Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press) has come up with some top tips for aspiring writers looking to improve their craft or pick up a new hobby while practicing social distancing at home to stop the spread of COVID-19
“We’ve seen a steady increase in submissions over the past few weeks which tells us that people are prioritizing writing during their time in confinement,” said Ghenwa Yehia-Malaeb, Content Development Specialist at HBKU Press. “Literacy – both reading and writing – are important tools that help develop our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. By providing these tips, we hope to encourage the wider public to continue to invest in their own potential and to develop a very useful skill.”
Souha Abou Chakra, Senior Editor at HBKU Press and a writer herself, understands the very personal experience that writing can be.
“Writing can be a cathartic experience,” said Abou Chakra. “People may find themselves putting pen to paper in an effort to navigate their thoughts and feelings during this difficult time. It can be a great release.
“It’s also a great way to let your imagination run wild – to create a fictional world that allows your mind to take a break from some of the harsh realities we are facing.”
Through her personal experience as a writer and editor, Abou Chakra notes that there are several key factors that encourage successful writing.
Be prepared: You never know when inspiration may hit, so always have something close by with which to record your thoughts. Whether it’s a pen and some paper on your nightstand, or a notes application on your phone, be ready to jot down ideas as they come. Some of the best stories are inspired by our everyday lives.
Find/Make the time: Dedicated writers commit to nurturing their craft. Whether it is 10 minutes in the morning writing in a journal while everyone is asleep or dedicating one hour each day to writing, you need to find time to sit down and just do it. This may be harder now in confinement at home; writing in peace may be a luxury that not everyone has. But, if you can’t find the time, make it. Put down your phone for ten minutes, ignore the urge to watch “just one more show” in the series you’ve been binge-watching and write out one sentence – just one – to get your creative juices flowing.
Find your voice: Reading is the best way to become a better writer. Note how other successful authors use language and techniques to develop plot and characters. Then think critically about how you would re-write some of your favorite passages to reflect your own style. It’s true that the saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” but, as award-winning author Meg Rosoff stated, “Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.”
Write endlessly/ edit mercilessly: When you’re in the process of writing, don’t worry about anything other than getting your ideas out. Forget the rules, forget convention, just write, write, write! Get that first draft out of your head. Then, edit without mercy when it comes to the second draft – take out anything that doesn’t add to the piece, that doesn’t move the plot forward, or develop the characters further. Best-selling American author Neil Gaimon described this process best when he said you should: “Write down everything that happens in the story [in the first draft], and then in your second draft make it look like you knew what you were doing all along.”
Rest: Writer’s block is real. Mental fatigue, especially now, is something we’re all feeling. Sometimes the words simply stop flowing. It’s OK to stop, rest, and recharge. Step away from the piece you’re writing and take time to get some clarity and perspective. The best writing are pieces produced from passion and love for the craft. So if writing becomes a chore, it’s time to take a break. Come back to it when you are ready.
“This is a great time to be innovative and start thinking about writing as something more than a hobby,” Abou Chakra concluded. “And if you’re not ready to work on a novel, anything from a poem to a personal essay is a great place to start.”
Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press has also opened a global call for submissions for any literary and/or artistic works inspired by life in confinement due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and personal changes that have occurred as a result of the world in crisis.
Reflective pieces are being accepted until May 6, 2020 in Arabic, English and French. For more details on the requirements and terms and conditions, interested participants are welcome to visit this website where you will find the application form and more details about the submission process.