I had originally published this on LinkedIn: Click here to read (and my other posts on LinkedIn) or simply read this one below:
Writing can be a very daunting task. Even before commencing on a project, there is this mind numbing pressure of creating something unique, engaging and most importantly enduring. Almost each and every one of us has experienced a time when you are just sitting there; staring at the unnerving gleam of the laptop screen, the cursor blinking as if goading you to start already!
Reams of paper have been dedicated on how to write effectively and ‘secrets’ of the trade divulged virtually everywhere. Writing can be as easy as getting up early in the morning or as hard! It is how you look at it. I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say an authentic writer is he who has a keen eye for detail and is a great observer.
Conducting a creative writing master class during Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai last year, eminent writer Ben Okri had commented: “What is fundamental to writing? People often say that we have a writer’s block… what we have written is really bad… but what they fail to realize is that for writing… it is imperative to look.. and not just look; but observe without judgment… like a child who sees the world wide-eyed and without any judgment. Indeed it may be difficult because we tend to externalize our experiences and not internalize them… Remember Henry James when he said: ‘BE SOMEONE ON WHOM NOTHING IS LOST.’”
He further added: “The basis of your writing is your aliveness to observation. All great writers are terrifying observers. Don’t notice the ordinary, search for the unusual and do that without any judgment. Our problem is that we tend to look for specific things.”
Another thing which has greatly facilitated my writing ability is the love for the written word. I am an avid reader since childhood and was usually seen with my nose stuck in a book; totally oblivious of my surroundings. Riding high on the winged chariot of imagination was at first just a ruse to immerse myself deeply in the realm of make-believe. But as I grew older and took up writing professionally – it all came to my aid: the resilience of Scarlett O’ Hara and thus never giving up on writing irrespective of how negative the response, feedback or situation was, having a multidimensional perspective by ‘glimpsing’ at the world through Nehru’s eyes, or hoping to do good by the power of the written word. Books are not only your ‘constant companions’, they are – as writer Stephen King says – the tool that enables you to write. From classical to contemporary writers, emphasis on reading has been almost categorical. American writing genius, William Faulkner had famously said: “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”
Writing for some is an outlet for pent up emotions; it is also about finding and subsequently raising your voice amidst the hullabaloo of all things mundane. This makes it critical for the reluctant writer to never cease his true calling, no matter what the odds are. All writing tends to be bad at first. Talking about a writer’s journey, writer Ben Okri also said: “Remember writing is writing. Just do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. Just dive in and don’t plan. If even one word strikes other people, it is a success. Expectation is most threatening, but be open minded and anticipate bad writing at the beginning.”
In a quaint way, good writing also entails being a great detective where you have to tie up all loose ends and eliminate the glut of accessories. In order to make content true, it is important to distill it to its tightest essence. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit, so focus on the small as opposed to specifics. Having a voracious appetite for being verbose, I generally tend to use heavy words. But experience has taught me, the lighter the content, the easier the read and better the grasp of a reader. It is only through a lucid flow of engaging expression that content can truly be called king!
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