What Writers Need to Know about Starting and Then Getting Better at Writing

Jayakaran Mukundan

Malaysia

Most people think they cannot write and when they start having these thoughts they will never begin writing. It is not easy to write a poem or a story if you haven’t done much of it but if you start and if it isn’t good at least you have tried. Once you start, get someone who writes frequently to look at your work. Get advice and then re-work your stories and poems. Once you finish start on new work so that you get “addicted” to it. Here below is some advice on how to get started and how to keep the momentum:

  1. If you have written a story or poem and after a while you don’t like it, don’t throw it away. Get some advice from people who write often and ask for help on improvements. Rework the poem or story and then show the expert to see if he/she likes it after the changes
  2. Sometimes no matter how much you try your writing stalls and this is referred to as “blocking”. You may then be, without your conscious knowledge, a “blocker”. People who are blockers are usually writers who are too afraid of making mistakes. If you are this sort of person, learn to relax and have a positive attitude towards your writing. Just keep writing and tell yourself you will change course or look at errors after you have written a page or two. If you worry about bad ideas or errors you may never get to start!
  3. Read more stories and poems and get ideas from professional writers. The more we read the more we are aware of how other people write their stories. We cannot copy these stories but we can learn some strategies so that our stories get better.
  4. If interested in writing poems but you have no idea as to how to start, get a reference which deals with scaffolding strategies that help learners become beginner poets. All you have to do is to learn some of the patterns (for form poems) and then you are on your way!
  5. In order to boost your confidence try publishing your work. The Regional Creative Writing Group does publish the work of amateur writers. Even if you don’t join the group, you can send in work (there may be a representative of the group in your country!)
  6. When you go to places like your ancestral village listen to what elders would say. Keep a record in your notebook. These may become ideas for new writing. When you are free try recalling some things at school like a teacher who is funny or a teacher who constantly forgets. Try writing poems about these people. In fact try writing about people in your family.
  7. Photographs are a good way to start writing. When at home sit with an older person; your father or mother and grandparents. Go through the family album with them and try getting as many stories about people and places from them.  Family albums are a great way to start writing stories and poems.
  8. Last but not least never say you can’t write. Most people who say this end up being good writers after some practice!

Some observations on Nepali teachers writers during the recently concluded Creative Writing Workshops

Generally different people have different personalities and individual preferences, hence write differently. Generally Nepali teachers are very enthusiastic. When at first they were taught scaffolding techniques they began to realize that they could write. This took place when they were taught some scaffolding templates for developing form poems. These exercises soon raised their eagerness to experiment, manipulate and essentially “play” with the language. When they started playing with language the creativity of these teachers soon began to show!

The writing trip was another instance where they learnt to write creatively “after making close observation”. It was good opportunity for them to realize that writing was not just confined to classrooms. The entire space that surrounds them can be inspiration for their writing. Many of the participants confirmed that they would also be working on creative writing projects with their own students after the workshops. That was indeed nice to hear!

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