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Tag: tales

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Q&A with Tahir Shah

Tahir_bio_pic 2013bI just did a Q&A with myself, based on some of the questions I’m asked on a regular basis.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WRITING FICTION AND NON-FICTION?

There are both huge differences and huge similarities. For me, book writing (any writing for that matter) is about storytelling. Tell the story in the right way and the reader will do a kind of dance through your work. The most important thing for me is that my reader has the right experience, and that’s achieved by giving a great deal of thought to the way a passage will be read. I devote time to thinking about the reader whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction.

Naturally, though, with fiction you can let yourself loose a whole lot more. But, having said that, I think there’s enormous scope for non-fiction writers (especially travel writers) in observing what they think they know and understand, in new ways. It’s a great challenge, but one that pays great dividends when you get it right.

HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH IDEAS FOR NOVELS? Read more

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Storytelling

9.     Be a storyteller in whatever you do. We are all storytellers. We converse in stories whether we realise it or not. That’s because stories are a way of packaging information and ideas into a format that those around us can accept. We have done it so much and for so long that we hardly realise we’re doing it. The same goes with work. If you have a report, don’t churn it out in black and white. Use anecdotes, and little tales to get a message across. You’ll be amazed at how easily they are digested. And if you have a presentation to make, or people to train, do it with stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. 



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Ambient Time

8.     Use ambient time. I often hear people telling their family, colleagues and friends that they don’t have time to do scratch their heads. Far too busy to meet for that after work drink, to write letters, to make a phone call, or take on a project. But stop. Look at your life. Really look at it. Could the minutes you spend wasting time… standing in a bus queue, waiting for the kettle to boil, sitting at the traffic lights in your car, be harnessed?. Spend a day with a stopwatch. Time it all. Time the lost moments, and the half-spent hours. That time can be used. I’m not saying it’s sensible to write letters, say, while you’re driving. But you could be listening to self help books or even novels on an iPod. And you could be planning projects. And even better, you could be multi-tasking as they call it across the Atlantic. Doing three or four things at once. I look at my life and I’m rarely doing one thing. Even while writing this I’m paying the electricity bill, planning the afternoon, and thinking about an email I have to reply to on shrunken heads.



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Problem Solving

7.     Learn to solve problems. See yourself as a problem solving machine. There’s very little as important to me as solving problems. Teaching our children and those around us to solve problems is a way of giving them an invaluable tool. We often find ourselves unable to crack a problem that’s smothering our lives. If this happens, put a space between you and the problem and look at it from a distance. Imagine it’s your best friend’s problem and not your own, and then start to work out what your friend could do to solve it. And remember that the best route to solving a problem is seldom a straight line.



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Reuse

6.     Learn to reuse material. I am a believer that good material deserves to be packaged in different ways, and that most people miss key stuff on the first time. By being exposed again and again to specific ideas, they get increased value. Think of it like this: if you were to shine a shaft of light on an apple from the top looking down on it, you’d see the stalk. But you wouldn’t see the smooth sides or the base. But by presenting the same object (or idea) from varying viewpoints and angles, the viewer gets a far greater understanding.



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Help

5.     Help others in any way you can. When I was starting out writing, I’d send unsolicited letters to a lot of people, asking for quotes or for them to read my work. Many of them didn’t write back. But some did. And those people are the ones who I hold in my heart. Any author has a little time to read letters from the public, and they all have time to help those who want to break in. Of course there are limits, and sometimes people send me work I can’t help with… but I believe that helping total strangers is a wonderful thing, especially helping people who have what it takes to succeed.



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Time

4.     Value your time and time yourself. I’m a writer and so most of the time there’s no boss standing over me, or no system of clocking in and out. That means it’s pretty easy to deceive myself and slack off. But I’ve come to understand the importance of giving true value to the hours you have between waking and sleeping… those hours are full of astonishing possibility, each minute is in fact. But you mustn’t take them for granted. Regard each day as the last you will breathe and your outlook changes. I have taken to putting a timer on my desk, so that I can challenge myself at doing the more boring stuff (filing, accounts etc). It has worked for me.



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Remember

3. Remember kindness and help from others and repay it. I’m a big believer in paying back into the system and not taking more out of it than you’ve paid it. I rarely ask favours of people, and when I do, I make sure that I repay those who have helped me, at once. Beyond that, I think it’s extremely important to remember the people who have given advice and help especially in the hard times, times when others didn’t even give you the time of day. Those people are true friends.



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Value

2.     Never undervalue yourself. We spend so much time listening to others and not listening to ourselves, that we often find ourselves spiralling downwards, into a pit of gloom, lacking in self worth. But if you switch this outlook of gloom, with one of enthusiasm, self-belief, amazing things start to happen almost at once. It’s miraculous. Believe in yourself and no one else and the impossible becomes possible.



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The Front Door

1.     Never ever go in through the front door. The society in which many of us live teaches us to jump through hoops in an order and route of their specification. It’s partly so that the teachers can maintain control, and partly because they actually believe that the way they are teaching is of use. The truth is that you can reach your ultimate goal a whole lot quicker by using original thought. Plan a zigzag route, any route and life the universe and everything will take you to the front of the queue.



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