Writing for the right reasons

Originally written Gulf News ‘Off the Cuff’ http://gulfnews.com/opinion/thinkers/writing-for-the-right-reasons-1.1481146

Published: 21:03 March 28, 2015

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If I were to pick a single reason as to why I worked extra hard in essay writing class back in school, I wouldn’t be able to. Maybe it was the fact that writing was pretty much the only thing I could do well in in school without extra help, or perhaps it was the fact that my teacher inspired me. It could even be the simple reason that every week, my marks were put on the soft board because I had topped — again.

Writing had always been a hobby. Sometimes I scribbled into my diary late into the night because life was unfair, and at times I couldn’t stop writing because life inspired me. I wanted to write my heart out. And like all those who are in the creative field, I desperately wanted to be out there. More than anything I wanted to be read.

Validation came a few years later when I was 19, and one editor back home in Pakistan finally published me. The byline. Oh God, the byline. My name in print. And under it were my words neatly paragraphed in black and white, out there for everyone to see! One thing led to another, and when the wonderful editor at Gulf News agreed to read my work, I couldn’t stop smiling for days.

Liberating experience

I remember not being able to sleep at night because I knew the paper would carry my article the following day, and I remember pouncing on the paper early next morning when the delivery guy left it at the door, opening it at the right section and almost dancing in excitement at finding myself inside. It’s been nine years since I wrote my first column for this section and I can’t help but marvel at how greatly my motivation has changed over the years.

From the hopeful writer eagerly seeking substantiation and recognition from the world, I have matured into a woman who realises just how much power the written word can have. Writing can be painfully narcissistic and self-centred if it is not done with the right intentions. When you’re only writing for likes and comments, the absence of those — as will often happen — can punch a hole through your heart. But when you write for the right reasons, it becomes a whole new liberating experience.

I’m not sure when the byline thrill was replaced by a deep sense of social responsibility, a realisation that I needed to make a meaningful contribution no matter how minuscule it may be. From the careless blogger who put up anything online and revelled with every like, comment and share, I’ve changed into someone who thinks long and hard before publishing anything even on my free online blog.

How many times does it happen that you read about something in the paper or online and begin thinking differently about it? I for one have often come across an article on a certain topic and altered my thinking and actions according to it. We don’t realise it, but anything that gets ‘published’ whether online or in print can have a great impact on people.

Sense of accountability

As a writer, that just doubles the sense of accountability you feel. You don’t want to let your readers down; you want to write something useful and/or profound. As the years go by, you also begin to wonder what your children would think if they read your work. My older one is a voracious reader and devours just about anything she can get her hands on. One day I might not be around anymore, but thanks to the web, my work will be. Would the girls read it after I’m gone and think I messed up? Or that I said something I shouldn’t have? And if I have nearly 800 words at my disposal, do I not have an unspoken trust to use that space to the best of my ability, and write something that brings about a change for the better? Sure, I can’t change the world with my writing, but every drop in the ocean counts, right?

With these powerful emotions rampaging around in my brain, the flair and ease of old times deserts me. That, dear readers, would explain my absence from this column for the past few months. For someone who thrives on writing like fish thrive on water, the experience has been extremely frustrating but it has certainly helped me refresh my intentions. And as I sign off after having written this with some kind of flow, dare I hope the flair is back?

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