ABOUT 500 WORDS | Columns

When the facts are boring, try fiction

In his newspaper days, Marquez sat down to write his column every Friday. He explained: “When I don’t have a well-defined topic I go to bed grumpy on Thursday night, but the drama resolves itself while I sleep…” And the words flow the next morning.

When I am asked ‘How do you write a column?’ I usually quote Marquez, but that doesn’t satisfy everybody. It seems prosaic, this idea of going to sleep and waking up with a solution. Even lion tamers and fruit gatherers have such experiences; writers are expected to have something more inspirational or romantic. Reality lacks punch.

So now I give one of the four explanations following, and that seems satisfactory to the doubters.

“Once a week I set my alarm clock for five o’clock, which means I am out of bed by seven. I run out, stare at the sun for a few minutes taking care to keep my mind blank. This means I am ready to receive good ideas floating in the air or sent directly from an invisible alien who happens to be passing by. I believe Mozart worked the same way, although some believe he might have been an alien himself. Sometimes it rains or the sun stays behind a cloud. Those are the days my muse lets me down and you will find my writing full of incomplete thoughts and unexploding jokes…”

“I am actually the face of a large corporation with hundreds of writers on the payroll. I wake up as usual between nine and ten, and call one of them on the phone. I utter just one word. It might be ‘game’ or ‘newspaper’ or ‘yoga’, and then the team gets down to writing a column based on it. The best are longlisted by a committee and then the best of that shortlisted by another committee before I receive the finest one. I simply add my name at the top (doing this myself is something I insist on), and it arrives in time for your morning coffee …”

“I was hoping to keep this a secret, but since you asked, here it is. Many years ago a mad scientist worked on and finally invented an artificial intelligence machine which was then abandoned as a worthless project. I picked it up off ebay and re-jigged it to make it work for me. I feed it a special kind of oil and some fish (it loves sardines), and within an hour out comes a column ready for publication…”

“ I drink enormous amounts of coffee, smoke endlessly, run around the block once, sit down at the desk, stare out of the window, fight with my neighbour, kick the cat, answer phone calls, make a few calls myself, have more cups of coffee, do yoga, go to the gym, take in a movie and a nap, wake up, come back to my desk, and suddenly I am able to write. Words flow. It’s a miracle, but the preparations are necessary…”

(Suresh Menon is Contributing Editor, The Hindu)


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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 1:14:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/when-the-facts-are-boring-try-fiction/article36689807.ece

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