LET’S WRITE DHAMMA LIKE THIS
Professor Chandima Wijebandara
“Don’t think of this attempt as an effort to get the hard-earned authorship easily.”
This sentence was in the prologue of a book I read at the age of 12. From that sentence, I realized that it is not an easy task to be a writer. That book was written by Most Ven Rajakiya Panditha Kahadamodara Chandrakeerthi Sri Piyarathana Thero (B.A). However, I took it as a message of encouragement and got used to writing from the age of 16. Being able to see my writings being published was a great inspiration for me. It was an exceptional experience to see one’s name printed on a book at a time when there were no other technical tools besides the typewriter.
It is apparent that writing is not an easy task and should be done with responsibility. Written communication is more accountable and more impactful than face-to-face verbal communication. What is said in an unrecorded speech can be revised instantly.
If it appears that there is a misunderstanding, it can be clarified immediately. But what is written and published cannot be changed in such a way. What we write goes down in history along with our names.
The time-space scale of the reader’s world can be wider than the writer expects. Our writings can possibly end up in the hands of someone who lives far away from us and it is likely to be read by someone living centuries later. That is why Ven Babharande Siri Sivali Thero once said, “A writer is alive even if he does”.
One should be more careful when writing about Buddhism because the devotees are very sensitive on this subject. In addition, what we write can have a huge impact on people who follow other religions as well as those who study religions systematically. A writer must understand and think about their philosophical and sociological responsibility when writing comments that will arise agitation in the devotees who accept Buddhism as their religion. Writers’ ideas are often distorted or taken out of context and misused rather than discussed in a positive way. It would be better if a writer’s choice of words disallows this. It should not be forgotten that even the Buddha, who patiently allowed free criticism, protested against the distortion of his dhamma. Therefore, communicating Buddhism through written media is much more difficult than delivering through lectures. It is challenging. That is why it should be emphasized that the writers of dhamma should be engaged in their work with pure devotion. The consequences of a wrong or inappropriate document may go far beyond our imagination.
As soon as an idea comes to mind to communicate about the position through written media, one should not be tempted to pick up a paper and a pen and write along. Publishing a menial document may cause great damage to one’s dignity and will cause dangerous consequences for the subject of the Buddhist religion. Sometimes the damage caused by such an incident may be too serious to be repaired.
It is appropriate to do a self-assessment of your writing skills before preparing an article to be published in the mass media. How can one do it? It should be done with good discipline and patience.Only a good reader can be a good writer. An avid passion for reading is the only way to become a scholar. When referring to biographies of great writers, it is apparent that every good writer started as a good reader.
An aspiring writer must read as many good articles as possible by scholarly writers who have been admired by many. The order in which the facts are presented and the manner in which the language is handled should be closely surveyed. Analyze how talented writers present ideas effectively while holding the reader’s attention. Such writers should be your idol. Some writers have their own style of language as well as their own style of presentation. It is not wrong to get inspiration from them at the start. Later, when you become a popular and successful communicator, you can develop your own style of writing. This happens as a result of constant writing. At the beginning of your writing career, be humble enough to read the writings of famous writers and get inspiration that can be obtained with admiration.
Then you have to ask yourself, what am I going to write about? How much knowledge do I have on this certain topic or subject? Before writing something to be published, it is essential that we have a good clear and correct understanding of that certain subject. If not, no one can stop it from being deprecated by the readers. It does not create a good image for the future of your writing career. Therefore, get as much information as possible about the topic to be written from books, journals, encyclopedias and the internet.
It is important to write in such a way that your reader’s knowledge and thinking are nourished. Their time spent on reading your writings should not be a time wasted. Anyone who does not receive any new disclosure can compose any document presented in the same conservative pattern as what is often written. The reader will not be stimulated by this and soon the readers will reject the articles of such writers. Therefore, provide new and uncommon information from sources. Strive to add something new to the reader’s knowledge. If not, try to bring out a profile or a new essence that has not been acquainted before. Alter the ideas in a creative and critical way. Access existing information with a new twist. Organize the facts in a new pattern in order to generate fresh inspiration.
Understand the aim of your writing before you start writing. Some people’s aim is to show their educational level. Others write to convert the reader to some ideology. Many write to make others understand something they have good knowledge and understanding about.
Identify the topic and theme and define and explain it thoroughly. You must always write about a topic that interests you. The topic is your limit. Do not try to fill the article with unnecessary and irrelevant information. The greatest weakness of many writers today is picking a “challenging” or “profound” topic and filling the article with the nonsense that has nothing to do with it. The writer himself is humiliated by it. The Readers can’t be fooled. Therefore, choose a topic that you can handle and be prepared to write logically and only the matters related to it within that limit.
Build the structure of your article before you write it. Think about the points you want to cover in the article by making a sketch or creating it as a concept image.
There are various methods for this. Some use a flow chart to line up their ideas. When choosing a topic such as religion, philosophy or science, it becomes necessary to write in an organized manner.
Then decide how to incorporate the information you have gathered into paragraphs.
A reference to some important conclusion is an essential part of a good article. Often it is built up in the final paragraph. The facts are presented in a logical order in such a way that the reader is directed to the conclusion from the preceding lines. Some people present the conclusion first and add facts to support it. No matter which method is chosen, there should be a linear formality in the article that runs from beginning to end. If only one point or one theory is presented in one sentence, it will be easier for the reader to understand the ideas.
It is better to present a fact that supports your conclusion in the first place. It is important to retain the trust of the reader. Place less powerful facts in the middle of the article. Use powerful facts in the paragraph before the last paragraph. Use the last sentence not to present new ideas but to summarize all the facts and spice up your idea.
Each paragraph should include a key phrase. It provides a gateway to the central idea described in the paragraph. If someone wants to know the main point of the article in advance or to get a summary after reading, the opening sentences can be indicated in bold letters for the purpose.
As our article presents the explanation as well as the description of our idea, clear logical communication leading to the conclusion is expected. They should be scientific and correct factors, not arbitrary. Referring to the Tripitaka confirms trustworthiness about the facts. Mentioning the references and giving citations really help in building the trustworthiness of your writing.
To make the article inviting to the readers, add a good thought-provoking phrase at the beginning. This is kept at the end as it is very likely that an appropriate idea for initiation may occur while writing. Having a conservative opening weakens the desire to further read the article.
Finally, before sending the article to a newspaper or magazine, double-check the correctness of the quotations as well as the language style and wording. It is also good to ask someone to read it and see if he understands it clearly. No matter how deep the article is if it is not explained in a simple way so that it can be clearly understood, the article is incomplete. Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” So simply, write clearly