“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
The other day I was reading The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Creative Genius of the World’s Rarest Type. In the book, the author describes hearing a very strong voice inside her head saying, again and again, “I need to explain why I killed my father.”
She didn’t know the voice’s name or anything about his background. But she couldn’t just ignore it. Meanwhile, the voice grew stronger and stronger till the author decided to “do something about it.” That meant to sit and write and describe the experience.
Huh??? I paused for a moment. A voice speaking to you?
That sounded rather stupid. What was the lady smoking? Or, has she lost her sanity?
Writing, I thought, was a rather planned exercise in which you sketch out an outline of your characters, story line, setting etc. and then go on to fill in the colours. There was, I thought, no scope for giving in to your hallucinations or the voices swirling around your head.
Then it dawned on me. These were not hallucinations. This is what is called inspiration.
Soon I could recall instances from my own writing. I remembered that this was how I was beginning a story unconsciously. That is: I was letting my characters tell whatever they wanted to say.
When I was writing my third novel, When Ganges Met the North Sea, I had a powerful vision of a 20-year-old girl named Ella who wanted to tell me a story of her struggles with an eating disorder and how finding true love cured her. What was even more interesting was that the guy she fell in love with, did not belong to her culture but still could understand her pains and sufferings well.
Now imagine: If you are approached by a character like Ella, in your head, who wants to share her eating disorder story, what will you do?
Will you ask her to shut up because you personally hate such stories? Or because you think nobody else would like to listen to her story? Or that her story has no “market”? Or that the audience would be put off if they heard the story of such a “weakling”?
And if Ella still wants to go ahead, would you like to caution her that she (or rather you) won’t make any money? Or funnily, that you would like to master the rules of fiction writing first even before you let her open her mouth?
But think, what would be Ella’s reaction?
“I don’t care. I need to tell my story.” I can imagine her saying this.
Is Ella scared of being called a “weakling?” I bet she does. Every eating disorder patient would be afraid of thus being labelled.
Would people appreciate her frankness? Well, some would certainly not. I am sure Ella would fear being labelled shallow, self-centred or mentally unstable. Others may be emotionally overwhelmed. But let’s face it—it takes immense courage to tell an unpleasant fact about yourself. And Ella would be really brave in doing so.
I honour her. Who am I to stop her from telling her story? I am just an intermediary. Ella does all the talking.
If you approach story-telling from this perspective, writing can be the happiest experience of your life. For me, writing then becomes a mystical experience. Where you are one with your characters, in a kind of spiritual union.
In this background, writing for the market has no place. Same goes for attaining those unreasonable goals like featuring on the New York Times or the USA Today Best-seller lists.
Or even selling a million copies.
The fact is that best-sellers are NEVER written to the market. In fact, they create their own genre and markets. Take the Harry Potter series, for example.
J.K. Rowling’s publishers were so unsure of its success that they told her to keep her day job. Their reasoning: well, there is no market for “children’s fiction.” And yet her first book sold more than a million copies.
J.K. Rowling didn’t write to the market. She was just having fun with her characters. And that was it.
You may like to read her story in greater detail in my book Celebrating Quiet People: Uplifting Stories for Introverts and Highly Sensitive Persons.
The same goes with The Da Vinci Code. Had Dan Brown done a market research on whether he should write any such book on Jesus’ bloodline, I am sure he wouldn’t have got a great response. Most people wouldn’t have cared. Others would have told him not to displease the majority of the Christian population. Like him or hate him, his book The Da Vinci Code sold over 80 million copies worldwide.
Take any other best-seller, including The Lord of the Rings, and I’m sure the lessons will be equally valid.
May I then recommend that you:
WRITE—because your characters want to tell their stories.
Write—to entertain yourself.
Write—because that is what you love doing.
And leave the rest to your kismet, fate, or whatever you believe in.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book How to have a Happier Writer Mindset WITHOUT SPENDING A DIME.