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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Manjiri Indurkar And Rheea Mukherjee On What It Means To Be A Writer In The Age Of Social Media

  • IWB Post
  •  July 12, 2019

This is the era of Insta-writers. Today, how big you make as a writer depends on how well you market yourself as much as your quality of writing. Now the question is- what does it mean to be a writer in this era of self-promotion? The question also is how dignified is the hedonistic act of self-promoting to a writer’s vocation? And lastly, where do we draw the line?

Recently, writers Manjiri Indurkar and Rheea Mukherjee got together to find out the answer to these questions for a column in Scroll. Here are excerpts from the conversation:

On being a writer in the age of social media

RM: “In the age of social media being a writer also means being a brand or at the very least seizing the opportunity to be seen as, uh, a personality? My educated opinion is that if you’re interested in getting more books published in the world, the onus to be visible is on you.”

MI: “I agree you have to cultivate a certain image, you need to make your presence felt. You can be a great writer but until and unless you are putting your work out no one will notice.”

On what a writer is supposed to do in the age of self-marketing

MI: “I think at the very least the writer has to be honest about the experience they are writing about. If I step out of my house and experience something that I feel compelled to write about, because we all are finding stories at all times, what I want then is some authenticity and transparency. Where is my position in this story? Am I just an observer? Are my observations then coming in the way of the agency of the subject?”

RM: “Yes, when the experience is yours and it’s clear that the observation is only your perception of it, then as a reader I am compelled. But when a writer uses their theme to manipulate people into their brand, that’s where I get ticked off. I mean we could point at Chetan Bhagat here as an obvious choice, but he’s quite transparent about the fact that he is more brand than a writer. What the audience perceives is another matter.”

On writers purposefully putting themselves in positions where readers idolise them

RM: “I think it’s a slippery slope. Suppose you wrote a book that has themes that talk about political minorities and doesn’t shy away from the politics of gender, then you can expect social pressure to keep writing about these things to keep that “social thought leader” image going. In theory, it’s great, if you are self-aware. But I don’t see that happening much in our era. I think we’re at risk of becoming caricatures for causes. Using our characters, themes or experiences to make it about us while tearing off the agency that people have when they experience these things we write about on their own.”

MI: “We write stories where if we are to emerge as heroes/heroines we reduce the ‘subject’ to a trope, whatever suits our needs at the moment. This I think is morally reprehensible.”

On the audience’s responsibility

MI: “The writer, as the hero, is a major issue because we are now celebrating almost anyone and everyone and buying into their stories without giving it much thought. The quality of writing then obviously goes for a toss. This lack of scrutiny is the reader’s doing. The reader and writer are in a codependent relationship, we need each other equally.”

RM: “At its best, the writer is someone who can narrate a single perception with great power, one that can inspire more discussion. But at its worst, this kind of storytelling can create lazy heroes.”

On the simplest thing to do as a writer in the current times

RM: “Writers should embrace the fact that at best we’re the master of our own story and not how others use it or take from it. Do all this while still trying to be true to our experience and imagination, even when we’re promoting our work.”

MI: “Yes, exactly. You are a chronicler. So, stay true to that role. If we are to archive a period of time we have to remember that archival work demands authenticity.”

H/T: Scroll

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