I have been running the writing support group Write & Beyond, for over four years now. People get together at our sessions to write and to share their writing and so much else. All that writing – powerful, intimate, vulnerable, and heartfelt – then vanishes into the void of cyberspace, for most participants. I wanted my workshop participants to feel their work had lasting, manifest presence, and a wider readership. A print book “Escape Velocity” was my answer. We held a series of workshops for this purpose, and this anthology is the result of those. All thirteen of us published in Escape Velocity – be they first-time authors or much published and popular with readers – have a story about why we write.

Through SheThePeople.TV’s column “Why I Write”, each of these contributors will be sharing their story of what motivated them to write. Here is my story:

A lot of us want to write. We have thoughts that don’t go away, that want to be given voice, but don’t quite fit into the pragmatics of social or personal conversations. We are wary to give form to that current that keeps buzzing in our head, that sensation that jumps in our blood and seeps into our bones. So we stop before we put it all in words and in sentences, or shape it into a coherent piece of writing. We start believing we have nothing much to say, or no way to say it.

We may not write because we do not give ourselves permission. We may be waiting for the world’s green signal. We may not write because we think it is not so important after all. We may not write because while we do write in a certain form, for a certain purpose, another form isn’t really our thing…even when we wish we could, even when we know the story in our head wants something new and different from what we know how to do. We – even those of us who are otherwise accomplished, often do not treat our words, our thoughts, and our creativity as worth it, outside of a professional context. We do not write because we also do not want to hurt others. We forget that our story is not owned by others.

We do not write because we also do not want to hurt others. We forget that our story is not owned by others.

I used to not write because of all of the above reasons. I used to tell myself it was better to be quiet unless it was going to be of some tangible (sanctioned/ approved?) use. It was better – wasn’t it – to write when there was an exam paper asking me specific questions, when there was an essay that would be scored, when there was an official report to be made. Not that these reasons ever stilled the words in my head, or stopped me from feeling all I did, or noticing and making up my own version of the world. And yet, it was a version I treated as transient and trivial, buried in the business of being this or that, my role as so and so, focused on what could be seen, measured, and rewarded by the world.

I wrote for my eyes only, for four years, before I started writing a blog.

It was a counselling session where I wrote out unuttered truths about myself to myself that made me look at writing for self-expression and creative fulfilment. I began to own my reality a little more, word by word. I wrote for my eyes only, for four years, before I started writing a blog. It was the first commitment to myself, which was purely, selfishly, personal, and non-work related. It was a promise to pause and be with myself. I came home to my core by writing out what I felt and thought and wondered about. It gave me a way to voice all that I was holding in, holding back. It took me beyond bookish theories or handed down words and dictates of others. While the intellectual side of structuring a well-reasoned argument had always thrilled my brain, the affective side of finding words for bringing alive the sense of a place, an emotion, a state-of-being, an imagined universe, was new. I now write to keep this conversation going between my mind and my heart; a conversation that let me meet myself in its centre.

I now write to keep this conversation going between my mind and my heart; a conversation that let me meet myself in its centre.

I write also to keep a conversation going with others. I am sure I write more now, and I write freer, because I have found a tribe of others who also write. We are witnesses and readers for each other. ‘Mauke Ki Nazaakat’, my dark tale around saas-bahu dynamics in Escape Velocity, was written three years ago. It was revised and refined with feedback from a mentor and from the writing group.

When someone asks me, “How can you write? It is so hard to know what to write, how to write…” I ask them to first think of the reasons one could have for writing, and also for not writing. In my experience, the ‘how do I’ works itself out when the ‘why do I’ is clear.

Kiranjeet Chaturvedi is a trained sociologist and a well-known author. She also facilitates writing workshops. The views expressed are the author’s own.

 

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