Brush with writing: A drop of ink may make a billion think
Writing is magic. It offers a rare joy and is my favourite companion, wherever I am and wherever I go. Often, it gives the opportunity to relive the simplest pleasures and express the many epiphanies that cross the mind, leading to clarity I had been seeking. I admire how it connects, showing the path to many as Lord Byron aptly observed, “A drop of ink may make a billion think.”
A warm thank you to the monthly school magazine at Punjab Public School, Nabha, the boarding school I attended, which planted the seed of writing. A writeup on the festival of Halloween was my first published piece, way back in 1999, when I was in grade 6. The engrossing narration about this festival from one of our guests at home became my inspiration. Seeing the piece in the magazine encouraged me so much that I began contributing an article every month.
As I reached grade 10, my letters started finding place in the letters to the editor column of newspapers. Within a short span, my collection of letters grew, and I preserved them in a large glass frame, still hanging in my bedroom.
My first piece of 500 words in a newspaper was about a nostalgic visit to the boarding school, years after passing out. I can easily recall the date: December 7, 2012, and also who was first to congratulate me. Interestingly, it was published in the newspaper you are now reading. I wanted to write more, and I did, and will always continue to since it keeps me so alive.
Ideas to write come anytime, anywhere – be it while bathing, walking or even while holding conversations. Some of them surprise and I want to jot them down before I forget. No wonder I’ve scribbled on napkins and pamphlets. Ideas crawl to me in the middle of the night. There was a time I kept writing them on papers, never able to find them, when needed. Thankfully the habit of keeping a diary saved me, which stays not only by my bedside but also joins me wherever I go. Its pages on return are always filled with so much new.
A unique euphoria awaits me as I wrap up a piece, and it is all set for submission. The moment I hear it’s been selected, my happiness knows no bounds and seeing it in print is a dream come true. However, rejections too are part of the process and despite them one should go on. Sometimes, there’s no reply, while sometimes the same line, ‘Thanks. Regret our inability to carry the piece,” or “Sorry, your piece is not being used,” with no further explanation.
As shared in Chicken Soup for Writer’s Soul book, there have been cases when some also received stinging feedback but didn’t give up. In 1889, Rudyard Kipling received the following letter from the San Francisco Examiner: “I am sorry; Mr Kipling but you don’t know how to use the English language.” In 1902, the poetry editor of the Atlantic Monthly returned the poems of a 28-year-old, with these words: “Our magazine has no verse for your vigorous verse.” The poet was Robert Browning. Even Stephen King was rejected a hundred times.
So, what makes a good writer? First and foremost, one who lives in the present, an observer, a voracious storyteller with the ability to draw lessons from all kinds of experiences, an open-minded traveller and most importantly an ardent reader. Nearly a decade ago, when I got a chance to meet Ruskin Bond, he too underlined the power of reading. It not only enriches our writings but also our mind and this reminds me of a quote by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, “The pen is the tongue of the mind.” In one word: Absolutely! email@example.com
The writer is an Amritsar-based freelance contributor