How to be a writer

Prof. Santosh Kumar Tewari*

When my father passed away, I wrote a piece on him. That lessened my grief. When one of my close friends died, I wrote about him and that helped me in wiping my tears.

Grief is wordless. Bringing it to words is self-healing. Through writing we change our relationship with trauma. Writing raises our confidence level. It helps us handle life’s difficulties.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare says: “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the . . . heart and bids it break.”

Writing is Yoga. To improve health we must write detailed accounts of our likings, feelings, emotions and events. Sharing our pleasures and pains, joys and sorrows, makes us happy.

The writing process is cheap. We simply need a pen and a paper. My father used to write on the back side of used envelopes. Many great writers, including Mahatma Gandhi, used to do the same. Today if you have a computer, you are more fortunate than these people.

A French journalist once asked Mrs. Indira Gandhi:  “Had you not been Prime Minister, what you would have wished to be?” She replied:  “I would have loved to be a writer.”

That means even stars wish to become writer. Charles Dickens became a star writer by writing seven to eight hours a day, and so did our Munshi Premchand. Their novels and stories depict their observations about life.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was primarily a writer and a journalist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his writings. Churchill was war correspondent during World War I and British Prime Minister during World War II.

Many of us desire to be writer, but we don’t work on it. We kill our desire. We murder our inner soul. That’s a crime.

If you are involved in writing, you will save yourself from watching several unnecessary television shows, long telephonic conversations, indulgence in social media, etc.

We have some popular misconceptions about writing:

  1. In the beginning we need to have some inspiration to write. (The truth is that inspiration comes while we write.)
  2. Writing is an inborn quality and talent. Writers are by birth. (The truth is that writing is an art which we can cultivate by sheer practice. There is no shortcut to success. There is no other way except practice.)
  3. Writer must always be clear about what he wants to say. (The truth is that you start writing from any point or angle; and slowly writing will make your thoughts clear.)
  4. Writer should stop his pen when there is nothing to say. (The truth is that most writers write regularly. Some of them produced their best works when they were passing through their most difficult times.)
  5. We expect that our first draft of writing should be our final draft. (The truth is that even great writers rewrite their copies. If you can’t rewrite, you can’t write at all. Earnest Hemingway rewrote thirty-nine times his novel The Old Man and the Sea. He was awarded the Noble Prize for that work.)
  6. We don’t get right words to express our thoughts. (The truth is that only by rewriting and rewriting alone we can find the right words. An old saying is that practice makes a man perfect.)

You shouldn’t expect choosing the perfect right words in your first draft.

There is a valid reason why you need to rewrite. Your thoughts run many times faster than your pen or your typing fingers. So you miss many important points in your first draft, or even in second or third drafts. You can rebuild and rearrange all the points logically in the final one.

It is said that the average writing speed of a person is about 25 to 30 words per minute; and average typing speed is about 35 to 40 words per minute; but average speed of thoughts is difficult to calculate. Some say it is faster than or equivalent to the speed of light, which is 300,000 kilometers per second.

Therefore the more you rewrite, the more your thoughts and language get polished.

So, what should we do now? All of us at one time or the other have passed through some sort of grief or trauma. Just take out your pen and write a detailed account of that event and your feelings. Make writing your everyday habit. Remember, writing is Yoga for your health and happiness.

If you write five pages a week, by the end of a year you would have written more than 250 pages. That is the normal size of a book. But, of course, your language would need proper editing.

Write on whatever is handy. You can write on a piece of paper, old diary or notebook or note card.

Make your writing mobile. You can write while waiting for your class to start, or waiting for a railway train. You can write while waiting for your turn at the doctor’s reception room. Use these small time gaps to be a writer.

In her early days, American writer Toni Morrison used to write reclining on her sofa after completing her day long tiring work. She was working full-time to support her family as a single parent. Later she won the Noble Prize.

Whenever a useful word or sentence comes to your mind, write that immediately, otherwise that will fly away from your mind.

Disciplined writers maintain a daily diary of their work.

You can write privately or share with someone.  Sharing often improves your writing and clarifies your ideas.

I share all my writings with my colleagues. Many of them are younger than my daughter. A famous editor of the Hindi daily Nav Bharat Times used to share his writings with me whenever I was around. He was the most beloved editor I ever worked with.

Write for about half an hour daily. Write more if you want. Write when you are sick – bed ridden. Write when you’re well. Write when all is quiet in your life. Write when all is disturbed in your life. Givewords to your unquiet mind, your unquiet moments.Give words to your lighter moments too.

Write on topics you want to write. Write on topics you don’t want to write.

Don’t censor yourself. That is the secret of the art of writing.

Science says the past never comes back. But your writing can recreate the past. You can even create a new world altogether. You can make or unmake anything.

You can do what scientists are unable to do. You can.

Writing is a pleasant art. So please write. Write today. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes.

If right now you do not find any topic to write, you may write your comments in two three paragraphs on this write up. Or, look out of your room-window. See the street for five minutes. Then write a paragraph about what you saw there. That will be your first step on the road to writing.

So write now. Don’t kill your inner instinct. Don’t kill your inner self. Write for yourself, for your health and happiness.

The next step is: read more, write more.

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