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My Story: I Was a Socially Awkward Girl. Here’s How My Poetry Changed Me

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Niti Majethia writes about poetry, arts, and her passion for expressing herself with words.

I first started writing poetry when I was 6 years old. I loved the way it made me feel — like my heart had been filled to the brim.

Such is the power of creative satisfaction. Being a young girl trying to find her way into publishing has got to be hard, and believe me, it was. During middle school, I was that socially awkward girl that spent all her time writing poems, and trust me, I was bullied a lot for it. From name-calling to cyber bullying, I’ve gone through it all.

I was always told by my peers that I’d be a “failure” as a writer. Not surprisingly, I had very low self-esteem.

But I had a voice. And I needed it to be heard. My passion for my work made me submit my poetry to online magazines. Of course, at first there were a lot of rejections. But soon enough, I started getting published. As I got published, I became more confident… and with that confidence also increased my grit and determination. I’d spend hours and hours emailing various editors, sending them my poetry. I’d spend hours reading, writing, making notes, learning new words. I read a lot of books, blogged, read the newspapers, wrote about things that mattered to me.

These were days of hard work with no success and fame promised. But one point entirely changed my life. Kidspirit magazine published my poem “After I die,” and before I knew it, I was invited to New York University to collect a poetry award and read the poem in front of thousands of people. I was also invited to establish the Kidspirit editorial board in India, which encourages kids to become editors for the magazine.

That experience truly changed me. Performing in front of so many people, representing India and meeting so many people who tell me that my words really shook them, that changed me. It gave me hope. I met a lot of filmmakers who were interested in my work.

Once I got back, I started spending even more time emailing editors and working on my writing.

I’d write seven to eight poems every single day, and read at least 3 books every week. Exactly a year later, I was invited to Uplift Festival in Byron Bay, Australia, to share my life story on stage and launch the Global Alliance of Youth in Action (GAYA) portal. This journey was life changing too. I spoke about my struggles, rejections and failures and read out some of my poems. My first book, which I wrote that year, was auctioned for 400 Australian dollars. I then donated that money to a charity that supports young struggling artists.

In Australia, I met tons of directors, producers, businessmen, artists, scientists… and I connected with them even further. In a year, my career had taken off. I was doing a lot of public speaking gigs, writing for various magazines including The New York Times and The Huffington Post and films (including an HBO documentary), and a lot of things had changed.

What inspires me? My passion. The zeal I have for writing and poetry and expressing myself. The love I have for the arts. The pride I have in our Indian heritage and culture, that when I go on an international stage, I am beaming with joy. I’m inspired by the simple things in life. Comfort, love, family, laughter, warmth… just a sense of oneness with the world.

I think what truly inspired me to start writing was how much I wanted to express myself.

I’ve always had this voice – and I wanted it to be of meaning. I remember, the first poem I ever wrote was about fever. Even something as little as that, I wanted to express my views. I wanted to connect with people. That’s what I love about art- how intimate it is.

My second book Eunoia now sells on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Flipkart. I faced a lot of struggles while trying to get it published, but ultimately I did it, and one of my main aims was to break this stigma that surrounds art in our society. I wanted to prove that you can become a successful artist, and that art has value. Art is just as valuable as business or science. Today, I really hope I can use my platform to spread awareness about mental illness, bullying and abuse. I want to create art that makes people feel, that reminds people how important it is to be human.

The only good advice I can give to people out there who want to write books is to read. Read ALL kinds of books. Read everything. And to never, ever let rejections deter you. You can’t force yourself to be a writer. I think that’s what so many people don’t understand – you don’t just become a writer overnight. You become a writer only when there’s a voice in you that refuses to be still. You can only write a poem that wants to be written. If it doesn’t shoot out of you, if it doesn’t ache in your chest and body and beat you till it’s written, it’s not worth it. If you stare at a blank page for hours wondering what to write, don’t do it. That is not how poetry is born. You don’t force poetry.

If you want to write a story, make an outline, have a plan – and then start. Chances are, you won’t follow your plan at all, and that’s fine. But at least you know your direction. That’s the beauty of writing, you never know how that poem or prose piece is going to end. You discover it while creating it. Read the poem “So you want to be a writer?” by Charles Bukowski and you’ll understand what I mean when I say don’t force it.

In a male-dominated industry, my aim is to break stereotypes and focus attention on garnering inspiration.

(Written by Niti Majethia)

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