Big thanks to contributor Julie Carrick Dalton for introducing us to today’s guest, Rheea Mukherjee!
Rheea’s debut novel, The Body Myth, recently sold to Unnamed Press and will be published in February 2019! She holds an MFA from California College of the Arts. Her fiction and non-fiction has been published in several publications including Scroll.in, Southern Humanities Review, Out of Print, Cleaver Magazine, Kitaab, and Bengal Lights.
She’s with us today to talk about an issue that, once upon a time, tested her ability to convey language and threatened her dream of becoming a writer.
The Writer Who Can’t Write
I suspect most writers knew they were meant to write before they actually did. This knowledge could have manifested in a bunch of ways. It might have been a passing idea: I think I might be good with words. It might have been a nagging voice: hey you, you’re supposed to be a writer, so write! It might have been a quick thought that was rapidly covered in self-doubt: Maybe, I can write? Nope, you suck, remember?
Or maybe you were one of the more confident ones, aware from an early age that you were meant to write and then did so without an ounce of self-doubt. (Can we meet?)
I was 14 when I first thought I could, maybe, possibly, write. But all the evidence to this was severely contradictory.
I am a third-culture kid. I did schooling in the U.S till the 4th grade and then moved to India where I finished high school. I was back in America for college and graduate school. Living in two cultures has blessed me with all sorts of empathy and boosted my writing imagination. So far so good right?
But see, back when I was in high school in India, the only exams I did well in were English and Biology. I failed most other subjects. I owe this to learning in a very rigid Indian school system while simultaneously dealing with massive cultural changes.
However, at the time, there was only one reason for my failings: I sucked, totally and completely. Why else would I fail this hard?
As a young adult, I realized that my childhood instinct was right. I was good at writing, or rather communicating a moment, time, or idea in a text.
I really was.
But the technicality of writing was something my brain did not cooperate with. And here’s where I tell you the truth.
I can’t spell. I literally cannot. I am moderately dyslexic, so I can’t see basic errors and many of my words read upside down or are missing letters even though they appear correct to me. Somehow, I had gotten away with this (via blissful ignorance and teachers who never really called me out on it) until I finished high school.
Then I turned 18 and went to college in Colorado. My 101 college composition classes were giving me a C Minus for a grade. A total hit to my evolving identity. The one ‘talent’ I thought I had was average at best.
I still didn’t have a grasp of how bad the situation was. I had all the ideas, I even had sentences that could dazzle, explore and perform, but they were riddled with very basic mistakes and made-up words. I legitimately thought ‘mying’ was a word for 4 straight years that were well into adulthood.
This caused a vicious anxiety: there was a big thumping need to write and live through writing but I was too scared to put it out there.
Flashforward to 2018. I have published many stories, non-fiction articles, opinion pieces, and have a debut novel coming out in February in the U.S.A.
I co-run a company (Write Leela Write) that develops content and it’s been running successfully for more than four years. But it’s not because I have a story with some dramatic change, some miracle cure that got me to a place where I could embrace what I wanted to do and carve out space for me to thrive.
The truth is that I just kept embracing new levels of discomfort every day. [Read more…]