By AIMAN SHAHID
Take a wound as a starting point; it doesn’t need to be a dramatic blood-splattered Monty Pythonesque affair. It can even be as simple as something your best friend said seven years ago, sharpening its bite with age.
“If you’re not passionate about writing, if you don’t feel like you can’t live without writing, how can you call yourself a writer?”
Wound identified? Now hone in on the sentiment, observe it intimately, and consider it from all angles. Assess the facts surrounding the scenario:
- I do not write for pure pleasure
- I am not plagued with inspiration that burns away at the midnight oil
- I do not allow my writing to pilot my waking dreams and ambitions
Truth bared; do you now feel better, admitting your sins?
Of course not. The wound is still there and you’re a far cry away from your ink-splattered friend who scribbles away on all surfaces. And you know what? That’s ok.
Passion is fickle and unreliable in the long run. Trying to tame passion is like trying to catch water with a sieve; ardour ebbs and swells but ultimately you emerge a sadder and more sodden jumble than you went in. Why? Because you have unwittingly laden yourself with the promise that your passion speaks for your potential. This could not be further from the truth; there’s a reason I was able to capitalize on my writing while my friend remains the expectant mother of six novels in progress.
One of my favourite authors and naturalists, Gerald Durrell, sums up the crux of the idea in an interview detailing why he fell into writing.
He says, ”It was my brother Larry who was the writer…I took to writing to fund my expeditions; ultimately for me it was always about the animals.”
Durrell lays bare the first fundamental: you don’t need to love writing itself, but you do need to keep writing. The mark of a good writer is how fervidly they enthuse over their work while the mark of a great writer is how well they stick to it. Need, not want, is the greatest polisher of skill in the mill of time. In committing to your work, you lose half the terror of writing.
Consider the image of the wound again. Having identified your trigger and the context of its surroundings, your vision tunnels in, hyper-focusing on that one needling pinprick of sensation that sets your whole body alight with agony. Here lies the second rule: when dealing with big ideas and concepts, keep it simple and write small. Your wound has you drowning in pain, yet a symphony of blood, plasma and cells will work to clot the immediate puncture wound.
Smaller factors can act as precursors to larger chain reactions. So, when I’m writing about a drought rolling across the continent, I won’t present detailed analytical geographic and socio-economic charts across my fictional landscape. Instead, I’ll write about the waif-like mother, scrimping aside portions of her own meals so that the table is laden for her son’s birthday.
The world outside becomes very small and insignificant in the face of the pain stemming from your wound. it is this burning sensation that dictates your focus and gives it strength. Here lies the third rule of writing: you need to bring the pain home. To give life to your work you need to write about what you actually know, a knowing that extends beyond mere familiarity and actually reaches your reader.
To reach someone is the lifeblood of writing and remains the end goal of any writer worth their salt.
About the Author
A self-proclaimed literary geek with a passion for all things archaeological, Aiman Shahid is a part-time writer and a full-time student living in Lahore, Pakistan. She is currently surviving her third year as a student of Architecture. When she is not juggling juries and deadlines, she enjoys dabbling in architectural journalism, sketching, and reading.