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The tale of the wannabe writer: All for some space in print

170124 - Open Page - writing

170124 - Open Page - writing  

On tenterhooks forever after sending off that submission, and waiting for any sign of acceptance and that coveted byline of glory

“Write on ‘burning’ topics,” one would say. “No, no! Steer clear of controversial ones,” would be the other person’s advice. “Nothing political, make common issues of everyday life your theme,” yet another one would propose.

And in my search for print space I would not let go of any of these ‘well-meaning’ suggestions from ‘well-meaning’ friends. Consequently, there is no topic under the sun that has not been ventured into, in order to break into the print world.

I had been well and truly bitten by the writing bug quite early in my life. How can I forget that happiness and excitement of the schoolboy when a leading newspaper had published a letter of mine? This, followed by some more random comments intermittently, motivated me to go beyond giving my views on others’ articles. Thus started my journey as a ‘would-be’ writer, holding the promise of bigger and better things in the, what then seemed, not-so-distant future.

Those were the simpler days when technology had not invaded everyday life. I still remember how the rough draft would be written and rewritten for the umpteenth time, the manuscript typed in one of those unwieldy machines known as the typewriter. No ‘auto correct’ option existed. There was no Internet to fall back on in case of any doubts. So a great deal of time would be spent consulting dictionaries, looking up references and also discussing the subject matter with members of my close circle to ensure that the final version was not just flawless but also impressive. This would also lead to plentiful intellectual stimulation in and around me.

The next step was to go to the nearest post office, affix a stamp on the envelope, seal it and then drop it, with a prayer, into the mailbox. This was followed by an unending waiting period.

Meanwhile, like any die-hard optimist, I would continue to go through those dailies and magazines to which I had sent my submissions, foolishly looking for my byline. I reasoned that the ‘acceptance note’ was making its way back slowly, or getting inordinately delayed, nearly lost in the mammoth maze of the postal world.

Sometimes I would hear back from the editors, in the self-addressed envelope that had been sent along with the submission, momentarily inflating hopes — only to be dashed by the matter-of-fact statement: ‘Thank you for the contribution, but the editor regrets s/he cannot make use of it’. My ‘so neatly typed script’ would now be back in my hands.

But you are totally off the mark if you think that such a ‘thank you’ letter, along with the editor’s inability to make use of my contribution, must have finished any fledgling writer like me. This is exactly what would not happen.

On the contrary, the ‘not so happy’ tidings would act as a catalyst, quickly uplifting my drooping spirits. I would take solace in the word ‘regret’, which would make me believe that the editorial team had tried its best, but probably ‘space constraint’, or it not being one of those ‘thought provoking’ articles or something to that end did me in. And I would enthusiastically get down to a new subject, shooting off another submission to the apparently ‘friendly’ editor.

Another ‘regret’ note, another ‘submission’. This ‘romance’ with the newspapers and magazines would continue for a while till the editors, not anticipating such a development, would refuse to get further ‘involved’, and even the rejection slips would cease. Not to be defeated, I would immediately turn my gaze to others, exploring more options.

Isn’t this never-say-die attitude the true hallmark of a would-be successful writer?

Now, the million-dollar question is, “Will I?” I keep my fingers crossed waiting for that elusive mail or phone call. The struggle to occupy some print space continues.

veejay.pant@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 3:49:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/The-tale-of-the-wannabe-writer-All-for-some-space-in-print/article17083353.ece

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