An Exclusive Interview With The Author Of ‘But I Want To Write’, Priyanka Sawhney

Priyanka Sawhney, 23, a Delhite, hails from a middle-class family. She’s a full-time corporate professional with prior part time experience as a biology content writer as well as an educator for children with learning disabilities. She has been a grammar Nazi throughout her school and college life and often penned down scripts for skits, short poems and even song lyrics at college events.

Chit Chat session

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m currently twenty three and a Delhiite. As most would have assumed, I do not belong from a language or literary background. I hail from a Biology background and am currently learning Sales and Marketing both from my job and my Hybrid PGDM program. This is not all about life. I aim to inspire numerous people through my words and lead them towards a better quality of life. I’m planning to conduct workshops on these topics and have even been given opportunities by schools and colleges for the same. Topics like mental health issues, anxiety, behavior, mood and personality disorders, quality of life, healthy relationships and their significance, self and social acceptance particularly interest me and form a part of my writings.

When did you first realize that you wanted to write a book?
I was fond of reading and participating in writing and poetry competitions since childhood. I’ve always been a Grammar Nazi but the idea of writing a book did not strike me then. I was in class eleven when I first verbalized only casually my desire to take up writing as my career. I chose Science because mental health interested me, thinking I’ll become a mental health activist. Life did not turn out like that and what started as a series of diary entries around two years back took the form of my first book. They say that your dream never leaves you and my gift of writing never left me. The same is reflected in the book that talks largely about dreams and mental well being.

What have you written? Give us an insight.
‘But I want to write’, as the name suggests, speaks of a young girl’s dream to take up writing as a profession and to launch her debut book, against all odds. The book speaks of one’s gift and true purpose in life. The book aims to simplify the concept of what we want in life and speaks of never giving
up in life. Another important topics that I’ve tried to cover is one’s mental well being and related disorders. The book highlights how such disorders affect the general quality of living for some of us. It aims at creating awareness, reducing stigma, promoting acceptance and ultimately improving the quality of life for the society as a whole. The book also talks about parenting habits, healthy as well as unhealthy interpersonal relationships, love and its importance, and how all of these factors contribute to a person’s well being.

How did ‘But I want to write’ happen? Could you describe the journey?
It was ‘my dream to write’ that took the form of this book. I lacked the theme on which I could lay the draft of my book for a long time. The book is inspired from real life instances. Having suffered mentally at a deep level for quite a while, I was compelled to analyse mental well being closely and the importance of dream fulfillment. I’ve hence tried to portray major factors that influence a person’s mental well being and quality of life. Having experienced lack of harmony in all my close relationships both at home and otherwise, I tried to voice out what the youth today is facing. Major issues, some of which I’ve myself faced, have been covered extensively. These include domestic abuse, parenting habits, dysfunctional relationships, lack of understanding, support and direction in life, and lack of self as well as social acceptance. All of this has led to increased instances of anxiety, existential crisis, emotional problems, depression and many other mental health issues. Suicide rate is getting higher but the stigma
is not reducing. Having faced issues in acceptance, both self and social, I’ve tried to pen down what I personally have faced and what the youth today is facing at large. The journey to complete the book has been painful but has led me towards self actualization.

How do you project the future of fiction writers in India?
With more and more people getting inclined towards theater, the increased use of Netflix and increased consumption of content posted on social media, book reading is on a decline. I do not see a bright future for fiction writers. However, if writing is what sets one’s heart on fire and the story is meant for the betterment of the society, it’s not difficult to find an audience. If the piece of fiction brings about social good, nothing can hold back the author and his/ her piece of fiction.

Which international authors inspire you?
Authors like Dr. Joseph Murthy (author of Power of Your Subconscious Mind) and Robin Sharma (author of the 5 AM Club) largely inspire me. Both these authors direct an individual towards self actualization, leading a better quality of life and creating a difference. Proper utilization of one’s time and recognizing the power of one’s own mind, both have enormous potential.

What is the most challenging part about writing this book? What is the most fulfilling part?
First, I’ll talk about the challenging part. Writing a book, inspired from one’s own life, that too one that covers issues like mental health, in a country like ours, is a big challenge. People here do not prefer visiting the class of doctors named psychologists or psychiatrists. Numerous people ask me questions and glance at me with looks that make me uncomfortable. Talking about depression raises eyes. Mental well being seems like a forbidden topic. We’re ready to suffer but we’re not ready to accept or seek mental health advice, help or explore treatment options. Bringing out a story inspired from my own life, in such a scenario, wasn’t at all easy. One more challenge I’m facing is in reaching out to people who actually need the book. Most wouldn’t speak up and other are afraid to talk about mental health. Hoping for creating a positive change.

The most fulfilling part about any piece of art is that it takes one on a journey to self discovery. The same applies to my book. The book motivates me to fight against life’s odds and to never give up. The book has led me towards self-acceptance and has taken me closer to my purpose in life : reducing suffering and promotion of a better version of life. The book has also made me confident enough to raise my own voice, talk openly about mental well being and to help others do the same. This will in turn increase treatment and reduce the number of lives taken away by depression every year.

What is the next book you’ve planned?
Not yet finalized the name, but I’m planning my next book as a happy book. The first book, BUT I WANT TO WRITE, is full of suffering, which is important to highlight the suffering of mental health warriors. The next book will focus on a better quality of life. I’ll plan topic like child mental health and adolescent issues in my next book.