3 Things that Bring Out a Budding Writer’s Talent

writer-clipart

Last week, I got involved with the good folk at Campus Diaries in their content development program. To kick things off, they got all their interns and young writers to send me a list of questions. I answered them all, of course. Then I thought it will be nice to feature some of the longer questions and answers as posts here on the blog. We’ll start with the following question.

What, according to you, brings out a budding writer’s talent? Experience, or inspiration?

Three things help a budding writer the most.

1. A willingness to write as a habit

habit

That means to sit down at the desk and write SOMETHING every day. It could be an email, a memoir, a journal entry, a poem, an essay, a short story – anything, as long as you’re wrestling with the written word. There will be times when you will feel that it’s all futile, that you’re not ‘getting anything’ from it. But that’s the point of a habit. You do it even when you feel you’re wasting your time.

You’re not wasting your time, of course, even when it feels that way. Sometimes words don’t come. But the way in which you struggle and make things work on bad days will keep you in good stead. In sport, there is a common saying that it is when you’re out of form that you learn the most about yourself. The same applies to writing.

2. A willingness to fail

fail-you-will

Writers, like practitioners in all professions, should be willing to be wrong, to fail, to not be good enough. You need to accept that when you begin, when you’re still ‘budding’, you’re most probably not that good. Most people react with despondency when told they’re not good enough. But it’s natural. We all start off being crap. In fact, all of us sit somewhere on the ‘crap ladder’. We’re all above some people and below some other people. What’s the big deal?

The idea is to find out where you sit on the ladder and aim to move up a rung or two day after day, week after week, year after year.

For what it’s worth, my story of publication began with not one or two, but three failures. The first three books I wrote have not yet found a publisher, and I doubt they ever will. But that’s okay. If I had not written those three books, I would not have written Murder in Amaravati (my first published book) either.

3. A drive to improve

Practice pinned on noticeboard

Third, you need to examine your work, find areas to improve, and design exercises for yourself that will achieve that goal. For example, if dialogue is your weak point, pick out dialogue scenes from your favourite book and study how the author has created the effect he had on you. And then implement those same things into your dialogue. You will fail to reach the mark at the first attempt, but you will improve.

In this sense, writing is the most convenient form of art because you can learn from many masters. The work of authors from Homer down to Dan Brown are all available to you, in black and white, as printed letters on paper. There are no hidden props. What you see is what you get. All you need to get started on your self-improvement is desire. What words does the author use to create atmosphere? What is his paragraph structure like? How do his scenes begin and how do they end? How is he handling plot? How is he building his characters?

No matter what question you ask, you will find an answer if you open your favourite book.

What about inspiration?

Inspiration is too airy-fairy. I don’t rely on it. I don’t know many professional authors who do either. I often find references to ‘inspiration’ and ‘writer’s block’ among beginning authors who are just feeling their way around. Professionals can’t afford to wait for inspiration. They have to go after it.

So fine, if you’re writing for fun or as a hobby, feel free to rely on times when you’re inspired to write. But if you have dreams of one day becoming a professional author, you will be served well by assuming that inspiration has no effect on the quality of your writing.

Does this apply only to writing?

This was not in the original answer, but in the course of constructing this post, it struck me that these three things that I listed apply to all fields of human endeavour, for anyone who wants to achieve proficiency or excellence. We must make a habit out of doing it. We must be prepared – or even expect – to fail. And we must consciously, deliberately practice.

I just realized that I slipped out of ‘writing advice’ to ‘life advice’. Oh, well. Advice is cheap anyway, isn’t it?

Now, over to you.

How do you approach a new task or hobby or activity? How do you react when you fail to make the grade? Do you have any tips to share on how we can tackle something that we’re not good at? How do you deal with fear of failure? Please make yourself heard in the comments section below.

Images Courtesy: 1, 2, 3, 4


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Comments

  1. Although this may sounds like a cliched comment, but the fact remains that the three steps you stated above surely hold good for almost all walks of life and almost anything we all want to do.

    As for me, given that I am into voracious reading right now and intend to publish reviews of almost all the books I read, I am consciously putting these steps into practice. Additionally, I also take feedback from a few people that have known me and my writing for some time now and invariably I have found that objective feedback which is taken constructively by me and acted upon ends up with a better end product.

    In fact, so much so that I can clearly see the difference in my first few book reviews a couple of years ago and the reviews I write nowadays.

    Like

    • Hi Jai,

      Yes, I realized only half-way into writing my post that what I was saying applies to all walks of life. Maybe I should do a post at a deeper level, talking about some actionable steps that put these three points into practical use. Thanks for sharing your story about book reviewing. I will be knocking on your door very soon! 🙂

      Like

  2. Pankaj Singla says:

    Sir, Would you please give me your email ID? I want to discuss something with you. Regards, Pankaj Singla

    Like

  3. Thanks for sharing so very useful tips. The second one is particularly so much useful to me. I procrastinate mainly for the fear of failure .

    Like

    • Hi Kirti,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. It’s of course easier said than done to let go of the fear of failure or of not being good enough. But I’ve found it easier to do when I expect to be crap at something I’m just trying out.

      Hope this post helps you to write more often 🙂

      Like

  4. ajay kumar says:

    quite inspiring…

    Like

  5. pradeepthyagaraja says:

    Better late than never! 🙂

    Currently, I am super obsessed with reading books. My choice of books ranges from Mythology, Meditation, and Historical till modern day love stories. I read anything and everything and try to review it in my own way.

    Grammar was my worst fear once and I am working on it even now, may be my non-English medium of education is the cause of it! 🙂

    Apart from this, I would like to ask you one thing. Is writing short sentences in a big paragraph will be helpful in making the story more interesting?

    Like

    • Hi Pradeep,

      We all have different aspects of our writing that we should improve. I think Hemingway it was, who said, ‘We’re all apprentices at a craft which none can master.’ So there is absolutely no need to fear that which you’re not good at, which in your case happens to be grammar. If you practice well, I have no doubt that you will get to a decent level in a matter of three months.

      Short sentences versus long sentences: they both have their uses. Short sentences generally make the reader feel as if the action is proceeding faster. Longer sentences give a more leisurely feel. Also, the length of your paragraphs act as ‘stops’ in the reader’s mind, so depending on the effect you want to produce, you choose the appropriate length.

      When you’re starting off, though, just focus on clarity. As you write more, and as you become more comfortable with your own writing voice, you will experiment on your own with different sentence and paragraph lengths, and you will make these choices on your own.

      After all, that is what they mean by ‘finding your voice’. So don’t sweat it. It will come 🙂

      Like

      • pradeepthyagaraja says:

        Thank you Sharath. That was a great piece of information. I really liked the phrase “Finding your voice”, it makes a good sense overall with deep meaning. Thanks again! 🙂

        Like

  6. This was definitely helpful, Sharath! As an aspiring writer myself, the biggest hurdle I face is plain “lazyness”. But I’ve learnt that discipline is very important. I’ve set up a blog at the start of this year and promised myself that I’ll push out one article every week. Hope I don’t lose it. 🙂

    Also, shocking to read that your first three novels didn’t find a publisher! I just finished Murder in Amaravati and thought it was amazing! As an Andhrite myself, it’s good to read a book set in a telugu village!

    Like

    • Hi Uday! Yes, discipline is one of the most important attributes a writer (or any professional, I guess) can develop. I shared some discipline-related content on the newsletter yesterday. You must have got it. Let me know what you think of it.

      Also, it’s not that shocking that the first three books have not found a publisher. I think it’s fair; they’re not very good. Amaravati was actually my fourth written work. I’m glad you liked it 🙂

      The first three books are still sitting in my trunk, unused. Maybe some day someone will print it. Let’s see.

      Like

  7. Hi. This is an excellent post and your entire blog is very engaging and informative. We at Ivyclique are looking for writers like you to contribute to our site and grow our network of like-minded bloggers. Ivyclique is India’s first user generated content sharing and publishing platform that has over 80 high visibility areas of interest. We invite writers from all over the World Wide Web to share their ideas and thoughts on various topics through our platform. Check us out at Ivyclique.in and log on to get started. We hope to see you there!

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