Who can be a Literary Author?
Recently a student asked me how to write successfully. He had tried to write a novel and short stories and couldn’t quite do that to his satisfaction. Having been a teacher of literature, I was left with a sense of guilt in sending him away without a definite answer. He had a sufficiently rich English vocabulary. He knew enough English Grammar and seemed sufficiently imaginative. Yet he was not one who could be called a literary author of any achievement.
‘What is wrong with me? Why can’t I write well enough to impress people?’ he had asked and I had found no ready reply to give him. I had published a novel that was selling well enough and a collection of short stories which could be described as a commercial success. Yet it was difficult to come up with the reason(s) offhand.
When I pondered deeply on the subject I could gather a few points that would probably improve things for him. These were as follows:
(i) Writing well is an art. It is not a science that can be picked up after a certain amount of understanding and deliberation. But that said much successful writing is a result of reading the works of successful writers and practicing to write on a regular basis. Besides, art can be learned to an extent: some by observation of others’ works and some from the voice from within oneself.
(ii) One who writes well is normally a person who can sympathize with others. One ought to be able to feel what it is to be the other. A man must be able to empathize with a woman and so must a woman be able to step into a man’s situation. The black must know what it is to be white and vice-versa. The son ought to be able to see the father’s point of view and the father the son’s. This kind of awareness about the other comes from a certain sensitivity which we sometimes lack. I imagine that a good writer would be a just person while he is in the creative state. The unjust man would rarely be able to see the other’s point of view.
(iii) One must have good hindsight and foresight to be a writer. One should in Lady Macbeth’s words be able to “see the future in the instant”. This means an imaginative transfer away from the moment in which one is placed at a particular time.
(iv) Impersonality should begin to come naturally to a writer after he has begun to write with competence. When one is in the creative state one is frequently detached from the self. I have found myself writing things that I have scarcely ever experienced. I have also used words that are alien to my vocabulary and they were found correctly used when I consulted the dictionary. This means that words that I had taken in at the sub-conscious level came back to me while the mind was gripped in creativity.
(v) The most painful part of literary writing is that it comes after the man or woman has gone through intense suffering. Prolonged sufferings that our surroundings or homes provide sometimes make a man or woman a creative artist. The pain that the soul endures is often directly transferred to beautiful writing.
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Sir, those were extremely insightful observations. Deeply thought provoking!
The article is very very impressive and well expressed. Really insightful and useful for would-be literary writers. Thank you so much Sir for sharing your noble ideas. Pranams!
Kind of you to say so, Madhav.
Quite impressive and insightful. “The pain that the soul endures is often directly transferred to beautiful writing.” In fact , it could be the key features for a new author that how should he use his empirical knowledge to produce literary works.
Any aspiring writer should read this piece again and again.Somehow the experience comes back in an unexplained ways and the words tumble out of the attics of mind where they lay stored and were forgotten .Creative impulses really require a deep sense of feeling and capacity to put oneself in other`s shoes which is what empathy is really about.
Nicely summed up by the adroit practitioner of the art of literary writing.
Thanks for the kind words.