
And then, anyone who wants to pick up the meme, you’re all invited. Just leave a ping/trackback/link to my blog, and increase the traffic here, lol.