The written word and I - a bittersweet rendezvous
The art of reading and writing is my best friend and best foe.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” - Stephen King
This particular topic probably doesn’t surprise anyone since writing has been my thing for quite some time now. I was eight years old when I first picked up a pen and wrote a letter to the person who invented Mathematics. I questioned them why they created this discipline that did not seem to appeal to me, no matter what I did.
I was always fond of subjects that didn’t involve numbers. The written word appealed to me more simply because I could grasp it and I was good at it too.
Weaving words together to form story-like descriptions and meaningful sentences was a strength I explored quite often. My 12- year-old self put a few A4 sheets together, folded and stapled them to create her first-ever magazine.
I got into reading books later than most of my peers but when I picked up my first Nancy Drew at the age of 13, there was no looking back after that. In 9th grade, I was caught in Chemistry class reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire instead of learning the periodic table. This pretty much sums up my school experience too.
At the age of 14, I wrote my first ever short story which caught the eye of my English teacher and she encouraged me to write more. Soon after, I started using an old notebook to write a novel inspired by all the books I had read. This novel had elements of fantasy, romance, sci-fi, adventure, comedy, and every other genre fitting a 14-year-old’s imagination. I don’t remember if I finished this novel but I do remember how much fun I had writing it.
The written word has always been my best friend and my close companion in times of distress. Be it through non-fiction articles, fictional stories, or journaling — I have always found comfort in both writing and reading.
I remember coping with my grandfather’s death in 2009 with books and journals too. They were the only way I felt better and was able to fill the gaping hole in my heart.
I got into poetry sometime back then too. All through this time, I was encouraged to both read and write. This helped solidify my interests. However, life happened.
I was keen on studying either Literature or Journalism for my undergraduate degree but thanks to the excellent admission criteria of our education system, I didn’t qualify for either course in any of the good colleges here.
I took my next best option — Sociology.
And I don’t regret studying Sociology one bit. If anything, this subject has helped me become more aware of the space I occupy in the world around me and opened my eyes to a lot of the socialisation and conditioning I may not have known I had been exposed to otherwise. I am grateful to Sociology for all of that and more.
However, studying a subject in college that was not my primary area of interest confused my young adult self a lot.
I was almost constantly at war with myself over what I wanted and thought I should be doing. While I had the opportunity to study literature as a subject almost every semester in college and intern in media publications during my summer breaks too, I still felt like I was losing touch with writing and reading creatively.
To counter this, I started writing for online publications and did internships as a content writer while still in college and used my sociological knowledge in my writing. This helped me get back on track, to an extent.
Because while I enjoyed all the volunteer and freelance writing I did as a student, it also took a toll on me because being a (creative) writer can be a harrowing experience. You are essentially ripping yourself apart inside out to create something of meaning that hopefully, someone will relate to.
So the inner conflict persisted.
Post-college, I was struck by personal tragedy and spent some time bedridden due to illness. This was a tough time and as much as I wish the written word could have been there for me, it wasn’t. I did not have the time, energy, or capacity to read or write anymore.
While I did get back to it all once I started recovering, I now had a new expectation of myself that was waiting to tear me apart — adulthood.
Part of me still wanted to be a writer, editor, or publisher; basically, anything that would keep me close to creativity, books, and literature in any form. Then there was this other part of me that ached to be more rational and pragmatic. This side of me wanted to do something that would give me something to brag about, something that paid my bills and kept me occupied so I wouldn’t have to think of my illness-related trauma in any way.
I chose the latter and threw myself into “professional life.” Picked up a job I knew I wouldn’t enjoy by the very nature of it too. As expected, I struggled at this job and took up another one six months later, and while I enjoyed this one a lot more than its predecessor, I hit a standstill and felt saturated a year later because my work did not feel nearly creative enough by then. Post this, I worked my last job which gave me a lot of organisational experience, but not nearly enough for me to explore myself creatively.
It was at this time that I realised my biggest problem was that as much as I wanted to pursue a creative career, I couldn’t imagine something that had been my escape becoming my livelihood. I needed a balance. A creative career that did not directly intersect with my interests yet was something I deeply resonated with.
Because if there was one thing I discovered about myself in all these years of existing and ruminating — it was that I was incapable of doing something I was not passionate about.
Living for a living did not motivate me.
All of this led to where I am today. I quit my last job a month ago. I’m currently taking a break from ‘productivity’ and awaiting my master’s, which begins in a couple of months. I am going to pursue a post-graduate degree in mass communication. I will probably return to writing and research work professionally after this degree too but I know I will be more aware of myself and the life I wished for as I pursue this degree.
Life has a funny way of panning itself out, exactly the way it wants to. It does feel like you’re not in control at times but that’s far from the truth.
Every decision I consciously made led to where I was, and where I am now. I decided when I wanted to write, and I decided when I did not. Nothing happened outside my force field. I consciously chose everything I did, without even realising it at times.
I have now made the decision that I do. I want to read and I want to write, just not the way I’d dreamt of it or the way films and books had romanticised it for me growing up.
My existence is tied by a thin yet resilient thread that only allows me to thrive when I am being creative and engaging with literature in different forms — be it through articles, books, or any form of media. This is exactly where I belong.
Keeping my two writer personas separate will not be easy; the professional one yearns for routine and discipline and the personal one is a chaotic mess of unfinished thoughts. I have no other choice anymore.
If I am to live a fulfilled life, so must the two wolves in me coexist.
In true Gemini fashion, I continue to live the double life 10-year-old Arushi used to enact every day after school in her room. One where she’s a superhero and a dog mom with a full-time job. My superpower now is writing for myself and my little audience when I can, my full-time job is what I do for a living. Both are me. I am both.
Therefore, the written word is my friend and my foe. Frenemies are the new BFFs?