It’s my third day in the Himalayas. I have sort of settled in. My abode is a small cave under a giant boulder named Katarni. A cold stream — that later joins the river Beas — gushes just next to it. I have one small bed, one tiny pillow and two blankets. Every morning at 9, I fill and bring two buckets of water for domestic use. I cook on a wooden stove and mostly sip green tea, staring in awe at the majestic snow-capped mountains that surround me on all four sides.
Yesterday night was the most memorable so far. I was reading through your posts on YourQuote late at night, when I felt like taking a walk. Braving the frigidity of -5 degrees, I ventured out to gape at the clear sky. There were no clouds and lo! I could see the Milky Way. Stars strewn across the velvety black sky like a patch of wheat flour on a black porcelain plate. The flowing stream seemed to hum in the background. My walk turned into a dance, swinging with the sky. I could see the universe dancing with me. I slept with a smile.
Today morning, I wanted to step out but it was so cold that I decided to run. It’s been a while since I ran. Bengaluru doesn’t let me. A bearded baba running with the traffic on roads or crowded parks would make quite a spectacle there, but not here in the mountains. I ran for eight kilometers, albeit with many breaks, across tiny circuitous pathways through the Burwa and Chanag village, crossing cow sheds, schools, and apple orchards. As I ran uphill and downhill, panting, regretting not having run enough, the answer to one question that so many of you had asked me became crystal clear: when to start working a novel?
Writing a book is like running a marathon. Both writing a novel and running a marathon have three stages: beginning, middle, and end. Beginning and ends are too exciting to make you feel like giving up. It’s the long arduous middle phase where most runners or writers give up. It’s where the going gets tough, boredom seeks in, enthusiasm wanes. Even if you manage to slog through and finish the book, the middle turns out to be boring because the writer finished it with least interest. The only way to brace this gruelling middle is by improving your stamina. With a lot of practice.
You don’t start running a marathon right away. You prepare yourself by running shorter distances, say 3 kilometers, 5 kilometers, 10 kilometers. You time yourself. Improve your stamina. You give months or maybe years just to develop enough endurance to sustain the boredom of the middle of the race. In the case of writing, it’s exactly the same. You start with short stories. 140 characters. 1200 characters (try writing a short story on YQ). 1000 words. 5000 words. 10000 words. Keep writing. Pen as many experiences. Take the wealth of stories that your childhood, adolescence, and adulthood (in case you are one) contain — growing up with your parents, your ancestral house, your first day in school, your crush, the games you played, the first job, the relationships that magically happened or ended. Every little incident of yours (or even your close ones) can be turned into a short story. Use your imagination and turn the endings around. Ask yourself what ifs? What if you had an extra brother or sister? What if your house was too far (or too near from) the school? What if your parents had never met? Unlock your imagination and let the words flow.
Novels usually build an entire world, and as a writer, our job is to practice creating many small prototypes of mini-worlds (in the form of short-stories) that could ensure that the grand world that we create is impeccable.
While you create a new world, here’s a prompt: Write a letter to your grandparents telling them what you love about their homes? Use #GrandLetters in the caption on YQ for me to read and comment. Before I go, here’s a secret about my next letter: it will be about travel & writing, writing about travel. Hear from you soon.