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Love what you write

Love what you write

"Do you think I will be able to write like Murakami?" 

My friend Z said this to me. I've known her for a while; both of us with the shared love for words and books. She's writing her debut book and rued, "I don't write like the authors I like to read. I'm not a Jhumpa Lahiri, Murakami or anyone of the literary bigwigs I admire. I'm so ordinary. 

Then there's Y. Warm, vibrant, cheerful and with natural flair for words; it's a pleasure to meet her. So Y is almost done with her debut book and a publisher has shown interest in it. I asked her to tell me more about her debut book. 

Pat comes the reply. Oh! It's nothing serious. You know, just casual…you know…ordinary stuff… her voice trailed, shrugging her shoulders looking almost apologetic. I resisted the urge to box her ears but took a deep breath and dragged her to the far corner of the room. 

My lecture to both friends was long and sharp. 

Don't ever do that. Don't ever minimize your book. Don't ever call your book ordinary. 

What you write is what you create and that can never be ordinary. It's your story, your words and imagination. Don't trivialize them. Yes, there are these literary giants who are awe-inspiring and intimidating with their virtuoso, with their flair. And may be what we write is ordinary in comparison but ordinary isn't something to be ashamed to. Every story is beautiful and precious because it has come out of a human mind. 

Recently I read two articles which further cemented my thoughts on this. 

First is by Michael Lewis – New York Times bestselling author of multiple books of nonfiction, including Moneyball and many others. He offered this sage advice on writing and storytelling. 

Have the nerve to be yourself—you can't learn voice. 

'You can't be someone else. The goal is to be the best you. Stop reading [other writers'] stuff, and comparing it, because it's going to be different anyway, right? Having the nerve to be yourself is very valuable. Even if you don't naturally have a strong literary voice, try not to sound like someone else.' 

The second is an article by Cara Sue Achterberg on Twitter: http://booksbywomen.org/write-the-story-you-know/ 

A writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA, Cara has three bestsellers to her name. She says: 
'It's taken me over a dozen years to realize that good writing doesn't need to be impressive or use big words or have deep metaphors and heavy hidden symbolism. It doesn't need to be 'literary' or follow the format of a particular genre. It simply needs to tell an honest story. A story from the heart. My fiction writing stumbled along for years because I was trying to write like John Irving or Anne Patchett. But I'm not John Irving or Anne Patchett. I don't have their experiences or education. When I finally just started letting my heart pour out on the page and didn't worry about a stranger's judgment or a friend's shock, my stories came to life. They were fun to write and escaping into them became my favorite part of the day.' 

This is so true. Yes! There are literary bigwigs that we admire and gush about. Idolize them, go crazy about them but don't make the mistake of imitating them. Nobody is interested in reading an imitation of Murakami & others. Cara further adds, 'More than the definition of the hero's arc or how to write a query letter, teach yourself to write from your heart. Be brave and don't let anyone – including yourself – stand in your way. Pour it all out there and follow the stories where they take you. Write your passion. Write what you know. Write your story.' 

I couldn't agree more with the above words. Be brave and don't let anyone – including yourself – stand in way. Write with your heart. From your heart. Let it gush out. 

I've written all my life; for publications and companies. I've nursed the dream of penning a book for years. The question that bothered me most wasn't when would I write my first book; it was what will I write. As a freelance writer I spun yarns for companies and their products but fiction eluded me. There was no story buzzing in my head, no seed that was gradually germinating. And then in 2014, in just 7 months I had the first draft ready. People have laughed, even smirked when I said this: the story chooses the writer and the time it wants to be written. Every story has its Destiny. When you write, just write the best you can. Tell the story that you'd want to read. 

Don't think about what publishers want or prefer. What sells and what will make a bestseller. Just write. That's what I did. Some people told me that a marital drama will never sell. That only young college romances sell. I turned a deaf ear. I wrote the story that I wanted to tell. 

When you do listen to the voice inside you, often a quiet murmur; it can never be ordinary. You aren't ordinary, neither is your story. I told both Y & Z the same. 

Write what you love and love what you write.

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Comments 9

Guest - Anupama Jain on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 05:02

Thanq so much for this dear Kanchana

Thanq so much for this dear Kanchana
Neil on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 05:06

Loved your post for the two profound points it made - (1) Authors should not minimize their own efforts in writing a book and (2) Authors should not imitate other's voices.

I wholly agree that this is what is mostly wrong with the general lit world around us. Many are too busy copying others, and even taking their advice verbatim (the almost fastidious adherence to Stephen King's 'show versus tell' is a prime example) that they are not following their own voice. Well, if an author can tell better than they can show, they must, I say! If they want to write adverbs, they should! It's all about being different from others, about finding one's own voice.

To add to your first point, I'd like to say there's the opposite end of the spectrum too. Authors who are superly overconfident about their works. This is a blinding fallacy too, and the sooner authors become more practical about their work, the better.

Loved your post for the two profound points it made - (1) Authors should not minimize their own efforts in writing a book and (2) Authors should not imitate other's voices. I wholly agree that this is what is mostly wrong with the general lit world around us. Many are too busy copying others, and even taking their advice verbatim (the almost fastidious adherence to Stephen King's 'show versus tell' is a prime example) that they are not following their own voice. Well, if an author can tell better than they can show, they must, I say! If they want to write adverbs, they should! It's all about being different from others, about finding one's own voice. To add to your first point, I'd like to say there's the opposite end of the spectrum too. Authors who are superly overconfident about their works. This is a blinding fallacy too, and the sooner authors become more practical about their work, the better.
Guest - Anindya Sundar Basu on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 05:33

SO so so so true. In my won small little humble way I try to do this in my blog. I write what I feel like writing . Sharing this wright away

SO so so so true. In my won small little humble way I try to do this in my blog. I write what I feel like writing . Sharing this wright away
Guest - Sia Mitra on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 05:59

Good Post Kanchana. It bucked me up immensely. Yes , we do tend to be deprecating towards our efforts.

Good Post Kanchana. It bucked me up immensely. Yes , we do tend to be deprecating towards our efforts.
Kasturi Patra on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 06:29

Dear Kanchana, this seemed to b e the post that might have been unconsciously looking for, over the past few days. I love to write but tend to feel disappointed at not being able to write as brilliantly as my favourite authors. This is what I really needed to hear as I'm (fearfully) trying to tread the path of novel writing. Thank you so much for the article.
Regards,
Kasturi

Dear Kanchana, this seemed to b e the post that might have been unconsciously looking for, over the past few days. I love to write but tend to feel disappointed at not being able to write as brilliantly as my favourite authors. This is what I really needed to hear as I'm (fearfully) trying to tread the path of novel writing. Thank you so much for the article. Regards, Kasturi
Guest - C. V. Lakshmi on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 11:41

It felt so good to see this thought put into words! It is a nice little shake-me-up! Anyone who writes knows the abyss of self-doubt that one can fall into. Thank you for thinking of this and sharing it.!

It felt so good to see this thought put into words! It is a nice little shake-me-up! Anyone who writes knows the abyss of self-doubt that one can fall into. Thank you for thinking of this and sharing it.!
Guest - Sid on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 14:38

Perfect advise, Kanchana. And you have articulated it so well too.
Self-doubt is a definite killer, and is a detractor we can do without!

Thank you for this!

Perfect advise, Kanchana. And you have articulated it so well too. Self-doubt is a definite killer, and is a detractor we can do without! Thank you for this!
Guest - Archana on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 19:44

Hi Kanchana,
Honestly....just what I wanted to hear from a person as yourself. I have been wanting to write for so long and people dear to me have that faith in me but I have been fearing dissapointment. You are going to be a motivation for a lot of budding writers. Thank you.

Hi Kanchana, Honestly....just what I wanted to hear from a person as yourself. I have been wanting to write for so long and people dear to me have that faith in me but I have been fearing dissapointment. You are going to be a motivation for a lot of budding writers. Thank you.
Guest - Kamalini on Thursday, 12 January 2017 12:31

Well written Kanchana, as always. Here i am fighting doubts everyday, but am getting on with it. It's true that it's taken me forever to shed self-flagellation and literally get on with it. It's taken me far too long, but here i am. You write from the heart too, and i can almost hear you tell me this- Kam, what're you up to, go on, you've got it in you, don't tell anyone tell you otherwise. Thanks!

Well written Kanchana, as always. Here i am fighting doubts everyday, but am getting on with it. It's true that it's taken me forever to shed self-flagellation and literally get on with it. It's taken me far too long, but here i am. You write from the heart too, and i can almost hear you tell me this- Kam, what're you up to, go on, you've got it in you, don't tell anyone tell you otherwise. Thanks!
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