Rheea Mukherjee on Writing Workshops, Veganism, And Importance Of Rejection
Rheea Mukherjee is the founder of the Bangalore Writer’s Workshop and Write Leela Write, a Design and Content Laboratory, which helps startups and brands create, conceptualise, and execute their business vision. Mukherjee grew up in the US and in India. She has worked as a street theatre artist and then as a social worker in Denver, before finally realising that writing was her true calling.
Rheea was 22 when she first started taking fiction seriously and started sending her work out to literary magazines – “I got a series of rejections, and it would be another 3-4 years before I got back into writing. I did my MFA in creative writing at California College of the Arts, and those 2 years really allowed me to hone my craft. I didn’t really know my place in the world at 25-26 (when I was doing my MFA), but those years facilitated a lot of self-work, perspective, and knowledge that would build the foundation for my career in writing.”
She ran the Bangalore Writers Workshop for two years to tap into the potential of the talented, creative minds in the city and make it a collaborative and fun process.
“We sit at a table, read, construct, and deconstruct readings, share insights and experiences. Then relate it back to the technical aspects of writing. A good writing workshop doesn’t claim to ‘teach’ you writing. Rather, it facilitates a space for you to engage with writing seriously.”
Elaborating further she says, “The workshop method, if you ask me, holds its merit because it is community-driven. This means we sit at a table, read, construct, and deconstruct readings, share insights and experiences. Then relate it back to the technical aspects of writing. A good writing workshop doesn’t claim to ‘teach’ you writing. Rather, it facilitates a space for you to engage with writing seriously. That means reading other texts as well and putting them into perspective historically and politically. It means opening your mind and eroding your own biases towards the world.
Our education system often throws masses of people who are actually very talented artists into mainstream careers. Sometimes realising that your path has more to do with writing and art than what you studied in college can help you balance and channel your worldview more effectively. At least that’s what I hoped to do in my time there.”
I think running your own business gives you a certain freedom to grow personally and professionally.
Also, nurturing an entrepreneurial ambition, she co-founded Write Leela Write with Kalabati Majumdar. Kalabati is a Textile Designer and a self-taught graphic designer. Together, they do branding workshops with startups and companies trying to find their identity in a rapidly changing globalised world.
She adds, “I never had a background in advertising, copywriting or branding. So Write Leela Write has a very original take on how a brand or company should tell its story. To that effect we do visual design, logos, content, blogs, video scripting and the like. I think running your own business gives you a certain freedom to grow personally and professionally.
Entrepreneurship always appealed to me. You have to inspect your skill set more intricately. See how it could apply to a business in new ways. I’d say my storytelling background and life experience has allowed me to see the potential in emotional intelligence. And from it comes some strong applications to the world of branding/advertising/business development.”
An admirer of authors like Junot Diaz, Joyce Carol Oats, Murakami, Ismat Chugtai and Manto, Mukherjee also has a vegan cooking blog called Messy Cooking Always Vegan. Always aware of how cruel and passive the world is about the way we factory farm and treat animals today just for our consumption. She feels that every small effort contributes to a larger, tangible change.
“If you ask me, the ‘vegan’ value can be held by people who aren’t vegan themselves, sometimes the journey is slow. In order for more people to think about animal rights constructively, I think it’s valuable to say that it’s not about perfection or being scared of our own hypocrisies”
“Everyone can push towards a cause in a range of different (and often unaccounted) ways. But yes, veganism is something I am hella passionate about. If you ask me, the ‘vegan’ value can be held by people who aren’t vegan themselves, sometimes the journey is slow. In order for more people to think about animal rights constructively, I think it’s valuable to say that it’s not about perfection or being scared of our own hypocrisies. It’s about our evolution towards the world that is much better than this reality. To that extent, every change you make counts,” she adds.
Mukherjee’s only advice to writers is to not limit their understanding of what it takes to be a ‘writer’. Everyone has unique circumstances. There are writers who write every day, writers who have full-time jobs. And there are writers who are exceedingly talented in a field very unrelated to the arts/writing.
She informs, “What matters is that you bring your own perspective to this world with purpose and an open mind. Stay away from melodrama and cliches unless you are trying to do something new with it. Writing is a magnificent tool that can change and evolve mindsets. It doesn’t matter if you write fantasy fiction or political nonfiction. Purpose can be fed into any kind of narrative. The one cliche piece of advice worth reiterating is about rejection. Make rejection your lover. Learn from it. If you constantly work at your craft and put out good work, you’ll find your place.”