How To Be A Writer by Ruskin Bond

As the year began, on one cold, rainy, and foggy morning in Del-NCR a conversation in one of the WhatsApp group caught my eye – discussing what else but weather. Someone described it as “raining cats and dogs here … wretched weather” – and just reading those words plummeted the mood. The reply came from a hilly place “drizzling here … bleak and wet” – and the statement conjured up the memory of reading Sherlock Holmes where London mornings were frequently described in similar fashion, making me wish to pick up my old copy of Collected Works and snuggle up warmly with a cup of tea into the world of late 19th and early 20th century England.

That’s the power of words and writing – taking the readers on a ride across centuries, places and emotions. In some instances, text describes the scene so vividly so as one feels part of the narrative. And sometimes also become an inspiration to transcend from a reader to a writer.

My last read is precisely on this very topic – How To Be A Writer written by Ruskin Bond – the ever favourite of all readers between the age of 8 and 80, published by Harper Collins India’s children imprint.

It is a topic on which I have had the privilege of having exhaustive discussions with the writer in one of my working life many avatars. And it is after a very very long time that I read a Ruskin Bond book – having a long list of books to-be-read has meant some of the favourite authors have taken a back seat in favour of new authors and new genres. He continues to write succcessfully and extensively at a very ripe age of 86 years, publishing few books every year, without retiring – no one better to take young readers through nuances of science or art of writing.

How To Be A Writer by Ruskin Bond is a short, delightful read touching upon various facets of writing – requirements to become a writer, purpose of writing, kinds of writers, preparation and training to be a writer, process of writing, creating characters,  genres, roadblocks encountered while writing, and last but not the least, getting published. In short, sometimes witty sentences, Mr Bond explores the whole gamut of the writing journey – this book is not an exercise in creative writing process as part of many courses available but it sets the agenda for beginning the path towards that for young writers.

I loved the book for its introduction, it is quintessential Ruskin Bond writing – words weaved so beautifully, some lyrical, some bringing a chuckle, sometimes anecdotal and sometimes laughing at himself; at no point heavy reading, just entertaining enough to continue to read. Read this para from the book:
My theory of writing is that the conception should be as clear as possible,  and that words should flow like a stream of clear water – preferably a mountain stream! You will, of course,  encounter boulders, but you will learn to go over them or around them, so that your flow is unimpeded. If your stream gets too sluggish or muddy, it is better to put aside that particular piece of writing . Go to the source, go to the spring, where the water is purest, your thoughts as clear as the mountain air.

He always says that before you become a writer, you have to be a reader. Love of books or for reading which is evident from the books and writers he quotes extensively in this slim volume. And in the end, Ruskin Bond recommends some gems across the years, mostly evergreen classics but a few new ones too.

And apart from love of books, he adds love for language and for life, a good memory alongwith an observant eye – to spot a ladybird on the side of the road, an enthusiasm for writing, and being optimistic and persistent are some qualities essential for the act of being a writer. Having met Mr Bond many times, I can vouch that he practices what he is preaching in this book.

And while you are reading the words, don’t fail to notice some brilliant illustrations to match the writing – it just makes the book so much more enjoyable.

And if this book review of How To Be A Writer by Ruskin Bond was for a newspaper, I would have given a title “Bond shares his secret recipe to be a successful writer”. But since I am a novice in this pursuit, I would have to be SEO friendly with a sedate title.

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