Posts Tagged ‘writer’s life’

Guys, in case you’re wondering where I have disappeared to these days, let me tell you, it’s not Goa (sadly). Well, not totally, although it may account for three days last week.

By now some of you may be aware that Piggies on the Railway is doing very well. Commercially, we sold the entire first print run (5,000 copies) in three weeks flat, and critically, we’ve had more good reviews than bad. So, I think, I can exhale now. Phew!

This success is bringing with it its own share of pressures. For instance, my publicity person is now exhorting me to write the next book ASAP. She calls me up to ask me how many words I’ve written so far. And she does this EVERYDAY. Ever had someone who does this to you every day? Wait a minute, I forgot, most of you have jobs. So you know the best way to suck joy out of something is to make it into a job.

And if that’s not enough to rob me of the will to live, my maids have taken off to their respective villages for the duration of the summer vacation. While I’m quite content to live in an inch layer of dust, eating out is proving to be a problem. A drinking problem.

I can’t help it. Ever since I graduated from college, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten out sans booze. Well, there was this one evening bang in the middle of something stupid the Maharashtra Govt observes. A Gandhi birth week during which they force prohibition down our throats (I would’ve have punned here but I can’t think of a clever punch-line to the set-up). But that was only out of ignorance. Usually I’m pretty up to speed on dry days but somehow that one escaped me. Must be ’cos I was new to Bombay.

In any case, I don’t think it’s that big a deal but my friends seem to think that Margaritas in the afternoon are a sign of alcoholism. I tell them it’s not alcoholism, it’s melancholism. I’m drinking to drown my sorrows. But they’re not amused.

I’m also writing a screenplay for an animation movie. I’m doing this because it’s a friend’s project and also it’s a huge amount of fun.

I’ve got my life somewhat under control now. Not totally sorted but managebale. And I hope to be able to post more regularly from now on. Ciao.

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I walked into the airport cutting a sorry picture.  As if dragging a suitcase that was larger and heavier than me wasn’t challenge enough, I was trying to do it with two other bags slung on my shoulders. And five-inch strappy heels on my freshly pedicured feet. And no, it wasn’t so much role-playing Anne Hathaway in Devil wears Prada as much as lack of space in the suitcase. Okay, okay, I admit, I ran short of space even in the large suitcase. But that’s only because I had to carry some Piggies (My publicity person asked me to carry some copies at the last minute).

In short, it which was the complete opposite of the picture I wanted to convey – that of a cool, calm, collected and sophisticated writer.

I presented myself at the Jet Airways counter, where a skinny thing with an attitude of a designer store saleswoman gave me a look long enough for me to become conscious of each and every one of the fine lines on my face. Not that I have any. Well, maybe just the beginning of a talon of a crow’ foot if you want to be anal about it.

“Sorry ma’am,” she says, “Only one hand baggage allowed.”

“It is one,” I said, patting the gunny sack on my shoulder.  “This one here,” I said, pointing to the obviously laptop bag on my other shoulder, “is my laptop.”

D-uh! Everyone knows that with women laptop bags and handbags are counted as one. As long as you’re not carrying any liquids which in my opinion just defeats the purpose of carrying a handbag. What’s the point if you can’t carry a lip gloss or a deo?

“But ma’am it’s as big as a suitcase!!!!”

“So? It’s cabin baggage specs!!!”

“No ma’am you’ll have to check it in.” Inflexibly said.

I shrugged as if to convey an insouciant, “If I gotta, I gotta.” But my heart was pounding knowing what was to come.

“You’re overweight,” she said after a moment. She quickly rectified her unfortunate choice of words to mean luggage before I could pass out from shock. The upshot of the conversation was that I had a choice. Either I could, like, a zillion rupees in excess baggage, or, open the suitcase and ditch the stuff I didn’t need.

Now I knew what I couldn’t do, and that was the latter. One, because there was nothing I didn’t need and two, I only do that abroad when flying Ryan Air. I also knew what I wouldn’t do and that was pay for excess baggage because, well, paying to transport kilos other than the precious few on my body was anathema to me.

My brain kicked into action. Wait, there was another solution.

“Business class has a larger allowance, right?”

“Yeah,” she said doubtfully, trying to figure out where I was going with this. She’d have to wait. I had to figure it out myself first.

“How much goes an upgrade cost?”

She mentioned a figure that was marginally higher than what I would have to pay in excess baggage.

She nodded.

“Do it.”

And so I got:

  1. to board the plane last and exit first
  2. a wet towel!!!
  3. more solicitous stewards, although that can be a pain.
  4. more space, not that I needed any. There’s enough leg room in economy to fit two of me. Front to back!
  5. and….and I got to carry my stuff for free!!!!

This was an auspicious beginning. Things were auguring well for the launch.

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Finally it was the 22nd and the day before I was to fly out to Delhi. There I sat, in the spare room of my house (Get that? I have a spare room. In Bombay!) surrounded by 15 outfits not counting jeans, tees, PJs and other casual wear; 6 sets of lingerie, not counting changeable straps and sports bras; 5 pairs of shoes not counting my bathroom slippers and Nikes; endless accessories – four belts, a huge make up kit, 2 perfumes and 3 eau de toilettes, scrunchies, headbands, clips, pins…

….and a cabin baggage-sized strolley.  

I swear I was having a tiny Rebecca Bloomwood moment. Like the aforementioned shopaholic, I was having a minor panic attack at the thought of stuffing everything inside the tiny luggage.

Okay, okay, don’t panic, I told myself. It’s just a question of doing things systematically. For instance, the clothes can be sifted through. After all there are only two launches. I don’t need 15 dresses for that. I have the little black dress so I can certainly do away with the red one with the beige and purple flowers. But what if the LBD is too much for 5 o’clock launch, I said to myself? The blue satin number’s shoulder straps are a little dodgy so can’t rely on that totally. And I’m not sure the white printed silk one goes all that well with silver sandals.  No, I’d better take them all. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

And then there’s the shopping I’ll do in Delhi.

Fuck it! I’d better go out and buy myself a bigger, correction, the biggest suitcase available.

So armed with a lot of enthusiasm and not as much cash I made a trip to Lokhandwala market. Of course, since the luggage shop is right next to Firewalkers, it made sense to quickly duck into the dress shop first. Trying out dresses with a suitcase in hand, albeit an empty one, was plain…unwieldy.

Why was trying out dresses, one may ask, when I already had 15 dresses? Well, the answer is that although, verily, I had 15 dresses, not a one among them felt like THE ONE. Besides it makes sense to purchase something you like when you see it. Cos you’ll never get it you actually need it. It’s some kinda Murphy’s Law of Cosmic Causality impervious to prayers and positive affirmations.

Well, Firewalkers didn’t have anything but the shop around the corner Xact had a 50% sale going on so managed to pick up three dresses for the Bombay launch. Yes, I’m almost certain there will be a Bombay Launch.

Then a quick trip to the ATM and it was onto the luggage shop. I resisted the urge to pick out a set of matching, monogrammed suitcases and picked out the largest, sturdiest suitcase available.

Phew! Packing crisis averted, onto excess baggage crisis.

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You know, it occurred to me that I’ve been waxing about writing for so long – what one needs to do to get published or produced or whatever – and I left out the most important thing. Luck.

You can have talent by the oodles, dedication and determination but if you haven’t got luck you’re pretty much toast. On the other hand, you can average to zilch talent but if you have the lady on your side you have nothing to worry about. Perhaps my placing too much on mere chance stems from the industry I come from.

While luck plays a role in any field in life, its importance is exaggerated in mine. Every day I see talented people struggling away, unable to make a mark. On the other hand you have a music director (I shall refrain from using names), whose sole talent in life is creative stealing. *Gasp* you guessed???!!! And here I was soooo careful.

Of course what I’m saying could be pure baloney. As one erstwhile leading tennis player, talking about the favourable percentage of close net and line calls that regularly went his way, said, “The harder I practice the luckier I get.” Perhaps in sport. I mean, that is one area you need to have some skill. And hone it. You just can’t wake up one day and bend it like Beckham. *Sorry* I couldn’t think of a more original one.

Elsewhere, I think, luck is a necessary and sufficient condition for success. So all you aspiring writers, singers, musicians, you too can get lucky. It’s really a question of practice. *You too can win* Do I sound sufficiently like Shiv Khera? God, where did that name come from? It’s been ages since we heard it! There was a time where he was everywhere. And then he just disappeared. Guess who the lady deserted.

BTW, what do you think of the title of this post? I dithered between luck by chance and oye luck luck oye and chose the latter. I am a Dilliwali at heart. What to do, I’m like this only.

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I know promised to write this yesterday but then Man proposes and God disposes. Yesterday was a terribly hectic day and I got no time at all. Anyhow, here it is. Enjoy!

My next story is going to be about a vampire who’s in love with girl who’s human. The antagonist is going to be a Marathi Manoos werewolf who wants to kill the vampire because he’s a Bhayya. He wants to kill the girl because she called Mumbai Bombay to express solidarity with her lover.

How this helps:

Raj Thackeray takes affront and decides to express his outrage by vandalising bookstores and burning copies of your book in illustrative / intimidatory bonfires. Of course, this results in loss of revenue but it also guarantees publicity. Publicity that you can’t otherwise buy. Your book starts getting talked about and people who otherwise wouldn’t have bought it queue up to buy. It all works out.

Now, the flip side:

What if Raj Thackeray isn’t interested? What if the issue is not worth his time?

Enter the failsafe:

The vampire-girl duo are on the run and take shelter with some friendlies. Did I say friendlies? Not quite. You see, those friendlies are actually Jehadi Lychans who have an agenda of their own.  And their plan is to drill a hole all the way into the Earth’s core and plant a zillion megaton nuclear bomb there. Of course, you can’t drill a hole all the way to the Earth’s core but figure out a revolutionary new technology that does it anyway. For ideas, look up the film The Core.

Now, why would the Lychans shelter our protagonists? There can be two reasons. One, well, the werewolves with their heretic ideology are their enemies and any enemy of an enemy is a friend. Two, the journey to the centre of the Earth is fraught with peril and they need stooges to do it for them.

Meanwhile the Sun is flaring up out of control, and shooting tiny neutrinos into the Earth which is heating up the crust intolerably.

While our protagonists are with the Lychans, introduce a brilliant, sensitive Lychan painter who paints nude werewolf goddesses. 

Meanwhile, the werewolves catch up with the protagonists. While they are in Lychan territory, they stumble upon the painter’s works. Of course, once that happens, they do what comes naturally to them. They destroy the paintings. In the midst of the destruction, however, in a fit of petulance, the werewolf leader, an accomplished cartoonist, stops to draw some offensive sketches of the Lychan god.

How does it all end? How do I know? I haven’t thought of everything yet.

All I know is your book gets released. All castes and communities unite in calling for a universal ban on the book. Now join hands with a pirate on a revenue share basis. Now sit back and watch your bank balance grow.

Sigh. If only I could get someone to publish it. Sigh, maybe I’ll go to the Danish cartoon guys.

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I was watching the telly a couple of days ago and I happened to catch a 100 richest celebs kinda show on E!

Now, most of them have had to work for their supper but some, like Steven Spielberg get paid on just waking up! Royalties etc, you got it. And guess who was next on the list? JK Rowling. According to the show she’s worth a billion plus pounds. And the show was produced in 2007! Since then there’s been Stephanie Meyers, too.

Now, I was  filled with envy. Cross that. My new age guru will be horrified to hear that. *affirmation to self: Day after day I’m getting better and better and better. The world is filled with abundance and I live in this abundance. I deserve my good fortune and celebrate it*

Anyway, envy or motivation, call it what you will, but I decided to do something about my own, shall we say, considerably less salubrious pecuniary state. I called upon all my experience (and it is vast, spanning investment banking, adventure sports, publishing and writing) and arrived at a winning formula.

As you know, writing a novel is hard work and takes a lot out of you. Added to that is the uncertainty that it will be published. And even if it is, there’s no guarantee that it will sell, let alone be a best seller.

First things first. We have to begin the project by de-risking it. A good way to do that is to attempt a romance. According to the latest trends in fiction, romance still sells. In the wake of the Twilight series, a spate of vampire novels have hit the market but thre’s appetite for more. Well written conspiracies, spelling the doom of mankind, still work.

So, a good beginning premise would be a vampire romance set against the backdrop of an impending disaster.

Now that we’ve de-risked the model, we have to turn it into a multibagger. To do that you have to get attention. And not just the odd newspaper interview/review kinda thing. I’m talking serious, reams and reams of newsprint. The kind that’s devoted to the controversy of the day. Enter Raj Thakeray.

But. But, we can do one better. And that is, we can try and get the book banned. Based on all the above analysis, I’ve decided on what I’m going to write next. Watch out for it tomorrow. Meanwhile, do write in your thoughts on the subject.

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Okay, I’m getting over my heartbreak over Rafa losing in the French Open. It’s taking time and I’m still in therapy but I have no doubt I’ll get over it before AEGON’s queen’s club championships. I would like to thank my support group RaFans Anonymous for aiding my recovery.

I’m back to doing the basics of what I do, which is write funny stuff. It’s important to do that before beginning the next one because you do get drained after you complete the previous one. So, if you don’t want a tired new novel you’d better brush up on your joke writing skills beforehand.

You know it’s real hard being a writer. It’s hard because people assume that you’ve got an easy life. As my sister says, “All you do is read, watch television and tinker away on your computer all day long. And, at the end of the day, you don’t even have to show anything for your effort.” Let’s see, low self esteem, manic depression, suicidal tendencies, raging alcoholism…life’s a ball.

It’s even harder if you’re funny writer. People just don’t take your problems seriously. Here I am standing on the ledge, ready to jump off and my neighbor pokes her head out of her window.  “Hey, Smita what you doing?” And I say, “I’m thinking of suicide.” And she says, “Oh, new joke?” And I say, “No, I’m thinking of committing suicide.” And she says, “How about a joke before you go?”

And the pressure! Every time I see my friends, they’re like, “Written a new chapter yet?” Do I ask them, “Hey doc, cut open a new heart lately?”

I complained about feeling drained to a friend the other day. And he suggested drugs. “Nothing quite like drugs to free your mind…give you the ultimate rush.”

I looked at him thinking he was suggesting party/recreational stuff like ecstasy. Nope, he was talking about hard core stuff. The kind you shoot up your nose or into your veins. I looked at him, aghast. Like I need a new addiction.

“That’s stupid,” I said. “Why can’t I just go drag racing if I want a rush?”

He looked at me as though I’ was nuts. “Let’s see. To go drag racing you need an open highway. The closest one is Bombay Poona Expressway But to get to that you’ve got to drive at least two hours through the city. That’s four litres. Then you need another ten litres once you get onto the highway. That’s 650 bucks for an hour of fun. For that amount you can get stoned for a week!”

Boy, it’s scary what the Taliban ouster has done to the global drug economy.

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That brings me to my next subject of discussion – the muse. You know, inspiration is so transient and if I waited for it, I would write only about ten words a day. Most of the times, there is no inspiration and you just hack away at it. Lack of inspiration to plead off work is something only lazy and non-serious writers do. Serious writers hack away at it, knowing that what they are writing is rubbish. They know they will have to revisit what they’ve written. Once if they’re lucky and several times if they’re really unfortunate.

The journalist then asked me to show her where I worked, expecting, I think, a huge room with a scenic view, a solid mahogany desk and huge bookcases sporting leather-bound volumes. Imagine her chagrin when I led her to the spare room with a dictionary, a thesaurus, packets of savoury snacks, used tea cups, snotty tissues and my laptop littered untidily on the bed.

It’s true. I don’t work at a desk but on the bed in the spare room with the telly on all the time. I do have a desk but I don’t like it. I keep promising myself that I will get a huge mahogany one I like (even I have fantasies about what a writer’s life is like) if only out of consideration for my poor back which is strained beyond belief for six-seven hours every day which comprise my work day. But, so far, my back hasn’t complained and consequently I haven’t done anything about it.

Then there were questions like – Do I write according to a plan? Well, the answer to that is, I try to. I always begin with an outline and stick to it till about five chapters. Then I usually have to abandon it. The reason is that when I write the outline, I don’t know my characters. They are, at best, ideas in my head. But when I sit down to write, these characters become personalities. Very strong ones who have their own ideas about where the story should be going and are not shy about dictating their terms.

Do I carry a notebook and pencil everywhere I go? Well, I try to. But don’t always remember to. Oh to hell with it, I never do. I don’t make notes, but the good thing is I am an elephant. No, not physically but memory wise (okay, physically also). So I always remember things.

Towards the end she asked me if I wanted to add anything. I did. I told her, the only other thing I do is write. Everyday.


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I had an interview yesterday. You know, what a writer’s life is like etc. So this fresh-faced young journalist arrived. She was star struck which made me feel kinda good because I’m not a celeb. Forget people on the streets, recently when I had lunch with my publisher, she didn’t recognize me. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but I was so mortified that she might not recognize me that I messaged her in advance about what I was wearing. Of course, then she breezed in and spotted me right away. She approached me without hesitation and greeted me like we’ve been lifelong friends who had just had a dinner together last night. I still don’t know whether she would have known me had I not messaged her my attire.

The moment she saw me, the journalist looked mortified. I don’t know what she was expecting but a scruffy, unwashed person lounging around in a tattered tee and tracks was not it. She started to apologize thinking she had arrived too early. But when I reassured that indeed she had not, that I lounge around like this all day unless I have to go somewhere, her face fell. I have a vague feeling that I made everything worse by allaying her apprehensions. Like I had ruined some cherished fantasy in which writers (female ones, at any rate) dress in gossamer silk and drape themselves on sofas, sipping umbrella drinks and smoking slim cigarettes off a cigarette holder, waiting for inspiration to strike.

I hated having to disabuse her of the notion. But it is true that I often don’t bother to dress up before seven in the evening unless I have to go somewhere earlier. In fact, I am so fond of my ultra casual clothing that I resist all attempts to leave home before seven p.m. And then too I agree only if the proposed visit is to a pub. Okay, that is a joke. I also agree to restaurants and other such places that serve alcohol (another joke. I’m on fire!). During the day I only make exceptions for my bank manager and chartered account. Luckily most of the times I can get away with it citing reasons of the all-important but fleeting visit of my muse.


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