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.