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  • Writer's pictureManu Dhawan

Finger Service

Similar to our need of knowing who we are, to get closer to the meaning of our lives and then to realize we know nothing, I tried understanding what kind of a writer I might be and found out there are, surprise surprise, two kinds. The Outliners and The Pansters. More importantly, I also found out that this interesting categorization of writers and storytellers can easily be applied to the kind of human beings we are.

The outliners, as the word harshly self-explains, are the ones who have a detailed outline to their story before they start writing it, they build characters upfront and know exactly what will happen exactly when. And when they actually start writing, it is only a question of putting it all in textual motion. The character is complicatedly knotted with the puppeteers word-strings and now all he has to do is dance to the writer’s fingers. His world was laid out in front him at conception, all he has to do and say are the things he is supposed to say and you, my friend, yes you, holding a book/kindle/phone/tablet in your hands, crouched on your couch, shedding vicarious tears, will be party to a conspiracy dug deep into an author’s mind much before it was played out.

Sounds eerily similar to who I was before I started writing.

I planned my day, the things I will say, the gas pump I would use. How I would smile and greet the people I meet in the elevator, the money I would have earned and burned in the next 10 years, and the 10 years after that. The way I would look at my future children and the way I would cry when they go away. The way I would love my wife and the things I would say and how she would look at me and what she would think of me. The houses I would buy and the business class travel I would gift my parents every year. The way I would nod a thank you to someone and the way he or she would nod a welcome back like they do in the movies, only to realize its a sham and it never works. (The woman thought it was an aggressive come-hither kind of nod and the man thought I wanted weed. It ended badly both the times.) Or the new witty lines I practiced to use at the perfect time but could only blurt out half of them at the worst times. They sounded like Arnold saying ‘I’ll be back’ a millionth time. No one bothered to donate a chuckle to it.


I’d just be faking tragedy if I now said that none of those plans came true or at least didn’t come close. And equally so, that at that time, I thought they panned out exactly as I thought they would. I really did.

But then I started writing.

Let me tell you about the other category of writers, The Pansters. These lost imagineers like to be in the middle of a violent twister. A million things flyings but you can only see them in a whirly dusty haze as you are flying with them. The whirlwind is all that is constant and things change every second. You cannot see the end of it. You can’t see a path laid out in front of you. You just give in to the tornado and start floating. And then you start seeing everything clearly, till the time there is no more to see. Or tell. In other words, The Pansters fly by the seat of their pants and write intuitively. Without having the faintest clue what their characters would do and say and where the story would go. In a way, it’s the characters that write themselves with the writers just providing finger service.

I write like that. So in the beginning, there was a lot of struggle between my idea of me and how I was writing. The two strangers had a very tough time shaking hands. Both knew one of them had to give in. And one of them did. The world that I get lost in when I write changed the world that I find inspiration to write from. And therefore changed me. Also, I don’t sound like Arnold anymore.

As I sit here researching about a sci-fi mythical drama focussing on evolution with very few words put on paper, my fingers find in them the courage to draw other stories - new people in curious shades. They have been having interesting conversation and exploring newer dimensions. But I don’t know what I am going to do with them.

I have stopped asking myself that question.

I guess what I am trying to say is, just when we are measuring ourselves in absolutes, life throws us the midways. We catch them merrily, oblivious to our compromises. The strange truthiness comes with every shade of incompleteness. We just don’t know it. And maybe, it’s a good thing.

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