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Op-Ed

So you want to be a writer?

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By EMN Updated: Mar 28, 2014 8:44 pm
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MULLINGS

Easterine Kire

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]riting is an anti-social activity. If you want to write a book, or a poem or a short story you have to do it in isolation. For the majority of writers, this is true. Your mind has to be free from all other activities in order to focus on the main activity of recording thoughts, memories or framing new memories. This applies to academic and journalistic writing too, in fact, all kinds of writing for that matter, not just fictional writing.
This article request has come to me very late so I will concentrate on what writing as a profession entails.Firstly, unless you are going to write a book that will become a bestseller and your publisher is going to pay you royalties in six and seven digits, it is not possible to live on writing. Therefore it is almost a misnomer to call it a profession because for the most, writers do not live on their writing. It is unfair considering that many writers write books with their guts. Yet it is one of those things about writing that if you have a story inside you, it is nearly impossible to avoid the urge to tell it in some form or other. This is why our ancestrally oral societies identified story telling as an art, and there was always room for it in the life of the village. Now our villages are no longer inhabited by the educated, so naturally when a person moves to a town and writes a book, it is difficult to find an audience because the readymade audience that the village circles provided is no longer available. In an ideal society a writer should write a book and simply have nightly readings with the listeners paying a small sum each time toward the author’s fees. That would make writing a profession like any other. However, as that is not likely to happen, it is probably realistic to look at the different stages of book production and see if you are cut out for it.
First the book is written. But that does not mean the job is done. Writing the book is only the beginning in a long process. The manuscript (as it is called at this stage), is sent to a publisher. If they like it, they assign an editor to you and your manuscript is returned with many comments for you to work on. Some editors might decide to cut out specific chapters (that you have become fond of), because they are not relevant to the plot. Others may want to rearrange the order of chapters so that the sequences in the book appear logical and more plausible. Never be so attached to the manuscript that you resist change. Editing is the change that shapes the manuscript and molds all the raw material into a format that is more presentable. Think of it as the same work that goes into chiseling a diamond. Huge amounts of time can be spent on editing and revision and that should be so, if you want a good finished product. Impatience kills a good book.
After the writing and editing and revising are done, there is a big question you have to ask yourself: “Am I sure I want to put my book out there now?” Writing is like baring your soul to all and sundry. All your flaws will also be on display if you have not edited properly. The printed word is rather unforgivable, and only if you are very sure you won’t regret your inner thoughts permanently imprinted in print, then you are ready for the last stage of book-making and that is printing the book. All the work of writing, editing and revising a book takes months and even years, a period in which no one pays the writer. Therefore the writer must have a day job to feed himself/herself and make time to write during the little free time that can be squeezed out.
Writing is a brutal art. It is not as romantic as it sounds. It is not glamorous. It is very hard work, it is about believing in yourself, and it is hanging in there when no one is left to support you but God. It is also a humbling art. You must be humble enough to accept when your work is judged as not good enough. It does not have to be a door closing. It can be other doors opening. There are different categories of work where writing skills can come in handy. Copy writing, Freelance journalism, screen writing, etc are all professionsto do with writing skills. It is all a matter of finding the right slot.
However, having said all that, if you still feel you are destined to be a writer, use experts to assess your work, not friends. Be prepared to receive comments as part of the chiseling. Use the comments to better yourself. There are few things in life that give such satisfaction as holding a new book does. Be prepared to sacrifice if you want to write seriously. Every story is worth telling and nothing is more beautiful than a story well told. Pay meticulous attention to the grammar of the language you are writing in. There are no excuses for bad grammar. It just means you are lazy. Practice, practice, practice. Write daily. Keep a journal. Find your slot, meaning find out what kind of writing you are good at. And don’t ignore the native languages. If you can’t make it as a writer in English, try to discover which one is the language of your heart. It could very well be your mother tongue. In that case, it is better to stick to writing good stories in your mother tongue than rather than write badly in English. It helps you avoid losing meaning in transition.Hopefully these points shed some light on your writing ambitions.

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By EMN Updated: Mar 28, 2014 8:44:39 pm