Becoming a writer may seem difficult, but it is more a matter of posture. To be an essay writer is to know how to use the senses, to observe what is around clearly.
Much is said about the techniques of writing, there are courses and more courses in creative writing, professional writing, persuasive writing, how to write scripts. It’s all valid, writing is a talent that can be greatly expanded with practice.
Look like a detective
To be an essay writer you have to look. Observe what’s around, record how people behave. Notice the details of clothes, gestures, reactions that I compare to Sherlock Holmes’ way of looking.
Not only me, in fact, but there are also already whole books dedicated to the art of observing the world with attention, like Insight, by Maria Konnikova.
Writers notice what is weird, a little (or a lot) different, in the various attitudes that make up a way of being. We live in a world of inattentive, and looking at what exists, then telling how we understand what we observe, is writing!
Often the well-placed detail is what convinces readers when telling a story. It is not the generic, the abstract, but the unexpected and completely convincing detail. The description is so accurate that the text becomes a movie scene, the letters tremble with the bandit’s breath.
I am sure that to build this scene, the author was mesmerized by observing someone who liked to stack letters. Furthermore, he noticed that the movements and care involved in making card castles have a somewhat manic component, which matches the head of a controlling bandit like his character.
Being a writer, therefore, has a lot of imagination, but planted in the soil of careful observation of people (and animals, plants, machines), a great curiosity to see how things happen around.
The observation is also valid for those who want to write a biography, since a person’s life is interesting only if shown in vivid, revealing scenes. Even professional book writer need that look since you can only teach or explain something if you first understand what people need, what they want.
The writer’s eye may well turn inward. Many writers dive into themselves to later tell stories – or weave reflections. Only, to work, this vision needs to be clear and revealing, even with an X-ray. The author who tells the story of himself without adding anything unexpected or unusual or provocative is not very funny.
Listening like an anthropologist
To be an essay writer you have to listen.
Even more so today, in which so many works resort to dialogues to set examples and streamline the plot, each character’s way of speaking needs to be very characteristic and convince those who read.
Writers notice how people speak, the expressions they like to use, the way words can be shouted or whispered or mumbled. Writers have fun imagining what life is like for someone who says a different phrase in a mall, what the story is about the person who has an accent, how the sound of the name matches (or not) the face.
To be an essay writer is to listen carefully. Besides, cultivating this habit has the additional advantage of making people talk more about themselves, tell their stories, providing material for their imagination.
Have a diver’s intuition
To be an essay writer you have to dive. What others say. In what they don’t say. The reason they do things or fail to do them, in their emotions.
Divers are restless people, who are not content to live like the rest of us, on land. Not only do they get into the water, but they also insist on going deep in it, to see different, beautiful, scary landscapes.
Being an essay writer is having the ability to do something like that, to intuit what are the fears, the desires, what moves people. This deeper understanding gives rise to stories that resonate, that have relevance because readers feel that a very real, and often hidden part of them is there.
We may have a very intelligent head, but that is not what makes us good writers. Intelligence helps, but the understanding of what moves each person – and each person is a different universe, full of brightness and shadows – is what gives a piece of work. And the way to get there is to follow your intuition.
I always suggest that reading is the best class to become a writer. When reading other authors, we can experience different ways of seeing the world.