The Ten Commandments for Writers

Inspired by Rachna’s post, I churned out my own Ten Commandments writers must follow to become successful:

1. Thou shalt keep notepad handy at all times, for verily thy ideas will disappear before thine eyes

2. Thou shalt strive for conciseness in thy writing, lest thy reader fall asleep before thy article ends

3. Thou shalt always double-check thy spelling, for thou art not known to be a spelling bee

4. Thou shalt practice thy writing regularly, lest thee fall victim to writer’s block

5. Thou shalt avoid the oft-repeated cliché like the plague

6. Thou shalt read vigorously, till thy eyes bleed, for in suffering lies the key to success

7. Thou shalt maintain thy writing journal religiously, for therein lie the great ideas that wilt lead thou to immortality

8. Thou shalt not hound thy editors or postmen for swift replies

9. Thou shalt not check thy e-mail every ten seconds

10. Thou shalt not neglect thy family members and leave them to starve, for thy writing’s sake

Tell me any more you can think of!

What ho Author!

In honour of PGW’s 130th birth anniversary (which I remembered reading this post), I crafted the following letter. If Bertie Wooster launched a literary agency with Jeeves as his trusty assistant, what kind of rejection letter would good ol’ Bertie send to the hand-wringing writers? Fret not, friends! The answer lies below: 

What ho Author! 

Jolly good of you to send along your manuscript thingie, what?  

Of course I couldn’t read it without downing one of Jeeves’ life-saving bracers, but even that didn’t do the trick. The old lemon remained clouded several hours after turning the last of your pages. So I handed over the bally thing to Jeeves, who has a head the size of a melon. His brow flickered upon reading the opening paragraph, which, I hesitate to say, boded ill for the rest of the work. 

My judgment proved correct. After a detailed inspection of your material, Jeeves addressed me thus: ‘I fear, sir, that it would be injudicious on my part to advise you to undertake the championing of this manuscript. The prose does not merit praise, and the treatment of the subject matter has clearly not taken into account the psychology of the individual.’ 

I offered it to Aunt Dahlia, but she had occupied herself with writing an editorial for her magazine Milady’s Boudoir, to which I once contributed an article on ‘What the Well-dressed Man is Wearing’. You see, author old chap, I’ve written some tosh too, just like you brainy coves! 

Aunt Agatha refused to answer my call for help. I believe she was chewing on a broken bottle at the time of receiving my telegram. 

Fear not, author old boy, for this too shall pass, as Jeeves says. A stiff b and s is all you’ll need to recover. 

Toodle-oo,

Bertram Wilberforce Wooster

The World is Job-less, Illegal Operations and other Computer Hazards

In 2006, I bought my first ever iDevice – a first generation iPod Nano. That conked this year, no doubt to the violent manhandling or baby-handling by my daughter. So I promptly caved in and purchased an iPod Touch. My husband, not to be outdone, bought the iPhone 3GS and morphed into an Apple fanboy overnight. 

I wouldn’t dare compose a eulogy when far better ones are already out there. Instead, I offer the following piece that is technology-inspired: 

Illegal Operations

In 1998, the latest OS from the stable of Microsoft – Windows 98 – burst onto the scene. Its greatest contribution to the computing era has been, without a doubt, the ‘Illegal operation’ message. Every so often, regardless of what software I was tinkering with on the computer, it would suddenly spring forth the infamous ‘This program has performed an illegal operation and will shut down’, followed by a technical description of whatever heinous crime I had committed. This infuriated me at first, as I have never done anything illegal in my life. But gradually I learnt to take it in my stride. It is just one of those things you cannot avoid, like getting spanked by your boss for something you didn’t do (but were supposed to, of course).

But I liked the confidence behind the message. The computer insisted on shutting itself down and told you so in no uncertain terms, lest you harbour any hope of its recovery. But the advent of Windows 7 has eliminated that problem, so whatever you do on your computer you can rest assured that it is a legal operation. 

Once you have mastered the computer and its intricacies, there are other hazards to deal with, namely, e-mail. 

The E-mails versus the Females

An ingenious individual came up with the following variation on a quote by Rudyard Kipling: 

The email of the species is deadlier than the mail.

Mr. Kipling may or may not have been pleased to see his gems thus distorted, but upon reflection he would arrived at the same conclusion as millions of email users the world over – that it is nothing but the gospel truth.

While registering for an email account you glimpse an idea of exactly how many unfortunate souls in the world possess names similar to yours. Ten years ago when the internet started gaining popularity even in our power-starved cities, I believed that the number of people with my kind of name would be so few that I could count them on one hand. The email address gargimehra@emailprovider.com would be mine for the taking. But when all the popular email providers like Yahoo, Hotmail and Rediff declined to offer me the address of my choice, then I realized my ghastly name was commoner than I had thought. 

So I resorted to the only option left to me – stick in a few foreign objects like ‘_’ or ‘.’ between the names. I went with the underscore – I thought it added a bit of character to the address. 

But just having an email address is never enough. You have to circulate it amongst your friends to actually receive any mail. Announcing the address to the tech-savvy is effortless, but trying to explain it to a technophobe like my dear father is a different ball game altogether. 

Shortly after creating my spanking new email account, I needed some information from my father urgently. When I requested him for it he immediately outlined to me the standard procedure – he would dictate it to his secretary who would type it, take a printout, and courier it over to me ASAP. 

I dared to suggest to him that instead of sending across a single ream of paper two thousand miles, that too one that didn’t even require any signature, why didn’t he try sending the necessary information in an email instead? 

He hung up the phone, saying he would ask his secretary for more details. Ten minutes later he called to say that, lo and behold, he too had an official email address, but he just didn’t know it all this time! 

The conversation thenceforward proceeded as follows:

Me: So far so good, why don’t you take down my email address?

Dad: But when did you get your email address?

Me: When I was inDelhi, I registered for one.

Dad: But you are in Pune now, so don’t you need a new one?

Me(tearing hair) No, that’s the purpose. If I needed a new one here, how would it be different from a postal address?

Dad(befuddled): Ok ok, don’t tell me all this technical nonsense!

Me: I haven’t even got technical yet!

Dad: Ok doesn’t matter, now tell me your email address?

Me: Yes, it’s g-a-r-g-i-underscore…

Dad: Underscore? What underscore? Don’t tell me underscore shunderscore, just tell me the address.

Little wonder that I lost fifty percent of the hair on my head on that day itself. 

But not to worry, I lost the remainder of my silky tresses after a similar conversation, conducted not too long afterwards, with my mother: 

Mom: Beta, I have seen a wonderful job ad in the paper. They have even given an email address. Should I give it to you?

Me: Yes

Mom: Ok write it down, w-w-w-dot…

Me: What?? Are you giving me the website address or the email address?

Mom: There’s no difference, it’s all the same thing.

Me: No Mom, tell me the one that doesn’t start with the ‘www’.

Mom(after frantic searching): Ok it is, careers, c-a-r-e-e-r-s…

Me: Yes…

Mom: a inside a circle…

Me: What??? What is this about ‘a inside circles’?

Mom: I don’t know! That’s what’s written here, it’s a squiggly thing that looks like a circle with an ‘a’ sitting inside it.

Me: Oh God, Mom, that’s pronounced ‘at-the-rate’

The best thing about e-mail is how well it complements telephonic communication. With the advent of e-mail, people can not just send and receive messages through the internet, but they can also call each other up to talk about its contents! Wasn’t that some beautiful pink stationery they had used as the background? How well it suited the purple font of the message itself! 

But you must excuse me now – my boss is calling me to discuss the email proposal I sent him.

 

 

Agonies of an Aunt

Exactly twenty years minus one week – that’s the age gap between my niece and me. But Uma didn’t think so. From the moment she set eyes on me, she believed I was an overgrown baby come expressly to steal away her beloved mother’s attentions. To begin with, she took violent exception to my hugging her mother and charged towards me to remove the offending hand, her brows furrowed in fury. 

Strictly speaking, we had no cause for complain. She drove us to exercise more in a day than a week in a gym. We were sternly instructed to chase her (‘Run, Run!’), jump two steps at a time (‘Jump here!’) and skip all over the room. In no time at all we should soon be skilfully qualified to join the circus. As for the occupants of the apartment directly below us, they are, I’m sure, living in perpetual fear of the building falling on their heads.

There’s not enough Vaseline in the world to satisfy Uma, who generously smears her face with it, taking the concept of smoother skin to an altogether new level. The enthusiasm with which she rubs the lip-gloss all over clearly indicates that she is heading towards the world’s first zero-friction lips.

Under her reign, I lost the right to use most drinking glasses save one. The one glass I was permitted to use, she referred to it as ‘some glass.’ I relinquished my claim to the computer chair as she forced me to use the kitchen chair instead. She informed me that ‘teddy wanted to sit on the computer chair.’

Every evening, she returned from the crèche with my sister around six. While trudging up the stairs, she would say wearily ‘I don’t love you’ in her singsong Irish accent. I retorted that it did not matter in the least, as I did not love her either. With impeccable baby logic, she countered ‘Hey, no, you love me!’

From time to time she would point at my feet and say ‘you have got a smelly feet’, and, as an afterthought – ‘I haven’t got a smelly feet’.

And to add a dash of mystery to the whole affair, she started referring to me as ‘somebody’. So if you happened to visit us, you would hear her say things like ‘Somebody’s at home’, ‘Somebody’s sitting in my chair’ etc. 

But I’m glad to report that by applying some good old bureaucratic concepts like bribery, relations between aunt and niece improved considerably in the months to follow, so much so that when my birthday rolled around she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me with no small measure of genuine pleasure in her voice.