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I'm A Writer, All Right?

06/12/2016 1:54 PM IST | Updated 10/12/2016 10:12 AM IST
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Top view thirties retro writers desk with typewriter on old wooden background table top.

It was a Monday morning; the winter sun had risen two hours ago. I hadn't slept all night apart from a few momentary winks. My eyes, heavy from the continuous typing and countless cups of coffee, were shielded by a pair of shades, which reflected the stature of a building. Not just any building. This was the office building for a publisher. Not just any publisher but one that would publish me by the end of this story.

Hi, I am a writer.

My hands possessively holding on to a transparent file consisting of 82,000 words for a stranger and a novel for me, I entered the ajar lift. It was already occupied by a man wearing a neatly ironed suit and an expression complementing his proud stature; I was a complete contrast to his image.

[A]n orthodox mindset... mistakes writing as a hobby. I guess that makes all forms of art a way to pass the time and every artist unemployed?

My anxiety and excitement reduced the usual awkwardness that confronts strangers in lifts. The doors refused to close. I didn't care; I was enthusiastically early for my meeting.

We both exchanged the mandatory "lift smile". Almost immediately the silence was broken by his stentorian voice.

"So, what do you do?"

"I write."

"Right...?"

"I write."

"Oh, that's a fun hobby. I used to paint. But, what work do you do?"

"I write."

"Right..."

Silence enveloped the 4x4 box again. I interpreted the lift door not shutting as a sign and excused myself to take the stairs. The dysfunctional lift wasn't a surprise. The building was from an era where nothing "unconventional" was accepted. Turns out the man in the lift too supported an orthodox mindset that mistakes writing as a hobby. I guess that makes all forms of art a way to pass the time and every artist unemployed?

The cold breeze rushed between the stairways. I remember taking the decision to be a writer. The second I realised words didn't frighten me and neither did the process of penning them down, I knew I didn't mind not receiving a cheque at the end of each month. It's not as if I didn't want to make a living. I just wanted to do so by living a life that inspired me while I hoped to inspire others. So I wrote, countless words, endless pages, with black ink that was soon matched by the dark circles from reading and re-reading each letter.

Then again they ask what work I do. I have a job that pays me according to the work I put in and each day as I create, I have to work over time. I write.

"You're too young for this." A familiar voice followed me. The man with the suit took the liberty to emphasize his concern.

"I'm not applying for a driving license, there is no age limit."

"You know what I mean. Don't waste your time, do this later when you have more experience. It's an unorganised industry."

This man had miraculously turned a hobby into a job. I needed experience to write? Where do I start? Isn't learning the alphabet experience enough to start writing? A host of replies ricocheted in my head.

I was stuck in a classic conundrum. First, we're told writing isn't a profession then we are told it's a profession with no organisation. Then why are books turning into movies and plays? Suddenly writing seems like a favourable job doesn't it?

The hunger to write should not be overshadowed by the greed to sell. Getting published is just the full stop to your words.

Secondly, we need experience to gain experience? Writing is an art form depicted differently by each individual. Gaining experience from other writers and using that, I think we call that plagiarism...

The journey to the top floor seemed longer with each question. Luckily I had packed a truck full of perseverance when I chose to embark on this trek.

"What if you don't get published? What happens if you don't sell? Have you thought about competition? Do you know the formula for a successful book?"

His rapid fire questions matched my quickened footsteps, as I let my reassurance absorb his interrogations.

I wasn't aware writing needed a recipe book. If there was one, wouldn't every piece of work be the same? We're made to believe writing is a process driven by a formula, somewhat like a dish.

The hunger to write should not be overshadowed by the greed to sell. Getting published is just the full stop to your words.

Today, we have social media channels, blogs, online pages, several traditional publishers, a plethora of platforms to get your work showcased. As many platforms as there are words. Don't fear competition because there is none. Don't fear failure, as it is inevitable, but ultimately, so is success.

Finally, I reached the top floor.

Sitting in a room surrounded by literature, a man approached me. This wasn't the first time I'd seen him today. He greeted me, as his arm followed suit.

"We loved your work, we'd like to publish..." He paused in the realisation that earlier he'd judged a book by its cover.

It's true; the stigma to being a writer can only be trumped by becoming a writer. It's best to let your writing do the talking. I smiled and introduced myself.

"Hi, I am a writer."

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