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Monthly Archives: March 2018

Fear of Public Speaking? 8 Useful Tips on How to Conquer It

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Let’s be honest. It is not easy to speak to a crowd. To put it another way, it is not comfortable to talk confidently to an audience.

I was afraid myself for quite some time. I would deliver but with less confidence and clarity. I guess my culture and the education system were both discouraging in this regard.

But, over the course of my career as a student and as a teacher, I do not have that fear anymore. Although I have improved quite a bit, there are always new ways to seek to how to become the best speaker.

You may have your own strategies. Here are some of the ways that helped me overcome my fear.

#1. Acknowledge that you have a fear problem. If you do not recognize it, you are not going to look for help to improve. Do not feel ashamed. Brené Brown in her book Daring Greatly writes, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” Have courage. According to Brown, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

#2. Always be prepared for the talk. If you do not prepare, do not expect the best from yourself. The human mind does not process new information in an eloquent and organized manner. You have to work on it and prepare it many times before you go up the stage to deliver. Things as familiar as your own life story are difficult to talk about if you have no clue what and how you are going to say it.

#3. Think yourself as an authority when you present. It is true, mostly. When you deliver a talk, keep in mind that you know— let’s pick a random number—more than 95 percent than the rest of the participants and the audience on that particular topic. Sometimes, including your professor and panelists and other speakers. So, do not forget that you are the authority—only if you do the work, of course—on that subject. This should give you confidence.

#4. Feel like you are talking to one person at a time. You would think it would be easier if you only had to speak to a person because you are more confident and eloquent. You feel overwhelmed when more heads show up in the room. But, the good news is that you are actually talking to one person at a time even though they appear to be more than one.

If you think about people in the room, they each listen to you individually. Their brains are not connected to what I call a “super-structure brain” that knows everything about you and what you are saying. So, you are still talking to the one person that you wish to. And that one person has their own possible worries, limitations of knowledge and a zillion other thoughts going on in their head. So, do not panic.

#5. Speak slowly when you feel overwhelmed. Do not rush your words. We tend to have more control over our language and body when take the time to relax.

#6. Know that you have no evidence of being judged. At public speaking events, most people are afraid of being judged by the audience. But that is not true because you have no evidence of it. So basing your knowledge of how people would react to you on assumptions is not useful. When you have this perspective, you should feel more confident.

#7. Take a breathing exercises class. If you have problems with breathing while speaking, take a course with a singer or a trained public speaking practitioner. They will teach you how to use your lungs, nose, etc. to create capacity for speaking and produce quality sound, appropriate intonation, etc.

#8. Take a genuine interest in the topic. If you are not interested in the idea(s) you are presenting, it is difficult to bring passion and confidence to the presentation.

I hope this helps break your fear. I would like to know your ideas on the topic in the comments section.

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

Aslam Kakar

The One Book You​ Should Read about ​Argument

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An argument is not making a loud and persistent noise to silence to convince others. Neither is it speaking faster or overtalking the other to “win” a point.

Argument can simply be defined as “a connected series of statements intended to establish a definite proposition.”

Stanley Fish in his book Winning Arguments says, 

  • “One general thing that can properly be said about argument is that it is essentially the art of persuasion, the art of trying to move someone from an adherence to position A—which might be political, economic, domestic, aesthetic, military, theological, whatever—to an embracing of position B” (Fish 2016, 7).

Below are some more impressive quotes about argument from Fish’s book:

  • “…Failure, at least as a possibility, is a condition of argument, for argument is, as Aristotle and everyone after him has said, the realm of the probable, the medium of exchange we engage in when the field of enquiry is structured by doubt and the absolute authority of God’s word or a mode of perfect calculation is not available. (If it were available, doubt would soon be dispelled, and there would be no reason to argue). In the absence of such an authority, the response to doubt is to argue, to put forward theses and proofs in the hope the matter can be clarified to the satisfaction of at least a majority of those in the relevant audience” (Fish 2016, 11-12).
  • “Basically, argument is the medium we swim in, whether we want to or not. Argument, the clash of opposing views, is unavoidable because the state of agreement that would render argument unnecessary—a universal agreement brought about by facts so clear that no rational being could deny them—is not something we mortals can ever achieve. Each of us occupies a partial, time-bound perspective and none of us has access to the God’s-eye view from which the big picture might be seen at a glance. Therefore, any statement any of us makes is an argument because, as an assertion that proceeds from an angle, it can always be, and almost always will be, challenged by those whose vision is also angled, but differently so. Conflict, not agreement, is the default condition of mortality” (Fish 2016, 2).
  • Argument comes before truth or knowledge. “What this means is that knowledge and truth rather than presiding over the field of argument are what emerge in the course of argument; and because it is argument and not Reality with a capital R that produces them, truth and knowledge are always in the process of being renegotiated. There is no end, no stopping point, to this process and there is no end to—no resolution of—of argument” (Fish 2016, 2-3).
  • “In a world bereft of transcendence, argument can not achieve certainty; it can only achieve persuasion (and may not do even that), a resolution of the issue that lasts only until a more powerful act of persuasion supplants it” (Fish 2016, 12).
  • “Argument could produce certainty only if we lived in a world where a settled dispute stays settled because its resolution has been accomplished by a measure everyone accepts and accepts permanently” (Fish 2016, 13).
  • “… Argument is everywhere, argument is unavoidable, argument is interminable, argument is all we have” (Fish 2016, 3).
  • “The fact that the skill of argument is neither an unalloyed good thing nor a diabolically inspired bad thing, but is sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both, has led the friends of argument to argue for argument’s “indifferent” status: it is not good or bad in itself, but can be either good or bad depending on the circumstances and the spirit in which it is deployed. Aristotle acknowledges that bad men may abuse it, but, after all, he observes that “is a charge which may be made in common against all good things”” (Fish 2016, 44).
  • “Devising a method for ensuring that the good kind of persuasion is not mistaken for or overwhelmed by the bad kind has been a project of rhetorical theorists from the beginning. Aristotle’s taxonomy of the components of persuasion at once pinpoints the danger and suggests a way of neutralizing it. Proofs in discourse can, he said, be of three kinds: (1) logos, roughly the rational force of one’s arguments in and of themselves; (2) ethos, the good character the speaker projects—you should believe me because of the kind of person I say I am; and (3) pathos, an appeal to the emotions and prejudices the speaker knows his audience to have—you should believe me because I speak to fears and desires you already feel and to values you already hold” (Fish 2016, 46-47).
  • “Of the three, logos is thought to be the most legitimate because it is the least tricked-up and angled, and it would be better, says Aristotle, if we could “fight our case with no help beyond the bare facts”” (Fish 2016, 47).

Philosophers, scientists and theologians have argued for millennia for or against the existence of God, religious “truths” and countless other topics. Fish’s book is a wonderful read if you are interested in understanding what an argument is and how to make one.

 

Aslam Kakar

 

 

 

A Positive Writer’s Path to Perfection

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What is a writer’s path to perfection like? When do you know your writing is perfect?

Actually, there is no easy way of knowing.

Writing is a process that requires constant hard work. It involves breakthroughs and challenges everytime you write. But it gets easier when you keep up the work.

The problem is many people stop writing because they do not feel the progress. And many quit rather quickly.

For me, patience and persistence are the keys. If you do not continue writing and quit because you did not feel the improvement, you will never improve. If you persist, you will see slow but steady advancement.

As a writer, always remember to aim big but do not aim to achieve big in a day. Give yourself time. While working towards a big goal, focus on small steps on the way.

Do not lose sight of accomplishing modest goals because that is where positive energy comes from. Feel accomplished after writing a page or learning a new word. Make this a habit and repeat it every day or whenever possible.

Also, do not forget that there will be discouragement and pain but brave it and do not give up. The progress in writing is incremental. It comes with time and effort you put into it. The more time you spend on it, the faster you will get better at it.

One dilemma in my experience, however, is that the more you write, the more you will want to improve because you will feel less as a writer.

But the good news is that you will attain stability in the process. Once you become stable as a writer, the path to further perfection depends on how willing you are to take your writing to the next level and then the next.

 

Aslam Kakar

Explaining the Process: Isbah’s Approach to Creative Writing

For me, writing is an expression of love, a channel to ventilate excessive emotions, and a medium to revolt against the social and cultural practices I disagree about.

In this vlog, I talk about the creative aspect of writing. Being a follower of Romanticism, I use Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of strong feelings; it takes its origin from emotions recollected in tranquility” to describe the process of writing I practice.

Hope the vlog will serve as a stimulus for reflection on your own way of thinking and writing.

 

Isbah Ali Farzan is a blogger. Most of her blogs fall in the genre of reflective writing. She uses personal narrative to advocate for critical thinking. She can be reached at isbah.mustafa@gmail.com.

How to Build Your Identity Capital as a Writer?

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Identity capital is your collection of personal assets—a repertoire of individual resources that you assemble over time. In other words, it is the things you do to invest in yourself.

Some identity capital goes on a résumé such as your work experience and credentials, and other is more personal, like how you speak and behave, where you are from, where and how you spend your time, etc.

As a writer, what do you need to do to build your identity capital? Let me remind you that to be a writer is to do many things of which, of course, the most important is writing.

But, there are other important things you need to keep in mind.

#1: Read. Reading is a necessary component. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on. I used to read newspaper scraps and cricket magazines, as they were the only sources of reading available.

Read a few books about writing. Start with Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I also recommend the following two books: Writing a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann.

#2: Publish. A letter to a local newspaper or magazine (if you are interested in journalism) is an excellent place to start. This exercise will require you to read newspapers and get the hang of journalistic writing.

Also, when you write for the public, you will need to spend more time on formulating your ideas and communicating them in an appropriate and clear language.

If you are a student, write for the monthly and annual publications of your school, as most colleges and universities provide such opportunities.

#3: Take a course or workshop in writing. There are plenty of online and offline resources. You should be able to do this at your school. If not, I recommend writing courses on coursera.org. I encourage you to visit the website and find a course that can fulfill your needs.

#4: Find an internship in writing. I am sure many organizations offer unpaid but useful internships. If you are lucky, you may even find a paid internship. I suggest looking into The Borgen Project, as I had a pretty good experience with them last year. They train you in SEO, title crafting, Google algorithms, etc. It is competitive. You should be able to demonstrate excellent writing skills for them to hire you.

#5: Hang out with other writers. This may be hard to find depending on your location but not entirely impossible. If you are at a college or university, the editorial team of the school’s publications is usually pretty accessible. Many schools also have writer’s clubs. Take advantage of these services.

#6: Think, talk and behave like a writer. You should be passionate about writing all the time. Your speech and behavior should reflect your identity as a writer. Incorporate, if you can, your socio-cultural identity into your writing.

For instance, if you come from an oppressed ethnic or economic minority, you should reflect the concerns of your group in what you write. This is however not compulsory.

As a writer, you should be kind, thoughtful and humble in your interaction with people. And don’t ever expect privilege just because you are a writer.

#7: Always look for new and innovative ways to polish your writing. And finally, just keep writing.

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

Aslam Kakar

 

 

 

Where to Get Creative Ideas for Writing?

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Getting creative ideas for writing can sometimes be challenging. But, the world is full of ideas. Both your world and beyond. It requires skills and habit to grasp them.

I will walk you through a fundamental and essential guide to where to get these ideas. Of course, what I recommend is by no means the only way(s) to gather ideas for writing.

Start with this question: What are your interests? On an average day, is there anything on top of your mind that you would like to write about?

One way to know is to find out what do you spend most of your time thinking about. We all have obsessions. Harness your passions and write about them.

What would you like in the world to change? Or, a better way, is there anything that you would want to change? Most importantly, how can you do this through writing?

Don’t forget that the change from writing may not be a practical one, but a shift in vision, indeed. If you are an idealist, writing is one of the most effective ways to envision a changed and better world.

Real changes based on ideas are entirely possible. History is replete with examples.

If you are a creative writer, look inward and comb through your inner world. Observe your feelings and listen to the person within. You will be surprised to discover what normally appears hidden and unknown.

You may have something to share with the outside world. Something of greater impact. Also, remember it does not have to be an idea that people like or agree with.

Sometimes, real impact comes from ideas which disrupt the rather familiar ways of thinking and living.

So, your ideas for writing don’t have to be accessible and acceptable. DISRUPT as scientists and engineers do in science and technology.

READ. Read a lot and read every day. Becoming an excellent writer is a fruitless exercise if you don’t read.

WALK if you are having blank hours. Taking LONG WALKS is an age-old tradition among writers. Notice the world around. Is there anything that grabs your attention and inspires you to write?

Try changing places. Sit somewhere quiet. Take the opportunity to spend time with yourself alone. Listen to it carefully.

Try music. Read poetry. Think about someone you love(d). Write as if you are writing a letter to them. Memories, pain, beauty, love and peace give you all sorts of ideas if you try to understand them.

I hope this exercise helps you discover your writing niche. I would like to know where you get your ideas from in the comments section.

 

Aslam Kakar

 

 

 

 

 

How to Write When You Don’t Want to?

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Let me tell you a story.

Many a day I sit in my chair to write but have nothing to say.

Nothing.

I wonder about ideas, but everything eludes my mind. I look at the blank page, and it shamelessly stares back at me.

This continues until I drop a random, first line about anything. Sometimes, it is about how I feel at that moment. Other times, about what I did during the day.

Once I see the first line, then comes the next and then writing, still raw and devoid of meaning, takes off.

I keep writing about random stuff like feelings and my daily activities. In between, I look around my room and outside the window where I can’t see much except the dark.

I return my gaze to the room and back to the page. I think to myself: Why I need to do this? Does it matter to people? Is it going to do any good to anyone? Will it change the world?

The cynic in me does not stop there. It asks question after question for which I have zero answers. I, however, write the questions and doubts it casts on me.

On such days,  I keep the fight for twenty minutes to half an hour. The reason I do not give up in those moments is that I end up writing a few random paragraphs.

I believe it is better to write the worse junk you ever can than not writing at all.

Keep your pens moving ladies and gentlemen for writing comes to those who don’t give up on it, even in the worse of their times.

Have a wonderful week.

 

Aslam Kakar 

 

 

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