The magic of muscle memory
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the formidable Geeteara Safiya Choudhury who recalled her Karachi days as a young feature journalist, where, during her lunch breaks she would listen to agency girls discussing pitches and write up copy for 'fun'. It turned out to be so much fun for her, she went on to found one of the country's largest advertising agencies.
The magazine I currently work for is still in its baby startup stage, with a tiny staff and a miniscule roster of freelance writers. This means I'm frequently called in to fill in page gaps and take 'emergency' interviews at only a few hours' notice. I've seen my husband Abak, a seasoned editorial writer, take a pitch and schlep out a polished piece in as little as an hour. And then there are some Sehri Tales veterans, who by now, can pump out mind-boggling tales within minutes of receiving the prompt.
This never ceases to amaze newcomers or non-professionals in the field, this ability for instant writing. Interestingly, while talent might determine the quality of the writing, and many of our Talers have these in buckets, the basic skill is actually a result of something more mundane: consistent practice.
That's right. Just like any skill in any field, technical or creative, writing is a muscle that gets stronger with consistent use. Just like jogging or lifting weights will gradually result in better muscle tone and fitness, so will reading and writing consistently, build on your writing skills.
I've seen it in myself, during the course of my first year of Sehri Tales, and all the subsequent years of repeating the challenge. Whether it's poetry or prose, or creative non-fiction, I grow in confidence and flow after a month of doing it every night. I've seen it in Talers who are just starting out–with time, they are able to hit the word limits, produce more coherent stories and every year we add a new regular to our ranks. And, as I've mentioned in previous entries to this column, once you've built that muscle, you can put it to a variety of uses.
So keep reading, keep writing, and stay hydrated (you knew this was coming), and you'll find yourself getting faster, more articulate, and more confident before you even realise what's happening.
Sabrina Fatma Ahmad is a writer, journalist, and the founder of Sehri Tales.