Monday, October 6, 2008

On Being a Writer

Last weekend, I succumbed again to procrastination. I could not write anything as I wasted my time surfing the Internet and watching television. The intent was there when I opened my laptop but was derailed when I started surfing the net. It started innocently as I read the different news sites like CNN, Washington Post, Financial Times, New York Times and Herald Tribune. Maybe it was the interesting headlines being in an eventful week. For instance, the US congress approval of the bailout package and the vice-presidential debate. I think the outcome of both events will affect the future of almost everyone in the planet.

Of course, it's not a good excuse and I also thought about the other things I would be doing in case I was not surfing the net. Again I am over burdening my mind by reading too much and planning to many things. But I realize my procrastination may also hide an underlying fear. The fear that I could not really write. I guess my confidence stems from the fact that I have read a lot of books and have written a fair deal but mostly journal writing. Hence, my writing experience is more on diaries, email, technical reports and, lately, blogging. It's not inspiring but at least it fulfills the basic criteria mentioned by Stephen King. He mentioned that one should keep reading and writing to become a good writer.

Now that I have met the minimum requirements, the next step is to rise up into the un-emotional structure and discipline of a writer's life. Last weekend, I searched for local creative writing classes and found only lessons on script writing. I think this next step is well written somewhere in the Internet but I don't think I have the time or patience to read it. These days I seldom read unlike in the past but subscribe more to listening to audio books. I have borrowed quite a lot of audio books and I think I now enjoy listening to stories more than reading them. I think the ways of processing the information are different. From reading which is more a visual and symbolic processing act to a more auditory way. I think the internal in absorbing the material is much different.

In the recent years, my experience in both reading and writing has changed. For reading or learning, it's as I explained more on listening to audio books or watching videos in the net. As for writing, I have moved from writing by long hand into a paper journal, to typing my entries in an electronic 'journal' in a computer to writing and publishing a blog, which is a public expression of my thoughts and views. I think perhaps I have removed some neurotic tendencies or self indulgent thinking when blogging publicly to writing a personal journal not seen by anyone. This act together with my Toastmaster sessions (which also require me to write my speeches) have opened me to the (minimum) public as well as to a few well-meaning criticism.

So I think I have progressed a bit from being a self-indulgent diarist with neurotic tendencies arising from personal diary writing to being a more 'professional' writer through blogging and public speaking. Now comes more structure and discipline and I now have the means and tools to go to the next level. Procrastination is more a subject of the emotion and my distracted thoughts which I should strive hard to focus and control. I don't know if I should go about it alone by reading about the subject in the net or attending a formal class on creative writing. Of course, attending a formal class is more helpful as it allows me to network with other writers.

I have also learned more about the writer's craft by attending writer's meetings. I had the opportunity to listen to writers read their poetry and prose work at the National Library. I have listened to real authors like Anita Desai and Jodi Picoult so I now have a better idea of writers now that I have actually been with famous ones in the same room. I have also listened to some aspiring writers and minor poets talk about their work so I guess I have been making some incremental progress towards my quest. Of course the journey has also been helped by listening to writers speak about writing by listening to their audio books, for example, Ayn Rand and Stephen King.

So I have been progressing in the recent years and I have not remained stagnant. So maybe my procrastination means that I am not yet ready so I still need to continue towards my goal by achieving incremental milestones. Most writers I know like Hemingway and Garcia Marquez have started as journalist where they were able to hone their craft. I wonder if blogging is a good start for would be writers. What I know is that I have added new skills by typing directly my work (rather than by long hand), public speaking which increases my communication skills, listening to audio books which stimulate a different mental process, attend author's meetings, listening to the writer's craft and blogging and public speaking. These are really minor achievements but should be enough to bring me to the next level I hope.

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