MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG # 31.

WHY DOESN’T A NOVELIST EVER STOP WRITING ?

               In my previous blog , I had discussed the difficulties that a novelist experiences in achieving an emotional closure while completing a novel. In this blog , I would discuss what prompts a novelist to start all over again. This question is closely related with the question why does someone write a novel begin with ? I can tell you from my own experience that when a novelist begins her /his first novel , there is an inarticulate urge to write. However , after having written and having finished one’s first novel , this urge is somewhat clearly defined and it is therefore more articulate. Therefore , when a novelist starts writing her /his second novel , she /he has a clearer picture of what prompts her /his creativity. It is this clarity that I would like to explore in this blog. Of course , now that I am about to finish my second novel , I am experiencing that bittersweet pangs of transition. Therefore , I think I am qualified to write about it.

                   I had mentioned in my previous blog that a novelist never really achieves an emotional closure even after a novel is complete. This results in two types of emotions in a novelist’s mind. Firstly , a novelist is tempted to refine and reinterpret her /his own emotions which were expressed in the completed novel. However , the trouble with this tendency is that the novel and characters created in that novel are no longer in the novelist’s control because they have acquired a life of their own. The only solution , and perhaps a profitable one in these days of franchise , is to write a sequel. However , my own feelings are ambivalent about writing a sequel. While it is easy to write a sequel because the universe of the prequel is already carved out and therefore it is easier and more productive for a novelist to enrich the emotional ecosystem of that fictional universe. However , there is a clear danger for a novelist of being stagnant. I think the core of fiction writing is not just  weaving of diverse emotions into a tapestry of narrative. The core also consists of narrative structure of novel. This narrative structure , if repeated , tends to lose its impact. Moreover , I think the city where the novel unfolds and the social milieu of the principle characters are equally important. In fact , I believe that they are separate characters of a novel. Therefore , when one writes a sequel , one needs to repeat these elements as well. This also leads to creative stagnancy.

                Incidentally , in my second novel , I was faced with a similar problem. My second novel is also based in Mumbai and also involves middle class Gujarati family. However , I have changed the geographical details and professional backgrounds of the principal characters. More importantly , the protagonist and his girlfriend  are required to travel to a different town in search of her reincarnation roots. Therefore , I could introduce a second city in the narrative.

        The second emotion that a novelist feels during the transition between novels is that of absence of reaffirmation of her / his self image. When a novel is being written , a novelist gets an opportunity to reflect on her/his self image because as the novel progresses , it reflects novelist’s internal thought processes which a novelist can observe from outside. Thus , during the writing of a novel , a novelist can constantly create her/his self image. Incidentally , I have developed a habit of writing daily. So, I can confirm that this continuous self cognition is beneficial. However , when a novel is complete , a novelist is prevented from this exercise. Therefore , it is natural for a novelist to pick up a pen and begin again. Of course , this process is not fixed. It depends on individual details of a novelist when she /he begins again. I began my second novel within a month of the publication of my first novel.

           This brings me to the last point of this blog. Does a novelist anytime feel that she /he can not write any more novels ? I am not sure about it. There are references to writer’s block in the literature. However  , that is only a temporary phenomenon. Most of the novelists that I have read and liked , wrote till their deaths. Of course , Hemingway is an exception. Ironically , he too wrote till he died , but he committed suicide because he felt that he could no longer write. Writing , to Hemingway , was not a profession but a reason to live. Therefore , his logic was simple , if he could not write , he had no right to live.

         Mercifully , it least from my selfish perspective , I have not reached that stage. I already have a vague outline of a plot for my next novel. However , the beginning of that novel is still some months away because I have yet to finish this novel and carry it tenderly through the stages of publication.

          In my next blog , I would unveil some details of my second novel.

               

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MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #27.

HOW FAST OUR LIVES ARE IN COMPARISON TO OUR PARENT’S LIVES ?

          It is universally accepted that we live relatively faster life than that of previous generation. When we think of our parents , we conjure up an idyllic picture of easy paced life when we were growing up. Our belief in our comparatively faster life is further strengthened by our belief that modern technology has offered more options than those available in our parent’s life time. This is , by and large , true. However , we make mistake in thinking that earlier life was slow and therefore it was more tranquil. It is true that there were less options available to people in earlier generations. It is also true that people were less mobile in earlier times. However , it would be a category mistake to think that life earlier was less frenetic or less stressful. This mistake arises from the fact that we overlook how our mind works.

           It is not number of options available that decides the pace of life. It is our indecision to make choices that sets the pace of our lives. The human nature is such that it is equally burdened with decision making whether we are dealing with few options or hundreds of options. This may sound strange , but it is true. When we have large number of options , our mind picks up only the top few options while making a choice. Therefore , mind spends quite some time in making a choice and it doesn’t really matter how many options are available. Our mind is involved in constant conflict of making choices. Therefore, our sense of living a fast life mainly arises from this constant dilemma of making choices. It does not really matter technologically how advanced we are. What matters is how fast our choice making processes are. In that sense , every generation feels that it is living a fast life. We may find such assertions from our parents rather comic but from there mental perspective , this is a valid perception. It is more than certain that our children would find that we have lived in a slow paced life. Therefore , our external yardstick of measuring fast paced life is not in harmony with our internal perception of pace of life.

      In this blog , I would pick up this aspect of our perception. There are two aspects that I would discuss here. Firstly , I would discuss whether our personalities have altered because of fast pace of life or not. Secondly , I would describe my own difficulties in creating a plot that appears as a slow paced to the readers even when the characters feel that there is a constant rush in their lives. The beauty of fiction writing is that it allows a novelist  (and therefore readers ) to stretch a brief moment into eternity and a life long experience into a flitting moment. I would describe in this blog , how I sought to achieve a balance between the different paces of life say thirty years ago and our contemporary life.

          Let me tell you how difficult it was to have the protagonist of this novel to interact with two women in different phases of his life. His trouble is that he suspects that both women are in fact the same individual in two different births. The first woman was his girlfriend when he himself was young. The second woman is also a young but he is , by now , a sixty year old man. Therefore , he finds it difficult to adjust. Part of his mind tells him that he is an old man , whereas part of his mind tells him that this young woman is his girlfriend from the past. At some point in the novel  , he realises that it is his own mind that is playing tricks with him. What he remembered as his tranquil past of his girlfriend turns out to be a selective amnesia. The new woman makes him confront the reality and his own true self. At that point the protagonist realises that the life is always complex and fast. It is because we selectively remember the past that it appears to be smooth and slow.

           As a novelist  , I found it difficult to portray this deception in the protagonist’s mind. However , I accidentally found the answer to this difficulty. When I began narrating the protagonist’s younger days , I spent quite a few pages in creating the details of his background. However , as the plot developed , these very details became instruments of pushing the story further. The plot quickened on its own momentum. Since the novel is in a part flashback and part now frame of reference , this matched very well with the present fast paced life. However , the bottom line is this. The life is even paced. It is how our mind chooses and selectively remembers that gives us a false impression that our present life is faster than the  life a generation ago.

         Since my novel is nearing it’s climax , I would discuss in my next blog what kind of problems a novelist faces while creating a climax. I would also discuss whether and why should a novel have a climax. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG#5

                         REINCARNATION AS A METAPHOR.

    In my previous blogs , I had discussed reasons why the idea of reincarnation appeals to us. I had suggested that the idea appeals to us because it fulfills our emotional and religious expectations. The idea of reincarnation somehow expresses a compromise between our own conflicting emotional requirements. In this blog , I would examine this idea purely from literary perspective. There are two aspects to this perspective. Firstly , if an idea , such as this one , is really an expression of our subconscious mind , then the question is whether literature , particularly fiction , could be used to deconstruct this subconscious mind. Secondly , whether this idea of reincarnation has necessary depth to be a good literary device.

           Let us look at the idea of reincarnation as an expression of our subconscious mind.  I think it is reasonable to view this idea as a vehicle for our subconscious need to exist forever and for our delayed wish fulfillment. In that case , popular fiction ought to describe stories that demonstrate this. Try to think of popular stories that we have grown up with. There are two basic themes in popular fiction that are most enduring. One theme is about unrequited love and the second theme is about meting out justice. Both these themes are forms of delayed wish fulfillment. When the protagonists , or central characters , are deprived of what is rightfully theirs , our subconscious mind identifies with their plight by projecting our own sense of being deprived what ought to have been ours. However , we know , somewhere back in our minds , that we may not ever get back things that is rightfully ours. However , if those characters in the literature do indeed get the things they always yearned for in their next births , we feel happy and vindicated. Fiction offers a way to fulfill our wishes by the process of transference. The moral victory that these characters in the fiction  achieve become our victory by proxy. If this reasoning is valid then one can deconstruct all the popular fiction to understand what kind of sensibilities we , as a culture , have.

         In addition to the major themes of unrequited love and justice , there is another theme that runs through this idea.  This theme , in fact , elevates the idea of reincarnation to a literary device of metaphor. Hidden behind these two themes of unrequited love and justice lies the third theme of stoicism. If the first two themes were personal in nature , the third theme of stoicism i. e.  acceptance of one’s destiny as inevitable ,is social in nature. If we , at a cultural level , had strong feelings about injustice , then we would have found ways and means to remove  injustice. However , theory of Karma is so deeply ingrained in our sensibilities that we have learnt to accept injustice as part of the destiny. It is this stoicism of accepting whatever destiny has in store for us that finds expression in the idea of reincarnation. In reincarnation , the characters who are born again , do not actively avenge the injustice inflicted on them in previous births. They get avenged because destiny conspires to get them justice in their new births. In some sense the destiny also represents society as a whole. Just as a society changes with time , the balance of power within the society changes. The oppressed becomes free. The oppressor becomes oppressed. It is this turmoil in social dynamics that indirectly delivers the justice.  Thus the idea of reincarnation  acts as a metaphor for individual sensibilities. At the same time , this idea of destiny also becomes a metaphor for social dynamics. Just as social dynamics turns a complete circle by interchanging the roles of the oppressed and the oppressor , the destiny also turns a full circle.

    Thus the idea of reincarnation draws its metaphoric potential from our psychological , moral and sociological undercurrents of our culture. The question that I hope to deal with in my second novel is whether a writer can consciously tailor a plot to deconstruct the our cultural sensibilities or that creative processes are too powerful for any writer to master. It may happen that my creative processes may be in total control of my subconscious. Therefore the novel may not turn out to be the one  I wanted  but it may turn out to be an account of how my own subconscious mind works and , by extension , how our cultural sensibilities , that shape our individual subconscious  minds ,operate. In either case ,  this novel would hold mirror to  our own sensibilities.

               In my next few blogs , I would discuss the practical difficulties in weaving a very intricate plot that the theme of reincarnation demands.

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG#4.

                 REINCARNATION AND RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.

           In my previous blog , I had discussed the psychological reasons for the popularity of the notion of reincarnation. I had suggested that our belief in reincarnation is a projection of our own emotional needs. Our belief in reincarnation does not require a logical or a rational arguments. In that blog , I had also mentioned that apart from individual emotional needs , our belief in reincarnation also arises from our cultural and religious belief. In this blog , I would try to analyze the reasons why our religious doctrines and cultural ethos reinforce our belief in the notion of reincarnation.

             At the outset , I would like to clarify that my views on religion, any religion for that matter , are not based on some assumed intellectual superiority. I do not think that religions and intellectual attitudes are incompatible. My own view of the religion is that it plays a significant role in shaping individual sensibilities. There are quite a few scientists who had strong religious beliefs and yet they could excel in their professions. In my opinion , the religion also plays an important role in uniting it’s followers on the basis of common sensibilities. This society building role of a religion is a historical fact. Of course , this notion of common religious identity also leads to isolationist tendencies. However , I would refrain from sociological aspects of religion and instead focus on psychological and moral dimensions of religion and its role in reinforcing our belief in reincarnation.

               I think that the principal claim of all religions is the existence of an absolute entity. This entity is variously described , in different religions , as a personification of that absolute entity. This personification has different attributes depending on the sensibilities of that particular religion. The main task of all religions is to connect that absolute personified entity with mundane lives of its followers. However , the problem with this task is that the day to day life of religious followers is in absolute contrast with the attributes of the personified deity. While the deity may be a personification of piety and virtuousness, the life of a religious follower would be exactly opposite of that. Similarly , the deity would be a personification of tranquility and peace , whereas a follower’s life would be anything but that.

                Therefore the task of all religions is two fold. Firstly , they make you aware that you are separate from the deity. Therefore you must practice certain rituals to connect with the deity.  On the other hand , religions also profess that the deity is always present in each one of us in the form of certain absolute entity. This entity , being a part and parcel of the deity , is absolute and therefore indestructible. Therefore , our religious practices are of two types. Either one can practice religious rituals and  try to connect with the deity, or one can search oneself by introspection to connect with the deity. In fact , Sanskrit word for religion ‘dharma’ has two connotations. Dharma means a code of conduct as well as a direct relationship between the individual and the deity.

         Let us see how our religious beliefs shape our belief in reincarnation. To the extent the deity is part of an  individual, the deity can not simply perish when that  individual dies. At the same time, an individual has hardly any attributes that are ascribed to the deity. Therefore the attributes possessed by that individual must have arisen from somewhere else. Therefore an individual must be made up of several parts. One part represents the divine and other parts represent mundane aspects of reality. The divine part is always pure ànd absolute. The mundane parts are always imperfect and constantly changing. Thus it is necessary for most of the religions to propose an internal dichotomy of human beings. An individual is thus blend of divine and mundane. This dichotomy is inevitable once you accept a notion of absolute deity. However , the most important aspect of religions is not just to offer this type of logical explanation. The religions are also fundamental to human beings because they offer a moral dimension to us. This is where this dichotomy plays an important role.

                      In my opinion , human beings ,as a species , are a  moral species. Our need for moral justification is an inborn need. I also believe that articulation of this moral dimension has led us to the organized religions. If this is true , then it is easy to see that the notion of reincarnation would fullfil the conflicting requirements of our psyche. The absolute and divine part of ourselves can not perish therefore it must continue to exist even after our death. On the other hand , the mundane part of ourselves keeps on changing and is perishable.  Thus the notion of reincarnation enables us to accommodate this contradictory requirements of different parts of our psyche. Now ,add a moral dimension to this notion of reincarnation and you have a theory of Karma. The activities of mundane part of human beings , that can not be reconciled within a single life time  , can always be reconciled with the help of divine part of an individual. The notion of soul as the absolute and divine part of an individual , being imperishable , can be born again . Moreover , this part can reconcile the actions of the mundane and imperfect part of that individual.

Thus the notion of reincarnation accommodates the requirements of an absolute deity ,human beings made of several parts and more importantly , the moral sense of human beings. It is therefore natural that the notion of reincarnation is supported by our religious beliefs.             

           In my next blog , I would discuss the literary aspect of reincarnation. I think it is necessary to know that the notion of  reincarnation  has inherent metaphorical template. In my next blog I would discuss the notion of reincarnation as a metaphor.