A writing coach’s advice

  • Huzaifa Pandit
  • Publish Date: Jan 1 2018 10:31AM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jan 1 2018 11:04AM
A writing coach’s advice

‘Don’t force the writer in you to become an author’

 

In early December, the writing coach Bhavana Nissima conducted a workshop in Srinagar. She has a doctorate in intercultural and gender communication studies from the University of New Mexico, United States, and is a certified Neurolinguistic Programming Practitioner. Her company, Lightweaver Consultants, offers training and mentorship programmes to budding writers. She spoke to Kashmir Ink about the recent workshop and writing generally. Excerpts from the interview:

 

What are your “Writing Masterclasses”? How are they different from other writing classes like MOOCs that are available on the internet? 

Writing is an expression of the self that is unique. When we subscribe to external rules or standards or techniques, we are attempting to fit into existing moulds. My writing workshop brings the self to the fore, helps participants examine their emotional blocks, work through them, and discover and own their natural writing process. It combines elements of neuroscience and psychology to writing. I encourage the writer to be the first happy reader of her work. At its foundation, it is a healing workshop. I believe the expression of the self and healing are interlinked.

 

How was the response to your workshop in Kashmir?

The response was fantabulous. The group was diverse and passionate. Most importantly, they were engaged in the process. On the first day of the class, I noticed that a couple of folks were seated on the outer ring of the class close to the door. I knew they didn’t trust me and were keeping their exit option open. I was thrilled when on the second day they chose to change their seats and sat farthest away from the door. One young woman recognised and worked through a traumatic memory during the workshop. A few others planned creatively for their future. As a trainer, I was touched by how participants took initiative and responsibility for their improved well-being. 

 

You have been conducting workshops across the country. What differences did you find between your students in Kashmiri and those elsewhere?

To say “Kashmiri” students versus others is to presuppose that the group identity or culture is more significant than the individual. My experience shows the individual is paramount and unique. The same stimulus is processed differently by different individuals. So, Kashmiri students were each unique and thrilling. Having said that, I noticed that the prevalent social discourse of limited choices and space to move had impeded some individuals from full creative expression. When you begin to believe that writing has to be only about a tragedy or politics or social resistance, you are, at a level, allowing the external to decide what areas you should write about. You can write anything – silly comedy, oomphy or tearjerker romance, children’s book, goofy cartoons, a sweet travelogue. The ability to wander in your mind and explore has to be nurtured. The second aspect I found is that there is a need to be safe, and we are safe when we are in packs. Hence, others’ views and acceptance played a big role in what the folks wrote and how they wrote. The way to rise is to reclaim the self in every way.

 

What do you think is the role of writing in a conflict zone like Kashmir? Can it help in conflict resolution at any level?

Yes, it can help. I believe there are two levels to conflict resolution. The first level is internal and the second is external. Internal resolution happens when you no longer feel imprisoned in your mind, you are able to reclaim and own all parts of you, and you express and live from that place of power and knowing. If more folks are empowered, then I believe they will figure out a solution that works best for them. What that solution is or will be, I have no clue. However, I believe creative writing is a fabulous space to be empowered and pave the path to inner peace.

 

What do you think needs to be done to further nurture the culture of writing that has developed in Kashmir? Can the nascent private sector here help?

My writing workshop was sponsored by a restaurant owner (Javid Parsa of Parsa’s). He made the workshop free for participants. This allowed many young men and women to learn and engage in an empowering process. I noticed how book releases are done at Parsa’s and young authors are promoted on social media. It is a fantastic way to nurture a writing culture in Kashmir. I would suggest more writing support groups, book clubs, writing workshops. Further, I would suggest some seasoned writers to don the role of mentors to encourage others to write as they want. 

I notice that sometimes writing is equated to publishing. They are two different streams that are interconnected. The trouble is when publishing is considered the barometer for evaluating if your writing is good or not. Writing is self-expression. Let that be protected and nurtured. For those who want to take it to publishing, let there be workshops on how to do that. Keep the streams separate.

 

It was your first visit to Kashmir. What was your impression of this place?

Kashmir is a spiritual space for me. Interpretations of a land happen through the lens of who we are and what we seek. What is more, landscapes are mirrors revealing what we didn’t see in ourselves. Kashmir was a catalyst and a facilitator for me to speak to the unowned parts of me – beautiful, uncomfortable, disturbing, intense, thrilling and so important. It was a milestone in my spiritual journey. 

 

Lastly, what tips or suggestions would you give to aspiring authors?

An author means someone who is published, which presupposes others’ acknowledgement and validation. A writer is someone who expresses the self through writing. The only suggestion I would give is this: avoid shredding/ignoring/overwhelming/shaming/whipping/forcing the writer in you in order to become an author. The most wonderful gift you can give to this world is to be you. Let the flower that you are bloom.