Reverse engineering works on most areas of life.
If you want to understand how Eiffel tower was built, start looking at its very foundation and work your way up.
If you want to learn swimming:
Start by wading through water; learn to hold your breath under water; then try to float; learn to glide;then try to kick, and so on. There’s a technique and a process to learning almost anything. So its only obvious, that one would try to break down the art of writing.
But can you teach someone to write?
What can be taught- What to write?
Or, how to write it?
Look up on the internet for writing advice, and it’ll start raining. Just like in the self-help section, you’ll find all sorts of advice for every logical/illogical problem the human mind could ever perceive.
Half of them are irrelevant, but it’s there.
When it comes to advice, we all are trying to sell our shit out there. We all claim-our shit is the best.
Watch me. Learn from me. Register on my site. Sign up for my newsletter. Enroll for this course and I’ll change your life in 30 days. Read my so-and-so book on improving your personality.
There’re bad solutions out there. Half-assed solutions. Good solutions. Okay-ish solutions.
Someone may have spent all their life on a theory and it still may suck. Someone may have had a eureka moment in 30 minutes and had discovered how to resolve (Oh, I don’t know) Poverty.
Someone may have offered a solution based on what worked for them. Yet another may have done that based on what’d bring them the highest royalty.
Doesn’t mean only one solution works or none works.
Coming back to the point in hand, none of the solutions i came across really worked for me. Or worse, I couldn’t relate to them.
So, there’s a reason why I don’t rely on a ‘technique’ or ‘style’ or ‘process’ of writing.
What ‘makes‘ you write?
More often than not, the idea is a trigger- as a response to something I read, or watch.
Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t rage, or the impulsiveness to react, which brings forth the chain of thoughts.
Instead, the desire to dwell on them and the need to understand the reasoning behind, the desire to retrospect on our own perception about what why we see things the way we see them, is what it really is.
Good writing is a conversation.
The aim is not to flatter the reader. They our adversaries.
A good writing, challenges what the reader knows, makes them question it, and then tries to win them over.
Sometimes the work of an artist induces a dialogue within you. More often than not, the tone of the former sets in the tone of the latter.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this an ‘inspiration’; but rather a ‘voice’ you cannot easily subdue. (Depending on what you choose to do with it. Either you let it fade away with time, by never acting on it. Or, you learn to channel the energy into something else.
ex: putting pen to paper)
At times, an observation, a thought, an experience, urges you to write. This is where your unique tone sets in.
If you wanna play it with humor; laden with nostalgia; fill with sarcasm; churn philosophy in it; saddle with satire; sprinkle suspense/drama; bring in empathy/boredom
or, simply state fact-by-fact.
The game’s yours- however you choose. (Experiment with one, or all of these things. Why not?)
What do you write about?
A friend once asked me about the genre of my writing, After I’d explained her the plot of my book. (One, I’m yet to complete. It’ll be the project of the millennium, considering the time that has lapsed since I first started working on it)
Unlike books, blogs are multi-dimensional. One has the privilege to write about everything and nothing under the sun. (But we never really make use of it. Do we?)
Now, disregarding my momentary existential crisis over the question; the thing about genres are that, they’re pretty little boxes inside which plots (gigantic-shapeless- ambiguous-plots-like-mine) are stuffed in.
Sure. You can label it – realistic fiction or young adult or something else (Look up the genres and tell me if your head doesn’t start spinning looking at the sets and subsets of categories!) as you see fit.
But its simply the tip of the iceberg. Consider the Harry potter series:
It was a Children’s book, spun off on fantasy. But neither the prologue, nor the titles, or the cover of the book did justice to the worlds that were woven in those pages. They were simply selling points.
Anyone who’d put the philosophers stone back into its shelf (before the book was caught in the whirlwind of fame post the release of movie) is someone I gravely pity. (including myself)
Imaginations cannot be categorized. At least it won’t be neat.
Genres, Prologues, covers, titles are simply selling points.
Even when you’re not judging the book by a cover, you’re judging the book by what’s on its cover.
Sure! Your choices are simplified, when 10 people have given their reviews about a book.
But, if you’re an old soul who doesn’t get influenced by pop-culture, you’ll know that talent doesn’t always find popularity.
The Billboard hot 100 list that changes every week is based on sales, radio play and streaming. But how often have you heard a song on the list, that seems overrated? Popularity doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality.
There are artists, bands, writers, actors whose work goes unnoticed by mainstream media- EVERYDAY.
What is a writing style?
I never really understood this question; or the answers that arrive on the analysis of such a question.
The only thing I know is,
What you write and why you write it, almost always trumps how you write it.
When I’d first started working on the ‘project of the millennium’, there was one advice that I’d constantly stumbled upon. Avoid the word ‘said’ (like the plague) in your dialogues. Instead, use words based on the emotion and scenario. Using it constantly, was (apparently?!) sandpaper to the ears.
Agreed. This became my bible. I spent better parts of my writing hours, using other dialogue words, since I’d moral issues on using ‘said’ even once, in a page.
The only thing that ever came out of it, was- Chronic over-thinking.
Bottom line: If your dialogues are getting crappier by the minute because of investing precious time in deciding what to use instead of ‘said’; Well, you know what to do here.
The best advice, I ever came across is this- When you write; write as though no one is going to read it. Write as though its just for you. But be a motherf***r when you sit down to edit. Cut down everything that does not belong in your piece. Write it word-by-word all over again- Even if you don’t change anything in the end.
At least, you’ll end up with a better understanding of the words that bled out of you.
Because, all through this piece, I kept asking myself- Why?
Why am I writing this?
Neither have I been writing for decades- to offer advice; nor have I had a Eureka moment or a ground breaking discovery in the recent past.
But this little voice whispered in me-
If you label yourself as one type of a writer, or hell- even one type of a person, what good are you to yourself? If you’re walking through life following every direction that is handed to you, how would you ever know the path that you’re capable of carving- all by yourself?
We tell ourselves stories about us. The narrative is always on. Sometimes, we are the victim; Sometimes, the unforgivable villian; Sometimes we aren’t good enough; and at other times nothing is good enough for us. Yet how often do we realize- we are not ANY of these narratives!
For almost a week, I was struggling to write an appropriate ending for this piece. It seemed hard, as though i was answering- what is the point of life? Nothing i wrote, felt right. I had it’s-fine-brush-it-under-the-carpet sort of endings, but they were as good as having none at all.
But at 5.30 a.m., as i was tossing and turning in the sheets- fully awake, but too disappointed to wake up, it hit me.
What did we come up with boxes, categories and labels in the first place?
To make the chaos seem bearable; organized; less painful to rummage through. To make us feel safe. Right?
That’s why we put people in boxes. If we believe that we’ve them figured out; if we believe that we’ve figured the answers to life’s questions, then we’ve nothing to be afraid of. Isn’t that the reason we go to colleges-get degrees, work in meaningless jobs, get into unhappy relationships with all the wrong reasons, buy houses and cars on mortgages and pay them for the rest of our lives and quit on our dreams?
We try all our lives to fit into these boxes, but we never ever really do.
So tell me, what is the point of these boxes when they do nothing but diminish you? What does that make you?
(I could tell you to get a large sledgehammer and beat the crap out of these boxes; but we’d be straying here)
Maybe that’s the point.
We were never supposed to fit into boxes.
Because, in this wild-fucking-complicated-unpredictable-chaotic-universe, how can you expect that you be any less of that?
How can you?