Shaping the World Edited by Manju Kapur


In the book Shaping the World, 23 women writers of Indian subcontinent origin share their writing journeys. More precisely trying to answer – why do they write, when was it they wrote for the first time. And of course, the influences that went into writing. There seems to be a question on writing routine as they have all randomly tried to answer that.

What struck me the most in the book is the homogeneity that these 23 women share. Even when they come from diverse backgrounds. Each of them seems to be inspired by Virginia Woolf. At some point, while reading I felt but for Virginia Woolf may be we would not have any of these women writers. And I am not sure if that would have been a good thing or a bad thing. I have read a few of these writers. And have liked Namita Devidayal and Tania James stories. And I liked their pieces in the book intuitively. Most of these women took to writing to deal with their loneliness that came with leaving a job to take care of family or a spouse’s career move. Or a void that they felt must be filled through expression on paper.

They have all read the same books sooner or later in life. Mostly western literature irrespective of the part of the world they grew up in.

At some places, I found them like a group of people who promote each other primarily due to the sheer homogeneity. And I am sure that reflects somewhere in their writings as well. They all detest being called feminist – though I assume that being women they find it much easier to depict the emotions of their gender. Of course, there are stories that are just human stories. And not necessarily need a gender angle.

I like reading about the writing routines of writers. And have been consciously studying and observing them for some time now. It’s amazing how many of them write in morning hours. Some because that is the only time available to them. And some because as they say ‘this is the most creative time of the day’. Almost all these writers talking about the writing process re-emphasize that writing has its own trajectory that it follows – when it has to pass through your pen, it will force you to be up and holding the pen & paper or the laptop and it will happen. In fact, if you miss the moment, you miss the story at times.

Some interesting quotes from the book Shaping the World:

  • Writing exists in the space where brain, body, and spirit intersect. Exploring how different movements yield different writing, the words that emerge after yoga are filled with palpably different energies than after lifting weights or dancing or walking or swimming or sex – Lavanya Sankaran
  • George Orwell on Why I Write: Four Reasons: Sheer egoism or the desire to be talked about and remembered, aesthetic enthusiasm or perception of beauty in words and their arrangement, historical impulse or the desire to see things as they really are and record them for posterity, and political purpose or to alter people’s idea of the kind of society they should live in.
  • China demands slow handling. To understand an everyday phrase, you need to know thousands of years of stories – Mishi Saran
  • The Sea of Art has no horizon – Mishi Saran
  • Without words, bilateral talks break down at every level. Between your mind and your mouth, between your mouth and listener’s ears, between that pair of ears and the mind attached to them and therefore between two minds – yours and theirs.  At the end of the day, you are nothing but your tongue – Shinie Antony

Read Shaping the World if the process of writing interests you.

You may buy this book – Shaping the World: Women Writers on Themselves edited by Manju Kapur at Amazon.

Shaping the World Edited by Manju Kapur Women's Writing in India

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