Sunday, January 30, 2011

Light in the Dark Moment

In fiction, there is a part of the book called The Dark Moment. It is a moment that fulfills the character's inner goal. It is also when the character is forced to evaluate and analyze their (usually destructive) choices.

(If any of you have written "dark moments", what elements did you make sure were in there? I put a lot of importance on the setting, building tension, describing facial expressions, and conveying feelings of desperation.)

All of us experience many of these so-called dark moments in our own lives,
when things come together in a turbulent avalanche and sometimes seem hopeless.

Maybe it's when we step on the weighing scale after a couple weeks of "indulging"
, maybe it's when tension is building up with a friend, maybe it's when we are about take a big test or embark on an important project. Maybe it's right after we know we've disappointed a family member or know that a certain relationship doesn't have a place in our lives anymore.

Either way, the most beautiful aspect of the dark moment---in fiction and in life---is that it sheds light on the conflict. A forced light. An essential one. That force requires choices. When we squeeze ourselves into uncomfortable moments, we force ourselves to act. Decide. Move forward. Without this, we can dilly dally for eternity and never resolve our issues.

So, there it is: sometimes, a healthy dose of discomfort can pave the way to a long term comfort :)

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Sometimes when you would call and tell me about the stuff that's happened with him," he says, "I would just want to ask why you didn’t demand better.”

He draws lines from my wrists to my fingertips while I tell him that he makes me love myself more; that the more I’m around him, the more I like both of us because he extracts facets that I had trouble seeing, that things can be simple and complex at once.

“Well, you can do better than me,” I add. “Much better. Trust me.”

He shakes his head. “No, I can’t. I know that. You’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met.”

He holds up his palm, as if to say, don’t even try to deny it, and adds, “Really. You are.”

He stretches his neck towards me and I freeze.

I am afraid that he will kiss me.

I am afraid that he won’t kiss me.

But despite my fear, I lean forward.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On Patience and Belated Significant Other Blogfest!

Sometimes I get more frustrated at myself than I ever would at another person. In fact, I make excuses for people all the time. Oh, he's had a lot going on. She's really busy. They did not mean for that to be hurtful.

But with myself, none of these are sufficient. I become very impatient with my writing. I set deadlines---which is great---but become disappointed when they are not met. I become dismal when the
editing seems endless or when others ask me why my book is taking so long.

But here's the thing.
Everything in life takes a lot of time. Today, one of my professors told us that medicine is an art. We learn the mechanics of the art now but we will never truly know everything about it. I will spend years in school and training and still not know it all.

Then I thought about all of the relationships near to my heart. They took time to cultivate and require continuous effort.
So, why should writing be any different? I need to be better about viewing this time as the essential practice that it is instead of becoming frustrated by mile markers.

Tell me, do you ever become impatient with yourself and/or the writing process? Who gives you perspective when you're getting in your own way?

When I am struggling with this, the one person who infuses me with perspective is Samir. He has dealt with all of my writing (and other) mishaps with a steadfast patience. Here are his thoughts on the process:

(And P.S. Check out the other significant other blog entries from Talli, Sangu,and Alex!)

About a year ago, when my beautiful singer-dancer-med-student-and-now-author girlfriend Saumya started writing her first novel, I had no idea what to expect. As she knew, writing to me meant figuring out how to condense the 3 year strategy of a company into 5 bulletpoints that could fit onto 1 powerpoint slide. I thought that maybe this lack of writing knowledge and experience would preclude me from much participation in her writing journey. Little did I know that she would actually be taking me along for the whole ride, and some of my fondest memories of the year would revolve around this. I can remember when…

...she started developing her first ideas. She is a very good observer and knows human nature and interactions more than anyone I know. Somehow, she could process all of this and call me with a new and compelling idea every other day. In fact, she could probably fill up a whole bookshelf of novels with her great ideas!

…the first paragraphs were formed. Though it sometimes required extended begging on my part, she would always send snippets to me. I would be so excited to read them and would usually call her within five minutes to offer my praise…as well as my ‘expert’ opinion. For some reason, she always patiently listened to me, even though most of my ideas were ludicrous!

…she would pull out her phone in the middle of many of our conversations. I would proceed to get mad at her for texting someone else while talking to me, and she would proceed to show me that she was actually taking notes on her phone about ideas for the book. I quickly learned that the best ideas often came at the most random times!

I would get mad at her for not sleeping and instead tip-tapping away at her computer. Never tell an author (especially a night owl like her) the words ‘you should go to sleep’. One time, she even tried to close her computer, jump into bed, and pretend she was already asleep when I groggily asked her why she was still writing at 5am!

the characters starting becoming a part of her life and a part of our conversations. We oftentimes discussed them more than we discussed the ‘real’ people in our own lives! They became so real that at some point I'm sure I've tried to search and friend them on Facebook.

…she started her 1st rewrite. And her 2nd. And her 3rd. Then came my ah-ha moment…this is why it takes so long to write these things!

…the phrase “query letter” became a normal part of my language. And I thought my cover letters for job searches were hard to write!

…she started hearing positive feedback from the first agents. I was so excited for her, especially because it gave me a good excuse to take her out for a well deserved night out on the town! No but really...there are few things that make her that happy (and therefore make me very happy!)

I could go on-and-on (anyone who knows me knows that brevity is not my forte), but will instead share one more recent revelation. Unlike some of the other significant others' posts that I've read, writing this novel has actually brought Saumya and I closer than ever. That makes me a very lucky -- and very proud -- man.

Friday, January 21, 2011

This Weekend I Will.....

My Kathak ghungroo (bells)

It's important to do nice things for yourself every once in a while. I read a lot of posts about everyone doing so much and I do hope that we all take well deserved breaks. Our creative work comes out better when we are relaxed (at least, that's when my muse decides to make a lot of visits)!

When life becomes especially hectic, I have realized that I shut off certain portions of myself in order to function.
This is not necessarily a good thing. Those parts become forgotten and covered with dust. But the truth is, I do need them to feel truly balanced and content. I may be able to ignore them for a while but their absences leave palpable voids.

After another grueling week of school, I thought I would try to recapture some of these so-called portions and view them as mini rewards to myself.

Rewards for the weekend:

Dance- Kathak is a North Indian classical dance form. My sister and I have learned it throughout middle and high school but I stopped after college. Part of the dance--my favorite part--- involves wrapping rows of bells around your ankles. This afternoon, I wrapped the eager threads of gold and moved my feet for an hour. It was so cathartic to release tension through swift, demanding movement.

Writing-I need to write. When I am not writing, I am thinking about writing. It's quite obsessive, really. But I wouldn't want it any other way. While I do enjoy writing essays and news articles for school, it's still different from fiction.

Cupcakes and Shopping-one of my girlfriends texted me to ask if I would be up for spending Sunday like this. Um, yes!

School is oddly isolating. I wake up, go to class all day, and then study. Although my classmates and I are all in this together, it can be difficult to detach my mind from school and have fun.

I get stuck in a strong auto-pilot mode and I just go, go, go. When everyone around you is also in that state, it almost seems normal (damn Type A personalities).

Cupcakes with a good friend sounds like a great remedy.

Movies-There are so many movies I need to catch up on. Has everyone else seen Social Network? Tangled? (Just saw No Strings Attached and enjoyed it....yay to chick flicks.)

Side note: Movies are a great way to study story structures!

P.S. Does anyone else get satisfaction from the act of cleaning? There's something about folding clothes, making the bed, and scrubbing counters that puts me at ease. Maybe it's the tidy look of my room when it's all done. Or maybe I'm just weird. Probably the latter.

How will you reward yourself this weekend? How do you maintain balance in your life?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Uncertainty and Certainty

This weekend has been perfect for unwinding from the first couple weeks of January. Yesterday, I went to an adorable hole-in-the-wall restaurant with two girlfriends. We talked until the restaurant closed! The conversation went in so many directions and one theme that kept unearthing was uncertainty.

I realized that at one point, I used to take so much pride in having a plan:

Oh, I will be married to this guy at this age
I will choose this career and start it right after college and love it forever
I will have 2.5 kids and live in a suburb

But the past couple of years have taught me how to be uncomfortable with uncertainty, to appreciate its transience, its fickle way of emerging and playing peek-a-boo.

Being uncertain can maybe even say more than being certain.

If I know why something rattles me or just doesn't sit well with me, then maybe that's a loud scream for reflection. It can be difficult to also understand the future weight of our decisions. Sometimes, certain things seem like such a big deal, and then a few years go by and we realize that they weren't that life threatening at all!

Now, after reading a lot of your wonderful blogs, I'd also like to bring up the issue of certainty. Or rather, confidence.

Another girlfriend of mine was talking to me about her career aspirations. At one point she said, "I know I'm smart."
I found it quite liberating that she was aware of her own intelligence. She did not compare herself to anyone else or say a single word beyond that. And well, she is smart. Very smart. I'm glad she knows that.

As writers, we have to be our own sources of confidence. I know we're always looking for constructive critiques and ways to cultivate the craft but....

why don't we give ourselves some credit for how far we have come?

There is no need to always downplay!

So, my questions today are,

What do you like about your writing? What is your favorite thing about the last piece you wrote?


What is a positive quality you know you have?

P.S. Hello to new readers :) I love all of your messages, comments, and links and cannot wait to come visit your blogs!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In a Rut

Have you ever felt as though you're in a rut? With your work? Self? Routine?

Being snowed in has wedged me into a rut. Three days of not leaving my apartment and studying non stop for a final on Friday have made me feel...claustrophobic.

Rut warning signs:

-Sleeping in (and sporadically...hello, inefficient naps)
-Refreshing those same pages on the Internet
-Staring at pages of text and brain scans without absorbing anything
-Scanning through my novel from beginning to end, beginning to end, beginning to end...

These sentiments are eerily parallel to when I hid from society to study for the MCAT. To prevent my spirit, thoughts, and attitude from becoming stale, I unveiled a few things that have helped me:

-Going outside and walking to the grocery store (we Southerners aren't prepared for the snow so most people aren't driving yet). The cold air rattled me back to life and it was oddly cathartic to stomp through the snow.

-Cleaning up my own work space. The more cluttered my room is, the more cluttered my mind feels.

-Looking at pretty things....sometimes, the more I study things like blood vessels and medications, the more I crave aesthetically pleasing pictures:

Dreamy entrance

Feminine, whimsical desk

-Getting a little dressed up. This is yet another reason why I admire people who work from home. All I would do is wear sweat pants and a sweat shirt and stay in bed. (I would not accomplish anything besides marathons of Food Network shows.)

-To get out of my writing rut: I expand my reading: different news sources, books in unexplored genres, song lyrics, poetry, etc.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Writing with a Busy Schedule

I awoke before the sun the other day. Of course, I snoozed my alarm a few times and lamented having to get out of bed. But then I realized that this time is giving me so much. It is providing me with a chance to write before the stress of the 17 hour day settles in. And so I embraced it with gratitude.

It felt secretive---intimate---to be doing something while the rest of the world was hushed. Headphones in place, notebook at my side, espresso beans when I needed them. Just my work and words.

(Check out my essentials: caffeine, the amazingly large Post-It notes, colorful gel pens, hand lotion....)

These days, I have been trying to find ways to fit writing in with my schedule. I know that everyone is doing a million things on a daily basis, so I thought I'd share what has helped me:

1. Giving myself a 30 minute block to just write and do nothing else. For me, this required cutting out a television show.

2. Carrying a tiny notebook and jotting down bullet points of inspiration whenever they came.

3. Using a portion of my lunch hour to edit or plot the next chapter.

When I take a break, I do something entirely non-writing related, like running, yoga, dance, or oh yeah, study for classes. I'm always impressed by how so many writers balance their families, full time jobs, and other duties with their writing! I hope I can get to that level someday :)

How do you manage to write with your schedule?
What are the essentials in your work space?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Twenties and Critiquing Inquiry

Twenties are especially scary because of the gravity of our choices.

The next person we're with, or the one we are with now, could be the one.
That career path we pick could be it.

There is less cushioning and space to fall back on. It isn't as simple as turning in a form to change your major or taking another route to class to avoid that ex. Then, of course, there is confusion thrown into that volatile mess.

Did I do the right thing? Why did I mess up? Will I be okay?

But then there is also that grace that can only come from being with yourself for so long. It includes knowing your reactions, thought patterns, and limits. It includes finding new ways to add to the world and helping others do the same. It includes stretching yourself in new and exciting directions.

My mother didn't have these luxuries. She had an arranged marriage at a young age and then moved to a foreign country with her husband. My father studied for his medical boards while working as a respiratory therapist. We lived in someone's basement for a few years before graduating to a tiny apartment. But where was their space for choices? My fear comes as a result of sacrifice.

They didn't even have the option of options. Because of how hard they worked, I am able to have this confusion.

And so it goes. Life is a give and take. And maybe it's scary but underneath that fear is a hidden layer of privilege.

On Another Note:


I'm in the market for someone to look at my first 10-50 pages (whatever is convenient for you) and will be happy to do the same.

I'm drowning in my manuscript and am too entangled in it to know if it's working or not!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Holding On and Letting Go

Being in the midst of a quarter life crisis often reminds me that there is an importance balance between holding on and letting go.

Sometimes I want to keep clutching something---or someone---with all of my might, just to ensure pride or survival or rebellion (or maybe all three) , without realizing that maybe all the negative signs and emotions are the universe's way of saying "Just call it quits already. There's better out there for you."

Relationships: When I was younger, I had these idealistic pictures of relationships that were created by Disney movies, books, and poems.

Growing up and being in my first relationship made me think that those did not exist. Obviously, elements of them are exaggerated but I thought, for so long, that people just weren't happy every day with a person. That the monotony of daily life wore away that "honeymoon" excitement, that everyone takes everyone else for granted, that I simply expected too much of my romantic life.

But in my relationship now, I know, looking back, that so much of that previous acceptance came from my refusal to let go. I took more pride in the investment and did not know what was really best for me. Tearing away from the relationship was traumatic as I did not realize how much of myself with woven with another person and how distorted my idea of "healthy" was.

I had to let go to realize that I can be part of a union that brings me peace, friendship, and a day to day happiness. That maybe my childhood portraits of love weren't that crazy.

Writing: I spent around eight solid months working on the first draft of my novel. An agent read the first 50 pages and gave me polite feedback and an even more polite, "thanks, but no thanks." We ended up talking on the phone and she gave me even more feedback, all of which sent me into a whirlwind of feelings. The take home message: I would have to rewrite everything, make a stronger plot, and even give birth to some new characters.

At the time, I was devastated. My months of editing and creation all gone to waste? Those paragraphs I became attached to? And how about those non writers who kept asking me ridiculous questions about when my book was coming out?

I moped for a bit. But then I spoke to some trusted people in my life, read some author bios and interviews, and learned that this is nothing compared to what so many writers go through. Entire 500 page manuscripts are in some people's recycling bins and there are so many words that will never be seen by anyone else.

I started my rewrite last May and am so much more content with my work. There was so much I had to learn (and am still learning!) that it was almost foolish for me to think that my first attempt--ever--would be it. I think of all the writers sitting in front of their own computers, or sheets of paper, some of them writing pages that will travel; others, producing tidbits that maybe they will only see.

And I am so happy to be a part of that.

Letting go, in many instances, has been the best thing I could have done for myself. Nobody ever said it was easy or that it would even be clear when it was time to let go.

But maybe viewing the difference between holding on and letting go is a part of our own evolution. I'm not sure if I'll ever get it down perfectly, but I know I'll keep trying!