Archive for the ‘On Writing’ Category
I express my deepest, most intense feelings through my poetry. More than me writing poems, they get written. What’s more, once feelings are expressed in poems, they are there forever. Since they have been written down, they transcend time.We read so many poems that were written centuries ago by poets who are long dead. Yet, the feelings expressed in those poems are alive. For instance, even today, when I read “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth, I get transported into a different world, living close to nature, and experiencing bliss. What Wordsworth felt when he wrote that poem, I feel today. And so do millions of others who read it. Somehow, poetry captures feelings and freezes them in time. It would not be wrong to say then, that poetry is the immortalisation of feelings.
© Manoj Khatri
A couple of days ago, I picked up this book, for no rhyme or reason, and then finished reading it over the next 48 hours. No matter how absurd it seems, time and again I have discovered that books end up being read only when the time is right.
Although I had a copy for more than a year or so, I kept putting off reading The Zahir by Paulo Coelho because I had heard mixed reactions to it. Some said it was very boring, some said it was good. But no one spoke about it in superlative terms. I should’ve known better. Because when I went by other people’s “high” opinions, and read The Alchemist by the same author, I was disappointed. Yet when I read his Veronica Decides to Die, which no one ever mentioned in the same vein as The Alchemist, I was thrilled. I thought it was a fantastic book and only an extremely sensitive person could’ve written a story like that. The Zahir too has some brilliant moments, some “a-ha!” ideas .
The way Coelho has narrated The Zahir, it appears to be his own real account. The protagonist, the narrator of the story, is a writer whose life and history is pretty much like Coelho’s own.
The Zahir is a good story. I found many flaws in the book— sketchy characters, fluctuating pace, often ambiguous dialogues, narcissism—but in spite of these, I loved it. Set partly in Paris and partly in Kazakhstan, the story is about the complexities of relationships.
The narrator is a writer who writes on spirituality (there is an indirect reference to The Alchemist too) and is expected by the world to have mastered human frailties. Yet, he succumbs to them all the time. I could relate to his humanness, his continuous struggle to be a better person, and his enormous capacity to love.
The character I loved the most is that of Esther, the narrator’s wife, who loves him so much and yet leaves him quite suddenly. I liked her attitude. I liked how she did everything she could to make him what he is…I liked her selflessness and unconditional love. And yet paradoxically, she leaves him because she wants to save her relationship with him—the man she loves so much. She leaves him in search of true happiness. She leaves him to find herself. And as she leaves, she becomes the narrator’s Zahir—an object of obsession. We learn about Esther only from the lens of narrator’s memories, because the story begins after she leaves him.
I don’t agree with many of the narrator’s (Coelho’s?) life values, but I like his candidness, his humility and also at times his arrogance. He comes across as unpretentious, even if a bit stuck-up in his celebrity status.
If you’re looking for a literary masterpiece, skip The Zahir. However, if you’re ready for some serious soul searching about relationships, you’ll find plenty of substance. It’s definitely worth a read.
© Manoj Khatri
Words are absent
Doubts are present
Pages remain blank
Feelings play a prank
Mind is confused
Actions are refused
Soul’s lost its voice
Left with no choice
Life seems locked
I’m positively blocked!
~© Manoj Khatri~
A writer’s job is to communicate. No matter how impressive your sentence construction, how technically correct the grammar or how powerful the vocabulary, so long as the idea remains ambiguous to the reader, the writer has failed.
Too many writers forget this basic statute of writing: that idea alone is the hero of a written draft. If the presence of the author is felt while reading, the reader tends to get distracted and loses focus. The author should be inconspicuous. The paradox is that the final impact of a well-written article often leads to an “a-ha!” reaction from the reader, who will want to know about the author.
If the intention is to confuse/mislead the reader, then by all means write like that. But, if you wish that your writings be read and understood, then it follows that you write only to communicate…resist the temptation of blending with the article/story.
Scott Adams’s is one blog I love reading. One reason for that is his style of writing. He writes to communicate. His words are delivered straight to the part of brain that can process humour…I call them “funny corners”. In his latest post, he shares some writing tips…every single tip is simple, yet powerful. If you wish to improve your writing, follow them.
Divine Frenzy. I love the expression. It’s what my friend and colleague says is at the core of my poetry. I believe him. I think nothing else explains the flow of verses out of me. It would be correct to say that I don’t write my poems, they are written. A few times, a poem has flowed out of me when I am half asleep, the urge to express being so strong that I couldn’t resist.
Apparently, it was Plato who first coined the term Divine Frenzy. According to Plato, poetry springs from divine frenzy, frenzy from the Muses, and the Muses from Jove, who is soul of the whole universe. Jove inwardly nourishes heaven and earth, the moving seas, the moon’s shining orb, the stars and sun. [Reference: Marsilio Ficino’s letter to Peregrino Agli; The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, Volume 1, © 1975]
If divine frenzy is indeed what I experience, then I am blessed because what I write flows through me, not from me. The universal force is expressing itself via me. Oh! how wonderful I feel being an avenue of universal thought and feeling.
The Exclamation Mark! Comes up these days at the slightest provocation… as if our life is full of surprises and shockers. As an editor, I find many drafts that are full of exclamations. What surprises me though is how such drafts find their way in well-known publications — unedited. Every editor worth is salt ought to know that exclamations are to be used sparingly.
Take for instance, Bombay Times [BT], the metro supplement of The Times of India Mumbai. In BT, exclamations are used indiscriminately. Out of every three snippets, two end in an exclamation. On occasion, all snippets/stories on a page end with an exclamation —with a liberal sprinkling of a few more throughout the copy. Almost all their exclamations seem forced…almost narcissistic, stinking of self importance. It’s like whatever gossip Bombay Times publishes is important and ought to be emphasised. This kind of prose sounds weak and speaks volumes about the writer’s confidence.
As for writers who exclaim too often, they forget that by doing so, they are defeating the very purpose of an exclamation. An exclamation is used when something must be emphasised, or when surprise has to be expressed. It’s like shouting out something so that when you exclaim something, other people will look up. By using too many exclamations, your prose becomes loud — it’s yelling, shrieking, and shouting — needlessly. It’s chaotic.
I recently read a piece in The Economic Times [ET] in a guest column titled, “My First Million”, where Harish Bijoor shared how he made his first million [Read it here]. This otherwise lovely piece (which I enjoyed reading tremendously) has as many as seven exclamations. Oh Boy! Now that merits an exclamation.
When I was consulting editor of Strategic Marketing, I would invite Bijoor to contribute often because he has some fresh perspectives to offer. I remember carefully weeding out every unwarranted exclamation mark. Like most management experts, he’s probably not a trained writer and therefore we cannot expect him to know the nuances of effective writing. His job is to share his experience, knowledge and insight, which he does admirably. It is the job of the editorial team to tighten the text. I don’t know how many exclamations existed in the original draft of the article I have referred to…but the final draft could have done without a few of them.
Exclamations work wonders, when used appropriately and sparingly — to highlight a strong emotion or feeling, which is its purpose. Used arbitrarily, they reduce, instead of increasing, the effect of the language. When reading a text full of exclamations, the reader is likely to stop taking the writer seriously because he gets the impression that the writers finds everything worth shouting about and so nothing is worth serious attention.