The Rubik’s cube — a writer’s tool?

It happened one sultry summer morning; I was sipping my coffee and watching my nephew solve the Rubik’s cube in less than a minute and repeating the feat over and over again.

Somewhat captivated, I asked him, “How are you doing it. Can you teach me?”

A pair of bewildered eyes shot back: “I can’t. It’s tough. You won’t get it”, he said.

I stared into my coffee mug and thought to myself — how tough can it really be? After all, I’ve tackled calculus in college and waded through the murky waters of thermodynamics. What’s not to get in this toy puzzle.

With a bruised ego and a steely resolve, I set out to unravel the mysteries of the cube.

Solving the Rubik’s cube

Ernő Rubik, a Hungarian professor of architecture and inventor of the Rubik’s cube, initially created it as a working model to demonstrate how individual elements of a three-dimensional models can move independently without the entire model falling apart.

He made a prototype cube by arranging a bunch of smaller cubes on a central pivot. He painted each side of this prototype cube a different colour. When he moved the individual cubes from their starting position — to demonstrate how individual elements can be moved without the model coming apart — the colours got mixed up. It wasn’t easy for him to get smaller cubes back to their starting position; rumour has it that Ernő Rubik took more than a month to solve the prototype cube. Not surprising at all, since the smaller cubes can be arranged in 43 quintillion possible combinations.

26 individual cubes make up the Rubik’s cube. Current models have a standard colour scheme: white is opposite yellow, blue is opposite green and orange is opposite red. With the white side facing you, red comes on the top, green is on the right, orange at the bottom and blue on the left. The centre cube of each side works as an anchor and guide. The aim is to move the edge cubes and the corner cubes in a sequence of steps to eventually match the colour of the centre cube. These moves, also called algorithms, make the solution sound mathematical and scary. But these algorithms are just a sequence of steps to get the individual cubes back to their starting position.

Typing “how to solve the Rubik’s cube” will give you 8 million hits in Google — a deluge of videos, blogposts and guides will confuse and scare you further. Most of these solutions, posted by smug solvers expecting you to read their mind as they explain the process, are difficult to follow. Out of the eight million solutions, I found only ONE video helpful. Here’s the link to it:

Do Rubik’s cube solvers have a higher IQ than mere mortals like us? I disagree. For solving the cube, what you really need is patience, perseverance and a decent sense of spatial orientation.

What’s in it for writers (and translators)?

Our mind is a giant Rubik’s cube of thoughts. Within the confines of the mind, thoughts move between the logic, emotion and action centres depending on our mood and emotions. We are always thinking: we think thoughts and then think some more on thoughts about our thoughts. A portable thought sorter is what we need…

Solve the cube — sort your thoughts

Working with languages, managing deadlines and our business: at any given time, a zillion thoughts run through our mind — multitasking at its worse. Solving the cube, I inadvertently sort my thoughts out by imagining the different sides of a cube as different facets of my life. Sorting is good but sometimes a quick distraction is what will work the best…

A welcome distraction

Writers are a broody lot; scrupulously analysing thoughts and endlessly searching for the perfect word or phrase to describe them. To maintain sanity we need short, frequent breaks. Fiddling with a Rubik’s cube does just that. It serves as a quick distraction because solving the cube needs full concentration. This shift of focus helps to decouple our thoughts, giving the overactive mind a much-needed break…

A substitute for coffee (or tea)?

Long working hours, mental exhaustion and the 12th cup of coffee means a numb body and an unresponsive mind. In such situations, a quick round of sorting the coloured cubes shakes off our stupor.  The splash of colour; the swift, deliberate movements; the elation of solving the cube from one of the 43 quintillion possible combinations — priceless!

When words stop making sense I dive into the world of misaligned cubes and try to set them straight in the hopes of aligning my thoughts, generate new ones and stop feeling miserable. Solace is in the fact that there is at least one mystery I’m able to solve without having to tear my hair out.

Wound up in your words

We all know, great content is important to attract your target audience. You might use the best of fonts, liveliest of colors and the most dazzling of images, but if your content is lackluster, your audience will not be impressed. Same is true for the way we articulate, the words we use and how we speak.

Our words glamorize us. You must have experienced it too — you gravitate easily towards people who have a command over their language. I’ll even go a step further and add that an ordinary-looking person, who articulates well, starts appearing prettier/handsomer to us.

So along with your skin, rejuvenate your brain cells too. Read more, write even more and create your world of words — there will always be someone waiting to be impressed.

Not your smile,
nor your seductive eyes;
darlin’ I’m wound up
in your words.

More than the perfume you wear,
Or the fragrance in your hair,
darlin’ I’m wound up
in your words.

Your crazy observations
and their articulations,
Make my heart skip a beat
Your words —
they are such a treat.

In a world lacking originality,
Cardboard cutouts of the
most popular personalities
What stands out,
Is the way you speak
The words you use
Saying how you feel.

Don’t shy away,
From bringing out your best;
The words you use
Matter more than
Your make-up or your dress…

© 2020 Pavitra Baxi

Header pic:

Write more…metaphors

Isn’t it true that inspiration strikes in situations least expected?

For me, it was while watching Sex Education on Netflix. The scene when Jackson recites the following lines for auditioning in the school play:

“Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief.”

Breaking the monotony, these lines made the me sit up and take notice.

That’s the power of a metaphor. Unlike a simile, that’ll spoon-feed the emotion by employing “like” and “as”; metaphors make your imagination work a bit harder.

So, what is a metaphor?
Metaphor comes from the Greek word metapherein, which means “to transfer”. You transfer the meaning of one phrase/object to another. They are made up of two parts. Tenor: what you wish to describe. It could be a person, an emotion or a concept. Vehicle: a figurative expression, which carries the meaning of the tenor.

For example:

“But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? Is it the east, and Juliet is the sun?”
Juliet (tenor) is compared to the sun, and her standing at the window is likened to sunrise. Qualities of the sun, are transferred to Juliet and you instantly visualize her —bright as the sunlight. There is no need for a literal description.

Why use metaphors?
1. Metaphors make it easier to explain abstract concepts
Let’s say, you want to explain jealousy.
You could use the dictionary definition: a hostile attitude towards a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage (from

A metaphor instead: “Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

Metaphors are also handy in explaining tricky scientific concepts.
Take for example, Entropy
Dictionary definition of Entropy is the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system (
A metaphor can explain it better: Entropy is akin to children bouncing in a bouncy castle —disorder, uncertainty in a system and energy expended without doing any useful work.

2. Metaphors make your prose livelier
Let’s not rush into love
“It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be” – Juliet hinting that it would be foolish to rush into love.
Which one sounds better?

3. Metaphors makes your think
Metaphors provide a brief pause in the prose for the readers to gather their thoughts, visualize and explore various possibilities. Readers like it when writers make them think.

Different versions of metaphors

Direct metaphors: A straightforward transfer of meaning using “is”
“All the world is a stage”
Implied metaphors: Comparison is made between two things, but one of them isn’t mentioned.
“Thoughts fluttering through my head” Thoughts are compared to butterflies — no mention of a butterfly though, that’s for you to imagine.
Extended metaphors: When a metaphor is made up of more than one phrase.
“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.”

Romeo, going on and on and on about his lady love…

Writing metaphors is tough but not impossible. Once you master the art, you will be tempted to use a lot of it in your writing. Use it sparingly so as not to slow down your readers and drown them in a sea of implications.

© 2020 Pavitra Baxi

Thoughts are promiscuous

As writers, we are told to always write our thoughts down. We take them for granted and prioritize work, home and children; knowing fully well how difficult those thoughts (good ones and bad ones) are to come by. Frustrated by their fickleness, I wrote a poem.

Thoughts are promiscuous,
never loyal to you.
Falsely believing you own them,
will do more harm than good.

Like seductive butterflies
they want all our attention,
but only for a split-second;
they have better things to do.

False promises they will give you;
of residing in your head.
Don’t be fooled,
they’ll be gone,
leaving you in dread.

So, how do you get them,
to be all yours?
Write them down,
whenever and wherever you can.

Use your phones,
Carry a book and a pen.
Post-its work well too,
Or use tissue papers instead.

Sane ones, insane ones,
Grab them all,
We need them to master our craft —
to get our point across.

© 2020 Pavitra Baxi

Entrepreneur 5.0

I attended the Entrepreneur 5.0 event conducted by Roger Hamilton — a Bali-based social entrepreneur and founder of Wealth Dynamics

Freelancers are a peculiar lot: supremely confident, at the same time, terribly insecure. Skeptical of advice from experts other than those active in our sphere of work, we freeze in fright if asked to change the way we work. Naturally, it took a bit of convincing for me to attend this event. But I am happy to report that it was time well-spent.

I arrived at the venue just in time to see suits and stilettos walk into the conference room. Roger came on to the stage and the thing that struck me the most was his relaxed attire: the sports jacket, jeans and loafers— carefully put together — were a sharp contrast to the purposeful dressing of the seated crowd. My curiosity piqued, I waited for things to begin.

He started the session explaining the mind-numbing speed at which the digital revolution is taking place. How this digital revolution and access to information has improved our decision-making ability. We no longer need to wait for orders from a chosen few with access to information — we know what we want to do; how to do it and why to do it. There is great satisfaction in working on your own terms, but entrepreneurs are also plagued with the fear of the unknown and burdened with work which is not their core competence. A network of entrepreneurs that help each other is the need of the hour.

We spent a major part of the day understanding the Wealth Dynamics profile test and how it can help build a network of entrepreneurs. According to this test, there are eight wealth profiles. In any given individual, the traits associated with these profiles manifest in varying degree. Your primary profile acts as a guide for your dominant traits. You focus on strengthening them, rather than work on what you are not good at. Apart from focusing on your strengths, teaming up with people who are strong in aspects of business that you struggle with, relieves you of the burden of doing everything.

So, what are these wealth profiles?

Wealth profileStrengths and weaknesses
CreatorIntuitive and creative but easily distracted. They are best at creating wealth by introducing new products, ideas and brands. Good at starting things but terrible at finishing them. Managing day-to-day business is not their cup of tea.
StarCharismatic and highly-energetic but dominating. Their ability to promote, lead and communicate make them well suited for marketing, sales and promotional activities. Carrying out detail-oriented and repetitive tasks is not their forte.
SupporterGreat communicators and team-builders but lack the creative instinct. Strong interpersonal skills and leadership qualities make them ideal as team managers.
Deal MakerDealmakers are best at negotiating and have a great sense of timing. Not the best at starting things and lose focus easily.
TraderGreat at bargaining, patient and work best in a team. They like to be led rather than take charge. Their strength lies in buying and selling assets.
AccumulatorDetail-oriented and dependable but master procrastinators. Down-to-earth and never the ones to take impulsive decisions. They bring order to chaos and ensure things get done on time.
LordNeither impulsive nor communicative; their strength lies in controlling money, time and effort efficiency. People with this profile work well with numbers. Make them a part of your team if you want a steady cash-flow even in times of scarcity.
MechanicHands-on and perfectionists who challenge the status quo. Always looking at bettering things, their strength lies in building reliable systems. They might not be charismatic leaders, but they will see your project through to completion.

To give you an example:

My primary profile is Creator and secondary profiles are Mechanic and Star. Focusing on creation — implementing new ideas and starting new projects — but not burning out my monetary reserves only on creation, is what will work best for me. I must, from time to time, focus on my secondary profiles of Mechanic (building systems and finishing projects) and Star (promote and communicate). It would also help if I team up with someone whose primary profile is that of an Accumulator or a Lord and ensure my business does not run out of money!

An interesting feature was the free “lighter” version of the wealth dynamics test called the Genius Test. Check it out at

In the second half of the day, Roger introduced us to ways of identifying and approaching clients; how to team up with entrepreneurs working in your own field and how to manage the tides and ebbs of your business. How to shake things up if you are stuck in a rut. The last segment highlighted the importance of mentoring. 

My personality test evaluation with a list of actionable items was insightful; implementing the recommendations has brought about small but significant changes in my professional life. It has encouraged me to work out a plan that is more comprehensive than just getting more money in the bank. Money is important, but it is hardly worth the while if you do not enjoy the process of making it.

Attending the event has given me a new perspective on what I want to do and how to go about doing it.

© 2020 Pavitra Baxi