Getting published involuntarily while avoiding becoming a writer


Getting published in the newspapers is a big deal for Sri Lankans of my parent’s generation. Not for me. Yet I have managed to get published 3 times in the newspapers. Each time without my knowledge or consent. The most recent occurrences involved intellectual property theft by the Lakbimanews newspaper. Perhaps regulars in the Sri Lankan blogosphere can recall the tedious details without too much brow furrowing.

I was barely 10 when I first got unknowingly published. The person responsible was my father. He woke me up on a Sunday morning gleefully pointing an article with my name and age at the end. A short story I had written sprawled across quarter of a page. The narrative was quite innocent – about a story teller set in the middle ages – the wording too embarrassingly lyrical and vaguely Tolkienesque for my present taste.

I had banged it out on a MS DOS version of Wordperfect using my ancient father’s computer. I usually stored saved the stories I wrote in an obscure directory and never printed them. This one was the exception. I had used it to try out a feature on Wordperfect that lets you fiddle with fonts. The fun and games had led to numerous print outs. He had discovered one and send it off to the printers.

I felt an suffocating inexplicable sense of shame and humiliation seeing my name in print. Thankfully I never felt angry at my father who was clearly thrilled by the sight of his son’s “talents” in print. I didn’t grumble or told him how I felt since I knew he meant well. When he left to tell my mother I got on the computer and deleted the files of the few other stories I had written. It is unlikely they would have been discovered but I wasn’t taking any chances.

The caravan of death for my childhood writing had already started to roll. Remain printouts of the published story were rounded up with the swiftness of a Stalinist purge. They were burnt in the back garden that evening. I waited to make sure no stray scraps survived. Prodding the ashes to be sure. I felt a strange sense of satisfaction. Wonder if Pinochet felt the same way. to this day I have no idea why I reacted that way. But I don’t regret it and I stand by my actions. I also never told my father of what I did because the thought that it might hurt his feeling is quite unbearable. I successfully change the subject when he says “why aren’t you writing anything these days”.

I managed to avoid writing despite the occasional lapse. The last occurred when I discovered blogging and tragically continues. I find myself jotting down stuff on daily basis in vacant moments of the day’s frenzy. I might as well admit that its some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder. At least I’m not trying to compose sonatas in machine code.

Naturally I’m not a writer. I don’t crank out a disciplined number of pages/words a day. My output lacks any attempt at polish, coherence and a semblance of logical structure to qualify. Take this post for example. Note how it has careened off topic. And how abruptly it ends without pretending to tie up the lose ends that lie unravelled like a de-constructed Persian rug.

I’m just a blogger who vomits words more or less on a daily basis out. Not very reliable or informatively at that. More brutally put, an pseudo arty jerk with a conveniently busy life. Which saves me horror of having to sit down and create something that – to finally use a hackneyed phrase – puts food on the table. Blogging is a safe easy compromise. Each topic an excuse to defecate words without any discipline. You just finished sniffing one day’s out put. Thank you for reading anyway… :mrgreen:

Postscript

Thanks to an article by Dinidu de Alwis, a professional writer (aka the real thing), I’ve bagged myself a mention in the Sunday Times as well as a link ๐Ÿ™‚

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6 thoughts on “Getting published involuntarily while avoiding becoming a writer

  1. So very true. The main reason that I didn’t take up writing (in some sort of a professional manner) besides the point that I absolutely suck at it, is that I’m a slacker (as you already know). I feel if I have to read through all my sentences and keep to grammatical standards, it puts a dampener on my flow dare i call it creativity. It gives what is similar to but not in the same league or vice versa a sort of license like the one’s offered to poets (poetic license, I believe with no age limits).

    So as bloggers and masters of our own space it gives us the right to rant on anything without fear of being judged as though a professional writers (just published in the mainstream, along side them), although good writers seem to attract more viewers as they have the knack to turn the mere fart of cow (if that could be heard of smelt) into something worth reading. As for me, I have to keep finding interesting thins to write about, to compensate. That is why it’s equally fulfilling to be published and then be called “interesting” at the same time. Thanks Dinidu.

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  2. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

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