“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill,one of the prime reasons you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
― Stephen King
Everyone was loyal honest and hardworking, this is what I remember when I was a young officer and was required to write confidential reports, of my under command. During the same period when I had the opportunity to read through reports of other officers who were reporting officers I found how conventionalised they were too. The space provided for the pen picture was so small one could only write 6 to 7 lines. I felt otherwise. This was enough writing space if one knew what exactly to write. However, I found there were very few officers who had the ability to paint a word picture about the work and ability of the person reported up. Everyone then who were reported upon was professionally sound. This I later discovered that if such reassurance of the abilities were not reflected there was a good probability it would mar the individual’s career both in a long and short term. By nature, my experience is that we are unfavorably inclined about knowing or reading our negative reports.
Gradually as I grew in years in uniform I started to understand and practice the art of understanding and then transforming my thoughts and convictions about the impression I absorbed of people on whom I was required to write. This was not the only thing I did. I read biographies and autobiographies and paid attention how different people described the subject they chose. I noted and absorbed them. Steadily to understand the art of recounting and narration became an area of my interest. To know a person no matter how long I knew him, how closely he interacted with me became a habit with me of unraveling him or her through my observation winding into words. I started with rough notes to practice myself to describe as detailed as possible randomly in all aspects of personality. How he spoke, what he spoke, what kind of person he reflected and revealed to be irrespective of the period of time he was exposed to me; like a surgeon with knife who would operate and be able to stitch him back, not really be affected or biased of what was thought of him as a friend, colleague, co-worker, leader, part of team or not. The purpose obviously not to be carried away by my assessment. We are after all humans and not perfect. In an intimate social interaction and meeting of less than an hour I started writing a pen picture – no matter if he was actually what I was describing him to be. It was not for anyone’s consumption but mine and mine alone only.
To write about someone also reflects on your own character, in an official capacity especially. This is what I saw when I started writing and reading reports. I saw more of people who wrote rather than those who were reported upon. In my military career especially I observed that those who wrote good reports and chiseled perfectly their choice of words were recognized but generally not very popular or liked because of their clarity of thought and understanding among all shades of officers under command. One thing is however absolutely clear when years pass and history written it is they who stood out and mentioned. Their reasoning and study became benchmarks of research. Now as years have passed and overgrowth is also thing of the past, level-headedness at times also becomes unsteady I enjoy observing faces of people. It is such a treat and suddenly you come across people with calm exterior yet they display so much in their eyes and expressions. Pain, joy, excitement, expectations and eagerness, helplessness all are there for me to form my batting line up to play with.