Sunday, January 18, 2015

writing is editing

Editing not only changes a piece of writing; it also transforms the writer. I recently read a quote about how a writer changes from the first book to the second. That idea stuck to me, that the old you already wrote the first piece of work. It doesn’t matter what a reader thinks of the quality of the book. The process itself is transformative. The side effects of the process are transformative.

I thought of some of my favorite editing tips I learned throughout the years. Writers are an incredibly supportive community and connecting with them has helped me more than anything.

-Put a piece of work in a different font before rereading it.

-Read your work out loud. (Zadie Smith famously advised to read your work as an enemy would!)

-Take time between drafts.

-It’s easy to throw out parts of your story that are bad but you know your work has improved when you’re throwing out parts that are good.

-Every page and chapter should give the reader a reason to move on. Leave space for secrets, conflicts, and cliff hangers.  

-Sit with each character and study his or her arcs. Make sure there is a sense of change from the beginning to the end of the story.

how people fall in love

Did you see this piece in the New York Times about how people fall in love? It describes the psychological experiment conducted by Arthur Aron and explores the questions that have been proven to build intimacy between two strangers.

When we write stories, we set up the circumstances for new relationships to form. Our characters embark on paths, get in trouble, break up or make up, and find a new sense of normal.

There are numerous factors attributed to the start and success of romantic relationships: timing, compatibility, effort, the willingness to be vulnerable, etc. As the child of an arranged marriage, I've always been fascinated by what makes long term relationships thrive. My family, friends, and I have had discussions on the blurry areas between choice and chance, working harder and letting go.

I just never thought a set of questions could pave the path to love.

Favorite gems from the article:

"It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time."

"I know the eyes are the windows to the soul or whatever, but the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me. Once I embraced the terror of this realization and gave it time to subside, I arrived somewhere unexpected."

"Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

another holiday in India

December in India has its own charm. There are slim Santa Clauses and scattered trees covered with ornaments. Cars, cows, and horses occupy the same lane on a busy road. Our days are spent going through checklists for the wedding while evenings are a blur of family visits (and battles with jet lag).

A couple of weeks ago, our priest said, "If you want to know yourself, study your parents. If you really want to know yourself, study your grandparents. Whether you find things in yourself that you love or hate, you will see that they are also present in the people you came from."

Knowing where we come from---there's something to that.

A traditional Gujarati meal

My feisty and independent grandmother :) 

A blurry photo of us on the way to a sari store

My niece who is proof that sass and an obsession with dance is in our D.N.A.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

link love

*The mental health crisis in India
"Suicide has surpassed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death in young Indian women."

*Actress Priyanka Chopra promoting women's empowerment

*The fight against child marriage

*Another take on marriage in India

*Have human rights treaties failed?

*Public health accomplishments from 2014 via Bill and Melinda Gates

Friday, December 12, 2014

when you can't write

Ways to sharpen your writing when you can't write:

1. Study popular television shows and ask what makes them work well. Dissect the characters and dialogue.

2. Learn someone's life story. Watch their face when they are filled with hope. Observe the tone of their voice when you ask about their plans for the holidays.

3.  Plot during your commute. If you drive, contemplate ways to add more conflict in your work.

4. Listen to an audiobook.

5. Watch a Ted talk on a topic you know nothing about.

6. Soak in details about everything. Writers are observers. 

7. Take a break from anything creative.

8. Sleep.

9. Write a diary entry from each character's perspective.

10. Read Psychology Today and learn more about human nature. Read everything. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If I Knew Then

**This post is in addition to a series about what I would tell my younger self.**

1. After a certain point in life, friendships become more about effort than convenience. Put in the effort. You'll never regret it. 

2. Don't glorify stress or sleep deprivation or making it for hours without food. There is nothing commendable about not treating your body well. There is nothing powerful about being busy. Everyone is busy. Keep fruit in your purse and learn how to take power naps. Cry out of frustration or exhaustion or the intersection between the two, then get up, and move on. 

3.  Everything you want is on the other side of hard work.

4. Beware of trying to fix anyone's issues, whether it's through advice, love, or loyalty. People can only fix themselves and even then, it has to happen when they are ready.

5. Express appreciation to the ones who believed in you even when you struggled to believe in yourself.

6. Allow everything you're working on to take at least triple the amount of time you think it will.

7. In your twenties, you'll start seeing your parents more as people. You'll appreciate their sacrifices on a new level and start relating to them in ways you didn't think were possible. 

8. Respect the periods of your life when you surrendered to apathy.

9. Play around with the "what ifs" in your mind. What if people posted statuses and tweets about when they failed or were confused or lost? What if we introduced our friends by their best qualities instead of their names? What if saying "I don't know" was acceptable? What if loneliness, the most common ailment you see in the hospital, could be addressed as a public health concern? What if prestige was correlated with fulfillment instead of job titles and salaries? 

10. As you get older, making new friends can feel akin to dating. You wait for the effortless connection and intellectual stimulation. You make plans, first in a group, and eventually alone. You see if everything is upheld. And then, you see that years have gone by, and you have someone you couldn't imagine being without. 

11. Keep finding ways to step out of your comfort zone. If you can't travel, read things outside your genre. Relish a new magazine or newspaper or novelist.