Friday, December 31, 2010

Lessons learnt in time

Dear Readers,
I had been thinking about these things for a long time, and even wrote down a couple in my notebook, but I think the New Year's eve is the best time to put it all out there in writing. Some lessons may sound weird, others cliche, but bear with me if you can. I hope at least one or two of them make you think a bit, and that some might be useful in the coming years. I apologize in advance on any 'preachiness' you may encounter.
Here are some things I have learnt:

- Whatever happens, happens for the better. Not ‘best’.

- No matter how hard you try, there are still going to be a multitude of people upset with you for one reason or another. Just keep doing what you do.

- No two people have the same opinions on every matter.

- The story about a man traveling with his son and a donkey through various towns* is absolutely true. Whoever told this story was a genius.

- Also, the person who told the story about the blind men trying to describe an elephant by touch* was an even bigger genius than the previous one.

- Every lie you tell, will eventually find you one of these days in the worst circumstances. Hence, Honesty is always the best policy.

- People change. Not in drastic dramatic ways that make you shake your head in shock...but one slight change every minute of every day. 

- Integrity and sincerity is much more important than being correct or incorrect. If one is incorrect, but is completely sincere and steadfast in his/her belief, then he/she is a better person than someone who changes opinions as times change. The deeper the integrity, the more solid and strong the character of a person.

- It is better to be truly something, through and through: truly good, truly evil, truly sad, and truly crazy, than being halfway through everything.

- Those who have money may ‘have’ more, but those who have sense ‘enjoy’ more.

- Say it as it is. No other time will be provided to you in life, when you can stand and give your detailed speech to an attentive audience.

- The ‘truth’ may be controversial, upsetting and sound plain rude to people,  but speaking the truth and bearing the outcome of disapproval/discomfort is better than agreeing with the falsehoods being circulated in front of you. People may not like it- but at least you will make sure to wake up their conscience a little bit and be ashamed of themselves.

- Books are far better company than people.  But you are the best company you keep. Be interesting for your own sake.  Be more.

- Sadness makes a sensible person better. It makes an insensible git, more of an idiot.

- Being considerate towards other people does not guarantee reward, regard or acknowledgement. Sometimes it is even the gateway for emotional exploitation. Be prepared to bear with it.

- Some people are ‘outcasts’ for a reason. It’s good to be nice to them, but when the attention gets to their head, you should let them know what a favour you were doing in trying to include them in your life. If they get it, good for them. If they don’t, good for you.

- People who often don’t keep their words/promises are not good people. No matter how religious they are, and how sweetly they talk. Actions speak louder than words.

- Be sure to stop and acknowledge those people who made your life even a little bit better. Later on, these few acknowledgements will make you feel better.

- Forgive, but don’t forget your lesson.

- Never be a hypocrite. It will take a lot of effort to haul yourself over to one side of the situation, but do go over to one side. Decisions are almost never gain and gain situations.

- Being related by blood does not guarantee loyalty or companionship. In fact, nothing guarantees it. Unless you keep a pet.

- Apologies may make you sound stupid or desperate, but they cleanse your conscience. What the other person does with it is none of your business. They will pay for their lot.

- People who ‘do’ extra things in their lives, are more intelligent than anyone else.  A ‘one-track’ mind is equal to a ‘dull’ mind. Be interesting!

- Respect those who accept their mistakes. They are great people and few and far between.

- It is the hardest thing to do, but Give. Whatever you can, your time, your words, your emotions, your smiles. What you give, is truly what you have gained, even if it was totally lost on the person at the receiving end.

- There is more to people than their names, where they are from, what they do and their Facebook pages. ‘Know’ people when you have the chance.

- Good must defeat evil. Not in epic battles a la Lord of the Rings, but in real everyday life.  No heroes come and no angels descend to help you. You defeat evil, every time you see it.

- To ‘choose battles wisely’, doesn’t mean to turn a blind eye where it doesn’t concern you. Highlight the conflict, state clearly your stand, and make it obvious that you “choose” not to fight here.

-There is hope for humanity as long as there is hope for you being a better person than you presently are. If you stop now, the hope will diminish.

"For last year's words belong to last year's language, and next year's words await another voice" ~ T.S. Elliot

Hope you enjoy! And to each and every one of you I wish a Happy New Year!

(* famous folk stories told to me by my grandmother. Here is a link for the Donkey's tale, And here is another link about the Blind men and the Elephant told as a poem. )

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The love of God

a special poem by Dante Alighieri

The love of God, unutterable and perfect,
     flows into a pure soul the way that light
     rushes into a transparent object.
The more love that it finds, the more it gives
     itself; so that, as we grow clear and open,
     the more complete the joy of heaven is.
And the more souls who resonate together,
     the greater the intensity of their love,
     and, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other.

Happy Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to be a better writer

Back after a month-long break!
So today, let me share with you an interesting article I 'stumbled upon' (oh yes, I got an account with StumbleUpon recently, been enjoying the stumbling experience). Here is the link: 10 things to do to become a better writer in 10 days Highly recommend reading the linked article before you read further.

Now I admit that sounds like a great article, and it looks great too, but I beg to differ from the writer in this case, most politely. Here's what I have to say about her 'tips':

1- Be a troll for one day, be obnoxious, get into fights online, and later SINCERELY apologize to each person.

I mean... really? Being a troll is certainly fun (I make sure to exercise my trolling capacity regularly, especially for dumb Y!Answers) but writing "I'm sorry guys, I was just practicing being a writer who gets bashed by the publisher..." will certainly make one sound a bit- balmy. Also, getting into fights online (esp. YouTube) will not improve your chances at being a writer. What it will improve is your expletive vocabulary with time.
And, go talk to somebody you have hurt? What if that somebody slams the door shut in your face? Is that insult enough to start thinking about being a writer? I hope so, you know. And no, I haven't destroyed my reputation with those who love me the most, or those I love the most. And I don't think writers destroy their reputation before attempting to get published.

2- Spend one whole day being silent.

 Hmm, I can imagine how that day will go... at most one can collect 5 embarrassing moments from such a day (when you are mumbling, pointing at things and looking ridiculous) to use in your next novel. Instead, I'd advise writers to be silent and observe, yes that's the keyword right there "observe". And don't take a silence vow... just be more attentive to your surroundings, be relaxed and you'd naturally learn to observe things in more detail.
Telling a beginner (in writing) that you have nothing important to say kind of defeats the purpose. Writers write because they have something to say.

3- Spend one day as a student of reality.

Every day is reality, if you wake up sane enough. So cut down on those drinks and weed... But I agree, taking a notebook and noting down the little things adds flavour and colour to a description. It also hones one's power for imagining details when you have to make them up yourself. Drunk Kitteh would make a really bad albeit entertaining story-teller. Meow.

4- Spend one day with the lyrics of your favourite songs. Take the lyrics, and annotate them with random bits of descriptions you see around you as you listen to the song.

Um, why? It will teach me 'sub-texts'. Not necessarily. If I follow the said example, and I'm listening to .. say Green Day's Wake me up when September ends... and I see a guy slip and fall on the ice outside, how does that give me sub-text? Or, when my aunt's talking on the phone and deciding which day would be the best for the Plumber to come and check our kitchen sink... does that link at all with the song? And finally, I hate ginger... and that's what I kind of smell sitting in the kitchen, listening to '...bring out the bells again.... like we did when spring began....' does that even make sense? no... i think the ginger stink is getting to me.

5- Spend one day writing and re-writing a scene. From different angles, with the same characters, over and over again. Like do this please ok? Other wise you can't get out of this dismal detention. No, writing doesn't have to be a chore, it doesn't have to be so well-thought out, so well-measured, so perfectly laid-out like a chess board. Writing can be as quirky, fun, and biased as you want it to be. It can be as crazy as you are, because when you write, you pour a part of yourself onto the ink and paper. If writing for you is this much hard-work, maybe you are too artificial to actually be a writer.

6- Spend one day on research.

 Yes, I agree. Not just one day. Every day! To be the best writer you can be, you have to be a better reader first. Read read and read. Only that will teach you how to write. And researching articles and jamming up random info in one day will not help. Your normal common sense, and day to day knowledge that you acquire will give you the fuel to write. And writing an essay proving yourself wrong? have too much time on your hands? The power of Einstein's Tongue compels you!

7- Spend one day watching children.

Ahm... how about remembering your own self as a child? I find that the most inspiring of all things. Childhood is 'wonder' personified, not confusion. What is the author of this article thinking? Children are confused? No way... they're having the time of their lives! and just to remind the readers, children are actually the best story-tellers out there.

8- Spend one day crying.

 My God, this article is getting from bad to worse. Yeah, imagine Jane Austen crying her heart out over all her sewing things in the parlour, or J.K. Rowling bawling at a cafe on a snowy evening. But to see Charles Dickens howling before the pen and paper, or Tolkien sobbing away in his library as a writer's ritual is absolutely hilarious... maybe I should write about that.
Oh, and go out and punch a tree, and feel sorry for yourself. I think the only author who might actually do this is Stephanie Meyer. This punching a tree and crying will make you a highly courageous being, who can conquer any fiction/non-fiction nonsense in a matter of minutes, making Scholastic and Barnes-Noble bow down before you... All Hail! the tree-punching sobbing idiot!
Not impressed? the author of the article reminds us at this point, that we'd better find a job instead. It sounds.... Ironic.

9- Spend one day laughing at everything.

At the end of the day, make your family shake their head and talk about all the weird drugs you may be on. Better still, wear your slimiest hairstyle, don't wash your face, and walk out the door in your old sneakers. Point and laugh at everything. Gather leaves in a plastic bag and run after cars on the street. When the police finally get you, admit to being practicing a new technique to improve your writing skills. Finish your novel in jail or a mental institution (the most notorious environments for producing great works of art). Good Luck!

10- Spend one whole day being grateful.

If you haven't followed the author's tips, and are still confident of your writing abilities, be grateful. If you followed the 10 day crash course, and have survived the final crash... be grateful. If you're out of jail/mental institution, be grateful. My last piece of advice is NOT go up to people you love and talk to them about being glad of candles and nail clippers. Remember, you were supposed to be grateful for being out of psychiatric care.
Put your hand to your head and say... I still have a brain there somewhere, and a bit of common sense. I will tell the world anything and everything, true or untrue, reality or fantasy, my dreams or their dreams... I will tell it all, unformatted, un-measured, unedited - just as mad, crazy and confused as I want it to.

P.S. Since I've only known the 90's and 2000's, the 70's underwear reference is obsolete. Thanks.