Wandering thoughts of a writer

By Zainab Khawaja
Tue, 04, 19

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn......


“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

- Anne Frank

It is a glorious spring evening in the city of Indianapolis when I set out to buy some milk and butter croissants from the supermarket nearby. It is only a mile away, and so I decide to walk. The sun has started its slow descent, and the rays are beginning to burnish the trees with gold. I enter the store, and make my way to the bakery department. However, as always, I feel the magnetic pull of a particular aisle. Changing my course of direction, I drift towards the racks filled with books and magazines. The small section is not as satisfying as a real bookstore, but it is still my favourite place in the gigantic market. As usual, the deep hues and clever titles captivate me, and I cannot help but scan through some of them. Seeing the names of authors like Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Khaled Hosseini in bold lead me to another world. A few thoughts gently waft through my mind. Will my imagination and love for words help me write a novel someday? Do I have the potential and talent to craft tales that can evoke intense emotions? Will people be able to relate to the characters I develop? Or will they think of them as mundane? I bet questions like these invade all writers’ minds. Suddenly, the scream of a toddler breaks my trance, and I reluctantly step out of the magical aisle to buy the food. I know my mother would worry, if I did not hurry back.

Writing has always been cathartic for me. It is a mystical therapy which unravels a happy relief within me. On bad days, it serves as a strong tonic which helps me feel better. On good days, it doubles my joy. Like most writers, I definitely have doubts about my penmanship. There are times when I wonder if what I have just written should even be published and read. However, this dubiety never stops me from penning down my thoughts on paper.

I was eight years old when my aunt gave me a copy of Anne Frank’s biography. She is one of the most discussed victims of the Holocaust, and gained fame after her death, with the publication of ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’. It is the story of her life in hiding from 1942-1944, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War 2. The German-born diarist’s writings had such a powerful impact on me that I decided to keep my own diary (a practice I have never let go of). Not only do I jot down my views about certain concepts like cultural differences and the importance of travelling, I also tend to craft topsy-turvy poems. It is astonishing how converting your thoughts into handwritten words can help you get through tough times and appreciate life.

When I was around 16, I was lucky enough to get the job as a freelance writer. It was dream come true! I wrote about whatever I observed. Some topics that I wrote about include child abuse, the places I have lived in, and how desi aunties can break young girls apart. Moreover, I was compelled to write a few short stories, although I was always sceptical before sending them in for publication. What I love about fiction is that you can design a world of your own, according to your own preferences. Also, you can invent characters with traits that thrill you; wild or timid, complex or simple. That is the beauty of writing. It lets you generate situations and people that you have thought of or dreamed about. All you need is a journal, a pen, and your fantasies.

There are two kinds of writing that I invest in. One is for myself - messy, disorganised thoughts, without any filter. The other one is professional. I need to be careful while writing for a magazine, because I have a huge responsibility as a writer. I need to keep in mind that my work is being exposed, and that is why I ask myself certain questions before sending it in. Is my work honest, and does it radiate a positive message? Will I be able to connect with my readers via this piece? Can they relate to what I am trying to put across? Most importantly, in what ways does the piece define me?

Being a writer is rewarding, but difficult. It is not always easy to step out of your comfort zone, and share your experiences with the world. For instance, I once wrote a piece on the fear of public-speaking, and how one can overcome it. I started off by sharing my own embarrassing story of a speech I delivered, which was disastrous in every way! Some of you might wonder, if it is not an easy task, then why do writers tend to bare their souls? I feel sharing one’s own memories with their audience, and somehow braiding them together with the chosen topic just adds a lot more sparkle, originality and depth to the piece. More importantly, it establishes a trustworthy bond between the writer and the reader.

Despite writing since forever, I am never entirely sure of myself when turning a new piece in. While reading some of my old ones, I cannot help but cringe and think about what could have been. I then wonder if I should even be calling myself a writer. But then I remind myself how much I love swirling and tangling words with human emotions. Also, it is natural for writers to be highly critical of their work. However, one thing I have learned in the past year is that improvements should be celebrated too, even if they only have to do with punctuation marks. Believe me, the subtlest of changes matter!

At the moment, college does not allow me to write much for pleasure. But whenever I do find some free time, I love trying to make up narratives and create enigmatic characters. I want my pieces to be vividly imagined and crisply, lovingly written. Sometimes I wonder if I have the ability to slip into the role of a dreamy novelist, who experiences a sense of serenity in the midst of chaotic towns and dusty valleys. It certainly is going to be a long journey until I reach that point in life, but a highly satisfying one!