Should a Book Stab You, Or Make You Happy?

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”

— Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka and Books that Stab you

I read this quote today on Goodreads, and began discussing it with a few friends on Facebook. Opinions veered on one side or the other.

Personally, I think there will always be those who read to be provoked into thought, and those who read to escape. Both are equally valid reasons for reading, in my opinion, and I alternate between the two.

When it comes to my own writing, however, I aspire to Kafka’s recommended genre. I would die happy if  I could write books “that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

What sort of book would You rather read? Why? And if you’re a writer, what sort of book would you rather write?

Positive Thoughts on a Sunday Morning

Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.

Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.

Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.

Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.

Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

A Chocolate-free Childhood

What is your Chocolate?

What is your Chocolate?

Taking part in the What’s Your Chocolate Blogfest today.

A frivolous topic, but not so frivolous when I take into account that it is my favorite writing food. Here’s the requirement: Post about your favorite chocolate – what it means to you, where and when you indulge, a favorite memory – anything chocolate-related.

As a child I wasn’t allowed any chocolate– it was banned on account of prevalent sentiments in the household that chocolates meant rotten teeth.

The only chocolates I ever ate were gifts, Cadbury’s milk chocolate from a friend of the family, my favourite Uncle, the one who always showed up with chocolate for the kids, who gave me the same chocolate as part of my wedding gift.

I now eat dark chocolate, no sugar added (need to watch my weight), when I write a particularly cheerless bit– (which is a lot in my current #WIP).

But I still miss those small bars of Cadbury’s milk chocolate, the ones that added sweetness to a childhood that was in dire need of it.

So what is your favorite chocolate, and chocolate memory?

I’m Not Scared of My Novel

Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writers Support Group every month. Go to his blog to see the other participants, and understand what the group is all about (well, we writers basically get together and support each other through our posts and comments).

Here’s my post for the support group:

For the last week, I’ve written zero words on my #WIP. Zip.Nada. Zilch.

Yesterday, I wrote about a 100 words.  After a whole day of showing up at the page, mind you.

I know what happens next, so that’s not the issue. I know the characters, so that’s not the issue either.

Or maybe that’s where the problem lies—I know what my characters are about to do next.

A to Z Stories of Life and Death

A to Z Stories of Life and Death

I know I now have to write about the sort of thing that would make me extremely squeamish and horrified in real life– and my way of writing is to be it, be the character and write what comes—and at this point in the novel, I’m terrified to be the character. I can be that character for the span of a flash fiction (those who have read A to Z Stories of Life and Death would know what I’m talking about), not a novel– but the problem is I’ve now signed up for it– and I’ll have to go through it.

And I’ve got confirmation from very good quarters (Anton Chekov, no less) that it is the right thing to do:

the writer is not a pastry chef, he is not a cosmetician and not an entertainer. He is a man bound by contract to his sense of duty and to his conscience. Once he undertakes this task, it is too late for excuses, and no matter how horrified, he must do battle with his squeamishness and sully his imagination with the grime of life. He is just like any ordinary reporter. What would you say if a newspaper reporter as a result of squeamishness or a desire to please his readers were to limit his descriptions to honest city fathers, high-minded ladies, and virtuous railroadmen? To a chemist there is nothing impure on earth. The writer should be just as objective as the chemist; he should liberate himself from everyday subjectivity and acknowledge that manure piles play a highly respectable role in the landscape and that evil passions are every bit as much a part of life as good ones.

Wish me luck, people.

What Do You Do When You Feel a Rant Coming?

I’ve come across quite a few blogs where the owners tell us a story from a day in their life. Most of the time, it is about how miserable they are, how life sucks, how folks upset them.
I understand the need to vent, but something tells me that venting in public, and often, may just be detrimental– we’re sending out angst and negativity to the world in general– is that the sort of energy we would like to receive?

Yes, the ranters get sympathy, ‘get well soon’, and ‘feel better’, ‘hope it works out’ — and that helps soothe ruffled feathers. But for how long?

I myself have ranted, a rare once in a while, but nowadays, even when I feel like ranting, I tend to think twice.

What am I ranting about? Is there something I can do to mend the situation? If it is out of my control, will ranting help? Most of the times, I find that my rant dissipates if I give it time.I find I’d rather watch my aquarium fish instead.

Here’s a video of my old aquarium:

Reminds me I have to make videos of my new ones.

Long story short, that’s all it takes to distract the moneky-brain. Find something that soothes you and your rant need not appear in print at all.

What do you do when you feel a rant coming?