By Majid Gafoor
Putting words on paper or on the computer screen is more than mere communication, it is an art. It conveys meanings, ideas, images, emotions, thoughts and illusions. It can be wielded in so many forms. It can make you laugh, cry, angry, intrigued or even feel a surge of love. It is no wonder that as early as 1839, the power of writing was celebrated by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who coined the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
Having said that, what is writing, actually?
We learn the alphabet at school and can, in later years, put strings of words together when called upon. Are we then writers? No. You are a far cry from being a writer. You can write, but you are not a writer. Let me give you a correlated example. You have also learned maths at school and can add and subtract. But that doesn’t make you an accountant.
So how does one become accomplished as a writer? Like all other skills and professions, it requires dedication and lifelong learning. To write, you must know what is happening around you – otherwise you are putting down ideas which are outdated. To write well, you must have a purpose in your writing and sift through words and expressions in your mind that best illustrate the idea you wish to express.
A lively mind that absorbs the constant input of sights and sounds that assail us on a daily basis, moment by moment, is a good start. That is subconscious learning.
The conscious learning is reading. Don’t limit yourself to reading only topics that you enjoy, but rather read to expand your mind – to be knowledgeable of different subjects. You should also read to understand the style and flow of writing. You do not need to achieve professor status, but you should have a spectrum of knowledge which will enable you to speak sensibly on a variety of subjects and thus be able to write sensibly on a variety of subjects.
Having now armed yourself with writing skills and knowledge, you are now ready to begin your journey into writing. This puts you on the path of the most difficult chapter in learning how to write, and write well. In this instance, you have to develop a passion for writing. This is an emotional development so no one can teach you how to do it. You have to form that need and passion on your own. If you pursue it and develop a kinship with writing, you will take to writing as one takes to other artistic expressions such as painting or music. It is a calling.
You will then know when you have written a piece worthy of your commitment. You will be able to see how other people’s writing can be improved when you read it. You will derive joy and a sense of accomplishment when others are exposed to your writing and are at once attracted to your presentation in different ways. You have now learnt to influence through your writing.
You are now an artist and are ready to accept the concept that the pen is indeed as mighty if not mightier than the sword.
Majid Gafoor is a former journalist from Hong Kong. He now lives in Canada.