When you want to be a writer and therefore up take English literature as your major but realize that you are mostly stuck in academia full of incomprehensible jargon, analyzing the canon and trying to understand the existential angst of white men, how do you cope? Well, that is the story I am writing today.
Note: I had four papers – one on literary theory, one on popular literature, one postcolonial paper and one on Indian writings in English as well, but I am talking about the overall syllabus of English Literature which was mostly jargon and canon.
I’d thought there would be at least one creative writing paper in English literature or at least some training of becoming a writer. There was none except for getting to read a lot of texts which help in writing better but not entirely, I feel.
I did not get what I had expected, I got something else which was immensely helpful in a very different way. But, I still wanted to be a writer.
Yes, you can become a creative writer if you get training in reading a lot, enhancing your reading speed, editing, proofreading, revising, understanding different literary devices and discussing them in class – all of which I had expected from the course.
What my course, in the non-canon papers, had in store was literary theory and political criticism, i.e. a training to learn to approach all of the literature from a political, critical lens. The approaches were those of Feminism (understanding gender power equations in the texts), Marxism (understanding class and the power dynamics and power imbalance thereof), Psychoanalysis (looking for motivations in what people do in the subconscious and the psychological history of people), Postcolonial (understanding and analyzing the domination of West in knowledge production and colonialism at work then and now) and Post-structuralism (approaching texts from a non-binary approach and looking at nuances of things without centers, questioning and analyzing meanings and the politics behind language and meaning productions). Yes, if someday I were to be a writer, I would have many lenses to look through, but how would I become a writer?
The other papers, dominated by the British canon would test my patience. I was not interested in what white men had to say about life.
After graduating in English and learning theory, I had one reservation. I had a hard time reading and comprehending jargon in these three years. With so many writings by academicians about the subaltern, I would think, would the subaltern really understand this jargon? Let alone understanding, would they be able to afford these academic works which even the scholars themselves can’t afford after publishing?
Even though there might be some ways, but I chose to change my path.
I opted for Mass Communication. As the name suggested, I thought it would be more democratic, easy and have more reach while conveying a message. Till then, I had also been interested in documentary films. But, I still wanted to be a writer first and a filmmaker next.
I had thought Mass Communication would include some aspects of journalism as well. Slowly, I came to realize that it had no scope of writing except for one screenwriting paper. I didn’t want to write for screens only. I wanted to talk to people through my writing and talk about things that mattered.
That is when I thought, I had to concentrate on my dream and make it possible on my own. My course had nothing to do with it. I tried working on my writing but I was very doubtful about my ability to write, especially on public platforms. But anyway, I continued reading and wrote about everyday political observations. These writings were personal, and I would write very rarely.
Then, when I joined Youth Ki Awaaz as a writer, I began learning more from the editing procedures our pieces go through. I wrote for some other publications as well and realized that in editing, every day is a day of learning and improving one’s writing and how one wants to say things.
I have gained confidence in what I always wanted to do and I think that despite what our courses in college are and despite what we study professionally, what we truly love doing will happen: our dreams will find us. Only that, seeing the circumstances, we don’t have to give up.
My advice to everyone would be to love what you do and do what you love, despite what you decide to study.