10 Inspiring Quotes for Writers and other Creators

“Whats your creative type?” by Meta Wagner in four days. This is the fastest that I have finished a self-help book.

My usual dosage of fiction plus non-fiction borrowings from the library includes a self-help book or self-learning book, mostly on technology, philosophy and these days, increasingly leaning towards creativity as a process. For any one who wants to understand their creative intelligence and their creative motivations, this is an excellent handbook. I felt like someone had handed me the Singapore MRT map on my first day at Singapore; I just lapped it up.

In this post, I have compiled 10 quotes that have been cited by the author, statements from creative geniuses who are bound to inspire you with their keen insights.

I intend to bookmark these quotes for life, I hope you find this compilation useful too.

  1. “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein  [Yay! Let’s have some fun!]
  2. “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” – Chuck Close  [Remind myself to repeat this everyday!]
  3. “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” – Michelangelo [Even geniuses need to practise]
  4. “People make a great mistake who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I.” – Mozart [Practise makes even Mozart perfect. Hear! Hear!]
  5. “When writers die they become books, which is after all, not too bad an incarnation.” – Jorge Luis Borges [Sigh! One day!]
  6. “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I wrote one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.” – Emily Dickinson [Have written several such words! Beam in delight!]
  7. “Sign on to a process and see where it takes you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel everyday. Today you will do what you did yesterday. Eventually you will get somewhere.” – Chuck Close [Drilling this into my brain]
  8. “Show up, show up, show up and after a while the muse shows up too.” – Isabel Allende [Have to just show up!]
  9. “Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” – Graham Greene, Ways of Escape [Indeed! How can they?]
  10. “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”  – Anais Nin [Some craziness is necessary to beget creativity :P]
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The ‘smart’ Mumbaikar’s dilemma

Recently, when a grand aunt asked, quite inquisitively, ‘What is so special about Mumbaikars?’ I hesitated with my answer for fear of seeming pompous. Instead, I just said that we are normal human beings. In my case, it adds to an opinion that I am not considered an authentic Malayali. This must have brought me down a few notches from the pedestal that Mumbaikars often seat themselves, but it helped me avoid difficult conversations with an endearing old relative.

My Mumbai background comes to the foreground when someone asks me pointed questions about my parent’s native village, or when some fellow Malayali discusses Kerala politics. In such scenarios, I just brush aside my ‘Bombay’ness, as a fact that I cannot deny. Unless, of course, I meet a genuine admirer of the famous Mumbai spirit that keeps the Mumbaikars going.

Indeed, Mumbaikars are hailed for their resilience, for their street smartness, for their jugaad to get things done, for the endless hope they carry in their eyes along with the big dreams in their large hearts. As immigrant Malayalis, my parents have lent their support to several others who have tried to make it work in this city. Some come with nothing in hand, some come for job interviews, some for visa interviews but almost everyone comes with great aspirations and a will to succeed. For those who showed the tiniest bit of weakness, my parents offered no solace. They were teased, bantered or even coerced into becoming what a ‘smart’ Mumbaikar should be.

A ‘smart’ Mumbaikar is one who never whines about the crowded local trains, instead, tries different permutations and combinations to find the best route to his workplace and back. She is the one who does not mind the one and half hour train commute, instead, makes lifelong ‘train’ friends who can hold down a seat for her. She is the one who relishes a long work day only to find the right window seat (yes, there is a right one) which gives her the maximum benefit of the wind rushing past the speeding train. The one who does not get confused by the abbreviations in the front of the train, instead, makes a list to learn them till he can guide others. The one who forgets her early days of being baulked at while sitting at a window seat and becomes an ‘expert’ at finding the non-existent ‘fourth’ or even the ‘fifth’ seat. The one who starts off with suspecting every auto driver and then thinks that autos are the best that Mumbai has to offer.

The ‘smart’ Mumbaikar knows that inappropriate language, touch, gestures are all part of the daily grind and she has to keep pushing towards her destination, which she will eventually reach if she is part of the ‘right’ crowd going in the ‘right’ direction. The ‘smart’ Mumbaikar knows which days of the monsoon to avoid for a walk in the rain, so that she doesn’t find herself washed off into a storm-water drain and land up in the Arabian Sea. The ‘smart’ Mumbaikar knows which step to avoid on the railway bridge so that it does not result in a misstep and land him at the bottom of a human pile. The ‘smart’ Mumbaikar fears in the heart of her hearts that she or one of her family might fall prey to an act of terror but the ‘resilient’ Mumbaikar that she is, gets up every day and makes it to work.

She does all this because she knows no other city where she can hope to make all her dreams come true. He does all this because he has already been branded as ‘smart’ and ‘resilient’. How can he now say that probably, something, somewhere, is not right with his beloved city?

 

When we fight to read…

As a family we bicker a lot. Often, we end up pulling up the silliest of jokes, trying to outwit each other as each one of us thinks that he/she is the smartest in the family. As the youngest in the family now reaches her tweens, the sarcasm in conversations is reaching new levels. However, there is a fight that each one of us is waging silently. Our fight for a quiet read…

The library has become our arena. We used to share a library card among the three of us, as we could borrow ten books on a single card. This was increased to twelve during a promo period at the library. Since the elder two in the family are slow readers, we ended up taking two books each, leaving about eight books that can be borrowed by the youngest. There began the silent machinations.

“Do you think you can finish two books in three weeks?” A question would be thrown at me as I stand in the queue to borrow. A casual flipping of a book that I borrowed, will be followed with,”This has many pages, too thick, you might finish in three weeks,” an incredulous child would comment.

The father will be subjected to criticism over his choice of books. “Are you sure that you want to read this?”, she asked one day glancing over what seemed like a philosophy book. It was not because she is particularly interested in what her parents read. She was just trying to eke out an additional two books into her kitty, by making sure that her parents borrowed only one each. The questions and the critiques reached such an extent that each one of us took a card for oneself. Now all of us are content human beings standing at the queue with our own quota of books in hand. Not that an increase in quota has drastically improved the reading habits of the older members but our reading choices are not questioned so often.

Now that we have resolved that fight, there are other battles that we wage with time. For the schoolkid, exams are a definite dampener. However, she only reins herself a bit as she reduces the books from eight a week to two per week. The dad tries to wake up early to read, as he has found that noone particularly enjoys seeing him read, a trait that he says is shared by both his mother and his wife. On introspection, I have realised that it is true, because when he seems so content and doesn’t seem to be bothered by his work mails, it is the perfect time for a ‘talk’.

My fight to read has taken different hues over the years. As a teenager, studies always came in the way and then I forgot the art of time management that I had learnt so well as a child. In recent years, it has been a war with electronic devices, poor vision, and lousy concentration levels. The fact that sleep often overcomes that intense desire to read, makes it seem like an uphill task in the future. I have realized that I cannot pull an all-nighter now, without turning myself into a zombie the next day.

However, all said and done, the fight does leave me happy, especially, when I realise that fighting to read has prevented a fight over the ‘tv remote’. Amen to that!

A child and mother write to the world…

There is no doubt that letter-writing is a dying art. Emails tried to step in for a short while but today, largely, we have whatsapp emoticons instead of an elegantly written letter. It is incredibly difficult to find anyone who wishes to read a letter let alone put in the effort to write one. Having had a sudden longing to read a letter, I went to the library in search of a published anthology. What I got hold of was a beautiful example of how a dying art could be revived with something more than just a literary purpose. I intended to review the book that I borrowed but more than the book, it is the idea and effort that deserves appreciation. A mother-son duo set off to write letters to the world in the year 2013.

It started off with an innocent question asked by a five-year old to his mother, on whether he could write a letter to someone in New Zealand. When his mother said that she probably could find an acquaintance to whom he could write, he extended his request to include ‘all the countries in the world’. What followed was a beautiful tete-a-tete between a five year old who had just learnt to write and thousands of writing partners across the world, some only slightly older than him, others having children of their own. While the child needs to be appreciated for his curiosity and inquisitiveness, I am in awe of his mother who took up the task and endlessly scourged among her friends for acquaintances around the world to whom he could write. It is noteworthy here that she did not send her son’s letters to total strangers (a necessary precaution in today’s world).

The book titled, “Dear World, How are you?” caught my attention immediately. For one, I was looking for letters and the title indicated a message but more attractive were those three words, “How are you?” Unfortunately, these three words have almost disappeared from our messages and even if asked do not carry the same sincere emotion that they used to, decades ago. The book has a short introduction on how the duo started off with their exercise, including the fact that the questions asked by Toby (the son) were based on research on the particular country that they wished to write to. If the word research makes you think whether this was actually done by the mother or a five year old, the book clarifies that the research was based on images that the child could look at and ask about. So most of the initial questions from Toby are based on monuments or natural phenomenon found in a country. Post the short introduction, the rest of the book consists of letters written by Toby and the responses that he received.

While I thought that the book should have been read by my daughter rather than me, I enjoyed the book as well, as the letters were first hand accounts of life in different countries, from the residents. So much of information for a five year old to digest! More importantly, the empathy that the child has developed for various cultures around the world, is something that cannot be easily gained without travelling. The duo has managed to cover all the 190 countries in the world listed by the United Nations.

To know more about this tremendous effort, you can visit their website http://www.writingtotheworld.com.

If you want to buy the book, I found it only on Amazon’s UK website:

 

Cyclones, floods, natural disasters, there is no escape from the new norm…

The one thing that parents often try to teach their kids is to set their priorities straight. Not everyone has a sit-down talk with their kids to help them understand what priorities mean and how to set them. However, every moment, every day, when we ask them to eat first and then watch TV, or finish their homework first and then go out to play, knowingly or unknowingly, we are teaching them just that. Every parent imparts this lesson and yet, as we grow into adults, our priorities are often skewed. In an average lifetime, skewed priorities can often lead to regrets made over wrong decisions, precious years wasted over wrong efforts and unrealized ambitions or dreams.

Now what happens if the most intelligent species on this planet earth gets its priorities skewed. It leads itself to destruction.

Belonging to a generation that has seen calmer weather conditions and stabler climates, I find it worrisome that my kid believes floods, cyclones, hurricanes to be ‘normal’. On one hand, it might be good for her and others of her generation, making them more resilient. On the other hand, it is a warning for us that we better brace ourselves, unlearn and relearn to embrace the new norm. If AI, digital technologies, social media, are the new skill sets that one needs to learn in order to remain relevant in the job market, the new knowledge repository that we need to build seems to be that on climate change and natural disasters.

While the state cannot wash off its hands from its responsibilities during a natural disaster, each one of us will have to be knowledgeable enough to survive one. In any corner of the world, no matter how plentiful the state coffers are or how robust the infrastructure is, we are seeing a pattern of large-scale devastation. For years, humans have managed to dominate and control the forces of nature, but now there seems to be a backlash. That human pride (very rarely seen in any other species) of being able to control and unleash nature’s potential crumbles pitiably in front of nature’s fury. It has brought cities and nations to its knees.

Are we, as a species, ready for the new norm? Are you as an individual ready to tide your family through a natural disaster? Do you have a checklist ready? Do you know what caused the last flood in your locality? Are you willing to do anything about it? Or do you believe that it is a ‘state’ responsibility? What worries you more? The latest off-the-cuff comment/tweet by a wannabe social-influencer or the fact that large populations are being forced to do mass evacuations to escape the wrath of nature?

What is even more worrying is that there is not even enough time to talk about sustainability or long term environment protection efforts. We are probably sprinting towards a catastrophe if not hurtling towards it. Whether one believes in it or not, climate change is already underway and we may be too late, but better late than never.

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Story: When death do us part…

Her feeble hand rose in anticipation as she saw her husband walk into the room. He smiled radiantly at her. She could only manage a whimper.“Hello dear, how are you?” She nodded. That familiar greeting was enough to brighten up her day. “Did you…did you…?” She pointed towards the medicine cabinet beside her bed stand. “Do you want me to bring you your medicines?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Did you?” She pointed a finger at him. “Me?” he had a quizzical look but his voice remained calm. She pointed to the cabinet again. “Do you need anything?” he asked. She waved him aside, a bit puzzled. He seemed different. He looked the same, his voice was the same, his choice of words, the way he made the morning tea for her. Everything was the same. But there was something that was not him. He wasn’t able to understand her any more. She had been bedridden for almost a year now and she was aware that her broken speech, the smattering of words that she used was not enough to convey the range of emotions that she felt. But till a week ago, her husband was able to understand her perfectly. “Well, he is getting old too,” she thought. He was seventy-five, not the sprightly young man of twenty five whom she had married fifty years ago. She had been twenty-two then. As she lay there reminiscing, her daughter-in-law came in with a breakfast tray. “Pa, you can go now. I will give Ma her breakfast.”

She watched as her husband dutifully left the room after waving her a quick good bye kiss. She did not turn to look at her daughter but she could feel her eyes staring at her.
“Ma, what are you worried about now?” Lisa noticed the puzzlement in her mother-in-law’s eyes.
“He…Pa..changed.”
Lisa coloured a bit but quickly retorted. “Well you have changed too, haven’t you?” She smiled, gently stroking her mother-in-law’s hair.
“Last year at this time you had created a ruckus, remember? The cake had gone horribly wrong and Peter was really sad about it.”
Lisa relaxed as she saw her mother-in-law smile. “I have baked again and it is a gorgeous cake.”
Peter is just waiting for me to put the icing. “Where?” her mother-in-law enquired.
“He is playing with his dad.”
When Lisa came out into the backyard after feeding her mother-in-law she could hear peals of laughter from Peter. John was throwing a ball at him and Peter was chasing it. Lisa observed for a while and was struck by something. She frowned and then shook her head vehemently as if shaking off some thought.
By the time she had cleaned up, father and son were at the kitchen table looking at her hungrily.
“John…” Lisa was interrupted by Peter, in his usual manner. “Mom, I am hungry!”
John stared at him. His expression was a mixture of awe and scorn.

“John, you look like you have never seen him hungry before,” Lisa chuckled.

John looked at Lisa and for a moment his helpless eyes seemed to say something to Lisa.

“What’s wrong?” Lisa asked. “Nothing,” he muttered.

“Well, there better be nothing. I just got over the heebies jeebies that your mom gave me.” John turned to her with an inquiring look. Lisa beckoned him to come over to the counter so that she was out of Peter’s earshot.

John came up munching on an apple. “What’s up?”

“Ma seems to be suspecting something.”

John stopped his jaw in mid-air as he was biting into his apple.

He now looked at her gravely. “What did she say?”

“She said or I think she meant to say that Pa has changed,” she spoke softly, unable to meet John’s eyes.

John slumped onto a stool. Lisa was beside him in an instant. “Look John, you need to be strong. I really think that this is not a good idea. I could never…” Lisa looked away but she remained close to him.

“May be I could just go and check with them. May be there is something more that we could do.”

“How much more?” Lisa moved away, a bit agitated. She spied Peter looking at her intently. She went back to John. “What else can we do? It is not like we have recorded every single second of our life.”

“I wish we had,” John said slowly.

“Look John, I agreed because you said this was an experiment. But I swear to God, if you ever were to make me a part of another similar experiment, I will not live to see it!” Lisa stared down at him.

To read the rest of the story…

Click here: https://notionpress.com/story/read/17/When-Death-Do-Us-Part-The-Locum/94374/17/

And please vote if you like the story 😊

Writers with blocks, beware of the creative bots

“Robots taking up our jobs!” “Can AI solve problems like us?” “Can AI make (real) elephants dance?”

Even before many of us could even work or interact with a robot, we are already asking ourselves these questions. As a techno-functional consultant, I have pondered over these questions and even offered my colleagues some simplistic solutions to keep our jobs. In a small TED talk like presentation which we used to organize at our workplace, I told my colleagues that consultants can survive only if we develop our creative intelligence and sustain our emotional intelligence (more like maintain our sanity and not get carried away in the throes of consulting!). However, there was this elephant in the room that I did not address then and even now am afraid to admit. There have been increasing reports of experiments conducted and hypotheses drawn about artificial intelligence becoming more creative. What!!? Can a robot actually be better at deciding which colour goes well in the slide background in a presentation? (My consulting colleagues, pardon me, for picking up the most creative input that we give 😊)

Coming back to the elephant in the room, and leaving aside consulting for a minute, what if robots could help us write better stories. As a occasional writer who very frequently suffers from writer’s block, it was an interesting scenario for me to ponder upon. For instance, I recently, came upon a report that IBM’s Watson helped two leading fashion designers with a plethora of data on designs that worked well across seasons and markets. This accelerated their creative process. If I were to think on similar lines to the process of writing a novel, what help would I need from Watson or from any AI? 

One challenge that I faced when I wrote my first (and only) novel was to remember the chronology of events that happened in my characters’ lives and maintain correct references during conversations. You might attribute this to bad retention but the truth is, it does become cumbersome, especially, during editing, if you realise that one of the characters, say Paula, really shouldn’t have had the accident that you wrote about. If I were to remove that particular incident then could AI tell me at which points in my story I should make changes, not just direct references? I might have another character, maybe Ryan, who suffered trauma because of Paula’s accident, changes will apply there too. Another area where AI could help is probably character development where it helps me to build this complex, multidimensional, real world character based on numerous character profiles collected from around the world. AI can also help in research, spell-check, editing etc., but we already have tools to do this. 

It will be interesting to break down the writing process of a writer and see where AI could take over, but then as any writer would tell you, every writer has a different style and a different creative process. 

How much of an individuality will a writer be willing to forsake while using AI? What will writers be then valued for? Or any creative artist for that matter? 

We have some very interesting times ahead, indeed!