The other day, I attended a writing workshop and it boggled my mind that post my novel, am actually supposed to say something worthwhile to writers who want to be published. Most of time, it is an awkward exercise to say something meaningful because many people believe that a byline or a published book means that you have in some measure, made it. I don't think so. I am a struggler still because even though I have bylines stretching across fifteen years, I still have to work for a living and deal with the realities of the publishing world where hype around a book matters more than the book. So to all those who send messages like,"I think I can write a book too, how should I go about it?'' The honest answer is, "I don't know!'' For a start, just start writing. Don't wait. As someone who handles a lot of letters from people who think, a journalist or an editor has a personal grudge against them if they don't take their stuff, let me say this. It doesn't really matter how many bylines you have or how good you are, people will say 'NO.' I still hear it and try not to take it personally. And really, writing is not about being visible to the world but about making the invisible within, visible. Writing is not something you do to show others or to prove anything, to begin with. You write because words find you or you find them and then something emerges from that. And then you take it out in the world and hope it will be read. There are writers I know who write for every contest, show up for every publishing break, count their bylines ("200 articles! I have made a double century!'' I kid you not, I have actually heard these words spoken) and are members of every writers' group known and unknown. There are novelists who write their books to fit in a certain, currently `hot' genre. Great and good for them. Maybe, writing really can be done in this manner too. Maybe, it is important to write with a goal or an agenda in mind. But if you cannot do this, it is okay. Just because you are not being published, does not mean that you are not a writer. A writer can be read only if she/he writes so don't stop writing. Listen to the call of a story, a poem, a thought, an idea. Don't muzzle it just because it seems unlikely to find a publisher or a byline. The fact that an idea has chosen you means that you have to stand up and claim it and own it and nourish it till it comes alive and is wiggling in your arms, impatient to be released in the world.
Write. Not because it will give you something to hold over the heads of others who can't. But because, you can't escape a story and it can't escape you. Keep the process pure. Beyond the corruption of hard sell and exalted ego. Because writers are mediums or channels for a thought that comes from some place beyond. If you get out of the rut of proving to the world that you are a writer, you will really start to enjoy the process of writing. It will fill the crevices in your life and heal your hurts like nothing else can. It will connect you to people who don't know you but know your writing. It will build a sense of kinship and an extended family far more precious and enriching than anything you can imagine. Every thing you write has a destiny and I believe that. Every book finds its readers. And every story finds its narrator. And that narrator could be you so before spending yourself on the cackledom of publishing, on the methods of selling and projecting and competing, pause for a moment. And listen to the story. The story that is waiting for you to grow still so that it can grow within you.