It is the end of February 2022, and I still haven’t completed my New Year’s resolutions and goals. Each year is another stepping-stone towards the future. Should this year’s resolution be to focus on my writing as a way to advance my inner growth?
I am an engineer and technology entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Becoming a writer was far from my thoughts.
With all my problems with the English language, I never believed I could master writing in that language. If the idea ever crept in, it disappeared in no time like when the first snowflake falls on a warm cheek.
My native tongue was Hindi. Until I was 18 it was my only language. Until I was 28, even I dreamt in Hindi. I was an excellent writer in my mother tongue. In school, I earned the highest grades in Hindi by using fancy words — abstractions from Sanskrit. I had a great Hindi vocabulary. I greatly admired my father’s sister who was a Hindi scholar.
I started learning English in first grade. But like history, it was a subject to be wrestled with, and I did not see any value in it. English grammar was complex and spellings made no sense because the letters did not always match the sound. Despite my poor grades in English, I managed to be at the top of my class. When I was in seventh grade, my parents got me an English tutor.
Yet over the past five years, I have spent more than 5000 hours trying to perfect my writing.
When I write, I still struggle with transitions, progressions, and regressions. It takes me several attempts to get the first version of even a simple sentence right. The arrangement of words brings the narrative to life. Arranging and rearranging sentences once again requires a few more iterations and rewording of sentences until the expression seems accurate and precise. And finally thanks to Grammarly and spelling checker I get my 850-word article in decent shape before I send it to my editor of the past five years. She gives my concocted writing style a scholarly flavor.
I’d love to be scholarly like her! She is a professor.
I am good at connecting the dots of my experiences. Since experience is unique to each human, I hope it makes my columns interesting to readers. I also use familiar words that readers do not have to look up in the dictionary — unlike the vocabulary in my earlier Hindi essays. Although my English vocabulary is smaller, the expressions are like necklaces, which do not need expensive pearls.
The practice of writing changes my expressions, and my thinking. Maybe writing also changes my brain and lastly it changes my spirits deep within… this flow changes like the direction of waves in the ocean. Thoughts that had never surfaced, pop up for further examination, without fear of rejection. They ebb and flow, and some settle in silence, ready to take hold of me.
Unlike monks who take a vow of silence, conversations enrich my writing. They bring new ideas like new waves bring dancing stones and shells ashore. A necklace of shells and pearls is more unique and pleasing. Masters are skillful at this art of making their readers’ emotions rise and swell in unexpected ways.
This is where I want to be.
The cliche “to write, one must read” is not good enough. JK Rowling said, “You can’t be a good writer without being a devoted reader.” Reading opens a vast new arena for the influx of ideas. Reading, however, is not a carefully curated journey, but a random walk. Randomness is where the most value resides. Ah, so maybe there is an opportunity for a new social media company that focuses on how the human mind grows and develops, not by connecting like-minded people, but by bringing together people who hold other ideas, that are different from ours. They give you thoughts that you will be unable to generate on your own and help you make arguments crisper.
I wondered how much I am motivated by readers’ public or private comments. As a new writer, I needed encouragement and readers gave my ego a boost. But again, JK Rowling assures me that “no story lives unless someone is prepared to listen. As a writer, your highest aspiration is to touch people, to connect, to amuse or console.”
I experience beauty in writing. It has been immersive, meditative, and therapeutic. When one struggles endlessly to write, the essence just pours.
My pragmatism goes beyond philosophy. What keeps me writing is the growth in my quality of thinking which in turn impacts the quality of decisions I make — in which I have made noticeable progress. Writing is not just an intellectual pursuit. It has invariably helped me to achieve not just my past New Year’s resolutions, but also to become a true writer. When I dream, I dream big.
Lastly, the push and urge is the “inner content’,” as Tolstoy said. The inner shrine needs to be built, reinforced, and improved.
Vijay K Gupta
They say that your primary language is the language in which you dream. I was certainly dreaming in Hindi until the age of 18. Some time after that I started dreaming in English. I don’t know when the switch occurred. Would be nice to know:)
I went through a somewhat similar struggle with learning to write well. I think that it has something to do with the K-12 education in Indian public (government) schools. They don’t/didn’t emphasize good writing regardless of the language. For example, the quality of essays that my children (and their peers) used to write in a public elementary school here in the bay area was better (in terms of language, organization, and content) than that of essays written by most students in my well-regarded high school in Delhi.
You are an amazing writer. Perfectionist by nature. Every month I wait to read your blog or post.
Writing is easy. However, the name of the game is to be able to take liberty with the language you are writing in, giving new meanings to old words and be able to take liberty without digressing from basic flow. I tried to read Indian writers in English and I always felt that it takes an extra effort. When I say this I would even include famous writers like Tagore and RK Narayan. I would rather jump to a writer from England, US or Australia. The Indian dialect is far from a mature level. Vinita, you do express yourself well, but to make it a fluent ‘hear’ or ‘read’ is another story. Can you do it? Only you can answer. When I generalize, common mistakes that come to my mind can be the differences between:
Few A few
Fish Fishes (mostly incorrect)
Audience Audiences (can be used but one needs to know in which context)
Alumni Alumnus Alumna Alumnae Alum Alums
Sounds of V and W (W is the only vowel, which is known as a consonant)
I am not implying that I am a perfect writer. However, my book "My Write To Right? is rated well in American context, but as a cultural reference.
Your writing is crisp and easily conveys what you want to convey. Keep it up.
you write beautifully, with depth and honesty. I look forward to your blog and always enjoy, sometimes with fascination.
Vinita, I look forward to reading your articles, too. They are interesting, clear and concise. Plus, you cover a wide range of topics. Hemant
I look forward to your column because you have a variety of topics I wouldn’t normally read.
Personally, as an author and editor, my advice is to let yourself run wild as a writer. Don’t hold back but spill out everything from your mind onto the paper. That makes enjoyable reading — the editors take care of the grammar. 🙂
Jogindra p Kohli
Your article on writing was very timely and inspiring. I am in the process of shortening my 26 years spiritual Journey from 2800 pages to 300 pages so I can publish it.
Take care and thamks
What a wonderful story, Vinita!! Please keep on dreaming big and keep writing!
Vinita, Your thought process is your strongest asset. Capitalize on it.
I look forward to reading your posts precisely because your writing is so good!
You write very well Vinita. Always go with your passion, but you know that already. ?
Hv I told you that I admire you? Dear Vinita- You inspire me and I admire you and how youa re choosing your journeythrough life.
You are the best writer and best person I ever met in my life.I love your writing.It motivates me
Vinita, I have such admiration for how motivated you are to succeed in whatever you put your mind to. You are certainly succeeding in this, your latest endeavor. We could use more people like you in the world for sure.