I started blogging earlier this year and many friends and family have asked me. “When did you become a writer?”
I pondered over this question and it led me to discover my journey as a writer.
My earliest memory of becoming a writer was when my mother gave me a black slate board and a white chalk and taught me how to draw my A, B, Cs and my अ, आ, इ, ई. She held me in her lap and tried to trace my hand to follow the curves of each letter, as I amused myself hiding my face in her soft saree and sniffing the sweet smell of her talcum powder while trying to pay attention to her teachings. The memory still warms up my soul.
As a child, I learned reading, writing and speaking three languages (English, Hindi and Marathi) simultaneously. I don’t mean to brag about this, since it was a norm in India for children to learn three or sometime four languages when we were growing up. With a pencil or crayon in my hand, I was a freelance writer in our home scribbling on the walls, my older brother’s notebook, my father’s official notepads and any clean bits of paper that I could find.
In my preteen years, my father encouraged us siblings to write a letter to our grandparents who lived in the village. These were monthly updates about our lives. My mother, with her beautiful penmanship and handwriting was a role model for us in these letter-writing endeavors.
Our mother and us three siblings would share one inland letter card. It was a blue inland letter card on which I loved to be the first one to start the letter writing. Just writing the date and the name of our city on the top right hand corner gave me more joy than the actual letter writing part. I would eagerly fill up my page in a matter of few minutes. I loved the feeling of writing letters like an adult when I used a pen versus a pencil. This meant I could not easily erase the errors I had made. I was required to draw a line through the word and make corrections. It made the letter look untidy.
My grandparents were retired teachers and did not appreciate spelling mistakes or messiness in our letters. Their replies mostly consisted of correcting our grammar and spellings. They always ended their letters with their blessings, love and affection. As I grew up, I did not appreciate them finding these mistakes and tried very hard to write my letters neatly and use correct grammar, which I admit sometimes took away the joy of writing. I eagerly awaited their reply and would be happy when they did not find any mistakes.
In the process of writing these letters, my parents and grandparents had sewn the seeds of “writing” in me.
My father encouraged us to write a daily diary and I wrote one for a long time. Most entries were day-to-day happenings. They included short entries about pets, friends, teachers, parents, neighbors, boys, mischief, mishaps, joys of shopping and bargains, friendships made, friendships lost, growing pains, little secrets, big secrets, little lies and dreams all told candidly in those pages of my diary. During this time I also wrote letters to pen pals. My international pen pals were from Portugal, Malaysia and Switzerland. Some of these friendships lasted for more than a decade.
As a young adult, I wrote poems that were mocked by my family and friends. This discouraged me to write. I became conscious of what other people felt about my writings and their critical reviews discouraged me.
It was in my late teens that I discovered the art of quilting and hand pieced a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt for my parents. The quilt was made from scraps of cloth. The finished quilt which took more than a year and half instilled confidence in my abilities as a young adult. This activity positively rubbed off on my writing skills. I discovered that my writing projects were similar to quilts where I had to piece together words instead of the pieces of cloth. At that point I was able to choose words, piece them together and write.
Then one day, I was applauded in high school for an essay I wrote called “ My Best Friend”. It was only half a page and I remember writing that my conscience is my best friend. I think if it weren’t for my teacher who had praised my writing, I would not have developed the confidence to continue to write.
My husband and I had a long engagement of three years. A long distance relationship encouraged me to write letters to him on a weekly basis for more than a year. I was very lucky he wrote back to me.
I wrote letters to my family in India after I moved to the United States in 1992. I was blessed that my sister and my mother wrote back to me. Other form of writings included complaint letters and thank you notes. I found that, as I grew older, even though I had access to beautiful journals, I wrote a diary inconsistently. With a full-time job and a new marriage I lacked the discipline to write.
As a physical therapist I wrote business correspondence to insurance companies and doctors, trying to persuade them to cover the cost or extend my patient’s treatments. While these letters were formal, folks often complimented me for how strongly I voiced support for my client. I suppose there was a human emotion in these technical writings that helped me prove my point. During these work years, I forgot to write for “myself” and the joys of plain writing.
I joined Toastmasters in 2009 and wrote speeches that were critiqued and praised by my peers. Being a Toastmaster meant I had to write my speeches, read them and later deliver them at my club’s meeting. This fostered a habit of reading my writings aloud, editing and sometimes re writing them.
My daughter has always encouraged me to write and my husband encouraged me to start blogging. Blogging has given me the space to articulate myself. Recently I spend a whole week to write my perspective about the Boston Marathon Tragedy – however I have been unable to finish it. It is like a word quilt that I started piecing and found my hand trembles and eyes cloud too much while working on it. I have been unable to publish a post because I have been stuck on that project. Through this experience, I learned that sometimes it is better to let go of some projects and visit them later.
After reading about my journey, you must have realized that I am an ordinary person and there is truly nothing unique about me as a writer. I think there is a writer within all of us waiting to be unleashed. A small praise from my high school teacher encouraged me to continue to write.
My goal is to be able to write consistently, have more confidence in my writings and my dream is to finish writing this novel that I have started. Whenever I piece these word patches together the result is a “Word Quilt” that could be a story, an essay, a book or perhaps just musings.
- Word Quilt – used with permission from Kateri_ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kateri/)
Your quilt may be colored differently and may have different patches. Each one of us is unique and has different experiences, which makes our writings and our stories one of a kind. If you have stumbled upon this blog, I hope you have enjoyed my word quilt.