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Writing as a career

Raj Lalwani | November 02, 2005

There is something magical about words -- they have the power to move the reader, shock him, disgust him, enthrall him or make him laugh.

Many us may believe we do not have what it takes to be a good writer.

But Renu Balakrishnan, a former teacher who conducts workshops that nurture talent in creative writing, believes anyone can become a good writer.

"We all have a story to tell and all of us have the power to write something that is uniquely different," she says. "I just try to polish the creativity and skills of amateur writers and give them direction through my workshops."

Writing as a career

Sadly, not many parents encourage their children to enter the field of creative writing. Instead, they are pressurised to become engineers, doctors, lawyers and chartered accountants because these, they believe, are the professions that attract the big bucks.

However, creative writing has a lot of scope. One can become a journalist, a short story writer, a novelist, a playwright, a copywriter -- the possibilities are endless.

Investigative journalism, for example, says Balakrishnan, has great scope as far as creative writing is concerned. Reality is always stranger than fiction, and a report on a true event written in an unconventional style can make for a rivetting read, she says.

"There are so many events one can write about. For example, let's consider the dance bar issue. Instead of merely reporting what the government has to say about them, one can write an investigative piece which probes how and why young girls get into the profession, and how they would earn their living now that the bars have been closed," she says.  

With the recent boom in the print media, she believes there will be endless number of opportunities for all kinds of writers.

Tips for aspiring writers

There are certain things one must keep in mind in order to write something that is interesting enough to read, says Balakrishnan.

i. Avoid the conventional form of writing. Think out of the box and spice it up so that it is fun to read.

"All our lives, we have been taught to write in a to-the-point, linear style. This can be boring to read at times," she says. "We must describe events, and not just state them. Show, rather than tell." She goes on to explain that a good description or conversation is always more interesting to read. Describe vividly so that the reader can actually visualise the setting.

ii. Avoid using adverbs (a combination of an adjective and a verb). Instead of writing 'he spoke sadly', use dialogue and description to bring out the sadness.

For instance, she says, you could write it like this: 'He sighed and looked at her, a wretched look on his face. His shoulders slumped as he spoke in a weak voice.'

iv. Be honest. The most important quality one must have to be a good writer, says Balakrishnan, is honesty.

"Write on something that has happened to you, something that you know and care about. Pretence is of no use, and can put the reader off," she says.

v. Write on something you know about.

vi. Write, write, write... you only get better with practice!

Read more, write better

When Balakrishnan was teaching at Mumbai's Bombay International School, she remembers that her students' literary habits would rarely go beyond Harry Potter and Amar Chitra Katha.

In order to expose students to stories set in modern, urban settings that they would identify with, she started writing stories herself. Having attended a creative writing programme at the New School, New York, her tryst with creative writing continues today, with her imparting the knowledge she gained through that course to others.

She refuses to be called someone who teaches creative writing, though. "Creativity is not taught," she says. "All of us have a creative streak."

Express yourself

Whatever be one's profession, each and every moment a person goes through can be transformed into interesting reading material.

Her workshops, she says, are for people from all spheres of life -- professional writers, journalists, doctors, engineers and students!

A bibliophile who also reviews books for Elan Magazine, Balakrishnan commends some of the current crop of writers who have begun to write on issues of the society and youth in an engaging style.

Giving the example of Chetan Bhagat's One Night @ The Call Center, where various issues about working in BPOs have been tackled through the eyes of six fictional characters, she says weaving a story around contemporary real-life settings makes for great reading.

"Not only does it ensure that the reader enjoys the story, it also makes him think," she says.

So take pen to paper and conjure up an entire new world -- a world of words.

About the workshop

The Creative Writing workshop, conducted by Renu Balakrishnan, will be held at Mumbai's Xavier's Institute of Communication.

The workshop will comprise of eight sessions of two hours each.

The sessions will be held on November 10, November 17, November 23, December 1, December 8, December 20 and January 5, 2006.

Fees: Rs 3,000

How to register

Register and pay at the Xavier Institute of Communication

Address

Xavier Institute of Communication
St Xavier's College
Mumbai 400 001

Phones: (022) 22621366/ 1639/ 2877

Renu Balakrishnan: (0) 9821734779/ (022) 22151344

e-mail: xic@vsnl.com

Web site: www.xaviercomm.org




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Number of User Comments: 15




Sub: Writing sites

Many comments deal with not being able to participate in the Workshop as they (the commenters)are not in Bombay, and request correspondence courses (or that ...


Posted by Anil Siqueira





Sub: creative writing

The fourth tip that Lalwani quotes in the Tips for Aspiring Writers is: iv. Be honest. The most important quality one must have to be ...


Posted by Anil Siqueira





Sub: creative writing

I find this (Writing as a Career by Raj Lalwani Nov 02, 2005) interesting from varied points of view. In the article, Renu Balakrishnan is ...


Posted by Anil Siqueira





Sub: Technical writing

Hi, Can anyone let me know if there is any online or distant course for technical writing?


Posted by Malini





Sub: Courses through correspondence

I am living in the town where no such opportunities are available.So are there chances of taking some course through correspondence from the univ.s dealing ...


Posted by Shruti Prehar




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