Sunday, April 26, 2009

Can I Own This? I Wrote It!

I wonder about the ownership of what I write. Beshrew me, but I feel rather protective about what I write, not necessarily because it is wonderful, but because it comes from me. I mean the writing that involves real sweat, that takes me at least some hours from inception to finished product, which I sometimes send out and hear nothing about, or worse, which does get printed without my name attached to it.

Do I lose those pieces? Can they be picked up by anyone who wants, assuming someone wants?
Should I be flattered that someone wants to own them?

Should I be more grateful that a piece was chosen and worry less about it being credited to me?

I realise we live in the world of many blogs, in which a great deal of the written word is migrating to a brave new world to stand on its own merit. Does this suggest, then, that my concern is invalid and quixotic? I have been regularly contributing to a local South Asian magazine; the latest issue has my article in its entireity, but nowhere is my name mentioned. Even though I was told that I'd be given a letter head confirming that article as mine, there was a strong underlying tone of indulgent tolerance at my quaint disappointment, which, of course, makes me feel sheepish.
As the days have progressed, I have been feeling increasingly foolish, even though I am hurt enough to not want to contribute to that magazine again (knowing me, however, I probably shall).

I have been trying to come to terms with this situation. Library of Congress claims that I don't HAVE to slap copywrights on my work, right, left, and center, that the fact that I wrote it protects it enough. But I am still struggling: do I take my writing too seriously? Should I just post everything up and wean myself off the need to claim it as mine?

Maybe I should split up my writing into two kinds: the kind that's important for me to remain connected to, and the other to be offered up to the Universe because it is not serious enough. The former category would contain my almost-done book and poetry (that I have no idea how to market and publish, so they remain with me, like overgrown children).
The latter category would have my non-fiction articles and pieces like the short love-story I finished last night for a lark because my daughter always says I don't have a romantic bone in me and I wanted to prove her wrong (you may well ask who the adolescent is, here, but I won't wait around for the answer). I'd offer up this non-serious-for-a-lark writing up to the world and see if it spices up my blog, causes more hits, compels people to leave comments, etc.

Does writing then, need to outgrow its parent and break umbilical cords to be meaningful? If so, like children, can't it at least carry on its lineage? After all, what other insurance do I have against erasure?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Library Visit

I am getting old: my visit to the local library today is a definite indication.

Every now and then, to ensure a balanced diet, I treat myself to reading non-substantial lit, and in this junk read category, I had everything, rural mysteries, cat mysteries, urban tales, fantasy, cop series, everything that even obliquely refers to India, Star Wars books, best selling thrillers, kid lit, teen lit, and more.
I remember my forays into the new releases' shelves. I could boast that there were less than 5 authors in that section that I hadn't read. I also remember actually enjoying picking and choosing, much like the way an epicurean would choose her chocolate, tasting a bite here, abandoning it for something more delectable, deliberating before committing . I would emerge with a bursting bag after browsing for hours.

Today, however, I found myself actually hunting down a singular book my book club is reading, something that's not even due to be finished until June. I found myself moving towards the check out desk with a book in my hand, my bag awkward and empty on my shoulder.
Worried, I made myself go to the new release section and browse. To my alarm, it was full of authors I had not read. Worse, no impulse directed me to reach out, even to read jackets!

I have come to the painful, crushing conclusion that I am older, because I am getting choosy about what I read.

I shall miss my old self, who devoured the written word in all its incarnations and forms, whose genuine enjoyment of it was not marred by discrimination. This person was truly free because she did not care what others thought of what she read. Her freedom opened her to inhabiting many, many simultaneous universes and she had a quixotic nobility peculiar to people like Walter Mitty, who refuse to be constricted by one lifetime.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sita and Snow White

I was never one for good-girl stories, like Anne of Green Gables, Secret Garden, or The Little Princess. Even female characters like Beth in Little Women irritated me. Jane Eyre had to work really hard to earn my regard and catch my attention, which was hooked on the first Mrs. Rochester. It took me years, decades, even, if truth be told, before I could appreciate the complexity in Sita and admire her for her choices. To this day, my students know of my disgust with Snow White, whom I have confessed to want to slap on more than one occassion.

As a girl, of course, I pretended very well and professed false admiration for the Good Girl Archetype (please note the capitals; they are deliberate). Secretly, I wondered if there was anything wrong with me, because I seemed incapable of admiring true goodness. I worried about the myriad set of connected character deficits this one would mean, especially in regard to my acceptance factor among my friends. While my girlfriends secreted and devoured romances or Mills & Boon (as they were called), I exhibited my Mills & Boon trying to convince everyone around me how Normal I was, and secretly admired Jo and Amy March, Draupadi, Elizabeth Bennet, Portia, Beatrice (as in As You Like It, NOT Dante's Galatea-like figure), Kunti, even Hidimba and Amba.

I wonder if I have carried over these deficits into my life and this has influenced the female characters I create. Here is a sample, one of my characters, the Old Woman, who has haunted me for many years now:

The Old Woman stepped off the falling twilight, from the top of Her hill, directly on to leaves of the old tamarind tree. The ancient clock of the Tower started its chimes, announcing the end of the final afternoon of peace before the festival season. As She descended from the tree, She took care not to touch the earth with her backward feet, the toes facing behind Her. So heavy were Her backward facing feet, one touch and there would be no telling what apocalypse might descend.
Her eyes were red burning coals. But they’d burn out and She knew She’d have to find new coals to replace the ashes in the sockets. Her gaze stopped at Her feet; She considered them while the world around Her held its breath.
When She exhaled through Her red, sharp mouth, centuries might have passed, for the leaves, roads, roofs, windows were now covered with a patina of dust and smoke from Her rattled, fleshless ribs. She flexed Her fingers which faced Her elbow, and unclenched Her palms from which a mixture of kum-kum and ashes forever drizzled. The coal shigri on Her head gleamed orange and black for a moment. Her sari, the sole garment She wore, the color and texture of clouds, settled around Her wrinkled up breasts and pointed shoulder blades.
Finally, the Old Woman turned towards the singing street. The Tower clock finished its chimes and the world exhaled behind Her.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya: Rescue by Tale

I am always surprised at my responses when my comfort zone is threatened. This in itself is surprising because my response never varies: I freeze up and stop all things, cooking, quilting, writing, reading, speaking, everything.

I wonder how much my need to write is connected to my feeling safe and comfortable. This begs the question: Is my writing, then, a luxury, not the necessity I've been thinking it is? If it is a luxury, how justified am I in indulging it?

Obviously, my thinking gets increasingly convoluted, self-defeating, claustrophobic, narcissistic, essentially useless. This strain only feeds the lethargy, and often, external forces are needed to extricate my faculties from such bogs.

Of course, this coma doesn't last longer than a few hours, thankfully for my household, after which I commence my usual being, beginning with reading.
Amazingly enough, this never fails to restore.

For instance, I am just beginning to thaw out, and fairy tales, predictably enough, rescued. Since I am doing my Elective for the course that begins next week, I am justified in reading those.

These tales reassure me that Stasis is temporary, even though it may seem to last for a century, can be mistaken for a death, and trap a person in a tower with no doors. Every pain is accompanied with a reward, and even though one can't choose the pain, the reward is what one needs most desperately.

And since I am not out of the bog yet, here is my question: is this healthy application of wisdom of ages or senseless pathos and an inexcusable fallacy of interpretation?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I tried to get some parts of a project together so I could have a couple of short stories. Because of really trivial and boring reasons, I haven't been able to spend quality time with my project, and it's been chasing me in my head.
However, when I visited it, I didn't like anything I could salvage. One of my very good friends tells me I am too happy with the delete button, and that the work is not bad.
I've always have problems with beginnings, as anyone who reads this blog can tell. But now, it is the wrapping up that won't come easily.
I find reasons not to work on my writing: I have syllabi to construct, a quilt to finish, reading to do, an Elective to re-examine. I also feel as though I've fed my resident monster as long as I write something, anything, syllabi, assignments, reviews, and to a large extent, I am content. My demon is too exhausted to wake me up in the middle of the night, with itching fingers.
But I stay awake anyways and worry if I shall die without anyone knowing my story, stories; they need to be told.
But they seem to have chosen a rather incompetent teller.