Why does anyone write?
It’s not only authors and journalists who write. Every one of us write to communicate in our daily lives, especially at the workplace. It need not be as nerve wrecking as it is generally, if one starts early.
Rahul stares at the screen, wondering how to begin. He needs to tell his teacher about an idea that he has for a project, via WhatsApp. His message needs to be formal and hence is very different from a casual message that he would write to a friend. The text needs to be concise and convey clearly all that he wants to say. To get approval to pursue his project idea, his message must deliver on creating the desired impact. Fast forward, he is going to find himself in innumerable situations as this one. Without guidance and feedback, his nervousness is never going to cease.
Writing at school typically happens under the “creative writing” banner. Observe closely, there would be an example discussed in class and later the students would go straight to an exam to write a write up under the “creative writing” section. Worse, they would get scores and perhaps a few red marks and at best a super short note that either reads, “good” or “can do better”. How does one work with feedback such as that? How does one figure out how to do better? Ask the teacher?
Teachers work extremely hard to make sure their students get all the guidance they deserve. Unfortunately, their work loads are heavy and nearly full to accommodate time and space for regular written assignments and constructive feedback.
What does writing in the real world mean?
Writing in the real world means communicating with real people. People are not reading in real time in most cases. A note or an email or a text or a document, name it, if not well written is going to make the reader lose interest and not pay attention. It is not about grades or red marks but about getting the reader’s attention and making the reader want to read what the writer is wanting to convey.
How does one communicate clearly while writing?
The answer is simple. Developing a writing system-Write, leave it aside for awhile, look at the write up from a reader’s perspective by reading it aloud and edit until satisfied. Share to receive feedback as many times as possible.
Unfortunately, writing is considered as a chore by many children perhaps because of the emphasis on writing to copy something through out school. Writing to express themselves is something that’s not really in vogue although that’s an important life skill.
What could be a way to fix it?
Trying to answer that question led to the first batch for the 12–14 age group- The Young Executives Club. Having worked with this age group over the last 9 months, I have come to realize how much of an impact writing regularly can have on these wonderful children who have so much to contribute to this world. Given the opportunity to express themselves sans any judgement and with the objective of enabling them to recognize their own potential and over time move to the next level, they have been able to bring out the best in them in writing.
How did that happen?
Every week, they get a copy of what they chose to call as writing allocations. Typically, they have three different options to choose from and write whatever comes to their mind. They get a week to think about the options and write freely. Detailed feedback from the reader’s perspective in terms of the message that the write up conveys, the gaps that make it difficult to understand the context and suggestions to take it to the next level, is sent every time they send their writing.
What difference does it make?
It helps to re enforce that writing is a means to communicate something to a reader and find out if the reader is getting the intended message. As an added bonus, for many of the young executives, it is now a habit. They write something every week. It can be a small para or a complete article based on the time and patience they have in any particular week.
Writing to express, writing to unwind
Writing can be cathartic if there is no pressure of any sort. This forms the basis of the course and in tune with that axiom, there is no word limit given. Word limit is definitely important but only after the writing is done and it is ready to be edited. Paying attention to word limit when one sits down to write, kills the thinking process thus interfering with self-expression.
Diverse writing prompts are given each week to enable the young executives to ponder, attempt new subjects and simply allow themselves to freely explore a variety of writing forms. We have tried expanding our horizons by writing instructions for a favorite video game or perhaps instructions to play an original video game, writing out plans to renovate a dingy book store to something a lot more attractive, write recipes, create sci-fi stories based on picture prompts, opinion pieces on current issues, the list goes on. All of these have a purpose-a means of self expression inspired by a writing prompt and a need to convey something of importance to the reader.
If this approach to writing appeals to you, a new batch of The Young Executives Club begins on the 6th of January 2021.This is open to children living in India and is designed for the 12–14 age group. Your location does not matter as sessions are on Zoom. Apart from writing, there are plenty of opportunities to express oneself in group discussions, team work activities, presentations etc., when we meet, which is twice a week. Have questions? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org