I see writing as a personal sadhana (spiritual discipline). It is creative, challenging, rewarding and requires considerable discipline. Through writing, you can help to clarify good ideas and also you can give yourself an added motivation and enthusiasm. Writing for an audience, even if very small, requires a degree of effort and willingness to be ready for both criticism and praise. The benefit of writing for an audience is that we need to consider what is good for other people; it forces us to lose an insular attitude, and this is beneficial for making us more aware of other people, it can help to make us a little less self-focused.
There are sometimes when writing comes easy, but there are many more times, when you need to work considerably hard to get started and have a go. But, it always feels a worthwhile endeavour.
Benefits of writing
It brings another aspect to a subject that you have a great passion for. I only write about subjects that interest me, cycling, spirituality, economics. They are all very different, but writing about it is a unique way to understand the subject in a different light.
Writing about spirituality is particularly beneficial. I’ve often said, it’s easier to write about how we should behave, than to actually live it. But, when writing about topics of self-improvement, it gives a very strong sense of reinforcement and motivation to try and live by the principles you write about. When teaching economics, I always tell my students 90% of learning is in teaching. This may sound confusing, but you don’t learn by just passively listening. You really learn when you try to explain what you’ve read about. This is why writing is so powerful. When we write we really need to improve our grasp of our particular philosophy. By the end, our conscious awareness and understanding is much stronger. By writing, we make the subject very real. This is why writing can help in a spiritual path, writing creates a much stronger clarity and understanding of the essential philosophy.
Writing gives us an opportunity for self-development. Sometimes when I see my own writing, I shrink away from it, almost embarrassed. When we write we put a part of ourselves out into the world. Writing becomes an opportunity to overcome any pride and insecurity. Writing is a challenge to write and offer something in a detached way.
A little benefit to other people. When I write, I do it out of a personal motivation. I never expect to change or influence anyone else. But, if it can give a little joy inspiration to other people, then it is an added bonus.
It is a creative use of time. In the internet age, there are so many distractions and ways to pass away time that it is easy to become a couch potato, or internet surfer. Writing invokes the creative part of the brain, and gives a sense of achievement that is very rewarding.
How to get started
The first thing is to start off with just one paragraph. Once you get the first sentence down, it becomes much easier. My biggest challenge is often the period of procrastination trying to decide on the title and what to write about.
Start out without any expectations. The biggest enemy to writing is a preconceived notion it must be perfect. This perfection seeking is just really a clever excuse for not writing at all. The first draft only you have to read. Keep it simple and don’t expect to write The Gettysburg Address, at your first attempt.
Read other writers for inspiration. Note the good things about their writing, which you might like to incorporate. But, don’t seek to imitate, writing is all about developing your own style and own voice.
Think in terms of gradual progress. Writing is a skill, which needs practise. If you sit down to play the piano, the first attempts will not be overwhelming, but with practise, it gets better.
After the first draft, leave it a little while and then go back and read it. Feel you are reading it out to an audience. You will then want to modify, edit and clarify. In these revisions try to consider what your reading audience would want. What kind of book / article would you want to read. When you read an article, what do you appreciate? – clarity of purpose, directness, a lightness and humour, avoiding unnecessary complications and words.
Seek for constructive criticism. In the beginning its useful to ask for a little constructive criticism. Perhaps you have a friend who will be able to kindly offer some suggestions, without going to extremes and offering discouragement.
photo: Tejvan, Oxford