The title of this post is also the title of a poem by Robert Frost, a poem that I still go back to when I need inspiration. Encouragement and the will to do something that I still find difficult to do, every time I sit in front of the keyboard.
This wonderful poem by one of the greatest poets and, by extension, philosophers of our time, was first introduced to me back in standard seven. And it talks about the journey of a young man who is faced with decisions and choices in his life. It talks about the consequences that this man will end up with, when he makes these decisions and choices. One choice is easy. One choice is hard. Always. And the fate of the man depends on the choices he picks.
Where he ends up is decided by the road he takes to get there.
The Road Less Travelled, of course, would be the harder road. It is filled with perils and problems. Nothing comes easy on this road. The choices are difficult, the consequences are dire. You want to give up many times as you take this road because, hell…it’s hard! And who wants hard? WHY would anyone in his right mind pick a hard road when the world teaches us time and again that shortcuts are the surest way to success?
No one would.
People pick the easy road, the safe road. They work; they play, drive around in their sedans and live ordinary, mundane lives always dreaming of the extraordinary and the different. The choices they didn’t make and the road they didn’t take.
The Road Less Travelled isn’t for everyone.
The Road Less Travelled requires many things from its travellers. Devotion in the face of utter uncertainty. Determination in the face of chaos. And, most of all, Passion.
It may be the purest emotion on the planet that this writer knows of.
I am not talking about rip-your-clothes-off, taken on the nearest flat surface passion, although that is the best example of passion there is. I am talking passion. Obsession. The need to do something different, to BE different. To dare it in the face of all gods and mankind. To dare it in the face of your parents and peers.
As an emotion it knows no equal. And it has many sides, some cruel, some gentle and all of them leading one down a dark and dangerous Road Less Travelled that will leave the traveller changed in tiny, unalterable ways he doesn’t even know or is aware of. Passion is seductive, consuming. Great.
Don’t mistake me.
I am not talking about sex, lust or desire here.
I am talking about passion.
The passion to do something; BE something. My passion has been, and always will be, to write THE END on a piece of work that I begin. This could be a short story, a play, a full-length novel or an article. I have never known the need to do anything else. My passion has been single-minded, consuming.
Passion is a merciless god.
It will ask terrible things of you. The thing you are passionate about, whether it is a song, or an instrument, a painting or the need to paint. Whether it is to stand behind a camera lens or in front of one. Or, like it is for this writer, the need to write romance novels all day long, it asks terrible things. It demands obeisance. You have to give it everything you have.
It is a road that very, VERY few dare to travel.
A very close friend of mine, who is now on the verge of becoming an internationally recognized artiste said something that should echo through every one of those who make passion their god. He said, “I couldn’t live two lives at once and do justice to either one of them. I needed to make music my goal. I made my passion, my work and I am happy now. I made the right choice.”
Passion doesn’t guarantee success. Not immediately, and for some, not ever. But passion gives you something even more invaluable. It gives you courage, fortitude, self-belief. It teaches you your own self-worth and makes you smile in the face of terrible odds, because, you know what? You’ve done something that no one else on the planet has.
You’ve followed your passion. You’ve dared to go after the thing you want more than anything in the world.
The hardest thing in this world is to find out what makes you happy and to have the courage to find it.
The Road Less Travelled teaches you that this choice is worth it. Finding out what you want, DISCOVERING what is your bliss is such a joy, such a relief that, once you get there, you will look back and laugh at the years, the hard work that you put in to getting here. The only thing to remember is that this journey is lonely, cold and requires a tenacity that you need to find within yourself day after day. Not everyone has the gumption to choose The Road Less Travelled.
I chose it.
Or rather, it chose me.
There is a lovely ditty from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, which, I came to know very recently was composed and sung in the lovely vaadiyan of Kashmir and that has just about made this song my anthem of 2013 and Kingdom Come (Harlequin India, 2014). The song is called “Kabira” and the piece of lyric that pierced me was “your shadows call out to you…”
Your passions will call out to you. Vague, formless, haunting.
Be it wanting to learn salsa dancing (on my to-do list) or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. My friend recently posted the picture of “Graham Hughes” who travelled the world, and visited all 201 countries via bus or train or on foot, never once using air. That is a man who picked the Road Least Travelled.
In Kingdom Come (Harlequin India, 2014), the Woodpecker picks such a road too. That of a terrorist, who uses only bombs to kill people. Not specific targets, although Wood doesn’t say no to blowing up an important figure out of principle, but Wood’s passion is bombs: the making of it, the process and what happens when one detonates.
Creation and destruction: the two sides of The Woodpecker.
Creation and destruction: the two sides of passion.
When I first began writing this novel, I had a hero. Not clean-cut, but rugged, handsome, damaged and a good guy, nonetheless. And I needed someone heinous, someone truly terrible to pit him against. The Woodpecker was not born out of a need to make Krivi into a superhero, if that’s what you’re thinking. Wood is instead the thread that makes and breaks him. Wood is, in effect, Kingdom Come (Harlequin India, 2014).
Because if I didn’t have this gruesome villain who has such an impressive rapsheet that the world has to sit and take notice and think of eliminating him, Kingdom Come wouldn’t have happened at all. I would have missed out on writing one of my best works.
I am not exaggerating when I say that The Woodpecker has been the hardest thing on the planet to write, because the scenes involving Wood required a level of inhumanity, cruelty and gore that I didn’t think I possessed. But, as I got involved deeper and deeper into my story, into this world I had created, I understood that pulling back and diluting the punch of his sheer evil would be wrong.
The Woodpecker was passionate about bombs so the bombs are what I would write about.
And, hopefully, at some point, Krivi Iyer, ex-MI5 agent would get his bad guy.
I didn’t know if this would actually happen, if I would ever get to the end, but I had faith. I had passion. And I had a blank page on my computer screen. So I started writing. And here I am, writing Harlequin India, 2014 after my own book, because it comes out this year with a publishing house that I respect, admire and dreamed about as a kid.
Passion is an exacting god, as all the fellow bloggers on this page will attest to.
But, if you persist and do not give up, if you somehow find it in your heart to soldier on, on The Road Less Travelled and think to yourself, “all right, even this,” then, let me tell you. You WILL get there. It WILL happen for you. Be it finding that right partner to jive with, a man to come home to at the end of your hard and exhausting day or simply writing THE END on the first-draft of a novel.
The key is to never give up. To be bold. To be different. And to know, freedom is only as good as what you do with it.
Thoreau’s haunting quote about all men and quiet desperation is something that will scare the living hell out of everyone who aspires to do something with their lives. It may be as simple as losing five kilos before a friend’s wedding (also on my to-do list), or it may lead to a life-changing moment as quitting your job and taking up music as your passion. Your career.
I have been asked to advice people, fellow aspiring writers on the best way to be a writer and follow your passions at the same time. I have only one rule for you.
There is no Plan B.
If you know passion, then you understand my statement. If you don’t, go find your passion and you will get there.
I am going to end this post with the last lines of the poem, The Road Less Travelled by Robert Frost.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep.
Miles to go before I sleep.”
And all it takes is that one step out the door.
Until next time,