THE ART OF THE COLUMN
To be brutally honest, I have no idea how one writes the so-called great column. All I do is unburden stuff off my chest, on issues that piss me off of the most, and having done so, move on to more interesting things in life… like watch a movie, go for a drink with friends, or just have some good sex.
And this isn’t about being pompously humble, there seriously is no planned art or science behind what I write, have never even tried to analyse what works.
What I can share with you guys is things that I have learnt along the way, things that I have picked up in the course of writing for the past six or seven years. You may or may not agree with them, these are my own little learnings… so take them or leave them.
1. Always have a clear point of view on issues. Readers hate columnists who don’t take a stand.
2. Evolve a writing style of your own… that helps ‘brand’ your column… it makes it distinctive from the rest. Being an ad man, this comes to me naturally.
3. Never be predictable, always surprise the reader… either in the way you express yourself, or in what you say. Another good lesson from the world of advertising.
4. Entertain the reader, don’t just tell him things… use a lot of humour. People make friends with interesting people, not bores.
5. Never preach to people, simply share ideas and opinions. If I want sermons, I’ll visit the church, thank you very much.
6. Always write for yourself, never for the readers. Makes the writing more honest and informal.
7. Write from the heart… when you come clean with people, you bond with them that much harder.
8. Get your facts right… never write without adequate research and back-checks. I never carry facts, figures and quotes without verifying them a hundred times over. No kidding.
9. And if you goof-up, admit it upfront in your next column… your readers will respect you for it.
10. Spend as much time crafting a column as writing it. Words have a life of their own… just replacing a word here and there often makes a difference in terms of impact.
11. Use simple language, never try to impress your readers with fancy vocabulary. The best way to lose readers is to play smart with them.
12. You can’t write without getting the right inputs. Be a sponge, take in as much of the world as you can… TV soaps, football matches, truck rides, shopping malls, slums, brothels, budget speeches… you have to live the world in order to be able to write about it.
13. Never be scared of speaking your mind. If fear gets the better of you, don’t be a columnist. There are thousands of other professions to choose from.