The Writing Life: Why Telling Stories in the Global Bazaar is Important

I have always admired men and women who are able to sustain writing over a significant period of time. I often wonder, "What do they consume at breakfast that gives them such mental energy and willpower?"

Not long ago, after I'd praised on Facebook a number of prolific writers for their productivity and versatility, my friend Shiraz Sidhva - a superb writer herself - asked in a post, "What's your secret, Pranay?"

Here's my response: No "secret." I'm an old-fashioned romantic -- I just enjoy the world of words, and am happiest when I get to partake of it, and to contribute perspectives that I think will be useful to a general audience.

The idea is to have fun. The idea is also to share one's experience. And the idea is to listen to what others are going through.

That said, it isn't easy, and it gets more difficult -- not easier -- as one grows older.

You always have to open that notebook first to extract relevant material from your interviews and observations. (Note to young writers and journalists: Always carry a small notebook with you because you never know whom you'll meet or what you'll see.)

Then, to paraphrase Hemingway, one needs to sit at the keyboard and bleed...

There are certain things that I don't do. I don't believe in complaining: after all, I chose the writing life; nobody asked me to join this trade -- I could have been a coal miner in Australia -- and nobody has forced me to stay in it. But once the choice was made, one has the responsibility to carry on, regardless of how much one bleeds...

I don't denigrate other writers. I know what it takes to craft each and every word - a lot of bleeding. Literary criticism is one thing, but ad hominem assaults on other writers are not part of my armory.

I don't begrudge others' success. The world is big enough for every writer to win plaudits and garner great notices and sales.

I don't tell others how and where to write. Each writer has a method that is specific to character and circumstance. I work in my pajamas, others might choose to be more conventionally dressed; I can work anywhere - the result, I suppose, of long years of deadline filing from different datelines - while others might need that garret or cabin in the woods.

I don't advise writers on what topics they should cover. We live in a rapidly changing world where the stockpile of subjects to be examined grows by the day. I happen to enjoy doing biographies; others may select different kinds of narratives.

My point here is that nonfiction is a wonderful form of storytelling in the bazaar, to quote the late Irwin Shaw (although he was a novelist), and the more we write about our world, the more we can understand it.

That is a very good thing because change is bewildering. V. S. Naipaul famously said that in order to know where we are going, we need to know where we have been. It is the central obligation of writers to help us understand the global - and local - road map.

So I have no "secret," Shiraz. I merely have lots of curiosity about the world in which we live, and I have a continuing compulsion to find out more about those who people it.

A compulsion to inquire - and a compulsion to sit down and wield words for a larger audience beyond the precincts of my home.

My mother, a professor and noted writer in Marathi, and my father, a lawyer and banker seeded those compulsions in me. There's a square named in my mother's honor in Mumbai. My parents both died exactly 30 years ago, but they lived to see their only child become a man of words.

I celebrate their lives with every word I write.