I am at peace being a writer. I have been in the business for 12 years. In hindsight, I wish I had picked another profession, preferably in wildlife conservation or goat-farming. I can’t complain though. It’s akin to choosing a mode of transport. I would rather fly from one place to another. But I can’t fret over having to walk briskly until I grow a pair of wings.
From start to now, writing outside the realm of my career has been a more satisfying experience. Any writer will tell you that. However, getting paid to generate content is a crucial part of the journey. It exposes inabilities and then builds confidence. The secret was also out years ago that successful brands are eager to hire the really good ones. Hence it’s important for aspiring writers to learn the art of powerful storytelling, without googling for synonyms.
Hemingway said, “A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl”. But when you are starting out – you won’t have the time for the level of introspection needed to create purposeful content. You must approach it like a hawk does its prey, and as times goes by – its babies. Razor-sharp focus and regular practice should first be your trusted mentors.
Whenever I have spotted a Shikra (an Indian sparrowhawk), it always appeared to be busy. It’s either eyeing garden lizards or driving invasive neighbors away from its perch. It seems to have no hesitation in staying committed to its natural instincts.
Similarly, you can’t take baby steps in writing. It will suck you dry. Sap you of every bit of energy you can muster up. But it can also make life more digestible; silver linings – more apparent. It can turn sadness into poignancy, and happiness into positive energy. Things that you can put out there for people to ponder over or feel good about.
One of my favorite things to do at work is to mentor a team of writers. I am happy that it is a part of my job. It is challenging because no matter the industry – expectations in content writing are based on evolving trends. They can distract you from your overall goals. Given that gaining access to practical knowledge has turned into a game of Chinese whispers, it isn’t easy to offer professional advice. I hope I soon find the time to write about content marketing too.
For now, I have a few tips for fellow writers to sharpen their talons.
If you are at a loss for words, don’t write. If you are speechless, go for it. The copy isn’t a good listener. Your readers are. If you are in an emotional state, be it – despair, rage or ecstasy, keep away from the laptop. Put the notebook away. Toss the paper napkin into the bin. Don’t worry about losing momentum. It will come to you, in portions that matter, when you feel calmer.
Treat anything you write about with sanctity, irrespective of the medium or the audience. Don’t use emoticons. Stop with all those exclamation and question marks. You have words at your disposal. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. It’s like an artist painting an arrow-mark on a particular area of the canvas and next to it – a smiley face. Typos can mysteriously creep in, but to the best of your abilities – do away with them.
Write to put clear and concise ideas into people’s heads. Not to get random stuff out of yours. For instance, you can be honest about what you think without delving deep into who you are. Writing isn’t about communicating your feelings. It’s about understanding them. Don’t spill out your emotions, let them gently leak out.
You can write anywhere. Inside a dingy bathroom at a highway motel. Or on a lawn chair – facing a sparkling river, with giant hills lording the ground below. There is no right environment. Only the right frame of mind. You can also never be too busy or tired to write. Those are silly excuses. Laziness is a writer’s only true curse. Write often, and with purpose. Make mistakes, and learn from them – without feeling crushed by lethargy.
Phrase things as they are instead of what you want them to be – it just makes for more insightful reading. Plus, banal adjectives can diminish content. Save the over-the-top sentiments for personal diaries. Ask yourself – was the weather in fact “amazing”? Is watching television ever an “awe-inspiring” experience? Were you really “heartbroken”? Or were you just “sad”?
The brevity of content isn’t just the soul of wit. It’s also a reactive suggestion given by every writing blog. Take it with a pinch of salt though. Shorter sentences and paragraphs are more consumable as digital content. It has to do the average reader’s attention deficit disorder. Not always the quality of communication. Keep it short if you want it to be more shareable across social media. You don’t have to KISS every time you want to express yourself.
Happy writing, and good luck spotting a bloody hawk or owl in your hometown.
(Photographs: Chennai, Kanchipuram, Gudular, Thekkady)