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When you can’t write to save your life

Are you sure you are not mistaking laziness for inability? Some time back, I had written about the fear of public speaking in this column and heard from many of you who could relate to it. Sonal Kalra writes...

india Updated: Jul 08, 2012 01:08 IST
Sonal Kalra

Are you sure you are not mistaking laziness for inability?

Some time back, I had written about the fear of public speaking in this column and heard from many of you who could relate to it. A lot of you also ended up writing to me about other fears and phobias in your lives, some of which, by the way, were pretty bizarre and made me seriously wonder what kind of people read my column. Just kidding.

Anyway, I figured that a common fear, or rather a stress that seems to trouble a lot of people, is their inability to write. By that, I don’t mean not being able to write professionally, like a book or a novel or a newspaper article. Actually if you think about it, a lot of published authors also suffer from this inability, but why even go the suicidal path of that discussion. I am talking about an inability to write something as basic as a school essay or a project report or even an application letter.

Writers blockRandeep, a 2nd year Physics (Hons) student sent me a mail that said, "My conversation and language skills are not bad but the very thought of having to write something makes me nervous as hell. In today’s age, this handicap of not being able to express anything through the written word would not let me grow in my career. I’ll be good for nothing."

Easy, easy Randeep. Let’s start by not getting hyper. When it comes to talent and knowledge, every person’s ability is someone else’s handicap. If I look at the subject you have knowledge of — physics — I’m not just handicapped, I might as well be in coma. No, seriously. I recently discovered that even if saakshaat God decides to take out time and explain me the meaning of God particle, I wouldn’t understand a thing. While everyone is busy doing heavy duty intellectual discussions on mass and matter, I’ve nicely accepted that I am physics-cally challenged.

Yes, I do know that my not getting even the most basic fundas of physics would probably not matter any bit in comparison to your frustration of not being able to string letters of the alphabet to form a coherent sentence. Because language, as a communicative tool, is imperative to get any point across. But you know what, while it may not be possible, or at least easy, for me to pick up the nuances of a new subject, it is fairly easy for you to cultivate the art of writing. Let’s see how.

Considering we are all compulsorily taught at least two languages from school itself, we have the fundas of writing already in place. A majority of the people who claim that they can’t write are, if I may say so bluntly, lazy to even try. I’ve seen a lot of my friends hate subjects like history, not because it doesn’t interest them to know what happened in our past but just because the subject requires them to write long answers in exams, which they find boring. In today’s age of instant coffee and two-minute noodles, the concentration span of people and their ability to focus — both prerequisites for being able to read and write well — are the biggest casualties. And if someone has not bothered to cultivate the habit gradually since childhood, it wouldn’t come to them overnight when their studies or jobs will require them to draft reports. Anyway, it’s never too late.

Try these steps.

1 Start reading... now. If you’ve wasted years cribbing about how reading is not ‘your thing’, you have no hopes of writing becoming ‘your thing’ too. And you have no idea what you would have missed in life, if you’ll continue to inch towards your expiry date while spending all your free time watching TV or Facebooking. Start by just devoting 10 minutes of your day to reading something. Anything. After 20 days of doing this, add another 10 minutes of writing something. Again, anything. Even if it makes no sense in the beginning. Because soon it would start to. The only condition is that those 10 minutes have to be uninterrupted or free of distractions so that you can concentrate on the words in front. It’s not really too much to ask for, is it?

2Face the fear...or the laziness: After a month of doing the above, start the task of volunteering to write for anyone who may need help. It could be a younger brother’s application of leave from school, or your dad’s letter to the bank manager to close an account, or a friend’s CV. Offer to write it for them. And do it without the fear of being judged. Considering there are so many people around us who are wary of writing, you would always have takers. Samaaj sewa ke saath saath self sewa, because every word you write, even if for a mundane work related email, will add to your confidence.

3Don’t complicate it: True for writing, just as for life in general. Don’t confuse good writing with complicated writing. Needless usage of fancy words to impress others is actually, quite foolish. Because the whole point of writing is to convey a point in the language that would be understood by the one reading. Unless, of course, your aim is to confuse the reader or challenge his vocabulary, both of which are not good ideas. So basically, why say in the vicinity of when all you need to say is ‘near’ or ‘pro bono’ when you mean ‘free’? The usage of latter almost got me fired last week, so this is indeed worthy advice.

4Use the help-resources: Thanks to Internet baba, sabki life mein kripa aa gayi hai. Via endless resources to help you draft anything under the sun. Letters, applications, CVs , project reports, you name it. Take their help, but not blindly. These are mostly templates with the basic structure or format of what you wish to draft. Understand them, use them, but apply your own creativity. We all have it in us. Yours may just be hidden somewhere deep. Dig it out.

Sonal Kalra wants to invite volunteers to explain God particle to her in a simple language. No, leave it. There’s no chance that she’ll understand it. God’s unattainable, you see. Mail her at sonal.kalra@hindustantimes.com or facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow her on Twitter @sonalkalra