I have often wondered what it was that inspired writers. What makes them see things differently from every other person that is a non-writer? The way they weave the stories, make it believable, so that readers can relate with it never ceases to amaze me. When I read a story, it looks so natural, like an everyday occurrence- looks so easy to write; every conversations fit, every emotions and thought processes of the characters understandable and accurate, but then in reality it isn’t an easy task to undertake. Then there’s the word play, choice of words and use of language, the tone and diction; I wonder if there was any training in that. They seem to have attained a mastery of the English language which I can only dream about. Reading a novel, most times leave me awe-struck, not necessarily at the story line but in the way the author weaves a story round an everyday character in an everyday town under everyday circumstances. How do they see these things? I respect their imagination and much more, their ability to translate those mental pictures into words.
Sometimes I compare the literary skills to painting. The pages of the books are canvasses and the words are the brushes with which the image is painted. The author’s choice of words and word play gives uniqueness to the work just like the strength of the brush-stroke and play with colours gives uniqueness to an artist’s. The emotion of the writer can be deciphered from the choice of words just like an artist’s from the choice of colours and brush-strokes. In other words a writer is an artist.
Just like talent is essential in the making of a successful artist, I believe a writer must have a considerable amount of talent in order to be successful. Just like it is not enough to know how to paint or to mix colours, knowledge of the rules of writing and syntax is not enough to make a writer. Most of the artistic work are instinctive, the mind rather than the hand painting- a faint stroke here, a bolder one there, no, not there, there. So also the work of the writer, first an image, a theme, the settings, the people, all conceived in the mind. Translating this image to words is more than words or grammar; the writer allows the image to influence the style, the translations, the words- the mind is given free rein. And this instinct is not learned; it is inherent, inborn. This can be illustrated with the well known fact that the Irish are born story-tellers.
But is talent enough? Definitely not! These instincts need to be fine-tuned. Most writers are handicapped by their word base; they find themselves in a situation where there are no words to adequately express or give life to the image in their head. Then, they either abandon the project due to frustration or they choose to settle for second best and spoil the whole concept. The training of writers starts with a thorough understanding of the language of expression, English language as an example. The rules of writing- grammar, sentence completion, syntax, translation, need to be internalized. The ability to organize thoughts logically and fluently is also needed. More importantly is the descriptive ability- translating the picture conceived in the mind and relaying it for the readers to see it just like it was conceived. This is what separates writers.
In the room of a writer in training can be found wastebaskets full of squeezed sheets, and many others get strewn around the room, hurled in frustration and annoyance; the training process is never easy. But then a writer cannot become a master if he has not littered his lair with torn sheets in the process of self discovery and self development. It is in this process that perfection is found, and uniqueness of style is birthed.
In addition to all these, a writer can none become, if he an avid reader has not become. To become a writer, one must become a reader, a lover of books and a disciple of authors gone before. It is through this that the seeds are sown, the ideas formed, the concept solidified. The process of training becomes relevant and the lessons learnt are made real in the pages of the writing of others. When you read, you identify techniques of writing to learn, to refine, modify or critique. These processes further strengthen and sharpen inherent and imbibed writing skills.
To become a writer is to love writing, to read writings; to nurture words and articulate words. it is to see into the things around, learn their significance, appreciate their importance and to paint a picture of them, allowing the image conceived in the mind direct the stroke of the paint brush of words; their strength and ambience; giving it life and adding colour to it.