Thursday, 9 July 2009

Writing Ugly

I wonder if there's a case to be made for grinding out a blog post every now and then, as a way of reminding oneself that it can be done. I haven't written anything for a while now, and seem to be averaging about one post a month of late. Not because I'm too busy or anything, of course, just that most of the stuff I start drafting out in my head doesn't meet my own standards for publication. If it isn't good enough for me to read, I reckon it's not something I want to share with anyone else. And that, I think, is really the cause for most cases of writer's block - the problem is not that one can't think of anything to write about, it is just that one can't seem to find the words to express oneself in a way that is gratifying. Maintaining some standards is, of course, necessary, but I do think that sometimes we end up putting too much thought into whether something is worth writing (and posting) or not. Which, if you think about it, is rather ironic when it comes to blogging, because the 'cost' to post one's writing is pretty low (mainly in terms of time rather than money) as is the 'cost' to others to read it. In fact, when I first started blogging, I tried to get a feel for it by checking out one of those 'how-to' type blogs that recommended that I just keep on posting whatever came to mind - with enough quantity, there was sure to be at least some work of quality. I don't think I followed that advice much, but I did manage to get a fair number of posts out of the way pretty quickly.

But that was when I was still just enjoying the whole opportunity to write again and didn't care who read them. As I have become more conscious of the fact that some people actually read my blog (even if it was about 5 regulars and one or two misguided souls searching for naughty pics of aunties or whatever), I think I have become a bit more hesitant. I'm a lot more conscious of how potential readers might react or even if there will be a reaction at all. I find myself (sometimes) obsessing over whether particular posts got comments or not, or how new visitors arrived at my blog. Case in point: I'm now ruing the fact that I named a post "The Hep Aunties of Khan Market", since I now get a few hits each month from the aforementioned MILF-seekers. Google Analytics is more of a hindrance than a help in this regard - it gives me more things to ponder about, like whether that person sitting in Bristol who visited my blog 3 times in the last month is someone I know who's just checking in (though I can't think of anyone) , or if it's a new reader who might like my style and who I need to impress even more so she'll keep coming back and may tell more people about me so I can slowly establish an empire of readers across the South of England (it had better be a she - I don't want to have to find out I'm wasting my time worrying about strange British men...). And all this for a blog that's just a side-project that isn't even going to make me rich or famous or anything.

Of course, I was a worrier about my writing well before I started blogging. Back at College, I could only start writing my essays for tutorials after midnight, when I was just tired enough to not give a damn about how fruity my writing might sound. As a result, for the first 3 'tutes' I wrote for a subject called Comparative Economic Development I quoted, in order, Jesus Christ, Voltaire and Pink Floyd, because I knew that our prof didn't really care what the body of the essay contained as long as it started and ended well, and I actually got pretty good marks for them. I don't think I could have written any of those while completely in control of my senses, since it would have seemed too pretentious and cheesy for me to put my name to it (Yes, I know, trying to 'keep it real' in a tute is pointless, but so is reading an amateur blog so why are you here and what's your point?).

Which brings me to today. I had to write an article on 'Value Addition in Challenging Times' for a newsletter at work (not quite, I grant you, 'What the Well-Dressed Gentleman is Wearing', but we all have to start somewhere), and after letting it slide for a couple of days, I finally ground out the first draft today. I wouldn't normally have thought of myself as writing a 'gyaan'-type article, so I basically imagined the sort of stuff that my former department head at the Bank would have liked reading, and put it down. And as a reminder of my old tute-writing days, I even finished it with a quote from Rahm Emmanuel (you know which quote I'm talking about). It may well be that tomorrow I will find out I have to re-write most of the article, but just the act of writing without judging myself too much was quite enjoyable. And that led to this post.

Quite freeing, in a sense, like after when you've taken a satisfying dump. And now that it's done, I shall post it, and be done with it. Comment if you wish, I don't care.

Well, not too much, anyway.


  1. Nice post. Neat title.

    I know exactly what you mean. I even agonize over comments. It took me three takes just to write this para!

    I like to think putting fight into something you write is worth it. It's about as far from "freeing" as you can get, though.

    Good for you, though. If you feel like you've taken a dump without actually taking one, you're doing something right!

  2. The agony of a blog post, hell yes! - and yes, I can (as will most bloggers, I suspect) certainly empathize.
    But you know what jarred just a little bit? A reference to Wodehouse and a word as crude as dump in the same essay. Jeeves eyebrow might have even considered an entire half inch, you know.
    Just sayin'

  3. @Murthy: Yeah putting up some sort of a fight is worthwhile, but sometimes you can get too caught up in worrying about how it's all going to turn out. Sometimes you've just got to let it be a crappy post. No point, as they say, in getting all anal-retentive about it.
    As for my comparing posting to the feeling you get after taking a dump, it's like the feeling you get when you get something off your chest, only emanating from somewhere deeper down, if you get my drift.

    @thepuneri : stop being such a curmudgeon just because you've been writing about the good old days of Pune. Poop jokes are as much a part of British humour as Wodehouse. And might I say, I can see Jeeves' eyebrow and raise him another.

  4. mystery reader9 July 2009 at 23:29

    whoaa i didnt know u were such a perfectionist even when it came to random blog posts. but do u realize that regular readers might also be feeling the same way? i.e their comments may not be sensible enough to match up to the blog's high standards and intellectualism?

  5. Hello, mystery reader. Are you sure you aren't just saying all that to suck up to me?
    As I admitted in the post, I'm now quite a slave to my (admittedly small) readership, so anyone who leaves a comment no matter how idiotic is sure to leave me very happy.
    And if you somehow find my blogging to be intimidating (though, why you would, I can't imagine), you could follow me on twitter. I'm far more banal there.

  6. I had a whole brilliant comment written out punning in at least 3 different instances on the difficulties of addind value when times go from easy to challenging,

    ...but the internet had other ideas.

  7. Ah so the hive mind decided to censor you out? Too bad. Good of you to at least let me know that you tried...

    Incidentally, the article was better received than I thought it would be. Did I mention that I started it off with a mention of the Maruta?

  8. mystery reader10 July 2009 at 16:41

    u dont need to be so self deprecating . u were always a precocius . can u guess who i am?

  9. Hmm that's a tough one. Whom do I know who uses words like 'self-deprecating' and 'precocious' yet spells 'you' as 'u'? ;-)
    I can't think of too many people who knew me as a precocious child who also know that I blog. I'm guessing you're either an elder cousin or a family friend, or someone I know form school. Or some combination of that.Care to give me a clue?

  10. mystery reader10 July 2009 at 23:14

    my pleasure . clues:
    a)im ur lil cousin
    b)u find me quiet n boring

  11. Oi, I know who you are, and I definitely do NOT consider you boring. Quiet, yes. And you'll probably get over that once you get to college. I have a sneaking suspicion I was a quiet kid growing up partly because of the sheer size of our extended family - I couldn't remember the names of all our relatives or figure out how we were all related, so I only ended up talking to them if they spoke to me first, and even then kept the conversation generic enough so it wouldn't become obvious that I didn't know exactly who they were...

  12. curmudgeon - I'd say you deserve a prize for that word alone.
    I wish I'd known about you being a Wodehouse fan in Namma Bengalooru - tea time in office (all the time, in other words) would have been a whole lot mroe fun

  13. So you thought I was a Dylan Thomas fan, but it didn't strike you that I might also like Wodehouse?
    Nothing personal, but I doubt if we would have been spending too much time hanging out at the office. As far as I know, I'm not too popular amongst the few women I know who went to Gokhale (and their ire is understandable), so any hanging out would have resulted in certain people becoming distinctly unhappy, no?

  14. There's no such thing as writer's block, it's called laziness :)

  15. Geez you must have a really bad case of writer's block, you can't even think up a nom de net that works better than 'Anonymous'...

  16. I've had the exact same problems with blogging. Overthinking, underthinking, anticipating... and worst of all is drafting posts in my head -- most of which never see the light of monitor. But these days I'm not really sure why I'm not blogging.

    [I can think of someone you know who's in Bristol.]

  17. Well you are (or were) relatively prolific. Was that because you were more willing to be wrong, or just more confident that you'd gotten the post right?
    Maybe Twitter's part of the reason why you aren't blogging. I find it easier to put up a tweet on stuff I'm not especially keen on blogging, rather than waiting for it all to fall together as a perfect blog post. Your thoughts?
    And [whom do I know in Bristol?]

  18. Not sure if twitter has anything to do with it. But I used to spend a while getting my posts "just right". Sometimes I didn't quite get it, but just published the post anyway. It's almost impossible to cover things/ideas completely to your satisfaction: I ended up becoming a bit repetitive with some of my favourite ideas. I guess you have to find a balance between taking it seriously and recognizing that it's ephemeral.

    [Your Bristol reader was (probably) a college classmate. From rez.]

  19. Such a caustic reply to my light-hearted wirter's block = laziness comment Joe, I didn't realise I was posting as anonymous. But it's true really, if you're willing to put in the necessary effort, all blocks can be overcome.


  20. Oops, sorry Bunty. I forgot to put the smiley in after the comment, to show that I was kidding. [;-P] There, does that make it better?

    Seriously, though, I wasn't trying to be overly caustic. I was just trying to make the point that what's really lazy is when people leave a comment without putting down some sort of a name, which makes it difficult to track who said what.

    The whole point of the post was basically that writer's block is often a result of the writer being too self-conscious. It's not just about putting in more effort. Sometimes, especially as an amateur blogger, one ends up putting in too much effort trying to make the post 'perfect'. Mostly, the marginal return on that effort is pretty low or even non-existent.

    Anyway, how are things in London?

  21. PS: George, when are you getting on Twitter? Seriously, I think there'd be tons of people interested in hearing your take on the cricket and on England and so on.

  22. Whoa, JC! 22 comments including this one! This should give you enough blogging manna for at least 6 months! :)

  23. Blogging manna? I thought you didn't believe in that sort of thing. :-)