On 15th of June, 2016, exactly on my 15th day at work, I wrote an article titled 12 unsaid rules you have to follow when you are in India for StoryPick. A strong satire describing the funny behaviour that’s showcased in the public arena of almost every street in India. This was the first article that I had actually enjoyed working on during the short tenure of my time with StoryPick. A tiny message popped open on my Slack window that read ‘nice article’. Now, it was a big deal because it was from my bosses, who I learnt would appreciate your work only on rare occasions and only when they think it’s something different. Doing something different while attracting large readership was a hulk-task. Especially when content-driven websites were springing up on every nook and corner of the over-crowded web. On my way back home after a satisfied day at work, I opened my article to re-read it and pat my back for the good work. And for the very first time, I had a long trail of hate-comments on my article. Yes, I had wounded the pride of my readers. And, now, most of them hated me.
I received comments like “Urvashi Maru, the worst writer ever!”, “This article is a total waste of time”, etc. I scrolled down and only once in a very long while would I find someone trying to defend me. And in the flood of negative reviews, only a couple who actually appreciated my writing. I wasn’t really surprised at the extreme reaction I had received. What was foreign, were the feelings that were overwhelming me. I closed the tab and closed my eyes. I was worried. What if my boss forbids me to write such articles any further? What if he fires me? Or worse, what if people stopped reading my articles? Turns out, neither happened.
On 28th of June, 2016, exactly 2 days before I quit, I wrote an article titled Are ‘made for each other couples’ slowly going to be extinct? This was the first time my bosses had given me the liberty to write an essay, instead of the popular listicle. I had thanked God that day for making my day so much better. I was finally going to write something I liked. But, it wasn’t that easy. I had the gigantic task of writing an article that would attract the readers. What’s even more difficult is to ensure that they would take the pain of reading it until the very end. This was the second time I went back home happy and satisfied. But, this time I didn’t re-read my article nor the comments.
However, my Facebook inbox was filled with messages from strangers who had read my article and had loved it. And this time, the comments said “Urvashi Maru is one of the best writers of StoryPick”, “You have the brightest future and you are definitely a find!”, etc. The next few hours, I had a smile on my face because I had finally won over my readership community. And then, it passed.
But now, as I sit here, mulling over the fickle nature of the relationship between readers and writers, I wonder about how important it is to consider your audience when you write. I quit my job because I didn’t want to write what my employers and my audience demanded. And very soon, I understood that if I ever wanted to be read, I’d have to write what the readership community demands. For the one year of break that I took to think things through and to figure out about my prospects of achieving a successful career as a full-time writer, I wrote nothing. Every single time I picked up my pen to write, I was scared. I was scared of writing something that no one would ever read. If some day I was braver than the others, I would finally write something only to throw it away in the pile of work that never seemed to satisfy me.
The whole world critiques writers like Chetan Bhagat or E.L James. I come across people writing and speaking unspeakable things about them. And yet, book after book, they read them. And book after book, they write bad reviews about them. So, why do readers read authors that they publicly claim to not like? I have come to believe that they, the authors have perfectly understood the audience and their capricious nature. In spite of the negative comments, they don’t stop because they know that secretly, the same readers do read them. Now, I am not romanticising the whole situation where one receives negative feedback, only to make myself feel better. The point I am trying to make here is that the readership community is hard to understand.
If I, as a reader can be biased towards one author and can so easily judge another, every single reader here can very well do the same. So why should any writer passionate about the arrangement of words, who has fallen in love with the sound of rhythm, has found the power in words and has learnt to write from the heart, ever stop? I beseech you, the writer in you to never stop. Do not let the creativity in you die. Write! Let the judgement and the critics only help you grow. Stop stopping yourself! Pick up your pen and let the words flow. And it’s not just foolish advise because you see, I am doing exactly the same! Day after day, I write. Very rarely am I satisfied. But slowly, I have stopped worrying about it. It is hard to not throw away something that I have written badly but now, I have developed the habit of analysing my writing. I use those bad articles to see how far I have gotten. I have started experimenting with various genres and styles of writing. And I believe, during this process, I will someday evolve to be a better writer than I am now. And so will you.