How, and why, to NOT write a book - The New Indian Express

How, and why, to NOT write a book

Published: 15th December 2012 11:38 PM

Last Updated: 21st January 2014 12:25 PM

Just for once I’d like to meet someone who is not writing a book. Forget the retired bureaucrats, ageing journalists and hausfraus. Even bimbos seem to be wearing an author hat these days. No wonder people have started concocting quotes on the subject and attributing them to people long-dead, like philosopher-orator Cicero. “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book,” is what the gent is believed to have said before popping it in 43 BC. Really? History tells us that Rome was teetering under the rulers a bit around then, what with Cicero attacking Mark Antony and Caesar being stabbed to death. But books? As far as I know, the Phoenicians didn’t bring writing habits and papyrus around till the 10th or 9th century BC while Gutenburg was still a few centuries away.

But the point is taken: Times are bad when disobedient children run amok and people everywhere hammer away on laptops, putting together books devoid of syntax and sense, which they then expect people to buy. And for what, one asks? Why do so many people think their prose is priceless and that every story deserves a  book, when there are groaning shelves of proof (and critics and readers) dying to testify to the contrary?

Author Ray Bradbury once said, “My stories come up and bite me on the leg. I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.” Most of the books I read these days seem like they were written as their writer was being gnawed through the brain, and when he finished the remaining brain let go and fell off. To each of these writers, I’d like to say: Your story and style may be enchanting to you. But that’s what god made mothers for. To listen to your story as if it’s the best in the world. Do not deprive her of that pleasure—just spare the rest.

Maybe the message will convey itself faster in the shape of a list. So here goes:

1. If your desire for distinction makes you want to leave something singular behind, forget the book. Build a Taj Mahal instead. Realty is so much more lucrative than royalty.

2. I’m sure you’ve been ‘creative’ since you were a child. Let that creativity find a voice in your interior décor, apparel and the choice of lies you tell your boss. Save the trees, and the reading world the torture of yet another book that is stranger than fact and fiction. And costs money to boot.

3. Ignore the relatives who tell you they love your stories and that “you must write a book”. They tell my sister she must cut an album every time they hear her sing. Yes, she does a mean khayal but her friends don’t make up the music market. Plus, she’s no Shreya Ghoshal.

4. Last, if write you must, do it as a newspaper columnist rather than a novelist. Not only does it take less time, money and dedication, it also ensures your precious prose endless shelf life. Two hours after your offering hits the market, it can be lining kitchen racks across the country.

How’s that for fame and posterity?

shampa@newindianexpress.com

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