'If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead;
Either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.'
To be a published writer is one of the most rewarding occupations or pastimes ' both financially and creatively. It is an activity for which there is a lot of demand. A writer desires for recognition, prestige, success, self-esteem, satisfaction and financial rewards or returns. We have come a long way from the times when our society developed 'language', followed by 'writing. After that, came 'books' and with them the society came to store the thoughts and writings of people. A love of words and literature is a good start for writing as it is this emotional quality in a person, which forms the writer's stock-in-trade. There has to be some motivation to write and what better motivation than this.
Unfortunately, many writers in developing nations hardly have any potential opportunities to hit the international market. There are so many restrictions and limitations, which they face. Their talent may remain suppressed or latent. For instance, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has produced talented writers but very few achieved international acclaim. It would not be wrong to admit the fact that we have not been able to produce writers of international standards. We have produced ordinary writers but not extraordinary ones. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little 'extra'! There are numerous reasons and limitations that have led us to lag behind our international counterparts. We need to ponder over these with a view to understand them and try to overcome them.
English language is a force of enlightenment and plays a vital role in international society. The people who read, write, and speak English determine the level of discourse and issues. It also sets the style and social values. Whether one likes it or not, the fact is that English has emerged as the international language. There are people who consider English language as a symbol of British imperialism. We view the dominance of this language as a legacy of India's colonial past. Our national and regional languages have not evolved to serve present-day needs. It will not be wrong to assert that if Urdu and Kashmiri languages have not been able to achieve wider acceptance, the fault lies primarily with us. Our languages are stagnating through gradual disuse. There was a period of progressive and modernistic movements. The rivalry between these two corrupted the literary atmosphere with the passage of time. This quarrel substituted for creative work. Some writers are in a haste to get them published and popularized. Gradually, the vernacular languages were denigrated as inferior linguistic material. We do not have monolingual dictionaries for professions like engineering, medicine, agriculture, commerce, or science, so that the speakers of a particular language community could participate in all literary activities. This in itself is a drawback.
Despite spending a huge amount on education annually, our society cannot boast of a well- established and high-standard educational system. To upgrade the system, government and academicians have to emphasize on English language. We have obsolete books available here. Books should be able to equip a modern student with the tools needed in the contemporary times. Proper educational foundation has to be laid in pupils in order to develop correct language patterns, grammar, vocabulary, speech habits and pronunciation. This is important to master the English language in order to master the writing field. It is very important for students to consult dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and thesaurus.
There are no formal training schools or institutions here that would enable a person to pursue writing as a profession or a career. There are no means to acquire the expertise that all successful writers need. Writers need not only be born; they can also be made. Writing is an artistic and a creative skill, which, like other skills, can be learnt and developed with proper instruction, guidance and practice. Expert tuition and technical know-how is needed in order to develop your writing skills. Awareness is required about copyrights, country serial rights, libel, literary agents, publishers, editors, etc.
The essence of writing comes from certain qualities. An important aspect of quality writing is simplicity of thought and expression. Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple-that's creativity. Ghalib had the habit of writing highly Persianized Urdu, having a difficult style. Later he abandoned this style and started to write simpler and easy verses. Those who have an ambition to add their literary works to the already existing literary world ought to be keen and regular readers. However, this is usually not the case in Kashmir. This is a pity as reading and writing should go together for it improves one's vision, vocabulary, grammar, writing techniques, spelling, and knowledge. A writer should have certain personal qualities in order to be a successful writer. They include perseverance, determination, commitment, organization, patience, resilience, and confidence. Correct expression and style is also needed. Nicolas Rose said:
'Keep the sword small and blunt, and the pen extremely sharp.'
A major problem faced by our writers is that we do not have a sound or potential market in the Valley. Print media in Kashmir started in 1856 while foundation stone of journalism was laid in 1935. This was quite late as compared to other places. There are about more than 50,000 magazines and newspapers published worldwide just in English language. The major English language markets are in USA, Great Britain, Singapore, Canada, Australia, and such. There are thousands of fiction and non-fiction books published in a year. Abroad, the potential market includes radio, television, and theatre-, which accept video, and stage plays series, sitcoms, or features. Radio offers many opportunities such as dramas, talk shows, documentaries, short story competitions, etc. The BBC London offers excellent opportunities for new writers. Many established writers have found their first opening there. However, the standard is very high. TV is a vast and growing market. However, there is no desperate need for new writers there. The risks are high and hence they don't experiment with writers new to the media. Theatre, especially local amateur theatre, offers great opportunities for writers. Their own writers cater North American market, to a large extent. Literary Awards and Prizes are an outlet for short fiction. Usually, in foreign countries a regional arts association advises budding writers about various competitions. However, all these outlets are not available to us. Even if a few of these markets are available to us, our standard is very low. There is a restricted market in Kashmir and even in India.
One of the biggest problems all new writers face is where and how to sell their written works. The important requirement in the field of writing is information research. Outside Kashmir, technological advances enable the writers to communicate with and access vast databases and scholars globally. Most new encyclopaedias and references are produced electronically on CD-ROM and microfiche. Many copyright libraries, record offices, public libraries, writers clubs and circles, writers' guild, archives centres, newsagents, publicity and press offices, syndicates, etc are available. Writers can sell their work throughout the world through press agencies and syndicates. These bodies sell the literary works to publications overseas, receiving a fee from each publication. A percentage of it is paid to the writer in the form of one-off payment or royalty. Unfortunately, no such system exists here. Such facilities are deprived to us.
Every writer has a different story of how they broke into writing. Some have a media family background, some go to the best writing schools or colleges, some work for the media world, some have influence or power to commission, some know professional critics, etc. Few of the writers are blessed with such backgrounds and hence have to struggle to break in. There are many talented people who have never had the opportunity to develop their abilities. Kashmiris are among such people. The right opportunity, encouragement, disciplined development program and environment is not available to them to exploit their writing potential.
To achieve international success in this field you need six important things:
In order to encourage writers to produce literary work of international standard, the government as well as academicians, print media and voluntary organizations have to play a constructive part. Efforts are to be made to promote literary talent in the valley by providing the necessary platform and opportunities to the budding writers. Writers clubs and associations of a good standard can be established. From the writers' viewpoint, there is a need is to discover oneself. Take courses. Meet other writers. Write anything-articles, novels, stories, plays, scripts, poems, fillers, etc. Concentrate on your best. Learn about that market. Learn about the business. Expose yourself to editors and publishers. Look for opportunities. Give your best. The rest is upto the Almighty! We should remember that
'The great are great only because we are on our knees.
Let us rise.'