No Such Thing as Aspiring Writer

A lot of us yearn for writing our hearts out. While all we wish doing is to get our feelings across, it feels more rewarding to receive accolades for the simplicity in building that bridge between ours’ and readers’ hearts. And, I know that writing is not easy.

Still, there is no such thing as an aspiring writer.

We all enjoy witnessing sunrise and sunset or our occasional trips to sit by the lakeside. That’s easy because we become a part of nature. To register that experience, however, and to write that down for the readers to help them experience the same magic when they are sitting inside the walls of their imagination is complicated and tricky.

I still dare to say that there is no such thing as an aspiring writer.

How many times, tell me honestly, ideas strike you when you are in the shower? Does it not happen to you as frequently as it happens to me? So, you know that you don’t write yet you keep thinking. Right? It is such that even when you are not writing—on your laptop or a piece of paper—you are writing. Right? It is such that even when you are not involved in thinking creatively or critically, your mind makes memories by cherry-picking from your thoughts. Right?

That’s why I say that there is no such thing as an aspiring writer.

I say that not because I write or blog. I say that because I know that there is more to writing than just writing. We all have stories to tell. We all have experiences to share. We all do something in our lives, every day, that’s worth an inspiration to many. We all are products of the driblets of wisdom that trickle down our ever-contemplating brains.

Now that you begin to see how I see, you will agree that there is no such thing as an aspiring writer.

We are our own companions. Writing is a conversation that we have with ourselves. It is that speechless interaction, which decides what we do. During such conversations, we lose ourselves, we find ourselves, we look within, and we look outside. Through such conversations, we don’t merely see, we observe; we don’t merely think, we contemplate. It is writing that brings us back to ourselves.

True that there is no such thing as an aspiring writer.

As we have this conversation, you and I, our garden of emotions begins to flourish. We begin to plant new seeds of thoughts. We bring our mental ears closer to our hearts to listen to the beats within. We begin to experience joy and warmth unspeakable. We may even venture walking barefoot through the thorny yet eternal pathway, called life, that eventually leads us to the light. But, most importantly, we begin to happen. We begin to realize.

The truth is, we cannot aspire to become what we already are! Which is why, I believe, there is no such thing as an aspiring writer.

Writing Humor: Being Seriously Funny

The other day, someone questioned me about my blog. Their intention being crystal clear: if I create comic strips, write about photography, versify my thoughts, and discuss technical writing, what exactly is my blog about? Deep down, I feel that they may be right to an extent. I cannot pinpoint just one thing I like to write about; the blog is a contemplation of the endless thoughts that strike me. I cannot be more serious in making my point – yes, even when I am creating comic strips.

I am that one person who often wraps his deep thoughts in a jovial package. Humor (read Humour if you prefer the English English – pun intended) and wit, together, come naturally to not just me, but to most nonfiction writers. And, if you are someone who blows the wits out of a person, you will agree that that’s your home when it comes to writing.

Why this post, you may rightly ask. While I continue to scratch the surfaces of a lot of things, the central idea is still at the core of writing. This post aligns my intentions. Here are a few things I learned about writing humor, which you can use:

Humor is Disguised

Good humor comes disguised with the polarities of exaggerations and subtleties. Here is one piece that I once wrote:

It was a relatively brighter winter morning when Rashmi decidedly pulled herself out of her cozy bed to relish the morning with a hot cup of coffee and an equally hot edition of her favorite Men’s special magazine. As she approached the balcony, wrapping and cuddling herself in a shawl, Rakesh couldn’t stop looking at her.

Recently, he had begun calling her ‘scarecrow’. No, not because she worked in graveyard shift, but because she had developed dark circles, which were disproportionately large for her petite face and lean figure. Her English skin complexion under the gleaming Sun wasn’t much of a help either for it added to the contrasting dark circles.

Rakesh was the exact opposite of Rashmi. Her childhood friend, he was almost obese and ugly. If both were images and not people, Rashmi would appear stretched on the length and Rakesh, on the width. He looked at Rashmi and wondered if six months of graveyard shift could give her dark circles, would the same give him bright circles considering he had darker complexion!

The thought of a girl reading a Men’s special magazine says nothing explicitly yet leaves little to your imagination. The exaggeration of stretching either of them on the length or width is to give you an idea of how lean or fat their characters are. With no offense to anyone, you can never look at anyone named Rashmi and Rakesh neutrally again. Let me not describe it any further for I know what E.B. White once wrote on humor, “Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.

Humor is in Crisp Writing

Good humor is just some seriously crisp writing. The truth lies at its core. Help people see that truth in the new light of your chuckle-worthy wisdom. Writing is hard. Writing good humor is harder. That’s because truth lies at the core of humor. No, I am repeating myself; I am emphasizing the point. The moment of encountering truth must brighten and widen the eyes and minds of your readers. Such an ironic moment lies at the crossroads of realization and ecstasy, of hope and fate, and of fantasy and reality. Only that way will the readers appreciate and preserve the taste of both truth and humor. Here’s one example of crisp writing: Episode 7 of The Writer’s Chronicles. Promise, I won’t dissect the frog this time.

Your writing should resemble waves on a seashore. Thoughts should come through the ebb and flow of your words. And only occasionally should you use the humor element. Remember that humor generates from that one perspective readers mentally discard as but understood. That’s the surprise element. Most stand-up comedians these days adopt this approach. Create humor to put up a fight for a social cause. Make it a social activity by involving your readers. On an occasional wave of humor, let them surf through their everyday problems.

As I end this post, there remain a few things that I must let you know:

  • Humor has a short shelf life. A joke today becomes a routine tomorrow. Nevertheless, state it.
  • Humor is a way of opening the long-shut doors within the unapproachable corners of hearts. Ensure that you keep it simple.
  • What one may find as an outlandish attempt at generating humor the other may find as completely natural and effortless.

And, the last one is my favorite: learn by imitation. We all do that.

The Writer’s Chronicles – Episode 6

The Active Writing

Episode 6 - Active Writing

For full resolution, visit: https://Pixton.com/ic:0p9rtjou

Handy Tips for Impromptu Speeches

Here’s one post on a special request from a follower. For our company’s recent communicator’s club meeting, we organized for some impromptu speeches. Each of the speakers had their own style. While I cannot say that one spoke better the other, the effect on audience told more than we could gauge. Later, a few wished for us to provide them a handy reference list for such impromptu speeches. Hence this post.

The organizer, Sanjeev Patra, helped me prepare this list:

A good impromptu speech should have these three points:

  • A central idea: The speech should revolve around a theme. This theme, or central idea, should hold your sentences together.
  • A structure: This means that your speech should have a definite start, middle, and end. We encourage speakers to construct their speeches in the PREP format: Point, Rationale, Example, and Point. Begin with a broader definition of your point. Make the introduction emphatic and attention-grabbing. For example, begin with a quote, a question, or a story. Then, give the rationale and its supporting example. Toward the end, state your point again. Make sure you prepare well for the speech, even when you are short of time.
  • A conclusion: Conclude with a summary and a thought.

Here’s what you might consider including in your speech:

  • Personalization: Remember, your speech is your story that has your thoughts. Make sure you include an inspiration; something that made you a better person.
  • KISS: We all know what the expanded form is, but for the sake of clarity, let me share that with you again. Keep it Succinct and Simple. Yes, I know you are thinking, “but, it’s supposed to mean keep it short and sweet.” The word succinct means that your message should be crisp but accurate. So, when you share your story, make sure it is simple, short, and accurate.
  • Suspense: This one is important. On a lot of occasions, speakers end up becoming predictable with their stories; the audience can guess what’s next on the speaker’s list. Have an element of surprise and unpredictability.
  • Friendliness: Even if you don’t know and wish, you pass on the same energy to your audience. So, when you have a negative energy, that is you feel disturbed, unhappy, scared, or unsure, you pass on the same negativity to your audience. On the contrary, your image, as a speaker, should be that of a person who welcomes sharing. Remain positive. Stand straight. Look at all the audiences. If possible, name a few in your conversation. Your positive posture and body language will do half of the job for you.

It is time to rock!

That One Fear Every Writer Has

When I look back at the design of how I grew up, I realize I was destined to be a writer. When I was young, I read a lot. I would play my favorite character by tying my bath towel around my neck. I would jump from one chair to another playing that character. I would punch pillows sending them from one corner to another of my tiny yet seemingly limitless room. I would envision a LASER beam emitting from my eyes and when I thought no one was looking at me, I would nudge off action figures, who played the villains, and tiny cars off the shelf.

When I grew up into my adolescence, I began writing fiction; stories that were about how the hero within me, or the fictional characters I sketched, would go around the town helping those in need. When I grew a bit more, I began writing poetry. Though I knew that I was [really] bad at it – my poems, like someone would say, “sucked” – I continued attempting to write. In fact, some of those came up to be rather good. Two of those poems, out of my occasional attempts, are on this blog. But, down the age bracket, I realized that at heart I was more a writer than a poet. And, that impression has stayed. Until the end of the first half of my twenties, I had experienced a lot – got my masters, earned a job, and lost a job – but I was still firm that I would make a career in writing. That phase, now I realize, meant a lot.

When I look back at this little journey of my graduation from my liking for writing to becoming a published author, I realize that there is one thing that I have been doing, consistently, over the years. This post is about that thing. Back in the days when I was still figuring out my survival in this industry, I was busy reading. Writing, I knew, was like every other industry where the research leads to information, which leads to insights, which in turn leads to wisdom. And, my reading kept me with the “competition”, so to say. I kept reading so that I could continue to understand how the English language evolved over time, and how and what people wished to read (and hopefully know). While this all appeared to be good, I gradually realized that the more I read, the more I ended up losing who I was as a writer. That’s dangerous because the readers wish to read the writer within me. After all, how many of us know that we can write until the day we sit to write? Of the ones who sit to write, how many realize what’s their writing style? Of the ones who know what their writing style is, how many get to write what they wish to? That proportion drops ever so disproportionately.

Readers wish to know you by your writing style. Readers wish to read you by reading what you wrote. This one thing is imperative to the writing industry. But, the trouble with research – like I said in the previous paragraph – and reading is that gradually you begin to write like the ones who you often read. This is that one thing every writer fears: either of not finding their own writing style or of losing it in favor of those styles they think their writing resembles. I am happy that I have a style of my own; a style that only I can have. This writing style is unique to me – much like most of the good writers who I know in person. Each of those writers who I admire has a style of their own. Amongst the things that you should keep in mind if you wish to step into this industry, or are enjoying your stay in here, is – without a doubt – this one that I feel I would fear to lose.

I hope that this post helps you find the writer and their style within yourself. Happy writing.

Why is it Horribly Hard to Write a Book?

Writing anything is never easy; especially inking exactly what you wish to communicate through a book is one of the hardest things to do. Then why is it that we see so many of us writing about writing? Or, why is it that so many of us are interested in reading about writing? Each day, writers like you and I wake up to a new challenge of pouring thoughts onto our drafts. Each day we spend hours with pens and papers or in front of our computer screens pursuing stories in the void of nothingness. Only a few can consistently get to write. Fewer still get their works published.

With these thoughts, one such day passed for me recently. And, when I pondered on this question of why is it horribly hard for anyone to write a book, out came this post! Here’s why I think only a handful of us make it through to the readers:

You don’t read everyday things rightly.

This is the commonest. Sometimes we just cannot see beyond one plot. So, even if we decide to write about it and move on, all we can do is pen down the fragments of our imagination. If you are one of those who fails to connect the dots, then you are either in a wrong profession or haven’t trained yourself under the right inspiration. Good writing is all about good reading. No, don’t get me wrong on this one; I don’t mean reading good stuff. I mean reading the everyday things around you; looking closely to understand the perspective of the people around you. That inspires you more than anything else. Read people’s emotions; look at how different people behave differently in the same situations amongst the same sets of challenges. Learn to read between the lines; that’s where most stories lie. If you can read those stories correctly, you can write about them, too.

You don’t have a schedule. If you do, you don’t stick to it.

Those who do have a schedule, follow it. So, if you don’t have a schedule, make one and follow it. Most of us fail to make a schedule for their writing. They lose most of their energies in either thinking or planning. What they don’t realize is that too much of either leads them away from their writing goals.

Take a note of the time of the day at which you are the most productive. Reserve that for your writing effort. Break that period into four equal intervals. In the first interval, read through what you wrote yesterday. In the second interval, think of what you wish to cover. Don’t write anything just yet; create a flow of thought. In the third interval, write as much as you can to cover the entire sequence you’ve decided to cover. In the fourth interval, rewrite what you’ve written while what you’ve initially thought of is still fresh in your mind.

You can set a target for you. If you are a fiction writer, for example, set a realistic goal to write 500 words every day. If you wish to come up with a work of nonfiction, setting organized targets will keep your book on track. Make sure you accomplish your daily goals. Once you make a schedule, stick to it. Be regular with your efforts. Follow the plan without a break. Think every day. Write every day. Rethink every day. Rewrite every day.

You don’t get the plot.

As we age, we continue to define and redefine things. We continue to learn something new – I hope that that’s, at least, the case with me. One of the biggest learnings of our lives is that not learning anything at all is still a learning. This applies to writing as well. Mostly writing fiction is about seeing the hero (or protagonist) move from point A to B or from one plot to another or from one challenge to another or even from one story to another. Similarly, most of the nonfiction is also about taking the understanding from one level of quotient to another. But, sometimes the plot lies not in the change but in its observation. The plot, I see, is both about the journey and the destination; about both the content and its accomplishment; about the details and the totality; and sometimes both the character and their story. The better we understand the plot, the better we can write about it.

You are possessive.

I am yet to find a writer who is not possessive about their works. All of us are awestruck with our first drafts. We love them so much that we can’t see anyone finding faults with them – even we ourselves can’t edit them. But, the first drafts hardly contain the quality that our readers deserve to read. And, that’s why getting the work edited is so important. Today when I look at the initial draft of my book, I see a positive impact of the edit iterations.

.  .  .

This post is an attempt to answer the countless requests and questions I received when I recently released The Write Stride: A Conversation with Your Writing Self. I could see that there are a lot of us who have a lot to share but can’t get the right words. I hope that this post helps them organize their thoughts into a book.

The Write Stride: A Conversation with Your Writing Self

My first book on technical communication is available for pre-orders on Amazon. Secure your copy today and save 20%. The book releases on 6 June 2017.

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Five Things I Must Do as a Writer

There are a lot of write-ups that I prepare but rewrite numerous times before sharing. Then, there are times when I write but I don’t share. Whatever I do, as a writer I do these five things, which this post is all about. I’ve shared the post on Medium. If you too have a list of your own, please share it with me.

Happy writing!

You’re a Talented Writer

Am I?

I purposefully start this post with a question because I know that most of those who know that I blog, think that I do so not because I have something to say but because they think that that’s my talent. All I can do is reply with this question. I delve this dialogue in this post.

What is talent?

Is it any special ability that you are born with? Is it something that most others can’t, but you can with the utmost ease? I reckon none of the questions need to be answered.

Your talent is your bent towards better focus and clarity in the application of a skill. It is mostly natural, but you can hone it over time. Talent isn’t something that you and I can’t learn. It is something that both you and I ALREADY have but may have failed to discover. For the most part of our life, we remain learners. Our talent is our sphere of flawless application of what we continue to explore and learn.

So, am I a talented writer? Maybe. Maybe not. Am I someone who can flawlessly describe what I intend to say? Definitely. From what I know and have experienced, this is a skill. And, if this is a skill, you too can learn to master this skill. Here’s how:

  • Observe your triggers: Observe what made you do things. Observe what made you read, see, do, and write. Can you define it? No? But can you understand it? Can you describe it? Can you see how the thoughts and actions connect to your past, present, and future? Can you communicate what you were thinking before doing, while doing, and after you’re done? If you are affirmative, you can write about it.
  • Wear different hats: Think as they would think. See things from the perspective of an observer. Don’t just play the doer, for not always will you like to see yourself in the first person. Become an audience to your own audience. Write from their perspective. Sometimes it is good to wear different hats. Especially when you are dealing with emotions. Play the characters of your story. Wear the hat of an author. But first, wear the hat of a reader.
  • Learn to listen: This one’s tricky. Let me help you understand this how I’ve come to understand it. The reason the almighty gave us two ears but only one mouth is that He wants us to listen twice as much as we talk. Be all ears to what others are saying. But reserve an ear for your inner self. You talk to your inner self as you write. When you begin to listen to your silence, the readers begin to listen to what you write.

If you too are doing what I do, you too are as talented as anybody else. Just be on the write path and your talent will flourish.

What Writing a Book for Children Taught Me

No, I am not breaking that I am writing a book for children; it is just another random thought that stuck me when I was researching on improving my writing skills. Turns out, one of the best ways I can improve my writing skills is to write books for children. I will write a book for children, but that’s far from even a start, as of now.

The big question of whether I will, one day, write and publish my own books still remains unanswered. But, I don’t want to confuse writing with publishing: they are two different things. And, for now, it is writing that I want to concentrate upon. This post comes at a time when I am learning to write. It’s been a while since I began writing frequently on this blog, and I believe the time has come to take things to the next level.

Now that I know that I can communicate my thoughts, and that the writing (Or is it typing?) flows as freely as my thoughts, I should try to bring all my energies, and the free-flowing thoughts, together to write better. Hey, I didn’t want to make this post look didactic… and I haven’t even begun yet. Never mind. There goes the rule number one: get thoughts and words to flow together.

When I began thinking on writing something for children, the immediate next question was: What should I write about? The thought of writing for kids was fine, but I was clueless about what I would write about. You see, there lies another rule. Even before you finalize on what you want to write about, and share with children, you have to be clear about how you’d write that. I mean your writing has to be so smooth that children (from age 3 to 10, roughly) will understand everything that they either listen to or read. Still, here are those rules that came in handy as I made a start:

  • Keep sentences short: Well, you are writing for those who’ve just stepped into the world of books. So, you better make it quick for them. The shorter, the simpler. The simpler, the better.
  • Use bigger typesetting: Use a bigger font size. And, preferably use the non-capped (sans serif) type font. For those who don’t know much about typesetting, the sans serif fonts are those fonts that do not contain the extra caps at the corners of alphabets. Such fonts are readable even when smaller in size, and largely appear informal, friendly in approach.
  • Don’t offer side notes: Unlike the way I did in the previous point, don’t use side notes and additional information that might break the flow. Remember, you are writing for someone with far lesser span of attention.
  • Let pictures do the talking: Use pictures that are colorful; that share an action or event from the story; that can help them imagine the rest of the characters. Seeing is believing; let them see the story for themselves. Avoid monochrome pictures, unless they are simple enough to understand.
  • Focus on grammar: You have to keep sentences short, but you don’t have to play with the rules of grammar. Grammar is like mortar; words are like bricks. If you use only loose bricks, the wall will not stand (or, stand for long). Also, stick to one tense across sentences, as much as possible.
  • Use imaginative relationships: See how I have been figurative in my comparison of grammar and words with mortar and bricks. Use comparisons that can help children build cross-referencing or poetic associations. Make them think; at least, for a while.

Those are some points about how I’d prepare either myself or my content. Now, some points regarding setting pages:

  • Cut short: Delete those sentences that do not contribute to the story or poem. This means, lesser content for me to bother about and for the children to read and understand.
  • One thought, one page: Make sure that the sentences don’t run into the subsequent pages. If so, break those sentences. That’s because, children might find it tough to reconcile their understanding of those sentences that involve more than one event described in sentences that run across pages. Children will most likely skip sentences if they have to turn pages back and forth to understand what’s going on. In fact, I’ve observed that most children hardly turn pages back and forth: they go along only one way.
  • Check for punctuation: Don’t use a lot of punctuation. Instead, let the pictures talk for you.
  • Leave with an afterthought; but not always.

Of all these rules, I’ve come to understand the following two as the most important:

  • Don’t lecture: No one wants to be taught. Learn to share.
  • Be a master weaver: If I can explain the story in just three sentences, I can expand it across the fabric and weave it into a story.

Then, there are other things like:

  • All black and white; no shades of grey (not the color, but the message)
  • Only happy endings
  • Don’t end with a question

But, it depends on who I or you ideally wish to address. Readership varies greatly within this age group. When I look back at the rules, I see that there’s a lot of similarity between what I do every day as a technical communicator and what I’d love to do as a children’s writer. Here’s the greatest of all catches: I understood, all the things that apply to the children’s books, apply to technical communication as well. I can’t exclude even one. I wish to come up with a book that will fancily be a part of every child’s bookshelf. Until then it is all black-and-white documentation (No, not the color, again).