12 MIN READ
I like reading about writing about writing. I learn a lot. I especially like reading writing about writing about writing. That’s what we have this week.
I asked our contributors to pick out favorite sentences from the Writing Journeys series.
Here are their responses. I hope you enjoy.
Kalpana Jha on Manjushree Thapa’s writing journey:
“Revision is what infuses my writing process with life.”
This statement in Manjushree Thapa's Writing Journey essay really made sense to me because writing is not an event, it is a process that evolves through a rigorous revision process. Revision is what brings meaning and rightly said life into the writing.
Read Kalpana Jha’s writing journey essay: ‘Writing provides a voice to my feelings, and adds value to my struggles’
Tenzin Dickie on
Mukta Tamang’s writing journey:
“Language is power — those who control language control representation or misrepresentation of reality, ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’. They define themselves and the ‘other’. Writing to power requires reading against the grain.”
Mukta Tamang’s words are so true. Language is the root of everything, how we think, how we live, how we imagine. It’s at the center of our lives, and shapes everything. I think those of us whose first languages are marginalized or disadvantaged or oppressed live that knowledge, in a way that others don’t, the fact that language is power.
Manjushree Thapa’s writing journey:
“It never gets easier, but I love writing.”
This stuck with me because it captures our relationship to writing perfectly. It really doesn’t get easier, in fact, often it gets harder, perhaps because we start to take on more challenging projects, and it sucks, but at the same time, there’s nothing better than finishing something you are proud of. When I have written something I am happy with, I can live off of that for a long time. Emotionally, not financially, haha.
Read Tenzin Dickie’s writing journey essay: ‘Writing is how I make sense of my world’
Niranjan Kunwar on Tenzin Dickie’s writing journey:
“systems of writing, rituals, habits”
I read Tenzin Dickie's essay and found it full of wisdom and insightful ideas (also, it was powerfully written). I resonate with her concept of developing “systems of writing, rituals, habits”. Having a structure and committing to the discipline of writing is so important.
Another line from Tenzin Dickie that struck me was this: “When I read Tsundue and Dhompa’s poetry, it was like receiving an empowerment. I felt strengthened, charged with possibility — I felt empowered. I wrote a poem.”
There are so many wonderful aspects intermixed here – how reading and writing are intertwined. More importantly, I don't see how anyone begins to write without receiving inspiration from reading. Tenzin's example is so succinct – not only inspired, she felt empowered and strengthened. I love these last two adjectives used to describe that seemingly abstract, elusive experience. The last line hits it home.
Read Niranjan Kuwar’s writing journey essay: ‘Even if words don’t come easily, I keep at it, trusting the process’
Sanjay Upadhya on Anagha Neelakantan’s writing journey:
“Writing is an exploration. I may know or think something, but only through writing can I clarify and refine it. Shaping an idea or a piece of analysis, sentence after sentence, draft after draft – that is how I get to the final point of my thought.”
Many times, when I have sat down to write what I thought I knew I was going to say, I have ended up with something different — not necessarily departing from the original substance but instilling greater clarity of thought.
Read Sanjay Upadhya’s writing journey essay: ‘Question your assumptions, play the devil’s advocate’
Janak Raj Sapkota on Chaitanya Mishra’s writing journey:
“I enjoy explaining, i.e., seeking to answer the question ‘why?’. One of the questions that intrigued me during my childhood was, Why didn’t it rain in all places at the same time? Another one, for example, was why do we have the caste system?
…Most students think that they are reading ‘big men’ from powerful countries and universities who are beyond questioning. In addition, in Nepal, we have long had a culture that discouraged the act of ‘questioning your superior’.”
Read Janak Raj Sapkota’s writing journey: ‘Ordinary people have extraordinary experiences’
Indu Tharu on:
Rajendra Maharjan’s writing journey:
“In my experience, schools teach the curriculum, not about society, and they don’t teach to ask questions. For writing, they teach only how to copy down answers. How could creativity grow from this parrot-like rote learning?”
Janak Raj Sapkota’s writing journey:
“People of every caste, language, religion and culture all have different stories within them. People of every skill, occupation, and qualification have different experiences. I realized that even ordinary people have extraordinary experiences.”
Sarita Pariyar’s writing journey:
“Writing was my most reliable friend. I could touch and feel. I could talk. I could get mad. I could cry. I could tear it up. I could show my gigantic love. I could tell my secrets. Writing in my diary was safe and special for me. I could paint my dreams with words. I could dream of going beyond both family and social ‘dos and don'ts’. I used to feel that my diary listened to me without preaching. I could trust my diary.
If I could go back and give advice to 16-year-old Sarita, I would say, just read read read. Write write write. Challenge yourself. Push your limits. Just be yourself. Believe it or not, writers are made, not born.”
Read Indu Tharu’s writing journey: ‘Whatever I want to write about has to touch my soul’
Sarita Pariyar on
Anagha Neelakantan’s writing journey:
“Sincerity and deep engagement are your friends. Don’t write something because it will be popular, controversial, or safe. Write it because it makes you think or feel.”
Anagha truly captures the essence of writing. The motive of writing varies depending on the person. Words have tremendous power. If they are used with great humility, they might not perpetuate histories of oppression and injustices; rather, they correct histories. We can't change what we can't see, and writing helps us see our own world clearly.
Shradha Ghale’s writing journey:
“In my experience, often the best talker in a village discussion group is a high-caste man. He knows the language, he knows the system, he knows what this Kathmandu journalist is looking for. It is tempting to fill my notebooks with his clear and well-put-together responses. But confidence and eloquence are not the preserve of historically marginalized groups, many of whom cannot even speak Nepali. So, if I want to know what the women, Dalits, or Janajati in the room are thinking, I have to put in extra effort to draw them out, listen, or have a separate conversation with them.”
Shradha beautifully articulated her thoughts on what it would take to bring forward unheard and untold stories of historically marginalized communities. This is important because I am interested in interrogating questions such as What constitutes knowledge? Whose knowledge counts? Why do unheard and untold stories matter? All these questions would help produce new knowledge and new possibilities for envisioning just futures for all.
Tom Robertson’s writing advice:
“Many Nepalis think they are not good writers. They often blame themselves. I reject that view. The problem is not with them; the problem is that most Nepali schools don't teach writing. How can you become a great volleyball player if no one shows you how to play, and you never get the chance to practice?”
Until when should we blame ourselves? Does blaming ourselves solve the problem? No. While reading this paragraph, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a young man who was, by profession, a thesis writer. I met him a few years ago on my way to Kalinchowk. I had never thought that thesis writing could be a profession. This simply illustrates the reality of the Nepali education system, especially in terms of writing. Unless we recognize how we arrived here, we can't figure out how to go further. Becoming a good writer is similar to becoming a good tailor — they both require skill, imagination, creativity, and practice.
Read Sarita Pariyar’s writing journey: ‘Who is going to tell our stories?’
Sonia Awale on
Anagha Neelakantan’s writing journey:
“Look past the obvious, push your opinions about your subject as far as you can, question your preconceptions, and look at all angles, even those you dislike.”
These words by Anagha Neelakantan apply not only in writing but in life situations as well. Humans by nature have biases and preconceived notions, it is only when we question and move past them do we have lived a meaningful life.
Kunda Dixit’s writing journey:
“The more complicated the subject you are writing about, the simpler your language should be. That does not mean keeping it dry and monotonous, the sentences should show passion for, and engagement with, the subject matter.”
Simple and clear writing without losing the nuance is the prerequisite for journalists covering technical subject matters, especially in the time of climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic. But this must be backed up with good storytelling so that your readers care enough.
One of the most important tips I’ve learned from my editor Kunda Dixit, I’ve tried to implement it in my writing too, hopefully successfully.
Shradha Ghale’s writing journey:
“I’m still learning to write, I guess the process never ends.”
I’d like to think I’m ever learning and growing, both in my writing and in life. Writing has also helped me mature as a person. There is a special joy in this never ending process.
Read Sonia Awale’s writing journey: ‘Writers and journalists must be patient’
Manjushree Thapa on Sarita Pariyar’s writing journey:
As a creative writer and essayist who gets to write in a personal voice, and does not strive for a dispassionate, objective style, as journalists and academics are asked to do, I really appreciated Sarita Pariyar's account of how her writing life began with journaling: “My writing life began by keeping an occasional daily journal as a teenager.”
There is little space for privacy in Nepal's close-knit, often claustrophobic society. There is little opportunity for fledgling writers to try out their own views, and feel their own passions, in a safe environment. I relied on journaling to find my own voice when I was starting out, and still use it to organize my mind during periods of confusion. It always helps me attain clarity. And so I very much relate to Sarita Pariyar's experience with journaling:
“Writing was my most reliable friend. I could touch and feel. I could talk. I could get mad. I could cry. I could tear it up. I could show my gigantic love. I could tell my secrets. Writing in my diary was safe and special for me. I could paint my dreams with words. I could dream of going beyond both family and social ‘dos and don'ts’. I used to feel that my diary listened to me without preaching. I could trust my diary.”
Read Manjushree Thapa’s writing journey: ‘It never gets easier, but I love writing’
Tom Robertson Tom Robertson, PhD, is an environmental historian who writes about Kathmandu and Nepali history. His Nepali-language video series on writing, 'Mitho Lekhai', is available on Youtube. His most recent article, 'No smoke without fire in Kathmandu’, appeared on March 5 in Nepali Times.
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