This post by Jayaprakash Sathyamurthy originally appeared on Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers on 4/25/14.
There are two stories that kicked off what I like to think of as my writing career. The first is Aranya’s Last Voyage, which won a short story collection held by the Deccan Herald in 2009. I had talked myself into giving up writing – do all writers do this from time to time or just the whiney ones like me? – but I’d had this story in the back of my mind for a long time and decided to take a chance and write it for the contest. It was based on a dream that I had had a long time ago – I still remember the house in Jayanagar where I was at the time. My first attempt to turn the dream into a story had been a science fiction story, but this time around I found a register that was better suited to what I wanted to do. With ‘Aranya’, just the act of naming the main character seemed to make things fall into place. Even though I gave my character an Indian name, he is not an Indian and the story is not set in our world. But using an Indian name gave me a link to the character. Also, Aranya means ‘forest’ and while there are no forests in the story, the imagery made me think of sages in jungle ashrams, and helped build up a picture of a certain kind of wise, austere and diligent man. I remember writing the story in a few intense bursts. Once it was done, I did very little revision before sending the story off. I’d always balked at finishing my stories because of the sheer length I imagined they had to be, but the contest’s word limit – under 5000 words – helped me focus on just getting the beginning, middle and end of the story in place. Learning to finish was the hardest lesson for me to learn, and the most important ability that separates a writer from someone who just kind of wants to write. Winning the contest made me feel like my notions that I could write well and tell an interesting story were maybe not just self-delusion.asdf