No matter how seasoned and prolific a columnist you are, there are times when you scratch your head, feel like tearing your hair apart and almost throw in the towel – thinking about what to write on. At times, you zero in on something to write on but then don’t know how to proceed beyond the first few lines. Creative writers have the freedom to get down to writing only when they feel like and have something in mind to write on. But a columnist has no such luxury. He has to write his column even if he does not have anything particular to write on or is in no ‘mood’ to write.
By now, you have perhaps guessed that today is one such day.
It is a little easier when it is a monthly, fortnightly or even a weekly column. You have time on your hands to deliberate on the topic and then weave your thoughts around it. But when you write a column five days a week – as I have been doing for the past more than eight months in this space – it does get tough at times.
Deciding on a subject is obviously the toughest part of the challenge. Often, you keep waiting till the evening to survey all that has happened within the state, country or the world at large during the course of the day to take a call on your subject. But there are times when you feel there is nothing worth writing about in the day’s events. That is when it gets really tough – and the scratching of the head begins. Once you get over this challenge, things generally begin to fall into place, but not always. There are times when developing the stray thought into a proper article that meets the standards you have set for yourself becomes difficult. At other times, you need to do some research or ferret out some facts or figures to make your point, build your argument or counter someone else’s case, but do not have enough time for it since you are running against a deadline.
Mercifully, there are times when everything falls into place from the word go. Like it happened once while I was out on a late evening stroll a few months ago, still unsure of what I would write for the day. As I looked at several rows of newly built but unoccupied houses on one side of the pavement, it suddenly struck me that there were too many houses chasing too few tenants in Bhubaneswar since everyone worth his salt (or housing loan) appeared to own a house. My mind inevitably went back 30 years in time when getting a house on rent in the city was a truly Herculean task. Having stumbled on the topic for the day, I cut my evening walk short and rushed back to my writing table. The words just flowed effortlessly – something that does not happen always. I was only half way through writing the piece when I first looked up at the clock on the wall and then looked down to the bottom of the page – only to realize that I had been at it for just about an hour and a quarter but had rattled off an incredible 1200+ words during that time! It was time for some quick decision making. If I had continued and tried to finish it, I would have missed the proverbial ‘bus’ for the day. So, I decided to make it a two-part series (thereby saving myself the trouble of thinking about a topic the next day) and then made some quick changes to the last part to make sure it marks a logical end to the first part before mailing it to the odishatv desk.
But I did not stop writing. Given the kind of spell I was in, I realized that I could well lose the momentum if I kept it for the next day. I finished writing the second part close to midnight, but with the kind of contentment I had seldom experienced before. Satisfied though I was, I was not too sure how the whole thing, replete with personal anecdotes from a distant past, would be received by YOU, the readers. To my pleasant surprise, the first part was a huge hit collecting nearly 3000 hits. The second did not do too badly either with over 2000 hits.
It was then that I realized that writing against a deadline – which is not very different from writing with a gun pointed to your head – does have its charms. And its rewards too!