"How I became a writer" by Vinitha Dileep
Updated: Jul 1
My Story of How It All Began
My first attempt at writing happened when I was in sixth grade. I wrote those four lines in my mother tongue, Malayalam. It was about the words — mom and dad. I showed it to my parents and my dad was impressed. My mom didn’t say much about it. Of course, it wasn’t a great piece of poetry. That day, I wrote six more couplets. And that concluded my poetic attempts for a while.
I don’t remember when the dream of becoming a writer sprouted in me. Although I remember that I admired writers, especially poets more than storytellers, though I loved reading stories too. I believe it was in my ninth grade that we had a lesson in English, a poem by Emily Dickinson and I fell in love with her words from that moment. The poem was called ‘Success’. I was blown over by how deep and meaningful words could be depending on how one chooses to use it.
“Success is counted sweetest By those who ne’er succeed.”
Those lines confused me. Isn’t success sweetest for the one who succeeds? How does the one who is not successful know the taste of success?
“Not one of all the purple host Who took the flag to-day Can tell the definition, So clear, of victory,”
Again, I couldn’t understand why can’t someone who won the battle tell the definition of success!
“As he, defeated, dying, On whose forbidden ear The distant strains of triumph Break, agonized and clear.”
These are the lines that made a difference to me, though it was difficult for my head to comprehend the depth of the words which were carefully crafted by the poetess , it showed me failure in a different light. For the first time in my life I started looking at my classmates who failed exams in a different way - that they might know the bitterness and sweetness of grades a little more than the others do. For a teenager, that was the beginning of seeing the world in a different shade. Through these words, Emily Dickinson, gave me the permission to look at this beautiful world on my terms. It gave me the permission to rearrange the thoughts and words that flitted in my head and showcase them the way I pleased.
Then there were other poems, most of them were in my native language, Malayalam, that took my breath away. The famous poet G Shankara Kurup’s ‘Ente Veli’ was another such piece that left me amazed. It was a tragic poem equating the feelings of an old person nearing his death taking his last breath to the one of a young girl who was being married off to an older man without her approval (not that anybody asked for her approval!).
കാൽവിനാഴികകൂടി ഞാൻ പിറന്നൊരീ വീട്ടിൽ മേവിടാൻ കഴിഞ്ഞെങ്കിൽ! - ഇത്ര വേഗമോ യാത്ര? മേനി മേ വിറയ്ക്കില്ല, ചുണ്ടിണ ചലിക്കില്ല ഗ്ലാനി വന്നുദിക്കില്ല, വിളറിപ്പോകില്ലാസ്യം സമയം വരുന്നേരം സർവ്വശക്തമാക്കൈയ്യിൽ മമജീവിതം ക്ഷുദ്രം സസ്മിതം സമർപ്പിക്കും സ്നേഹപൂർണ്ണമായെന്നെ നോക്കി വീർപ്പിടും ജന്മ- ഗേഹമേ പൊങ്ങുന്നില്ല യാത്രചോദിപ്പാൻ ശബ്ദം.
These lines capture the desperation that emerges when one has to leave their house behind knowing that return would not be possible - the frailty that consumes one as they get ready to bid the last goodbye to their home, their body before taking that last leave, last breath.
The parallels drawn between the two lives made me realize the eloquent way of thinking and the evocative way of using words to convey those thoughts. It never occurred to me to attempt anything like that. But I did in my own limited way. Of course, those were mere attempts, but those attempts gave me the courage to put my thoughts on to the paper.
In my tenth grade, I wrote a fairly long poem, again in Malayalam. It was a great accomplishment for me as I wrote about the evening sky that always soothed me with its appearance every day. But it took a long time for that poem to gain some new readers other than myself as I was unsure about showing it to anybody.
The poem was named സന്ധ്യ (Evening) which later found a home in my blog.
പ്രകൃതി തന് സുന്ദരവരചാർത്തുകൾ ഈ സന്ധ്യ, ഒരു സുന്ദര സ്വപ്നം പോലെ പ്രതീക്ഷകള് തന് അലകള് തിരയടിക്കുന്നുവല്ലോ. മോഹത്തിന് പൊന് കസവണിഞ്ഞ മനസ്സില്, സങ്കല്പ്പ സ്വപ്നത്തിന് സ്വര മാധുര്യമേറിടുന്നുവല്ലോ, അല്ലയോ ത്രിസന്ധ്യെ, ആരു പകർന്നു തന്നതാണ് നിനക്കീ ശോഭ! വശ്യമാം നിന് സൌന്ദര്യലഹരിയില് മയങ്ങീടുന്നുവല്ലോ എന് മനം! സ്വപ്നമാം സുന്ദരവീചിയിലൂടെന് മനം ഗമിക്കുമ്പോള് നിന് കാവല് ഭടന്മാരാം പൊന്നമ്പിളിയും താരകങ്ങളും സ്വഗതമേകുമോ? അനവധ്യ സുന്ദരമാം നിന് അഴകില് സ്വയം മറന്നു നില്ക്കുമെന്നെ തഴുകുമീ മന്ദമാരുതനും നിന് ചാരുതതന് വശ്യത കൂട്ടീടുന്നുവോ? കുങ്കുമവർണ്ണമണിഞ്ഞു നില്ക്കും മേഘത്തുണ്ടുകൾ നിന് തിലകകുറിയോ?
The last pages of my notebooks were filled with one-liners that you could call a poem, or prose, or simply nonsense. I continued to write poems when my mind couldn’t bear it inside any longer. Pen and paper were my rescuers. I scribbled the nonsensical thoughts which ruled my head, in my notebook when I had to, not because I wanted to. I never thought of this act of scribbling down random musings as writing. It never crossed my mind that I was writing. I never thought of myself as a writer. It was more of a fluke than anything else — that’s what I thought! The verses I penned happened because of a few vagrant musings that refused to stay in its assigned path and spilled across mine. I couldn’t take credit for those musings. I couldn’t count on those irregular thoughts and call myself a writer!
Somewhere around those days, I started to dream of becoming a writer. But then, I never knew this dream was growing slowly inside me. All I did was write when I couldn’t keep it under the wraps.
A few of my poems found its place in our college magazine. Not that I thought of them as worthy of getting published! The editor who was also a friend of mine got the wind of my poetic attempts and coaxed me into writing some for the magazine, and I, after a lot of resistance on my behalf and with great reluctance, obliged. The journey which began then, continued. In 2008 October, I created my first blog as a means to document my poems. I wasn’t a blogger. I wrote and published poems on my blog when I felt the urge to write. I had a couple of readers, one of them being my husband.
Then in 2014, I created another blog to write down my parenting adventures. I explored and met with a world full of bloggers. Meeting up with like-minded people was a turning point in my life. I started to blog regularly since then. And before I knew it, I became a blogger, one who writes random thoughts, lessons from life, parenting mishaps, along with the poems that couldn’t stay away from my head.
All this while, I was hesitant to say out loud that I was a blogger or a writer. When I did talk about my blogging adventures, I was extremely modest and careful not to let the other person think that it was a big deal. So, what if a few stray words conquered my head occasionally and made me write words that I called poems! Of course, it was a pleasure to write about the giggles of my little bundle of joy and share it with the world. But how did it make me a writer!
Then one day — a lot of days, months, and years later — in the recent past, I started introducing myself as a writer. It took courage to own up who I was. My reasoning was, I was writing a lot — more in my journal than on my blogs. The dream of becoming a writer has since then stepped out from the shadows and reared its ugly head at me, wide and clear. I had nowhere else to go. I knew then that this was it. Then I revived my medium account and started to write a lot more.
You become a writer when you write as if there is nothing else you would rather do.
Now I write daily from the time I wake up at 5:30 in the morning till the time I take a break in the evening. I sit at my desk and type whatever comes to my mind. I step into the kitchen and cook and come back and type again. I answer my kids' needs and questions and everything in between and get right back to my desk and write again. If musings do wander into my head after hours, I make sure to pick up my journal or phone’s note app and note it down, pronto.
I am a writer.
Writing is my work.
I write from dawn to dusk.
I am a writer.
You become a writer when you accept yourself as a writer.
Editorial: Writing is a form of acceptance of our reality. We think, therefore we write. Vinitha narrates her story of becoming a writer and accepting herself as one. Nonetheless, this act of becoming ourselves requires courage and disciple and her story is an advocate of it. She picked her pen to twist the world and break words to engender thoughts. Thoughts that changes our way of seeing things and sometimes adore them naturally. It then becomes necessary to scribble. Her passion will force you to overcome trepidation and accept that 'there is nothing else you would rather do. (Uzma)
Vinitha Dileep is lover of words who found her solace in writing and rewriting software codes until life took a turn and laid the path to writing poems every day. She is the author of Void Thoughts: A Collection of Poems and other publications in Medium. She is also a consistent blogger at Reflections and Void Thoughts.