I would not have discovered the art or the science behind writing, had I not embarked on this intriguing path five years ago. I had thought writing was a way of influencing readers. Instead, unsuspectingly it has influenced and reshaped me.
Like a science, writing demands a systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through experiments. As a writer, I ponder and struggle to validate ideas and possible conclusions of my own observations and arguments.
I may launch trial balloons in my conversations with others. These conversations are illuminating because this is when I am seeking and the mind is unusually receptive to new ideas.
The next morning a light bulb may go on and I may discover how good or bad my original idea was. Sometimes there is back and forth before I can conclude definitively.
Writing is also as much an art. There is a lot of subjectivity and creativity, involved in writing.
The fun begins when a writer starts excavating for new ideas deep within. This may happen through conversations with ourselves, or by settling oneself in solitude to reach what scholars call a less mentally aware state, or altered state of consciousness. This is when new ideas can germinate — essence of creativity.
At times the new ideas arrive in hordes, uninvited. At other times, the mine of ideas suddenly seems fully excavated and nothing comes out. But then again a day comes and the ideas start coming all over again and the cycle repeats.
As experts in idea mining will tell us, creativity begins with sensing and then joining the dots. In other words, “[we can] nurture creativeness by observing and taking the road less traveled more often and without the fear of failure.”
Without experience in writing or a writing coach, I feared failing as a writer. Self-doubt made me afraid of pressing the “Publish” button.
The quality of writing suffers when a non-fiction writer starts writing about how things should be rather than what they are, and the arguments become hard to advance. This is another area that improves with, mining.
Even when we dig deeper and harder, the logic or reality may not easily reveal itself. This is so because a writer, like most humans, tends to guard her vulnerabilities. I would gradually recognize that exposing my vulnerability is the best way to establish trust and bond with readers, like in personal relationships.
In the process of putting feelings, and emotions on paper, we must first strip the outer veneer, before the inner depths of our souls get revealed to others, but also to ourselves — advancing a writer’s learning.
Since I started writing I have also become an avid reader. Writers often say that to write one page, it’s necessary to read 1000. This helped me gain outer knowledge and discover many new subjects and concepts of interest.
For example, to write on social or political topics, I had to educate myself on American history which I had not learned as a student in India. With a purpose, it is easier to read and retain information— another big advantage.
To write a piece on Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), I took an online course to brush up on math theories used in A.I. algorithms. Through co-relations, the algorithms reveal information that is too complicated for human brains.
I often study for days at a time.
It is not unusual for me to wander off the topic and keep clicking on interesting threads and links. Going off the beaten path also inspires creativity.
Expanding knowledge stretches thinking or mental muscles. The web is a great resource for researching and clarifying new concepts, in any vertical.
I may also read to get into a reflective mood or to search for topics that resonate with me.
Building intensity for what I care about is how I approach the selection of a topic. The intensity is the spark that gives life to my blogs, I find. It puts me in an attack mode where I can write on simple or complex subjects and the flow is authentic. For me, authenticity is achieved only when combined with humbleness.
This year is the fifth anniversary of my blog posts. I will always be grateful to my friend, the technology journalist, Vivek Wadhwa of Silicon Valley, for introducing me to the Huffington Post, and for urging me to become a writer.
I am only at the halfway mark of the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice that Malcolm Gladwell has popularized. Gladwell refers to “psychologist John Hayes (who) looked at seventy-six famous classical composers and found that, in almost every case, composers did not create their greatest work until they had been composing for at least ten years.”
I am still paying my dues.
Writing has been intellectually satisfying and has accelerated my learning. This has been the hook. As a writer, I have reaped far greater benefits than I can ever hope to give to my readers.
Vinita, I read your blogs with great interest. They tend to be insightful. You are so at ease sharing the inner workings of your mind. I find that fascinating. I have noticed that about you at bridge, too. You share your thought process as a matter of fact. That makes learning so much more efficient. Plus you are curious. No wonder you are a master of many! Hemant
Vinita, thanks for sharing yet another thought-provoking and inspirational blog post. What a privilege that we readers are treated to a grand tour of the nooks and crannies of your highly creative and brilliant mind. That being said, I spotted numerous grammatical and syntactical errors which I humbly feel detract from your crucially important message. While I could never hope to achieve even a tiny fraction of your massive successes in blogging, business and bridge, I do think even great minds like yours have the capacity to be even greater, or even possibly the greatest of all time. So if I may… stay focused, ramble less, find a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and please, please, please… if you do nothing else I implore you to continue to churn out these superb missives. The world needs to hear more from polymaths like you!
Thanks for pointing out, Diane. Will need to try harder.
Your article is very timely I started writing my spiritual experiences per Divine command in 2011. Now 10 years later after I completed my experiences of 2600 pages. Someone introduced me to this program called Grammarly. It is corrected my writing now, but made me aware how incorrectly I was writing it. My 11 year old grand daughter was worried she will have lot of work to help me correct that. She is very relieved now.
Two of the best ways of learning are teaching and writing. With teaching, if you teach the same material every time, you stop learning after a while. But with writing, you can be creative every time, both in terms of content and focus. Thus you never stop learning.
When I write, I write first and foremost, to learn, to satisfy my own curiosity, and to clarify my own thinking. Next I write to share my understanding of the subject or issues with others. Often I get some feedback from readers which either reinforces my thoughts or challenges them (both types of feedback are great).
I do not write to influence or change others. I have realized that people form their thoughts and opinions based on decades of education and real-life experience. Such opinions do not change readily after reading a few articles or learning a new piece of information.
The best part is that when I am done writing and editing, I am never disappointed because my primary goals are always met.
R. Paul Singh
Very nicely written. I can relate to this as and when I start to write though I don’t get to write as much as I would like to.
I am curious that besides the reading and practice What are 3 things that have helped you most in writing?
Vinita, I concur with your thoughts. When you structure them and put them on paper, you need to validate them to ensure accuracy. College essays might have been needed for my kids, but through that journey of writing authentically and to impress- the soul-searching and care helped them and us parents get to see them from their lens, more holistically and about to be adults….