A lot of writing is an outcome of introspection and self-analysis. We look at ourselves, sometimes as an outsider and oftentimes as an insider, with the expectation that we either see what the world sees in us or we see in the world that no one else sees in it. This is a lot of topical overthinking—both unidirectional and multi-directional. Amongst the questions on writing that bombard, clutter, and occupy one’s mind, many involve finding answers that lead to further bewilderments. Let us delve few of such questions.
On what must I write?
As easy as it might sound, selecting a topic is anything but simple: you bang your head against a wall and I guarantee it will bring results. There are days when you can spot yourself staring at the blinking cursor or the blank page with mixed feelings of admiration and frustration. And such days usually occur more frequently for some than others.
Topics lend the capability to set the perimeter for your writing.
A question that nests within this question is how critical is research in writing. Well, the easy answer to it lies in what you wish your readers to do after they go through your work. Do you want them to do something, like a task? Do you want them to read and react? Do you want them to follow the suit and continue their research on your lines of thoughts? Do you want them to feel what you are feeling? Or, do you want to enlighten them with deep insights? Set a perimeter to the range of topics and then let the topic set the perimeter for your writing.
A topic helps put barbed wires, sort of, so that you can fence out the territories where your imagination isn’t supposed to wander. Such self-contradicting is this counter-thought that you must first set a perimeter to the topic before it sets the perimeter for your writing. So, more than the topic, it is the subject of your study that determines what you must write.
In what format must I write?
It reminds me of a masterful chef who curates a platter of intricately cooked, composed, and crafted dishes. Remember, they don’t cook food: they create a course of meal for you. The format of writing is similar.
Masterful writers incrementally build their readers’ experience throughout the passage of their work.
And even if this means some rules govern the structure or format in which to serve the course of the meal, no rules limit your creative license to bring in colorful variations in tastes and textures.
Is there a pattern?
There are time-tested, subjective patterns: in some, you hold onto your readers; in others, the reader holds on to your work.
The pyramid is applicable wherever you build the context before you unveil the core content. All novels and short stories use this approach where they first build the old world before they bring their protagonists on the cliffhanger that changes everything. They introduce the core learning for the protagonist who then must set their world anew.
And then there is the inverse pyramid approach. The print media follows it. We follow a similar approach in technical writing, where we communicate the most important things first and then supplement the details.
The choice of the pyramid for creative and inverse-pyramid for non-creative isn’t always easy, for it depends on a lot of parameters the values for some of which aren’t even known. Take a calculated guess of how your average readers might wish to read your work.
Is there something that’s never discussed enough?
Yes, a couple of things, actually.
There isn’t any formula, a strict pattern, process, language, structure, or way of reaching your readers’ hearts and minds. Yet, there is a way you can map your intentions with their emotions and understanding. This is where grammar can help. The sticklers for grammar call it the mortar for the bricks. Words are bricks that build your work. And grammar, as the mortar, holds the bricks together in place so that your work appears and appeals to the readers with the same intensity and purpose.
There must be a few works—often from select authors—that you find are effortless reads. Even when you read their work for the first time, within an instant you connect to their work. And then there are other authors whose work builds itself on you over time. It matures like a wine where the more you age with it the more you appreciate what it brings to you. Each time you open it, you stumble upon a new message wrapped in the same old words.
The act of writing, I reckon, must be the second-last step in the process of writing itself. The last step must be rewriting.
Once you finish creating your first draft, let it sit and age. If over time you think it reads the same, your work will achieve its purpose. But if—and it usually is the case—it doesn’t quite read what it must, then rewrite it.
Continue to chisel out the words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs if they don’t serve their purpose.
After we have said (and done) what all we must, there still remains so much more than we can say and do. Writing is such an easy skill that it reminds me of life itself.
Only after you’ve lived your life that you learn how to live it.
Each experience is new in its own way. Every single day brings forth new learning. All experiences, good or bad, make up life what it is. This is why life is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts. And you, as a writer, are responsible for helping people read and, thereby, live through your words. How effectively they do that depends on how efficiently you can map your ability to think like them and the skill to write like your true self.