Can I be a writer

Have you ever wanted something so badly and at the same time doubt whether you could get it or do it? This question, ‘can I be a writer?’ is nagging me from past few months. I thought of writing a bit about it here so that it would help me organize my thoughts.

After reading many books on the craft of writing to polish my writing skills, the question still continues to pop. Most of the books confess that the craft of writing can be learned but not the art of writing. Art of writing is not something that a creative writing class or a book can teach.

Personally I think, of all art forms, writing offers highest creative expression. For that matter, all our scriptures are written. Writing is the best art-form to express the human soul. We have as many languages as we want.

I realized, with dedication and practice, writing non-fiction can be learned and mastered to a considerable degree. All of us have written thousands of words in exams, emails, project reports, and so on.

What about creating fiction? Telling something that doesn’t exist. Creating characters that are human-like? Creating stories that hold reader’s interest till the last word? Creating fiction that is plausible and palpable? How to make readers live in the fictional world of the novel? To be short, how to write an immortal novel?

Can these skills be taught or learned? Are the writers born with these skills? With dedicated practice, other arts can be learned to a greater degree. Anyone can learn to play a musical instrument from a teacher. In no way, I am belittling music or other arts. Every art is special and has got its own challenges. All I am trying to say is, writing is a more personal and subjective art when compared to other arts.

I am very specific about writing in English language. English grammar is scary. It is even more scarier for someone who is educated till his high-school in some other language. In my case, it was Telugu. English was a second language in my first twelve years of formal education. Of all the skills needed to be a good writer, in a way, grammar is difficult to manage and master. I am not aiming for a Literary Nobel though. But, a considerable degree of mastery over grammar is needed to write with more confidence.

Having mastery over good vocabulary is also important. But, when I read few books by Ernest Hemingway, I realized good writing does not always require a great vocabulary. I practically learned that profound thoughts can easily be expressed in simple everyday words. Following is my favorite line from one of Hemingway’s famous works, A Farewell to Arms.

The town was very nice and our house was very fine.

Though it does not convey any great thoughts, it truly reflects Hemingwayian style of writing. Simple and sexy.

One advice that gets repeated in every writing book is: the only way to learn writing is by writing. We cannot simply read books on writing and expect to write better. We write better only when we write, write, and write.

I have realized the limiting factors for my writing:
1. not having enough mastery over grammar
2. limited vocabulary
3. not reading enough books while in school and college

Let me spend few words on each of the above factors. Grammar is essential, but I also realized we cannot absolutely master it unless that is our full-time profession. Learning enough grammar to write without confusing readers and without making too obvious mistakes is a good target to reach. Coming to vocabulary, sometimes, I feel that it is a blessing in disguise to not to have a great vocabulary. With moderate vocabulary, I can write using simple words. But, it has got its own limitations. When I am unable to find a suitable word, I feel frustrated for not having a great vocabulary in my arsenal. The third fact is something of past and I cannot go back to it and change. So, I got to live with it and make sure I read more books now.

I am planning to spend time on improving my grammar and vocabulary skills to write more confidently and express my thoughts more eloquently.

On the surface, my writing may sometimes really seem to be good. But, I am yet to convince myself that I am a good writer. I hope it will take practicing for few more years to become a really good writer. Few of my friends tell me that I write really well. But few others point out errors in my writing now and then. Though I cannot name each and everyone, a big thank you to both the groups. Former makes me happy and encourages me to write more regularly while the latter helps me correct my mistakes.

Here is a piece of secret information I am making public now. I have been fancying myself to write a bestselling novel. I even tried my hand at writing a small novel and finished around fifty pages. Hit the roadblock after that, for various reasons. Reasons related to writing skills and reasons that were personal as well with no relation to my writing abilities. I wish I could get back to it and finish it in the future.

Till I feel absolutely confident that I can write well, I think this question will keep on popping in my mind.

I read in some book about a musician who said that if he does not practice for one day, he will notice the difference. If he does not practice for two days, his critics will notice the difference. If he does not practice for three days, his audience will notice the difference. I think it applies to writing also. If I do not write regularly, I see the difference in the flow of words. Keep practicing till you become a good writer and do not forget to keep practicing even after that.

I think the same is true for many of us in different professions. Can I be a good – singer, musician, painter, architect, cricketer, dancer, actor, and so on.

Though I am skeptical about my abilities now, somewhere I firmly believe that I could really write well if I can keep on practicing.

Hope you liked this article. Thank you for reading.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted September 21, 2009 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    “Tongue is the only tool which gets sharper as you use”. Same with writing as well, i guess.

    Sometimes i feel, the flow of words is related to state of mind. I have observed myself speaking so fluently and writing as smooth as water flowing. At other times, i find myself lost for words.. even in explaining simple things.. and

    Your style is simple, easy to grasp. Thanks for keeping it that way.

  2. Posted September 23, 2009 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Any art form has a science to it and any science has an art. Confusing right? What books teach is science of writing, art part you have to develop once you cross the science barrier. Research has showed that any thing can be masterd with 10000 hours of practice, so if you want to improve your vocab or grammer or become a better writer you need to spend those ten thousand.

    • Posted September 24, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      10000 hours! lemme do some maths.10 hours a day. 1000 days. three years! :)

  3. B-H-A-N-U
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Ok.. This article was thought provoking.. At times even I had to give a pause for running short of words while speaking. And forget about writing, I never do it these days. The main reason being tight lipped for most of the time… It is only meetings that we get to talk and that too in bits and pieces. So the question that echoes in me is “Can I be a good (if not the best) speaker”?…
    any ways good to hear that you are writing a novel. Lets see if you give birth to a new Harry potter stuff……….

  4. Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    nice article…

  5. Posted November 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Its a good write and what more reason do you need.
    In the midst of the voyage on a small ship, a captain asks his crew. Can I be good Sailor? Is that what you are asking? Atleast some of your readers might have got this doubt.

    writing is like a flow, sometimes you are through the hilly terrain and things move fast, and sometimes you are through the plains where you have force your thoughts. You cant stop the journey because in the middle you feel that your boat(Vocabulary) is not good. in the worst case, you know how to swim.

    Coming to the novels, I feel the vocabulary is the least required. Many of the novelists create there own words by twisting the existing ones and blatantly violate the grammar. they follow there own rules and it takes a while for you to synchronize with them.

    First of all you can put your thoughts together, later they can be always edited.
    Why don’t you write short stories. they are fun.

    Karteek

    • Posted November 5, 2009 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for reading and insightful comment.

      I feel vocabulary plays a major role at least in the initial days of writing…

      I am trying my hand at a short story, will publish when it is ready…

  6. Rajneesh
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    how come you got so many time to write so many blogs and stories, very nice :D

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