Thursday, July 19, 2007

To write or not to write

I wonder if I am a writer. I mean a real author. What would qualify me
as an author?

Long time back when I still lived in India, my sister asked me, "Bhaiya,
what makes a software engineer?". Her question was valid, it's not a
degree or a certificate that you get. Never having been to engineering
college, I didn't know if I was a software engineer or not. (Now I know.
I filled Software Engineer as my profession in my last passport
application and the High Commission didn't object, so I guess, I am

But now the same question is in my mind about being an author. What
marks a man as an author? An easy answer would be - Money. I am quoting,
"Anyone who writes for anything other than money is a fool!" Makes
sense. Writing for money your work has to be up to a certain standard,
so the quality improves.

I don't think that really answers the question though. Then what?
Publication? If you are published, you are an author, otherwise not.
What about those who write a book but never get it published for fear of
rejection? Or if a person gets his book published on his own expense and
it never sells? Is he still a writer?

I don't know.

I have had my stuff published, only online so far, and I have been
fortunate enough that people read what I write and come back with kind
remarks. Does that make me a writer?


Several years ago, I was in my room in Delhi. I and my friend Fazil (my
closest friend, so his name will come up in everything), we were
watching a movie on cable and thinking of going to sleep as soon as we
could bring ourselves to turn off the TV. The movie was Anil Kapoor
starrer "Nayak", very good movie, different perspective on things,
excellent direction, so we could not turn it off that easy.

Suddenly an idea struck in my mind, the plot for a story, completely
unrelated to the movie we were watching. I turned my PC back on and sat
down to write. I had the whole plot in my mind and yet I could only
write the first two scenes, one page. I always start writing when the
first scene strikes me.

In the years that followed, I looked at the unfinished story several
times, read that one page, but could not add anything to it.

Yesterday, in the bus, I was reading Heinlein's "To Sail Beyond the
Sunset" and an action-based scene suddenly moved me emotionally. It was
an action-based scene but it was written to have that effect. Good
writing always makes you think, feel and experience the kind of emotions
that only real life can make you feel. I closed the book to savour that
feeling and followed the emotions without trying to analyze them.
Following the chain of thoughts I was surprised to find myself thinking
of the next scene of that story. That story which was nowhere in my

In 2 minutes I knew how to proceed. In 2 hours I knew how to end it!

That's what I think makes me a writer. I write to get the idea out, to
record it on paper, rather than for money or to please anyone else.

I am therefore, I write. It's as simple as that!

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