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Bhumika Anand, once a cubicle dweller, found her home at the Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW). This is her story in the world of words.
You know how you start out thinking that if I have my own business, I will make time for this, that, and the other thing?
It never happens.
I spent twelve years of my life as a corporate slave and it left me mentally fatigued and physically ill; but the learning was invaluable. Now, I am the owner and the janitor and everything in between of my writing school. It’s immensely fun, but there are days I miss having those corporate systems in place. Then again, I remember the red-tape and the people, and I am just so happy I get to do what I really want. Running Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW) is what defines me now. And the running never stops.
BWW is a little over three years old. The idea behind starting BWW was to facilitate creative writing workshops and build a community of writers in the city who would share critiques and collaborate on creative projects.
What started out as a fun, why-the-hell-not experiment has today become a real writing school. We have over 200 community members. We offer courses for children and adults now. The focus has moved from just creative writing to include all sorts of writing. From a two member team we are now a total of twelve facilitators.
Since my job revolves around people, writing, and reading, I often feel like I am in the middle of a book. There’s a lot of action, stormy emotion, absurd drama, immense learning, quiet despair, deep melancholy, and all such good things in life. It’s very entertaining and meaningful.
Being able to communicate effectively, write well, and punctuate perfectly, is a skill. The sort of skill that will land you a dream job or find you a perfect mate. Often, both.
I am delighted that I get to work with people and help them improve this skill. All of us have stories to tell. But to write a story, that takes skill. And to master a skill one must work hard, be dedicated, and do all those good but boring things that most of us have no patience for. Workshops help inculcate discipline, foster competition; deadlines often replace temperamental muses and do a more remarkable job of getting things written. Exposure to various writing styles; knowing how to critique texts; understanding that writing necessarily includes editing and revising (which is sheer drudgery), that’s the prodding one gets at a workshop. Since most of us dreamers are also essentially lazy, we need all the prodding we can get. You could say I am the chief prodder on any given day.
On workshop days, which happen over the weekends, we meet for two-three hours, discuss texts from the course books, and critique submissions. We traverse history, politics, religion, relationships, sexuality, and so on in our discussions. Friendships form, loyalties get declared, and violence is threatened when people disagree on punctuation, semantics, and the like. No single workshop day is alike, but they are all similar in the sense that in each we celebrate good writing, rubbish lazy work, and open ourselves to each other and the world. It’s all very dramatic, even therapeutic at times, and always deeply fulfilling for both the facilitators and the writers.
The most obvious success story is when BWWers publish their work in anthologies or reputed online journals both in India and abroad.
For me though, it is seeing how much students grow as writers and people through the course of a workshop. When people from non-literature backgrounds discover the magic of well-written books; feel validated when working for that perfect sentence; start to pay close attention to grammar and punctuation, that’s gratifying.
All of us at BWW are crazy about quality writing in any genre. Writing for the masses does not mean weak plots, hackneyed phrases, irresponsible and stereotypical characterisation, appalling grammar and language. We believe that we have a responsibility to readers and it’s a great disservice to think of readers as dumb or lacking discernment even if they read only for time-pass, as we say in Bengaluru.
Our community is constantly challenging and encouraging each other. All manners of collaborations and partnerships have been formed at BWW. Knowing this makes me look forward to every new day.
Meeting my team of facilitators, developing new modules, sharing the vision and our dreams is how most days are spent. Every day includes a lot of reading – published books, topical long-forms, and works of my students. I have been assured time and again that BWW has made a lot of difference in many lives. I am grateful when I receive such feedback.
The gratitude translates to other community strengthening initiatives like regular readings in the city at Urban Solace – Café for the Soul, in Ulsoor. We have book club meetings, author interactions, and discussions around topical events throughout the year. This year, we also ventured into publishing as a community effort, with Best of the Bestiary, an anthology of selected work by our earliest batches, which is available online. We finally managed to go green at BWW, around six months ago, through WetInk an online platform for creative writing workshops. These are the things that keep me busy every day.
I have always been an insomniac, and it seems to be working in my favour, because I often get a lot done in 24 hours. I get some writing done, usually between 2 am and 8 am. My days go by in meetings, creating new modules, and trying to earn money through my consulting gigs as a copywriter and a communications/social media strategist. I am fascinated and horrified by my dependence on the internet because I am necessarily connected at all times.
I have a super support system. My parents prevent me from getting bogged down by the day-to-day running of a house, and my friends ensure I don’t always stay in a book.
I would like to establish some sort of a routine, eke out set times for exercise, sleep, and basic things like that. It’s supposedly healthy. I know it will stifle me, though. And for the sort of person and writer I am, my life the way it is now, is incredibly liberating.
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