Deadline’ is a daunting word for most of us. More so, if you happen to be a freelance writer with a commission to pen a regular weekly column. I am speaking from my own experience as a columnist for the Oman Observer for several years running. You are occasionally stumped by extreme workplace pressure or demands on the family front. At other times you are confronted by what we call the ‘writer’s block’. Despite all these hurdles, if you hang on grimly and meet deadlines week after week, your legitimate reward is a sense of elation and achievement.
Let me here, share a few thoughts on the long and challenging but gratifying journey as an Observer columnist. These reminiscences, I hope, will motivate upcoming and aspiring local wring talents.
My 16- year long journey with the Observer began in 2001, when a few sample pieces of my writing appealed to the then Chief Editor, who offered me a regular weekly slot. My columns had the caption: ‘Reflections’. That was an apt label, I believe, as I shared my introspective thoughts on a wide range of topics of general interest.
A high point in the early years of my writing stint was the publication of a book, also titled “Reflections’ in August 2005. It was formally launched in Muscat by the then Chief Editor. The slim volume was an anthology of handpicked motivational articles published till then.
A good number of my articles dealt with facets of Omani culture and tradition and national events like National Day and Muscat Festival. Pieces on self-development, positive thinking and such other inspirational pieces kept appearing at regular intervals.
Being an English Language Teaching (ELT) professional I did delve into the exciting world of Language and Literature now and then. This background also helped me to pay close attention to apt and accurate use of language and syntax by reviewing multiple drafts and undertaking rigorous editing.
Periodically, I focused on social and civic issues like road safety, environmental conservation, health and education. I made sure that informative pieces were backed by extensive research of multiple sources, as I realized the power of the printed word and the need to be accurate and authentic.
I believe such informative pieces too served a useful purpose. Living as we do in an ‘age of information overload’, those who seek knowledge are likely to get lost. In any case, many readers do not have the time or inclination for extensive or intensive reading.
What kept the adrenaline flowing week after week, including vacations, has been the regular and largely positive feedback of my readers through mails, calls and even chance face-to- face interaction at shopping malls and the like. Many of them were particularly appreciative of the couple of succinct and carefully chosen quotes that added value to the pieces. The reader feedback was reinforced by the supportive stance of the Chief Editors, the editorial and section of Observer in general and ‘Features’ team in particular.
Let me sign off with a ‘BIG THANK YOU’ to all of you who contributed to my mellowing as a freelance writer of some substance.
• Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin
• I hope someday to write something worth plagiarizing. – Anon.
• “The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps. – Robert Benchley
Dr. Rajan Philips