Thursday, April 18, 2024

Carry On Writing! By Harini Nagendra

What would make you quit writing? Age? Infirmity? Lack of what you consider success? Boredom? Something else?

My fellow '7 Minds' authors, Brenda, Terry and Dietrich, have already responded to this week's prompt - and I was struck by the fact that everyone plans to carry on writing until they absolutely can't. We are all writers because we must, because their is a worm of compulsion that burrows its way into our mind and screams at us, "Write!" - that forces us out of bed at midnight, keeps us up till the late hours when the family is asleep and the road outside is lonely, empty - gets us out of a warm bed takes us to the writing desk in the early hours of the morning, shivering with cold - to get pen to paper, or fingers on keyboard, striving to get things out - because the thoughts swirling in our head demand to be put down on paper, to be organized and reorganized until we're satisfied that they are pulled together in  semi-coherent fashion. Only then can a writer to finally relax, put down their pen and close their notebook (or shut down their computer!), and relax, saying "I'm done. For today. I think."

It's wonderful to write for success, of course - heady when it comes, and terrifying when it doesn't. Infirmity can stop some from writing - it can get hard to hold a pencil, or type on the screen. I have to stop every few minutes now to do a few hand exercises, and lift weights to strengthen my wrists - my body, which I took for granted when I was younger, now reminds me that I'm aging, that I should be doing my eye and neck exercises more regularly if I want to keep writing with the same physical ease that I had until a few years back. But I do know that many writers now use audio to text software to dictate and transcribe their books - just like people dictated their letters to typists in the past. I've tried it, and found it too difficult - so I abandoned this - but if I needed to learn it, I would! 

Political scientist Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to get the Nobel Prize in Economics, and my very dear friend and mentor, battled pancreatic cancer towards the end of her life. She kept writing, and thinking about her writing, even when cancer sent her to the hospital. Her research and writing were what kept her going through difficult times, pushing the physical challenges she faced to the background.One of the very last things she said was "bring me my laptop". I think I can imagine most writers doing some version of the same - just like musicians will continue to practise their craft till the end, and painters will work with their brush and canvas.

Physicist Stephen Hawking was not just a brilliant scientist but also a determined writer - despite severe physical challenges, he found a way to keep writing, with the help of companies like Intel, who custom-designed software and hardware for him to use.       

More recently, I have been following the chronicles of writer Hanif Khureishi, who suffered a serious injury after a fall, but still keeps writing, engaging with readers across the world through his Substack - using dictation to write his new memoir, Shattered. 

I suspect all writers would like to carry on writing until the end...!  

Speaking of writing - my latest book, A Nest of Vipers - book 3 in The Bangalore Detectives Club series - is out on 2 May! Pre-orders are open here 

A Nest of Vipers - Harini Nagendra 

Death stalks the streets of Bangalore when the Circus comes to town . . .

January 1922.

The Bangalore Constabulary is on high alert as The Prince of Wales is scheduled to visit the city to redeem his reputation after disastrous visits marked by violent anti-British riots.

Kaveri has none of these concerns on her mind, not when she has just been given VIP tickets to the famous Bangalore circus. But when a celebrity magician, shackled in an iron cage filled with deadly snakes, disappears into thin air, she is stunned to discover her friend and favourite policeman, Inspector Ismail, is telling her to leave the case well alone.

After solving two murder cases, Kaveri Murthy thought she had cemented her reputation as Bangalore's favourite lady detective. But when death threats are left at her doorstep, former friends become foes, and the bodies start to pile up, Kaveri realises she has never been in this much danger . . .

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