What Does It Take To Be A Writer?

Posted on November 1, 2012 in Specials

By Shobhit Agarwal:

It is funny as to how quickly the perception of the world around you changes. It has been close to 2.5 years since I took to writing in a big way. Yet, up until a few months back, I was only a poet to some, a thinker to a few others and a philosopher to the majority. I was never really a ‘writer’ in the conventional sense of the word. But all that changed once my first book, “Ordered Cheese, Delivered Chalk”, got published and released in September this year. It continues to baffle me as to how only when your work gets published do people take you as well as your writing seriously. Otherwise, you are just a lost soul trying to put words to the feelings you couldn’t actually express with the spoken word, and which people hardly care to read. Because let’s be honest, there are too many screwed up things happening in one’s life to spare any time to read what a ‘nobody’ has to say (even your friends and family read it out of sympathy).

But that’s just the way the world works and the way our brains are wired. Just like you become a successful cricketer only when you play for your country and score a few centuries or take a few hundred wickets; similarly, you become a successful writer only when your work gets to see the sight of a printing press and ends up in the collection of a few thousand readers. It is nothing but the curse of living in a result-oriented society.

I have always maintained that there is a writer in each and every one of us. It is just that we are too busy with our alternate egos to spare any time for the Mr. Writer in us. Ever since my book released, I have been getting a number of queries through messages and mails as to how to purse writing. The best part about this is that most of the people who send me these mails are teenagers. Just the enthusiasm and dedication of Youngistan convinces me that the future of writing, at least the contemporary bit, is in safe hands.

Which now brings me to the million dollar question — ‘How does one become a writer?’ To be honest, there is no clear cut answer. There is absolutely no secret behind becoming a writer. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper (I am a traditionalist as far as the mode of writing is concerned and the modern day gadgets fail to give me the same writing pleasure as scribbling my thoughts with a pen on a piece of paper does). Once you have the sufficient raw materials, all you need to do is write. Write all that comes to your mind. Write about any feeling or emotion you couldn’t express with the spoken words. Write about love, hatred, jealously, sex, or any other topic you think you have an opinion on. I assure you, very soon you will realise that writing is no rocket science. It is just assembling your own emotions and feelings in a sequential order. The only thing that you need to develop in time, which automatically comes with practice and experience, is framing the structure of your article.

At the same time, through personal experiences, I have found that there are certain tools and drills, the practice of which goes a long way in aiding one’s writing. Here they are —

1. Read read read. If there is any secret to becoming a good writer, than it is reading. Read as much as you can. Read any and everything you can get your hands on, even if it is an erotic story (you will be amazed to see the way the plot to some of the good ones is built). I discovered it late, but discovered it nonetheless, that you can’t get better confidants and colleagues than books (I am strictly speaking about the ones not prescribed in your school or college syllabus). Moreover, with the advent of digital media, there is no dearth of good and meaningful blogs that you can follow

2. Become a patient listener. You will be surprised to know about the diversity of opinions on any topic that are on offer. Once you start playing audience to what others have to say, the insight and depth of understanding that you will develop about any topic will be immense. To tell you another secret, developing good ears is also the secret to a blissful married life (so I have heard).

3. Develop a strong conscience. That in turn will help you form a strong, steady opinion with respect to the topic you are writing about (besides also helping you in being a person of value). At the same time, be careful to substantiate your opinion with facts, legitimate ones at that.

4. Be open to criticism. Few people have the wisdom to prefer the criticism that would do them good, to the praise that deceives them. If you are too scared of criticism, then do nothing, say nothing and be nothing. And especially writing, similar to a few other trades like acting and singing, gives you absolutely no place to hide once your creation is out in the open for public scrutiny. Moreover, the ‘poor, little’ critics (don’t miss the sarcasm) have taken so much pain and time out of their own busy lives to dissect and ‘correct’ what you have to say about a particular topic. The minimum respect that you can pay for all their efforts is to at least go through what they have to say (you don’t necessarily have to believe them).

5. Finally, be clear in your head as to the reasons why you want to write. If the sole purpose is to get published and show the world how good your language skills are or what a deep thinker you are, then its better you take up some other activity. Write because you want to, write because you love to. That way, even when there is no one to read your writings — to compliment or criticise it, it still won’t stop you from picking up that pen and piece of paper in front of you and let your imagination run wild in any which way you want.

It is a popular perception among the masses that writers are screwed up people who have been subjected to the most demented and crazy experiences, which forces them to take up writing. Trust me; it is far, far away from the truth. You don’t have to experience the weirdest of situations to be able to write about one. You can be a writer as well as a normal, ordinary person who uses the same footpath as well as breathes the same air as billions of others.

The pen is mightier than the sword’, there isn’t a more unambiguous phrase in the English language than this one. For all those who doubt it, fancy giving it a try.