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Overcome These 3 Problems to Stay on Top of Your Writing

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When was the last time you wrote a page? Can you recall?

Don’t panic if you can’t. So many of us struggle keeping up with writing although many are good at starting it.

The truth is writing is a challenge. To write every day or very often is even a bigger challenge.

The question then is what keeps us from writing regularly, or writing at all. In my opinion, there are three simple but critical problems which are difficult for most of us to overcome.

But, the good news is there are ways to fix them. Let me explain them one by one and provide tips on how to overcome these 3 problems to remain on top of your writing goals.

  1. Distractions 

We get distracted too often and too easily. Watching TV for endless hours is the most common distraction for many. Other distractions include spending most time eating out or gossiping with friends. Laziness, long showers and oversleeping are other distractions. Whatever your distractions are, find them and try to contain them. Instead of binge-watching The Game of Thrones and the never-ending shows and soap operas, spare some time for writing every day. There is no reason for you to be not able to take out fifteen minutes of your time. If you can not, you will never do it.

  1. Procrastination

I know “procrastination” is the most clichéd word, but it is a serious problem. Procrastination and distraction feed on each other. We need or find a distraction and then procrastinate. Most of the procrastination comes from excuses. Fight the urge to delaying and keeping writing practice for tomorrow or the weekend which mostly never comes. Get out of bed at 3 in the morning if you have to, to write. Lose sleep but write. Take notes of ideas that come to your mind for they never stay with you for more than a few seconds. ALWAYS keep a diary and a pen in your pocket and by your bed to take notes, even if you have to in the dark with little window light from the street lamp post.

  1. Self-Doubt 

Suzy Kassem says, “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” One can not be more correct about the effects of self-doubt. She is right, it makes you think less of yourself and hence expect less from it. In writing, doubt and fear are real, recurrent and inescapable. I encounter them every day. How to let go of this self-doubt then? The good news is that it is certainly surmountable. Maintaining discipline in writing is where you should start because unless you write regularly, overcoming self-doubt is a wild goose chase.

To further defeat doubtful thoughts read and read a lot. James Allen’s As You Think is a great book for “self-empowerment.” Allen says you are who you think you are or want to be. According to Amazon’s review “The book… not only reveals to us that the keys to success are within our own minds, it shows us how to use these keys to unlock the greatest fulfillment we can imagine.”

If you can overcome these 3 problems, nothing can stop you from becoming a writer who keeps their pen moving even if what goes on the page carries no sense and meaning.

Keep that pen running. The pages will make sense eventually. It happens to all of us. But only those who stick to it get better at it.


Author: Aslam is a writing Lecturer and Ph.D. student of Global Affairs at Rutgers University. He can be reached at aslam.kakar@rutgers.edu or @aslam_Kakar

Essential​ Tips for Learning English as a Second Language

Naila Sahar 

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Having taught English as a second language in some of Lahore’s prominent universities, I have seen the recurrence of a typical pattern of questions and concerns that my students would raise in the classes. Some of such concerns included their inability to speak fluently in the English language, their confidence levels that had been lower regarding speaking in front of their classmates, and their complaining about not being able to speak in the native accent of English speaking countries. I feel after teaching the English language for 12 years, I am able to identify where the frustration of not being fluent in English originates from usually.

I remember, in my ‘Fundamentals of Speech’ course that I taught at Forman Christian College for seven years, I would always allocate the first class of the course to ask students about their fears and comfort levels of speaking in front of an audience. I have myself known this frustration of learning English perfectly while being a student, and I know much of the urgency about learning the English language comes flawlessly from our complex class dynamics where command over the English language is directly connected to the strata of society one belongs to.

In my classes of English as a second language, I always felt it was imperative to let my students know the differences between L1 and L2 in language learning. L1 is the first language that one learns from birth; this is thus the mother or native tongue. L2 is the foreign language that one learns after learning the first language. I don’t think, given the circumstance is normal and smooth, any of us remembers the struggle of learning the first language since L1 comes almost effortlessly and unconsciously. How is it that learning a second language becomes so challenging, especially if it is done after the formative years of early childhood are over? Does it happen because the imprint of the first language has already become so ingrained in consequence of sociocultural ease that comes with it? Is the unconscious unwillingness to indulge ourselves in the complexities of second language acquisition an outcome of being extremely comfortable with the first language, that somehow oozes into our personal and collective identity politics too?

There can be multiple reasons for second language acquisition being much more challenging than the first, however, to seek perfection of accent in speaking a second language might be an unrealistic goal. While aiming at learning any language that is learned after the first language, one has to have in mind that improvement in learning the second language comes gradually, and with much patience and perseverance. Many youngsters in Pakistan are at a natural advantage of speaking better English than others for attending a ‘superior’ school, thanks to our unfortunate and unequal system of education and choice of syllabi that varies in all the schools.

However, a learner has to keep in mind that a good accent and better fluency might seem like a quick ladder to success, yet in the end, it is not the perfection of accent but the clarity of ideas that matters. The attention should be on the right use of language for the learning purposes, and not on acquiring a perfect accent to impress. I was amazed after coming to the US to see how people from different parts of the world had very imperfect accents and fluency when it came to English, and yet they felt confident in explaining their ideas in the classes without being embarrassed by their imperfections. English as a second language is mostly taken as a tool of learning rather than an instrument of proving your worth.

Now, I will outline some tips for the English as a second language learner, especially those who are keen to be proficient at speaking and writing skills. Improvement comes when you are willing to improve. Learning becomes easier when you provide yourself with a conducive environment. When bent on improving English, surround yourself with this language. Read and listen to the news in English. Give yourself any topic at random a day; keep thinking about that topic (in English preferably!) during the day, and at the end of the day, write a page about it.

Talk to yourself in English about that topic while standing in front of the mirror. You will feel awkward and dumbfounded at first, but trust me, this helps. I am saying this because I did it myself a lot! Most important tip: do not feel insufficient. Speaking wrong English while learning, or having an imperfect accent is not a stigma on your learning ability. There are no imperfect accents, since having an imperfect accent of a second language is a sign of knowing and having a first language, and the first language is one’s identity. Be proud of who you are. Let the traces of the first language seep into your second language, and be comfortable with it. As they say, ‘Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.’ I started loving Urdu and my native Punjabi language much better after coming to the US since only after being away from my country I realized how my first language was an essential and potent part of my identity. Be a proud bilingual, beautifully broken yet perfectly imperfect!


Author: Naila Sahar is a Fulbright scholar from Pakistan and currently pursuing Ph.D. in English from State University of New York at Buffalo. She has taught English Language and Literature and business communication for 13 years.

Why Write? Some Reflections

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Why write?

I have thought about this question for a long time.

In my research, I discovered that writing, compared to human existence and world history, is a recent development. The Sumerians in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia -present day Iraq- were the first to invent cuneiform and hieroglyphics systems of writing in 3,500 B.C.E. They used cuneiform for trade and communication purposes. The Sumerians also used it to keep accounts and documents. Scribes were trained in reading and writing. These scribes knew how to use catalogs, libraries, calendars, forms and tables.

With time, the usages of writing expanded to many other forms of human life. Today, writing is central to almost anything we do. Education, journalism, jobs, storytelling, to name only a few, use script in one or the other form for their work. The internet, for instance, relies on words. Without words, it is impossible to imagine its existence or the existence of many other activities which depend on the written word.

There is also a philosophical dimension to “why write.”  Besides work-related explanations, what are some other reasons for writing? Some write for acclaim. Others do so for joy and glory. Yet some others write for financial reasons. But it is not one or the other. All these rationales may inspire someone simultaneously to write, and in many cases they do. Some others have very unique, personal reasons for writing. James Salter says, “There comes a time when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real.”

There are hundreds of such beautiful and moving thoughts about writing. Here are 23 fascinating quotes from the world’s famous authors about why they write or wrote.

George Orwell, the famous British author, outlines in his book Why I Write, the following four reasons for why he wrote. First, Orwell says, he writes for “sheer egoism,” which is the “desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death.” Second, for “aesthetic enthusiasm,” which is the “desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed.” Third, there is “historical impulse” involved in writing: This means the “desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.” Finally, there is a “Political purpose,” which is the “desire to push the world in a particular direction.”

Orwell, like none other, encapsulates it in the most profound and efficient manner. I have read it many times and have shared it with friends and colleagues. Inspired by Orwell’s ideas, I have come up with two of my own reasons for why I write. First, I think we write because there is the desire to stand for a principle or vision of life: In writing, we affirm our position on issues close to our heart. Second, the uniqueness of our individuality and history matters. By this I mean, as individuals we have the ability to see the world in a way that others may not, or can never. So, we must get down to write that unique story.

I would like to know your thoughts about why you write in the comments section.


Author: Aslam is a writing Lecturer and Ph.D. student of Global Affairs at Rutgers University. He can be reached at aslam.kakar@rutgers.edu or @aslam_Kakar



Why I Chose to Write about Writing?

I have always been passionate about writing. For last two years, I had a plan to start a blog. I came up with a few topics, such as positive psychology, writing, politics etc., that I wanted to make the focus of this blog.

I decided to choose writing, in other words, how to write, as my specific focus. I chose this because I teach writing and also because many young people approach me about writing skills.

So, I felt an immense need for this kind of writing activity.

I write posts on a variety of topics related to writing skills. From the process and language to words and grammar, I cover writing’s many different aspects.

My posts also answer these and numerous other questions: How to begin writing? Where to get ideas and inspiration from? When is it right to start writing? Why write?

I enjoy doing this. In addition to my passion and excitement, I spend nights on this with the hope that my work will solve some of your problems.

If you have any questions or ideas, share them in the comment section or drop me an email. I would be happy to address your queries and problems in future posts.

Have a wonderful week.


Author: Aslam is a writing Lecturer and Ph.D. student of Global Affairs at Rutgers University. He can be reached at aslam.kakar@rutgers.edu or @aslam_Kakar





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