1. Write happy stuff/ Write different kinds of things
A lot of my writing from my earlier days had a sadness to it. Every story had something tragic happening and then an even more tragic ending. A close friend pointed this out and said “Why don’t you write happy things? Why are people always dying, losing and struggling in your stories?”
To be honest I hadn’t realised this till he pointed it out. I have a revamped version of that advice today. Write different kinds of things. Writing is a soft skill. Your brain doesn’t know which neural pathways will fire when you start writing a piece. Your brain doesn’t know which memory you will unearth when you put pen to paper. When you train yourself to write particular types of content – useful / informational/ happy stories/ sad stories/ rom coms/ tragedies and such- you are in effect strengthening the neural pathways in your brain.
Simply put you are building your writing muscle. The more varied the movement, the better control you have over the muscle.
That’s why writers after years and years of practise, don’t have to wait for the right mood to write. They can simply write and the brain takes it from the neural muscle memory.
I might have used medically incorrect terms, but I am pretty sure that this is how you build your writing muscle.
2. Read till the world ends.
One of my bosses was able to point out gaps in my thinking and writing by skimming through my content. Every time he reviewed some work and realised that there was something missing, he would simply say- “This is weak. You aren’t reading enough”. When I asked him what I should read, he said “How should I know! It’s you who is writing.”
And lo and behold! Every time I went and read something, and then looked at my work, there were so many things I could add to it. Always. I suddenly had a new perspective to an old problem, and it was almost never inspired by what I was reading. After reading and writing for 10 years now, I know the trick. Reading makes you imagine and visualise. The more you visualise, the better your brain can think, the better it can imagine. Just imagine- what years and years of reading will do to a writer’s skill.
Sometimes I feel I don’t exist. I am merely a collection of what I have read, the people who have nurtured and shaped me and influenced me, and what I have written. That’s who I am. The writer and the person.
3. Address the best questions to yourself.
I belong to a generation that saw the advent of Google and then its omnipresence. So I have also been part of the generation that knew how to function before Google came with all the answers. My dad used to play this game with me. He would give me a pen and tell me “generate as many questions as you can around this.”
So right from which color is the ink to where was the plastic manufactured to how long will the ink last, I had to draw up at least 50 questions. He made it tougher week on week by saying “now generate 10 more questions that you haven’t asked before”. Mind you, he never gave me the answers. (He didn’t have Google you know.) But he taught me how to ask meaningful questions. He maintained that no question was a stupid question, but good questions, the really good questions are what the world deserves of you.
Thanks to that critical thinking, of asking the right questions, I can think through what I am going to write. I can edit, proof read and remove redundancy from my own writing.