Friday, July 19, 2013

The Mark of Great Writing

Each new day, when they come out from the far side of the barn, it is like the next act, or the start of an entirely new play.

This is the opening of Booker prize awardee Lydia Davis's new chapbook, The Cows. The book grew out of her musings as she observed three cows on a meadow next to her house. She watched and photographed them, perhaps for several years. The apparently random movements of the bovines intrigued her:

One thinks there is a reason to walk briskly to the far corner of the field, but the other thinks there is no reason, and stands where she is.  At first she stands still where she is, while the other walks away briskly, but then changes her mind, and follows.
She follows, but stops halfway there.  Is it that she has forgotten why she was going there, or that she has lost interest?  She and the other are standing in parallel positions.  She is looking straight ahead.
Great writing hooks you from the word go and sucks you up into the worlds of the characters.

Ms. Davis attempts to decipher the mind of the quadrupeds in fascinating paragraphs, often revealing insights into the human mind. Her musings completely absorb the reader into the scenario, making them a part of it.

Isn't that the mark of great writing ? Find out for yourself.
You can see a preview of the kindle edition here: 
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Friday, July 12, 2013

Simplicity of The Profound

    Play, child, grow
Try, bird, fly
   Know, be joy.

Do you think the above poem by Ramana Maharshi summarizes the evolution of the human mind into the Divine?
Ramana Maharshi was an enlightened sage who lived in South India. He attained final Samadhi in 1950.
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Monday, July 08, 2013

How to Have Fun Teaching, Studying, or Just Anything

Would you like to have fun in studying, writing, working at your day job, teaching your child, or doing house hold chores? How enjoyable would life be, if we had fun doing all our must-do tasks!

You would definitely be having some activities in which you have fun : it could be shopping, socializing, playing games, watching movies, reading comics, meditating, or anything else. Is your favorite activity not in this list? Excuse me then.

I started thinking on these lines when I ran into obstacles while trying to improve my writing. All fresh writers need to observe quite a lot of rules, if not born with the talent or if lacking a natural love for the craft. With all the constraints, I found writing was not fun anymore. And if you do not have fun doing something, it becomes a chore, something to be got out of the way. Any stuff written that way will not be palatable.

If you have fun doing something, others will also feel the same way about it. So wouldn't it be great if we learnt how to have fun doing anything, including performing our mandatory tasks?

Why do we enjoy our favorite activities?

We enjoy activities in which we are not criticized or judged, and those without too many don'ts.

Do you like Football and Tennis? I do, though I have no claims to be a player. If the Football coach keeps repeating, do not send the ball outside the ground and such other don'ts, would you like the game? It'd be difficult-because you are constantly thinking about what not to do. You become worried whether you'd be criticized for doing something wrong. Your mind does not stay on the game and you lose the fun of it.

Instead, beginners in any game are repeatedly given instructions on the rules. If some one breaks the rules, others tell them it is a foul. That is all. There is no endless drumming of not-to-do lists.

While playing football, there are a set of rules: don't touch the ball with the hand, play inside a designated rectangle, and such others. Still we enjoy the game. This is because we are absorbed in the ball. We participate fully, as there is a single target.

We will not be able to participate fully in a game if we do not exert ourselves fully, if we get angry, or if someone criticizes us constantly and runs us down.

Alright, so what should I do to make life exciting?

We can draw lessons from our fun activities and apply them to our must-do tasks, so that they are also fun to do. Just keep these points in mind:
  • Keep a positive outlook, take every event positively.

  • Focus on what needs to be done, rather than what should not be done.

  • Give your everything and get fully into it

  • Keep it continuous for a period of time. Go at it in 15,30,45, or 60 minute sessions. That is to say, avoid all other activities-browsing, social media, phone calls, etc in between.

  • Breakdown large goals into smaller sub-goals. The smaller, the better. You will have the gratification of finishing each one. As you grow accustomed to the task, you can increase the size of the sub-goals.

  • Take just one sub-goal at a time and focus on it.
Turn your day-to-day tasks into enjoyable, absorbing activities just by following these simple rules, and have fun in everything!

What is your favorite activity? Do you use it to unwind or to improve productivity? Let me know in the comments below.
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