It’s not the content, it’s your passion for the words that counts.

There are seven ways to succeed but only two ways to fail. You could fail and bend your willpower to having a failure skirt at least the outer limits of greatness. You can pivot your failure and turn it into a limitless success, disrupt the normal order of business, and turn failure into an opportunity to become something you never set out to be, motivational guru for instance — or life-hack coach.

Failing but turning failure into burning ambition sets the motivational gurus apart from those who failed, and couldn’t come up with anything to make their failures count. So if you fail once, take one humanizing step towards loving your failure, and making something worthwhile out of it.


‘Process’ kills creativity, but there is a way out of jail

As for failure in writing, the desire for creativity dies when most of our time is spent grappling with some task that’s at odds with our passion for the written form. Process, deadlines, these are all our enemies.

But if we minimize such drudgery and put our minds to a salve that keeps us focussed on a writing career, the love of writing, we can unlock the potential hidden among the clutter of the tasks distracting us.

I remember when my first article appeared in print. Seeing it, I was smitten by the power of written English. I felt being catapulted instantly from nobody to somebody, and I was all of six years old. I turned from the kid who regularly terrorized neighbors into underage-achiever, but the love for the language changed me and channeled my energies towards more good-neighborly pursuits. There is one sobering point contained in that early life lesson. There are so many times I thought I wasted a life writing but kept at it, floundering, sometimes succeeding, sometimes fraught and angry, but never giving up.

I know grammar by ear only, not by note, not by the rules. — Mark Twain.

The iconic greats of English literature were all lovers of the language. Hemingway comes to mind, and then there is Mark Twain. His wink and a nod reference to knowing his grammar by ear was an insistence that language lives and will breathe on its own merits, with its aficionados only having to tune into its particular frequencies.

Twain wrote great stories, was a traveling man, loved America and he excelled in journalism. Much of Twain’s love for the language was put to good use for imparting his folksy takes on American life, and he considered language not merely as the vehicle for the pursuit of writing excellence, but as the means by which he connected with his readership.

Twain even taught his readers how to write.

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

He told his readers about the value of subtlety as well:

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
― Mark Twain

Much of Twain’s writing spoke to the power simple un-prettified language has to stir people’s thoughts and make them laugh or make them react, and he didn’t mind if he lampooned the tongue he wrote in, in the process.

The English alphabet is pure insanity…, It can hardly spell any word in the language with any degree of certainty.
— Kurt Burridge, quoting Mark Twain in For the Love of Language: An Introduction to Linguistics

Mark Twain’s speeches and stories taught me about writing as a conscious pursuit to connect with a readership, it’s the primary task being the use of language to good effect. The only effort readers see is the one you have put into entertaining and informing them with good writing. The rest is mere process, and it’s yours to keep but the one art guaranteed to have your audience undistracted and keeping the faith, is the way you use your words. You will excel at it if you love the nuances of English writing. Love for the language is no passport either for you or for me to achieve greatness in writing, but when everything else about a writer’s life wants you out of the game, intense love for the language will keep you alive, and still in the hunt.

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Rajpal Abeynayake
Practicing attorney at law, and contributing writer to South China Morning Post and Nikkei Asian Review. Public Affairs and Public Relations consultant. As an attorney at law, he practices in the Supreme Court and Appeal Court of Sri Lanka and has specialized in public interest litigation. Rajpal was the Editor in Chief of the Sunday Observer and the Daily News published in Colombo Sri Lanka, and the Lakbimanews English language weekly, of which he was the founder editor. He has been previously published in the Singapore Straits Times regularly and was an opinion writer whose column won him the Editors’ Guild Columnist of the Year award. He was a member of the World Association of Newspapers' Facebook expert group. AMIC (Asia Media Information and Communications Centre) has curated a collection of papers he wrote and presented on media-related issues. A short audiobook written by him on China and the so-called digital firewall is available in Audible. Rajpal writes across genres and is passionate about raising important issues facing underprivileged communities, wherever they may be. He believes in empowering people through his writing. More can be read here


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