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How Do We Start Writing?

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Many of us, who have just begun their writing journeys, are struggling with this question. Invariably, most of us delay our writing assuming that what we want to say would develop in our mind first and then, we would put it on paper. This is also an excuse for postponing our writing. We keep trying to think of something substantial before putting our thoughts down on paper. We fear that without any thoughts we would be staring at the blank paper.
Some other times, we think that we know exactly what we want to write. It is all in our mind, we just need to put it down on paper. However, when we start putting it down, the entire structure begins falling apart. We realize that the structure we thought was reasonable cannot be supported through any evidence or theory. We feel that we have to start again.
In both aforementioned scenarios, we are making the mistake of assuming writing as a mechanical process. We think that it is just about jotting down on pen and paper or on our laptop. We think that we think through our minds and our hands just mechanically process it. This is one of the biggest problems of modern society, which has undue importance to the mind at the cost of the hand. The movement of our hands facilitates the flow of our thoughts. It is our hand that has the capacity to engage our mind in an extensive manner. Maria Montessori (1949), in The Absorbent Mind, has argued that the development of our mind remains stunted if we do not pay attention to the development of our hands.
We can start writing with a blank mind. We might sit on our desk with nothing to write but this act would help us to focus our mind on the task at hand. It would encourage us to pick our pen to write something. This would get the ball rolling and we would get into the writing mode. Once we force ourselves to write consistently for a few months, we realize that the more we write the more organize our thoughts become. Our thoughts develop and shape through writing. We may start with a brief outline or an overview but while writing our thoughts gradually pick up a logical sequence.
Writing everyday is the most important activity for a writer. Every time you think of postponing writing, you must remind yourself that it is you fear of writing and not the lack of ideas and thoughts.

From Writing First Draft to Re-writing: Note to Self

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I began my writing journey with the fear of writing. I would do most mundane tasks to put off writing. Gradually, I overcame this fear by forming a habit of writing everyday. It was an uphill task and it took me more than a year to start writing everyday. This exercise made me comfortable with writing. I am not saying that I write everyday now but I find it comparatively less difficult and I write quite regularly. This was the first milestone in my writing journey.

I reached my second milestone when I began reading Paris Review Interviews. These interviews taught me to perceive writing as essentially re-writing. It is in the process of re-writing that we gain control over our writing. This idea inspired me to begin my first big writing project. My research for this project was complete and I had ideas I just needed to sit down and write. My first draft was prepared with a lot of anxiety, agony and physical labour in two months. I have written about this experience in my previous posts. The joy of being able to put your thoughts in words in the way I wanted inspired me further and kept me going.

By the time I finished, I was drained physically, emotionally and mentally. I could not sit to read and write further. Then I decided to take some rest. During this time, I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I also looked through some other texts but I did not engage with anything. In retrospect, maybe I should have. It would have kept me going. I was still writing everyday, mostly writing my journal. However, as time went by, I became more and more relaxed in my reading writing routine.

Now it is time for the third milestone and I find myself procrastinating. Like the first one, I have been delaying it for two months now. This time I fear it because it is a humongous task. However, it is most essential. It is the task Paris Review Interviews taught me, that is, re-writing. I have to read my work sentence by sentence and edit or rewrite it. I think I am facing two roadblocks. Firstly, reading triggers writing and I am not spending enough time in reading. Secondly, I realized re-writing like writing requires practice. Cultivating a habit of re-writing everyday along with reading and writing will gradually improve my editing skills.

At present, I am struggling to re-write and edit my writing. In each attempt, I struggle with new kinds of grammatical and pragmatic issues in language. Sometimes, I struggle with the use of ‘but’ or semi-colon, or the issue of re-writing the entire paragraph to make it more accessible and coherent.

My writing journey has been slow. Struggle that accompanies each of these milestones appear daunting in the beginning and requires a lot of hard work and discipline. Sometimes, I want to quit. But the silver lining is that reaching a milestone assures me that I am moving in the right direction. It is this struggle that makes me feel alive.

From Fear of Writing to Becoming a Struggling Writer

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The title of this post may seem to indicate that hardly any progress has been made since I took the writing challenge eleven months ago. But if one reads it closely, some progress has happened in the sense that I have started calling myself a writer. A struggling writer would present a true picture of my current situation.

Around 11 months ago, I took up a writing challenge to deal with my fear of writing. Inspired by watching Brandon Sanderson’s video, I challenged myself to write 500 words daily. At that time, I had recognised my fear of writing, which was now affecting my everyday ‘compulsory’ writing activities. This challenge forced me to write 500 words everyday. Initially, I used to take more than an hour to complete the target. I would get stuck somewhere and wouldn’t know how to proceed. Gradually, it became easier.

Around two months later, I began to engage with my writing process and started reflecting on what I write and how I write it. I also realised that my fear is caused by the lack of control I have on myself and my writing. There are times when I write a lot and then there are times when I go blank. This helped me see this challenge as an exercise in disciplining my mind to write everyday. However, I am in the process of disciplining my mind to write everyday at a particular time. I also started attentively reading my writing. This writing also became therapeutic for me at the time I was going through a stressful work situation.

I reached my next milestone when I stumbled upon The Paris Review Interviews. These interviews inspired me to look at writing as a craft. Most of these authors described writing as a ‘physical’ craft. Their sense of ownership of their writing and their pride inspired me to write or to craft a piece of my own. Their writing habits motivated me to discipline my mind and body to write everyday. But most importantly, it helped me see writing as a never-ending re-writing exercise. The writer tirelessly re-writes his/her story even after it is published.

Now I am learning to hone my skills of writing and re-writing. It is tiresome for me. I struggle to look for the appropriate words. I struggle with the same sentence for days. I para-phrase it to express myself in the most accessible way. In this way, I am gradually understanding what writers mean when they say that they write to know themselves. It is a struggle and a never ending one, and I am elated that finally my struggle has begun.

Writing Challenge

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I have decided to take up a writing challenge to write 500 words everyday. It will be a fourteen week challenge in which I am planning to follow the writing process in order to write reflectively.

My performance in the last challenge was embarrassing. But that challenge definitely helped me deal with my fear of writing. I write more often now and writing also comes a little easier. That challenge also helped me post more actively on the blog.

Though quality of writing is a concern that needs to be addressed. So in order to improve my writing qualitatively, I have decided to seriously follow all five stages of the writing process. I am hoping that going through each of these stages will help me engage with my writing more. It will also facilitate reflective thinking.