Are you part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? #IWSG #amwriting


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group every month! Go to the site to see the other participants.

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Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

I had dropped out of this group, because I could never remember to post on the right dates, and was on hiatus for a while– but so many of my blog-friends are on it, I have always read the IWSG posts.

The premise of the group is simple– we writers can be an insecure bunch, we need all the support we can get and who best to support us than our fellow-writers?

The avowed purpose is:

To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

I’ve signed on again, and have scheduled drafts for the rest of 2015, so I don’t forget. If you’re a writer, I strongly encourage you to join this group, as well as their Facebook page.

You’ll find all kinds of advice ( they even have a free book of excellent advice), commiseration, encouragement, and you’ll make some excellent friends! Alex, the founder of this group, has been a good blogging friend for years– and being the Ninja Cap’n, he knows a ton about writing, blogging, bloggers who write, and writers who blog.

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Not a writer, but know someone who is? Are they insecure about their writing? If you’re a writer, do you feel the need for a safe place to vent, recuperate, seek advice? Are you part of the  Insecure Writers’ Support Group? If yes, what has been your best experience about this group and why would you recommend it? (I really would like to hear from those whom Insecure Writers’ Support Group has helped over the years!

In the spirit of bonding with writers, here’s another event you could take part in: involves posting an excerpt from your work, or from a book you’ve read: the Spectacular Settings Challenge.

If you haven’t yet joined the Damyanti at Daily write Facebook page, please do. Hope to see you there to join in the fun!

#Blogging Question: Do You Drop Your Blog Links in Your Comments?


Donatella Versace Sunday Morning thoughts

Do You respond to all comments?

The Cherished Blogfest wrapped up last weekend, and I now feel a little lost.

I renewed lots of friendships, and made a few new friends despite not doing such a great job of the challenge myself. Finally wrapped up visiting all blogs on Monday, and who knows, I may have missed a few. I’ll be combing through the linky list again– it shall remain live for the next few months.

I did feel annoyed with something though: a lot of bloggers decided to leave their post links in my Cherished post comment thread.

Bloggers do this often, and I delete the links while making the following exceptions:

1. The link takes me somewhere relevant to my post, or the ensuing discussion (I’m ok with including links to posts the commenter has made on the same topic– but not during a blogfest– everyone’s posting on the same topic.)

2. The bloggers’ gravatars don’t lead to their blogs, and the only way to visit them is to click on the link. This is fine, I think– it lets us connect across blogging platforms.

I look at it this way: if a gravatar links back to a blogger, that second link is not necessary. If everyone has just one link to their blog in my comment thread, why should certain bloggers have more, just because they decided to add another link?

I don’t care if a link takes a reader away from my blog, as long as the link is relevant to the discussion (see pt 1 above). I’m not into blogging for the hits– more of a fan of chats and friendships.

Don’t like the idea of some commenters snagging that extra link to their blogs, that’s it. The link doesn’t offend me, I just delete it as a matter of principle: all visitors to this space shall be treated equal.

Another thing. I’ve spoken about this before: I DO NOT like Blog Awards. Not Versatile, Not Liebster, not Inspirational or Creative or what-have-you. I find them a waste of time: something like chain mail, only on blogs. I still receive 2-3 awards a month, and this despite my No Award Acceptance policy on this blog. I delete all award links.

Do you think my deletion of links too harsh? Should I let them be? I’ve asked for opinions on my blog comments policy ( and now I try to respond to comments, though I don’t always get to all of them) and the no award acceptance policy (which most of my audience seemed to agree with). Now I need to hear your opinion on links in comments.

What do You do on your blog? Do you feel offended if a blogger leaves links in your comments section? Do you delete links– which ones? Do you have commenting tips for me? Do you leave links at blogs you comment on? What do you have in mind when you do so?

 

What is your #Cherished Object? #Blogfest #blogging


At Daily (w)rite, I stick to discussions, opinion, travel, writing.

While I’m always myself, it is a redacted my-self on this blog. But in the interests of remaining honest, I have to step into a new territory today. The personal.

This is because a month back, I suggested and got involved with hosting the Cherished Blogfest: along with Dan Antion , Paul Ruddock, Peter Nena, Sharukh Bamboat, I invite you to talk about an object you cherish, and why. I tried to talk about other things, but the object that surfaced and wouldn’t be denied, is here now. As a writer, I’m used to being vulnerable, but I can always hide behind the guise of fiction. No such curtains in this post.

It is a photograph. Very simple, and as photographs go, not well-framed. It shows me and a bunch of schoolmates, back when I was fourteen or fifteen, maybe younger. That girl with those two ridiculous pigtails, in a blue sweater, scarf tied around her neck, is me.

Memories on a Sunday Morning

Cherished Object: Memories

But what makes me cherish the photo, despite the bad lighting, despite forgetting the names of some of the girls, losing touch with others (which gives me a pang sometimes), is the girl who sits right beside me.

We’ll call her D, this smiling girl, her white collar uniform shirt buttoned high, one of my two best friends from my schooldays. We sat on the same bench each year of school, shared our food, notes, jokes, secrets, lives.

A few years after this photograph was taken, after I’d finished college and joined an institute, I went home for the summer and discovered why D hadn’t answered my letters, the birthday cards, in a while. This was a time in India when we still didn’t carry cellphones, when long distance calls remained out of reach for a penniless student. Letters were still relevant.

D never wrote long letters, how are you, I’m doing well, school’s good. She was studying to be a doctor. I tossed all her letters, but I liked receiving them, and knowing she was well. I was going to meet her that summer, like all the summers before.

She had strangled herself, just taken a long cloth and swung it from the ceiling fan, when her parents were out for a dinner. She’d sent her little brother out on an errand. She’d known I wasn’t around, had gone and met my parents and chatted with them over tea and snacks, a week before she killed herself. My parents didn’t have the courage to tell me when I was far from home.

Decades later, I don’t have her letters, or the cards she made me for my birthday or new year. Youth is so careless. Everything seems like it would last forever: friendships, lives, happiness.

This photograph is the only one I have of her in an informal setting, at a school picnic one random winter at some dam or park or resort. This snapshot,  with the containers of food our moms had lovingly packed, a teacher, the girls, some of whom remain friends on Facebook, some I’ve lost touch with, and D.

Stupid D, who always topped the class, the school, the brightest of us lot, who couldn’t take the insult of being failed by a teacher for the first time at medical school, stupid, stupid girl, young, too young and clueless–who thought grades mattered enough to end her life–and change the lives of so many: her parents, her friends, everyone who knew her.

I’ve stared at this photo in the past years, and imagined her growing up, growing older, falling in love, getting married, becoming a mother.

But there she sits, a teenager on a sunny afternoon, surrounded by classmates, ‘tiffins’ full of food, steel dinner plates (in the days before the scourge of plastic and thermocol), a skinny street dog behind her (photobomb, right there) and that confident half-smirk-smile she always wore. And there I am, by her side, unknowing that one day, this photograph would be all I’d have of her, as I sit at my table, writing.

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Cherished Blogfest

Cherished Blogfest

Are you taking part in the Cherished Blogfest? If you are, this weekend (24-26 July) please post about your cherished object, and visit others on this LINKY LIST. Share on all social media with the hashtag #CHERISHED. If you haven’t signed up yet, you still can, the linky list is open for two more days. What is an object you cherish? What sort of memories does it bring back? Would you like to write about this object?

If you’re reading this, do not have a blog, and want to join the discussion on short stories, head over to Daily (w)rite’s Facebook page!

Ever take Cues from Your Subconscious?


Hakone Open Air Museum

The Subconscious and You

My best writing comes to me when I’m not planning it.

The other times, I’m working at the craft, practicing my scales so that when the music happens I’m there to witness and record it as best as I can. Sometimes I don’t do well at the first attempt and my subconscious keeps throwing it at me till I get it right. A lot of my writing is built around similar themes– don’t quite know what they are yet, only that when the raw inner voice comes out and plays, my stories seem preoccupied with similar things.

It is as if I’m the chimpanzee being taught a puzzle in a lab. The humans at the other end are trying to stretch my capabilities, and measuring them, while at it.

This is easy to make peace with when I’m writing flash fiction. I’m reasonably confident these days of churning out five to six a week. Two or three of those might even be good.

Trouble appears when I write a longer piece– it is as if I’m a novice singer, running out of breath when belting out an aria. Some of them begin well, then falter, and take a dozen drafts to catch the high notes I want to hit, or rumble into those base notes I don’t want to lose.

Between passes at that story, days or weeks or months might pass, and there I am again, and the story might just hold together without crashing — like a house of multicolored cards held up in air just so. You see the masters doing it all the time, juggling so many cards in air and making such brilliant villas, mansions, palaces. It’s magic. I’m happy when I can hold together the bare bones of a hut, just so long as it stays in air, without bleeding color or losing balance.

The novel. The novel is a different beast– with it I feel like a dog in front of a mirror. I don’t know what I see, only that I see it. And I’m yet to see a dog juggle.

So many mixed metaphors in this post– but it reflects exactly how I feel these days trying to enter into my novel to begin on the third draft. This palace might crumble before it stands up– but at least I’m learning the art of juggling the bricks to keep the damn building floating in air. And it looks like I’m not alone– other writers compare writing to juggling as well:

“I always imagine it like a whole load of plates spinning, and you’ve got the plan, the research and the plot, and you’ve got to kind of keep them spinning and constantly moving between one and the other.”

The complete article about writing and the subconscious, here.

Who knows, maybe I’m meant only to write at shorter lengths. Not that that is easier to do (well).

I have to discover whether I’m meant for longer stories. The real bitch of it? The only road to discovery lies in writing at greater length.

What about you? What role does the subconscious play in your life, as a writer, reader, artist, gardener, mason, engineer, or whatever it is that you do? Do you ever take cues from your subconscious?

 

#IWSG: What if you need to hibernate?


Blogging tips

Blogging during Hibernation

This new year’s eve, I fell asleep before midnight.

Of course, I’m aging. But more than aging, I’m hibernating.

Since Christmas, I’m doing a complete rewrite of my MS, and I aim to get it done by the 31st January. So I’m not really responding to messages, making  (or receiving) calls. Not blogging (much) either: I click Likes still, when I sometimes read posts during writing breaks, but not many comments.

It’s like I need to stay in the world of my MS to bang out about 2 to 2.5 k words a day: and it’s like meditation, if you’ve ever watched a hen incubate an egg with those faraway, lost look in her eyes, you’ll know what I look like these days. Pretty darn unattractive. You’ll find me on Twitter: @damyantig : I’m a sucker for  #wordsprint ever since I started this binge, and #1k1hr .

But this morning my calendar told me today is the 7th Birthday of this Blog. If I ignore that too, I’d be a bit of an asshat.

So I’m peeping up to say HI to everyone, to wish everyone a good new year ahead. And I’d be an even bigger asshat if I didn’t say THANKYOU to all the readers and commenters of my blog. And didn’t say SORRY for disappearing (pretty much) from the blogiverse for the last few weeks.

So Thankyou for being my friends, and Sorry about disappearing.

I also re-added myself to the Insecure Writers Support Group, cos let’s face it, right about now, in this temporary break from my fictive dream, I do feel a little Insecure. What if everyone forgets I exist? What if this blog becomes a forest of *crickets*?

From within the world of my novel, these seem like pretty trivial concerns. (That’s because they are, Damyanti– the world has gone through tragedies too many and too diverse to name in 2014– and you’re worried about your blog? #firstworldproblems #sigh)

But as ever, I need your advice: What do you do when you need to hibernate? Is it terrible that I want to take this month off to finish my MS? I know I can’t, I’ve made commitments, but what if I could? Have you ever taken a hiatus from your blog? Taken a hiatus in January? Thoughts on Hibernation? Hit me with them!

Do You Wait Till Things Get #Interesting ?


I’m not big on Author Fan pages on Facebook, don’t have one myself (haven’t written anything worth a page. So far, anyway). But I ‘Liked’ Elizabeth Gilbert’s page at random and haven’t regretted it.

Writing about interesting things

When things get Interesting

Yesterday, I saw a post on her page I want to share with everyone (who hasn’t seen it yet, cos she has a gazillion followers):

Somebody asked me the other day if writing was easy for me.

When I hesitated with my answer, they asked, “I mean…has it gotten easier over time, as you’ve gotten better at it?”

And still I hesitated with my answer. Because the truth is, I’ve never asked my work to be “easy”; I just want it to be interesting.

(By which I mean — I want my writing to be interesting for ME. If, as a side effect, my work eventually becomes interesting to you, that’s awesome. But mostly, I am just trying to interest and educate and occupy and challenge and delight myself.)

Often writing is indeed quite difficult for me. But I’m not sure that’s the point, and I know it’s definitely not a problem, because all the really interesting things in life are difficult — love, wisdom, growth, compassion, learning, travel, loyalty, courage, endurance, transformation…

The post goes on, and if you’re on Facebook, I encourage you to go read it, whether you’re a writer or not.

In my writing and in life, I’ve often found that I have to keep going, even when (especially when) I reach a breaking point. Be it writing, swimming, household chores, hiking, research– the best part is after you climb that one seemingly insurmountable hill– the other side’s where that gorgeous sunrise is at, or that wonderful dizzy feeling of making your 10th lap (I learned swimming two years ago, so), or that shiny house or that nugget of information. In writing, especially, every time I’ve pushed harder to a more painful place, or to a higher word count, I have found something worth keeping.

Because stories come to me– I don’t make them up. On days when they don’t come, I wait and I work, till they do. So, as Ms. Gilbert says:

Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking — be careful not to quit too soon. Don’t quit the moment it stops being easy, OK? Because that moment? If you stay in it and then stubbornly push past your fear and resistance? That’s the moment where INTERESTING begins.

Do you stick at stuff till you reach ‘Interesting’ answers, levels, revelations? Any experience you want to talk about when you quit, or when you didn’t quit and came upon something worthwhile? Heard of Elizabeth Gilbert? What are your thoughts on her?

Who’s your Hero? #India #ProjectWhy

Who’s your Hero? #India #ProjectWhy


Everybody needs heroes. And I’ve needed mine– I just had to wait around to find her, way into my adulthood. Today, I’m talking about her on Daily (w)rite as my contribution to the Who’s Your Hero Blogfest.

Anouradha Bakshi NGO India

Anouradha Bakshi: My Hero from Project Why

Joy Campbell is running the Who’s Your Hero Blogfest today on her blog: Post approximately 300 words about someone who has encouraged or inspired you. Your hero may be a friend, spouse, teacher or writing buddy.

I love my friends, adore my spouse, have tremendous respect for some of my teachers and writing buddies. But the person I want to write about is someone I’ve met for a very short time in real life, but who’s had a huge impact on my way of thinking, my attitude to the world around me.

Her name is Anouradha Bakshi, the founder of Project Why, an organization that works in the slums of New Delhi. Lots of such organizations are doing good work, so what’s special about Anouradha and Project Why?

Project Why works with the slum children and women from within the slums by empowering the slum community. Some of the teachers were once maids, who got an education at the Pwhy, and are now teaching the kids from the slums. Others are helping to manage the project and run it. Yet others work as drivers, who ferry the kids and teachers from one learning center to the other. A Project Why team member’s family helps cook the midday meal for the creche kids. Most of the education given to about a 1000 kids from creche to secondary levels is free, as are the courses on sewing, and other skills for women. One of the schools is literally situated in the middle of a dustbin, because that’s where a majority of the kids who attend it, live.

Visiting this school, as I did this month, is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

All this is supported by donors touched by Anouradha’s way of thinking– “Seeing with the Heart

Where others see a burden in a disabled person (a common sentiment in many parts and social strata in India) she saw God’s own children. The Special Section, which I visited on my recent trip to New Delhi is poorly equipped, but full of love, as is the rest of the Project.

Project Why Kids, Doll Museum New Delhi

Day out with the kids at Project Why at the Doll Museum, New Delhi

Anouradha insists on spending most of the donations received on the kids and the women, finding innovative ways to cut corners on overheads. One of the centers uses a solar panel donated by a businessman introducing their use in India– and the water system is donated by a visiting school.

Tying all this is together is Anouradha’s compassionate yet indomitable spirit: you can’t help but be touched by the smiles she brings on the faces of so many people, with such honesty, kindness, and willingness to move on despite tough circumstances. (Her honesty, and her unwillingness to make a circus of the slum dwellers makes it difficult for her to raise funds– donors sometimes come in with cameras trying to pose the kids of the Special Section for public relations exercises, or to exploit them for publicity.)

Inspired by her, I try to look at the world around me with the eyes of the Heart, to understand, empathize, relate, build community, spread joy, in whatever small way I can. Not that I’ve succeeded, far from it– but I’ve made a start. I’ve been a contributor of sorts for years, and now, I’m trying to help get their social media and online fundraising efforts off the ground.

We need more heroes like Anouradha Bakshi. To my mind, though I can never become the hero she is, maybe I can learn and become a better person each day.

Who are your heroes? How long have you known them? Would you like to join in the Who’s Your Hero Blogfest, or just talk about your heroes in the comments? Would you like to support Anouradha Bakshi in her efforts?