Writing without an aim is like taking this winter picture of bare branches at random while strolling by. Is it essential to have an aim? I believe so. HERE ARE SOME DEFINITIONS of AIM:
Objective, object, goal, end, target, design, desire, desired result, intention, intent, plan, purpose, object of the exercise; ambition, aspiration, wish, dream, hope, raison d’être.
I ask myself, “Why do I write this little note daily? What is my aim?” My answer is, “I need the practice.” Blogging is an effective way to practice writing and keeping your brain working a bit. Reading and writing are still the more tested way of keeping a person’s brain cells exercising a bit and not falling into stupor for too long to the point of eventual incapacity. A point of no return. The more reluctance one feels the more one should try to write and read. One way of learning to write is to copy. Take your favorite book and start copying chapters. Make it a daily habit. Another way is to write a letter to a loved one. You may not get to post the letter but it does keep you going and building a habit. I just read of someone who actually hand writes to many people. Over the years many have received and even collected his handwritten letter and notes. Some frame them up. (You know who the person is as he is in the news right now.) I have not posted a physical letter for years. Even my email has been replaced by short social text or multimedia messages. But I find that the short messages do not take brainwork to compose. It is more like clicking at random and giving automatic pre-programmed short replies.
When I interview some persons I find that they have nothing to say. They are not even capable to think. They have nothing to say about themselves or others. Their minds do not store words. I note that they spend the bulk of the interview time messaging or reading messages on their mobile handheld phone including iPads, iPhones and other smart phones. I find it sad to look at them or think about their lives. Can a man or woman happily leave out a big part of what God has perfectly created and designed for them to have and enjoy? I often wonder. Please do not get me wrong. I am not judging the rightness or wrongness of a lifestyle. I am just lamenting the loss of quality of life that God has given so richly to each of us as human.
Writers ad poets like to dream that one day the whole earth will be filled with readers of books. I am one of such dreamers.
Writing memoir is like taking a magnifying spotlight and shine it on certain parts of one’s memories and blow them up for others to see.
It is hard to write a memoir for ourselves not to mention for others. Why? Because we cannot be truthful. Not that we do not want to but we cannot. Our memories tell us things that may not be true and we tend to select the more pleasant or the more politically correct parts and ignore the rest. We do not want to hurt ourselves or others. We put some window dressing like we put on makeup when we go out and do not want to be seen as too colorless. There are many reasons for not being truthful. I personally find it hard to write untruth which is why I do not write my own memoir. I write memoirs for others. They speak and I write. It is different from writing my own. However, even though the onus is on him or her to be truthful I still find it hard when I know it is not her or him at all, this nice person they try to portray. Does this mean I stop writing for them? My answer is no. As long as they put their own names as authors and be accountable for themselves.
I believe the readers know too. Many readers are their friends and relatives. Their colleagues, their bosses, their subordinates, their suppliers and consumers. People who have worked with them and for them. Their church friends and pastors. Their corporate organization and community too. Their husbands, wives and children. So how can anyone think or imagine or fool himself or herself by telling tall tales and believe that the tales will hold water?
When I interviewed someone who was a friend of someone else, I often heard another side of the story. Shall I put them into the book? A question hard to answer.
My advice to young writers and copywriters is be really careful and do research before you agree to write for someone. Always look behind the facade for credibility and integrity of the person concerned. The onus is on you to check before you commit to the writing assignment.
Too often I write without thinking of what I shall do with the written words. When the words come, perhaps even at midnight I just sit up and write. I am doing a book in another language at the same time but it is based on a book already formed and written in English so the translated work is only a partial writing as I add new information I have since uncovered in my research and interviews. For that book I know the target audience so it is not exactly like writing without a direction.
But when it comes to my thoughts in words at midnight I have no audience except myself. I read yesterday that the traditional publishers of physically printed books have to collaborate with providers of e-technology so that the books can be published online or in other multi-media forms. The increasing spectacular growth in online internet environment and mobile-phone and portable hand-held e-book reading gadgets trend warrants that the traditional publishers change drastically and involve themselves in strategic alliance with paperless technology professionals.
Whilst the technology gadgets are dazzling and convenient for the young users and perhaps readers of books, the contents of books still cannot be replaced by gadgets. Content counts. That is why we still write. There is still hope for a content writer.
This is often my own question too. When I decide to write something for someone I really care and even love, I do not know where to send the words of love. I hesitate because it is painful to think of another life where we might have had together and know that it is no longer possible now. Here are some random thoughts from Alice Munro, who looks at ordinary lives and put words to them.
“If I decided to send this to you, where would I send it? When I think of writing the whole address on the envelope I am paralyzed. It’s too painful to think of you in the same place with your life going on in the same way, minus me. And to think of you not there, you somewhere else but I don’t know where that is, is worse.”
― Alice Munro, The Love of a Good Woman
“Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind… When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”
― Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness
Few people, very few, have a treasure, and if you do you must hang onto it. You must not let yourself be waylaid, and have it taken from you.”
― Alice Munro, Runaway
“Love removes the world for you, and just as surely when it’s going well as when it’s going badly.”
― Alice Munro, The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
“They were all in their early thirties. An age at which it is sometimes hard to admit that what you are living is your life.”
― Alice Munro, The Moons of Jupiter
“She sits in her usual ample armchair, with piles of books and unopened magazines around her. She sips cautiously from the mug of weak herb tea which is now her substitute for coffee. At one time she thought that she could not live without coffee, but it turned out that it is really the warm large mug she wants in her hands, that is the aid to thought or whatever it is she practices through the procession of hours, or of days.”
― Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness
Alice Ann Munro, née Laidlaw, is a Canadian short-story writer who is widely considered one of the world’s premier fiction writers. Munro is a three-time winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Award for fiction. Her stories focus on human relationships looked at through the lens of daily life. She has thus been referred to as “the Canadian Chekhov.”
She is the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.
For those who aspire to write or want to improve their writing, many schools offer free online courses and materials through OpenCourseWare (OCW) projects. While formal admission isn’t necessary to access lectures and other materials, these courses don’t usually award college credit. Students looking for the same ease of access and the opportunity to apply their study time towards a degree or certificate program might want to consider courses that can lead to an alternative form of credit.
Free Online Non-Credited Writing Courses
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Writing and Reading the Essay
Writing and Reading Short Stories
Through MIT’s OCW program, students can download a variety of undergraduate and graduate-level course materials that cover topics in, among others, essay, expository and technical writing. Course activities and formats include assignments, exams, lecture notes and video presentations.Writing and Reading the Essay focuses on the essay as a popular literary genre. The syllabus indicates two essay anthologies as course texts, which can be purchased online. Course activities include a reader’s journal and a series of personal writing assignments.The course in Writing and Reading Short Stories offers students the opportunity to study character development, plotting and point of view. Featured authors include, among others, Flannery O’Connor, Alice Walker, William Faulkner and John Updike.
New Jersey Institute of Technology
The New Jersey Institute of Technology is a scientific and technological university that offers OCW courses and materials. The Technical Writing course is geared toward the advanced writer. In this course, which consists of about 40 video-taped lectures, students apply theory to analyze and solve complex communication problems. Course topics include audience awareness, document design, ethics, gender equity and rhetorical theory.
Start Writing Fiction
Writing What You Know
The Open University is the largest educational establishment in the United Kingdom, as well as the country’s only distance-learning school. The university’s free online classes may not provide access to the same resources used by formally enrolled students, but course formats might include Web- and print-based content as well as the ability to interact with other students through a comments feature.Start Writing Fiction is a 12-hour, introductory course that can provide students with the inspiration and tools they need to put their words on paper. The course emphasis is on developing character and settings within a variety of fiction genres. Writing What You Know is designed to help students improve their descriptive writing skills. This 8-hour, introductory class encourages students to view their everyday lives from a new perspective, demonstrating how an author’s personal life can serve as a source of inspiration.
Professional and Technical Writing
The Writing Process
Through Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), students and teachers around the world can enjoy 24-hour access to a variety of Web-based resources, including handouts, podcasts and PowerPoint presentations. These include topics in grammar and mechanics, professional and technical writing, English as a Second Language (ESL), research and writing style. Professional and Technical Writing provides a list of varied Web-based resources that can show students and professionals how to research and write business letters, memos and other office-related documents. Topics include audience analysis, parallel structures and writing tone. Additional technical writing resources include information on how to write scientific abstracts and white papers. The Writing Process includes a list of mostly text-based resources and exercises that cover everything from overcoming writer’s block to proofreading strategies. Additional topics include pre-writing, thesis statements, outlining and audience analysis, which can be applied to a wide variety of writing tasks.
University of College Falmouth
Introduction to Novel Writing
Writing for Children
The University College Falmouth is a specialized art institution based in the United Kingdom. The non-credit classes offered through the school’s ‘openSpace’ project allow students to work at their own level and pace but don’t provide all the materials from the original course. Although registration isn’t required to access assignments, lectures and other materials, registered students may be able to participate in online chats and peer reviews. Introduction to Novel Writing was designed to provide graduate-level students with the structural skills to organize and develop extended pieces of creative writing. In addition to writing assignments and suggested readings, open course materials include YouTube videos by Joyce Carol Oates, Salmon Rushdie and Amy Tan. Writing for Children introduces students to the genres and styles integral to the market and helps them find the right age group for their story. Open course materials include assignments, background reading, examples of children’s books and an online lecture.
University of Iowa
How to Find the Short Story Within Your Novel
The Writing University is a Web-based resource for the school’s literary and writing community, providing direct access to a number of free audio presentations. Recent podcasts have included presentations on the sentence, creative nonfiction and experiential writing. Flash Fiction introduces students to the concept of the super-short story and its emergence as a mainstream literary trend. Listeners can learn how brief experiences or even a life story can be condensed to a paragraph or a couple of written lines.How to Find the Short Story Within Your Novel helps listeners identify the dissimilarities between these two literary forms. Students learn how to extract a quality excerpt from a longer piece of prose and how first-time authors can prepare their work for publication.
University of Massachusetts at Boston
Critical Reading and Writing
Critical Reading and Writing, with some course materials available through the school’s OCW project, is designed to help students achieve college-level reading and writing skills through a critical exploration of U.S. foreign policy. Students have access to the course syllabus, an assignment list and website. Through the course site, students can open and download text documents and PowerPoint presentations on topics like critical analysis strategies, brainstorming and building concepts, as well documents and links to online resources on foreign policy issues.
University of Michigan
Principles of Research and Problem Solving
This university participates as a member of the OpenCourseWare Consortium by providing free access to educational materials and course content through its Open.Michigan website. Principles of Research and Problem Solving is a course directed toward graduate students in pharmacy school. In this class, students develop scientific writing skills as they develop research proposals. OCW materials include ten PowerPoint lecture presentations, handouts and examples of student projects, as well as a syllabus and reading list.
Utah State University (USU)
Intermediate Writing: Research Writing in a Persuasive Mode
Introduction to Writing: Academic Prose
Utah State offers OCW materials in several academic departments. Students may be able to apply the knowledge gained from use of these open materials to pass exams to earn credit. USU may give credit to students who pass subject tests offered by individual departments, the International Baccalaureate Organization or CLEP exams, among other options.Intermediate Writing provides access to 16 weekly lessons, with links to readings and related writing assignments. Students learn how to engage in various components of the writing process while developing critical reading and thinking skills. Topics include writing about controversial topics, argumentation styles, source documentation and how to use multimedia resources. Introduction to Writing: Academic Prose is an online complement to a graduate-level course. The course materials are presented in a similar 16-week format, with links to several online readings and assignment descriptions. The syllabus begins with assignments related to debate and dialogue, cultural myths and visual literacy. Additional writing activities include a family narrative, a school board project and a media analysis.