6 things that writers can learn from sparrowhawks

I am at peace being a writer. I have been in the business for 12 years. In hindsight, I wish I had picked another profession, preferably in wildlife conservation or goat-farming. I can’t complain though. It’s akin to choosing a mode of commutation. I would rather fly from one place to another. But I can’t fret over having to walk briskly until I grow a pair of wings.

From start to now, writing outside the realm of my career has been a more satisfying experience. Any writer will tell you that. However, getting paid to generate content is a crucial part of the journey. It exposes inabilities and then builds confidence. The secret was also out years ago that successful brands are eager to hire the really good ones. Hence it’s important for aspiring writers to learn the art of powerful storytelling, without googling for synonyms.

Hemingway said, “A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl”. But when you are starting out – you won’t have the time for the level of introspection needed to create purposeful content. You must approach it like a hawk does its prey, and as times goes by – its babies. Razor-sharp focus and regular practice should first be your trusted mentors.

Whenever I have spotted a Shikra (an Indian sparrowhawk), it always appeared to be busy. It’s either eyeing garden lizards or driving invasive neighbours away from its perch. It seems to have no hesitation in staying committed to its natural instincts.

Shikra, Kelambakkam

Similarly, you can’t take baby steps in writing. It will suck you dry. Sap you of every bit of energy you can muster up. But it can also make life more digestible; silver linings – more apparent. It can turn sadness into poignancy, and happiness into positive energy. Things that you can put out there for people to ponder over or feel good about.

One of my favorite things to do at work is to mentor a team of writers. I am happy that it is a part of my job. It is challenging because no matter the industry – expectations in content writing are based on evolving trends. They can distract you from your overall goals. Given that gaining access to practical knowledge has turned into a game of Chinese whispers, it isn’t easy to offer professional advice. I hope I soon find the time to write about content marketing too.

For now, I have a few tips for fellow writers to sharpen their talons.

If you are at a loss for words, don’t write. If you are speechless, go for it. The copy isn’t a good listener. Your readers are. If you are in emotional state, be it – despair, rage or ecstasy, keep away from the laptop. Put the notebook away. Toss the paper napkin into the bin. Don’t worry about losing momentum. It will come to you, in portions that matter, when you feel calmer.

Treat anything you write about with sanctity, irrespective of the medium or the audience. Don’t use emoticons. Stop with all those exclamation and question marks. You have words at your disposal. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. It’s like an artist painting an arrow-mark on a particular area of the canvas and next to it – a smiley face. Typos can mysteriously creep in, but to the best of your abilities – do away with them.

Shikra, Perungudi

Write to put clear and concise ideas into people’s heads. Not to get random stuff out of yours. For instance, you can be honest about what you think without delving deep into who you are. Writing isn’t about communicating your feelings. It’s about understanding them. Don’t spill out your emotions, let them gently leak out.

You can write anywhere. Inside a dingy bathroom at a highway motel. Or on a lawn chair – facing a sparkling river, with giant hills lording the ground below. There is no right environment. Only the right frame of mind. You can also never be too busy or tired to write. Those are silly excuses. Laziness is a writer’s only true curse. Write often, and with purpose. Make mistakes, and learn from them – without feeling crushed by lethargy.

Phrase things as they are instead of what you want them to be – it just makes for more insightful reading. Plus, banal adjectives can diminish content. Save the over-the-top sentiments for personal diaries. Ask yourself – was the weather in fact “amazing”? Is watching television ever an “awe-inspiring” experience? Were you really “heart-broken”? Or were you just “sad”?

Brevity of content isn’t just the soul of wit. It’s also a reactive suggestion given by every writing blog. Take it with a pinch of salt though. Shorter sentences and paragraphs are more consumable as digital content. It has to do the average reader’s attention deficit disorder. Not always the quality of communication. Keep it short if you want it to be more shareable across social media . You don’t have to KISS every time you want to express yourself.

Happy writing, and good luck spotting a bloody hawk or owl in your hometown.

Shikra, Perungudi

(Photographs: Chennai, Kanchipuram, Gudular, Thekkady)

Let’s talk content on LinkedIn

Advertisements

22 comments

  1. All useful reminders. Be the sparrowhawk! On a separate but sort of related topic, I’ve discovered a new kind of writer’s block – an abundance of ideas which really amounts to a lack of focus I think. How to narrow down what you want to write about when your head is buzzing with ideas. But, hey, I’m not complaining. (Note: I didn’t put an exclamation mark there even though I desperately wanted to.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Susanne!

      Having one’s head abuzz with brave new possibilities can’t be all that bad, can it? Unless they were caused by nanobots. Those theiving fiends. Maybe it’s a good idea to jot down pointers, for exclamation, in the future (just shoot me now).

      Happy writing, Susanne! (Just one please)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve written and taught writing all my professional life. I’ve often thought that the accessibility of just plain bad writing on the Internet has done us all great harm. But then I come upon something like this, and my hope is restored. I just wish people realized how much precise writing or its opposite can influence thinking. Current affairs in the U.S. Clearly demonstrate that we’re in trouble that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel humbled that you think that way about this piece, Jane. Thank you.

      I read recently that comedian Louis CK uses a Desktop that is perennially offline to add structure to his writing. Perhaps old school is the new (new) school.

      As for recent politics, it’s the same here too, dear friend. A bunch of frightening hullabaloo.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice one there Christy . Your article was very enlightening to me. Perhaps owing to the fact that I’m new to blogging and have been thinking of a perfect way to post my first blog. And I do hope these sparrowhawks will help me improve . I will keep in touch

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I just recently started writing. If no one reads it it is not my loss. If they do good. One day I will do as you say. For now I will write and post using my seven inch Samsung tablet until a laptop is affordable. What you have published and shared is good stuff to put into practice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Birds and better worlds? Wildness and writing? Words of wisdom, humbly offered, signposts on the seeker’s path? Lessons from the natural world flying in our faces. There is comfort in the knowing that others are climbing the same mountain, their journeys unseen but not unfelt.

    Write on!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I wait for your new posts Christy. Words, wit and wisdom, you have a way with them. I am a baby to the blogging world, how I wish i could say babe! (sorry couldn’t resist) Just 5 months in, stealing time between work, life and two boys to write. Baby that I am, it didn’t strike me to read About You on your blog to know more. I did today, after this post, and so much finally made sense. So happy to know that you are a professional writer, creative consultant and such. Would’ve been a waste of your talent and a loss for the rest of us if you wrote only when you could. I went for a Writers Retreat recently and much of your post brought it back. I had a smile on my face as I was reading ,walking to the gym (made the workout that much easier today (wink) since emoticons are ruled out. Sorry for the rather long comment, but just wanted to say that I am thrilled you stopped by at my blog earlier. It gives me validation to keep at it. But more importantly, I might not have discovered your’s sooner and missed all my ‘smiling as I am reading’ moments. Loved the post, like the rest of ’em.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry for long comment? Are you kidding me? You gave me a severe case of the jollies!

      Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts with me. I am humbled and pleasantly surprised that I can even begin to inspire (if I may boldly use that word) you to write more. It’s really one of the reasons that I write – in hope of inspiring others. The other being that I don’t like doing anything else, besides birding, as much. What I do love is interacting with readers, and this is one of those moments that make me feel all tomato-red with happiness.

      Thanks again, S. Can’t wait to haunt your space again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Being inspired is, sharing this post frantically with all blogger, writer friends. I just did. Oh c’mon I so want to use a smiley with flushed cheeks now. Damn you writing rules. Looking forward to the next post Christy.

        Liked by 1 person

Tell me about it

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s