Why do I write?
The question seems simple enough, only it is not. One starts off answering it with the most expected sentence – I write because I have a story to tell. And while that is true, is it the entirety of my reason? I realise it is not. This is perhaps only the tip of the berg. Consequently, I venture a little deeper into my thoughts and ask myself the question again.
Yes, I write to tell a story, but to whom - Myself or the reader? And then again, there are so many stories in and around me. Why do I choose to write what I write? Now these are deeper queries and the answers seem to get murkier by the minute. The question itself shakes something up in me, making forgotten sediments of thought stir up a whirlpool in the superficially placid waters of my mind.
I wait for the particles to settle.
I wait for the waters to clear.
And finally, I decant the clear waters into an answer – I write to know who I am.
I write to know what I have become. I write to know what affects me.
Now, one musters some courage and faces a fact – If writing to understand myself is my real concern, I could have simply maintained a private journal. Why publish a book? Why put what is comfortably nestled in the nooks of my heart, out into the harsh light of a stranger’s scrutiny? If that’s not foolish, what is? To that, a small voice answers with a well worn proverb or two – No man is an island… Birds of a feather….
Yes, I write to tell a story, but to whom - Myself or the reader? And then again, there are so many stories in and around me. Why do I choose to write what I write? Now these are deeper queries and the answers seem to get murkier by the minute.
So there it is. I present these stories to the wider world in hope of finding my flock – Do you see what I see? I am asking them. Do you understand what I mean? And the greatest reward comes when someone does. This is not about laurels. This is about connection.
Having said all that, let me also say this – This journey is no bed of roses. It is fraught with demons of self doubt and fear, anxiety, frustration and heartache. It is one solitary trudge, but it’s worth the effort, and I, for one, am glad I undertook it. And this brings my thoughts to the beginning of this journey.
I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t writing. At five, I was writing both things that I saw around me and those that I imagined. Some of these, I put in letters to my grandfather. I never sent them to him because I didn’t know his address and I never asked anyone for it either. I just assumed that since I had written the words for him, he had read them somehow. Talk about a child’s faith!
At seven, I found myself in boarding school and once again, I was writing letters to family and friends. This time, however, I knew the addresses. Letter writing taught me things that serve me well even today – Patience and the necessity of editing. I always waited patiently for a reply, and when it came, the delight was unparalleled.
I present these stories to the wider world in hope of finding my flock – Do you see what I see? I am asking them. Do you understand what I mean? And the greatest reward comes when someone does. This is not about laurels. This is about connection.
Also in school, I found a wonderful bunch of people who loved reading and writing as much as I did. We produced a lot of short stories, illustrated them with childish drawings and shared them with whoever cared to read. The first horror story I ever read was during this time. It was written by my lovely ten year old friend about a family that moves to a new house and finds themselves sharing accommodation with a ghost. Those were the golden days – we wrote just to write, and because we were children, still new to the ways of the world, we feared no criticism or consequences.
And then came a time in my twenties when my novel ‘And The Roses Bled’ came to me. I wrote it down longhand, typed it into a word file and fretted over how it would be received by readers and relatives. I had grown up you see, and criticism mattered more. I plowed through the self doubt and the fear, and one fine day submitted the manuscript to several literary agencies. The rejections came, as was expected, but among them was an acceptance email too. I had found people at the Red Ink Literary Agency who thought my words were worth their time. ‘And The Roses Bled’ was finally published by Fingerprint! Publishers.
There was a lot I learned during the whole process and lots that I still do not know. However, there is one thing I can say with certainty – there is no turning back. I have always written, and God willing, I shall always write. And in doing so, I hope to know myself better and connect with more members of my tribe.
Mehak Daleh is the author of the horror fiction novel ‘And The Roses Bled’ published by Fingerprint! Publishers. She lives in Chandigarh from where she admires the majestic Himalayas which feature heavily in her writing. The views expressed are the author's own.