Writing obeys the law of gravity | Sunday Observer

Writing obeys the law of gravity

Newton’s more specific contribution to the description of the forces of nature was the elucidation of the force of gravity. Today scientists know that in addition to gravity there are other forces that give rise to all observed properties and activities in the universe. The law of gravity seems to apply even to writing. Almost all writers know that ideas travel much more easily from head down to paper or computer than they do from paper or computer to head. To fall in line with the law of gravity, a writer has to be imaginative.

A competent writer has a dialogue with the reader. He cannot afford to have a monologue. The writer can be compared to an architect who draws up a plan before putting up a building. He has to think of the details. For instance, a sentence should contain one clear thought. No reader can grasp more than one idea at a time. If you write a sentence loaded with many ideas, nobody will understand it. Most French writers set their thoughts one after the other in a logical order. It does not mean English writers do not do so. There are many English writers who are equally good in their writing.

In addition to the arrangement of facts in a logical order, the writer’s language should be rich in imagery. He should have a talent for using metaphors, proverbs and idioms in appropriate places. The best way to become a writer is to be a good reader. We should encourage writers by purchasing their books rather than borrowing them from libraries. When you buy a book it is yours and you can read, mark and digest its contents.

Art of writing

Many young people want to learn the art of writing. As there are no writing schools in Sri Lanka, you have to learn the art of writing in the trial and error method. The only practical method to learn how to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis. A beginner can start writing paragraphs on different topics rather than trying to write full-length essays. After many years, nay decades of writing you will be fortunate enough to write a regular column to a newspaper. At the beginning, however, you may not write well and your style might still be full of clutter and clichés. But by writing regularly you gain confidence while identifying the most common problems faced by writers.

The initial problem you are going to face is from where you could gather facts and how to organize your thoughts logically. The next problem is maintaining unity which is the anchor of good writing.

You can write your article in the first person or second person depending on the subject you are dealing with. Then you have to decide the tense. Some writers use the past tense, others write in the present tense. However, you should not mix up the tenses. Then comes the unity of mood. Do you wish to speak to the reader in a casual voice? Or, are you going to write in a serious manner? You have to make a choice judiciously.

Every piece of writing should leave the reader with one provocative thought which he did not have before. Once you decide your unities there is no material you cannot work into your frame. You will soon realize that the act of writing generates some cluster of thoughts or memories that you never anticipated. Adjust your style according to the destination you propose to reach.

Meteors

Arthur Schopenhauer divided writers into meteors, planets and fixed stars. Meteors produce a momentary effect and vanish forever. Most of the news reporters fall into this category.

Planets endure much longer. Sometimes readers take them to be fixed stars because they shine by virtue of their proximity to them. However, their life-span is limited as they shine with borrowed light. Some of the feature writers fall into this category. The third category – fixed stars – alone is unchanging. Their influence will last for ages. The world’s great writers such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, R.K. Narayan and Bertrand Russell belong to this category. Their influence goes beyond their territorial boundaries and embraces the entire world.

There are two types of writers. Journalists and others of their ilk write for money. There are some people who write for the sake of writing. They do so in order to communicate their ideas to the readers. Their writing is clear and uplifting. However, society needs both types of writers. If there are no journalists, most newspapers and magazines will have to fold up. University professors who teach language and literature have a poor opinion about journalism. They say journalistic language is substandard. In fact, one of my university teachers said journalism does not belong to the category of literature. However, those who defend journalism say it is ‘literature in a hurry.’ For that matter, even university professors read newspapers avidly and regularly contribute to them.

According to another school of thought, even celebrated writers have been influenced by journalism. They follow the journalistic style instead of the literary style. On the other hand, some of the literary giants have been career journalists.

Book publishing is one of the major profit-oriented ventures. In developed countries authors are well paid and they lead a comfortable life. The situation in Sri Lanka is somewhat pathetic. While book publishers are thriving authors remain poor as they do not get their royalties properly. As a result, many good authors do not take the trouble to write books. Those who wish to become writers and authors have to be aware of these facts.

Amateurs

There is an ever-rising flood of badly written books produced by Amateurs. Some books are simply verbose. Even some of the English textbooks published by the Education Department contain many typographical errors. Those who have studied textbooks printed in England will notice the difference between the textbooks produced locally and those used in international schools.

Whatever may be the ground situation, we need writers, journalists and authors to serve society. If you have a passion for writing, reach for the pen and paper or the computer and start your journey into the world of writers. Remember the cardinal rule: You have to obey the law of gravity!

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