Of Writing, Creativity and the Courage to Combine Both!
Everyone's eyes were suddenly on me. The shuffling of papers stopped. Someone dropped a pen and then an eerie expectant silence followed. O God, what did I get myself into, I thought. First waking up at 8 am on a Friday and now this! I cleared my throat nervously and gave a small sigh. The cold microphone felt unusually heavy in my hands. Gingerly holding it close to me I started to read.
That was on October, Friday the 19th. We were participants in a workshop, sitting in a cozy room and I had the impossible task of reading aloud something I wrote just five minutes ago. Earlier in the morning when our guest lecturer was talking about how writers are shy and how sensitive they are to criticism, I was sharing a silent laugh with friends. But now that I had to read aloud my writing, it all made so much sense!
The workshop "Creative Writing for Print Media" organized by the Department of Media and Communication, Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) was an eye opener. On Thursday the 18th the first day of the workshop, when I had to grudgingly tear my eyes open and pry myself away from my warm toasty bed, I was wondering what exactly I got myself into. It was raining heavily and I thought it was a beautiful day. The kind that makes you want to snuggle up warm and snooze all day. So I guess I can be forgiven for walking into the IUB Library Building in a grumpy mood.
But the day turned out to be one big, pleasant surprise. Our guest lecturers for the first day were Mr. Khademul Islam, Literary Editor, The Daily Star and Mr. Syed Badrul Ahsan, Editor, Current Affairs, The Daily Star. This workshop was initiated by Dr. G.M Shahidul Alam, Head of the Department of Media and Communication at the Independent University, Bangladesh. It was coordinated by Ms. Munsia Naureen Ahmed, Senior Lecturer and Ms. Nazia Hussein, Junior Lecturer at the Department of Media and Communication.
From cooking a pot of rice, to the importance of reading books, to the South Asian trends in non-fiction, Mr. Khademul Islam covered it all in his chat with us. I wouldn't say he gave a lecture. Rather after the initial ice breaking, he managed to put us all so much at ease that very soon we were engaged in a highly interactive session. Thoughts and ideas were shared candidly as each of us recounted our experiences with South Asian non-fiction writers and our opinions of the different books and writers we had read.
A scrumptious lunch from "Time Out" put us in a happy frame of mind for the next session. Mr. Syed Badrul Ahsan, our second guest lecturer of the day, kept our interest alive with his tongue-in-cheek humor. He covered some tips on the reporting style of writing and again stressed the importance of reading books. Till the very end he kept the conversation snappy and shared some of his funny experiences of working with different newspapers.
Much of what we learnt the first day was put into practice on the second day of the workshop, Friday 19th October. "SHOW don't TELL" was what Mr. Khademul Islam kept on reminding us in the non-fiction session where we had to write out a short piece.
It was the task of putting down the first sentence that made me want to tear out my hair in clumps. It was interesting to actually put myself in a writer's shoes and see how difficult it is to actually begin writing. And on top of that, there was that very nerve wrecking five minutes when I actually had to read out what I managed to write!
Mr. Syed Badrul Ahsan ended the first half of the four-day long workshop with his very engaging discussion on the various current issues in Bangladesh - starting from our views of the state of leadership in Bangladesh, to our thoughts of whether education is the key to good leadership. Is a PhD a must have for a good leader? But does a PhD necessarily mean that a leader can relate with the people and watch out for their interest?
When I walked in on the third day of the workshop, Thursday the 25th, a big sized pile of papers, markers, scissors, glue, tape and other stationary greeted me. Yay, arts and crafts! I thought. Our speaker of the day, Mr. Shahnoor Wahid, Editor Star Campus, The Daily Star gave an interesting short introduction on writing for magazines, and spoke on the Star Campus, its market needs, audience, response and successes. And then came the fun part.
Armed with scissors, a stick of suspiciously pink glue, markers and a fat bundle of A4 sized paper we set out on the mission. The only causalities on the way: a couple of Star Campus magazines, which were sadly defaced in a matter of minutes and the Library room floor which got strewn with white snippets of paper. And after a 45 minutes session (which later stretched on to an hour as we, the participants, were enjoying ourselves too much), we emerged with - *drumrolls please* - a 32-page dummy magazine!
You see, the task was to come up with a dummy 32-page magazine of A4 size. We were divided into four groups and rolling up our sleeves we got right down to nitty-gritty details of magazine composition and page layout. Our particular group's dummy magazine was called "Pearl" and it targeted women of the age group 18-35. And a sultry Bipasha Basu even got to grace our magazine cover, after being rudely snatched out of an All Clear Anti-Dandruff Shampoo advertisement! But putting all the fun aside, what I really learnt from the whole exercise is how much goes into all the magazines we take for granted. There's the contents to decide on, and how to make it different from all the existing magazines. Then there's the whole question of the image we want to convey and then all the creative part of composing the pages and experimenting with different ideas.
I still have the dummy magazine with me. It's another good memory of the workshop just like the last session of the third day. Conducted by Mrs. Aasha Mehreen Amin, Editor Star Weekend Magazine, The Daily Star, the session was a very informal chat on what kind of contributions Star Weekend Magazine team looked for. For someone who had been with The Daily Star for the last 16 years, it was fascinating to hear what she felt about the magazine and to hear of her experiences as an Editor.
We met one last time on Friday the 26th to thank the wonderful guest lecturers and the organizers for this unique initiative. In a very neatly organized Closing Ceremony, Mr. Khademul Islam and Mr. Shahnoor Wahid shared their pleasant experience with us, the IUBians, while we in turn shared our thoughts on the workshop. Prof. Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury, Vice Chancellor of Independent University, Bangladesh spoke a few words on the occasion, thanking Dr. G.M Shahidul Alam and his Team of Coordinators, Ms. Munsia N. Ahmed and Ms. Nazia Hussein for taking the first step to organize this workshop. And as Dr. Shahidul Alam said, "we hope; no, we expect to conduct another extended workshop next semester"
A highly inspirational workshop, I know I have taken home more than a certificate. I have learnt about the different styles of writing, explored my own styles of writing and have experienced first hand the creativity that goes behind each issue of a magazine. But most importantly, I have taken home the courage to write.