Predatory birds are known as ‘raptors’. Its entomology can be traced to the Latin term – rapere – meaning ‘to seize by force’. They are expert hunters, and their sensory capabilities are irrefutable. The prey may be cognizant of these extraordinary skills, but still they are snatched away by force. Large and medium-sized birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, shrikes, ospreys, harriers, and vultures were categorized as raptors. Bee-eaters may tear apart dragonflies. Orioles may viciously attack and devour insects. But when a raptor moves in for the kill, it seems built for it.
Similarly, there is little fuss in categorizing content generators. They are lumped into a single category. Collectively, they are known as writers. A doctor scribbles on the notepad. A lawyer chooses his words carefully while writing a letter. A musician puts pen to paper while composing lyrics. Even business consultants draft emails about how much value they create – without laughing their butts off over these preposterous claims. But they do not go through the process that writers do while communicating their thoughts.
Writers are judged by everyone and their mothers because it seems like the easiest skill to acquire. Unless handcuffed or missing a couple of fingers, anyone can take a shot at it, right?
Well, you ought to ask yourself if you are any closer to becoming a doctor just because you can afford a scalpel.
I have been in the writing profession for over 15 years. But even before that, words were how I used to shut myself off from the world. They were my exit signs. In my 30s, as my love for birdwatching bloomed, I began to view the process of writing differently. Words turned into trapdoors through which I found my way into the world. I sneaked in when nobody else was around. I could leave whenever I wanted to.
Over the years, I have observed that raptors are constantly honing their crafts. They are always on the perennial look-out for opportunities to make their nests safer, keep invasive neighbors at bay, and target prey from afar. They let their natural instincts guide their actions. I have had many encounters with them – some of which have helped me to become a better writer.
Here are a few writing lessons you can pick up from these gorgeous raptors.
Be patient – like a Crested Serpent Eagle that soars – with neither hesitance nor hastiness – until it spots a snake in the grass. Then, strike the right tone with deadly accuracy.
If you are in a bad mood, get over your temptation to write about the source. Your copy is not a good listener. Neither are your readers. You will be surprised at how less they care about your life. Why should they? You are not Truman. The show will go on even after a water lorry mows you down. Remember, your readers want to be engaged with your content. Your state of mind is merely your concern. They want to relate to your perspectives while being exposed to new ones. Do not bore them with inane narratives. Why you feel lousy on a particular day is your problem – not theirs.
If you are emotionally wrought with dissonance, stick to taking notes. Set aside your fears about losing momentum on what may be an interesting subject matter. It will come to you, in portions that matter, when you feel calmer. Do not spill out your emotions. Let them gently leak out.
Be like a Black Kite – one of the most adaptive birds. They survive in a variety of terrains because they rely on their skills to adapt to the ecosystem. Harness yours as a writer to rise above your location preferences.
You can write anywhere. Inside a dingy bathroom at a highway motel. Or on a lawn chair – facing a river, with hills lording the ground below. There is no such thing as the right place – only the right frame of mind. You can never be too distracted to write. Laziness is a writer’s true curse.
Hence, write often and with purpose. Make mistakes and learn from them. First, navigate your way through the lethargy of being choosy about the environment.
Be like a Sparrowhawk, and explore your commitment to words. Also known as the Shikra, it is a shy small-sized raptor that takes down birds in mid-air. It uses every action to its advantage. So, do not waste an ounce of your energy in exercising a casual attitude towards your craft.
Treat anything you write with sanctity, no matter the medium or the audience. The next era of hieroglyphics is not yet looking for goodwill ambassadors. So, go easy with those exclamation marks and emoticons. There are words at your disposal. The English vocabulary is a gift that keeps on giving. Use it wisely. Each movement you make as a writer is sacred.
You would never use a ‘kissing’ face in an article to be contributed to a magazine of repute. Then, why do it all, irrespective of who gets to see it?
Be focused, like the Common Kestrel, on getting through to the reader. It has one of the highest success rates in surviving the indiscriminate use of pesticides that affect other raptors. Regurgitate the drama and replenish your content with honesty and simplicity.
Phrase things as they are instead of what you want them to be. Wasteful adjectives can diminish the quality of content. Save the over-the-top sentiments for impressing bibliophiles on Tinder. Ask yourself – was the weather “amazing”? Was watching that movie an “awe-inspiring” experience? Were you “heartbroken” or just “annoyed”?
Readers have meta-experiences with your words. They walk in your shoes. When you exaggerate reality, you distort it. Both you and the reader are likely to lose sight of the big picture.
Remember that writing may allow you to flex your creative muscles but that freedom is bereft of responsibility. Without a line of vision or a plan of attack, you end up wildly swinging and missing your mark with the reader.