It is quite fair to say that a writer is no less than a wise magician who weaves a story from realms of his imagination while adding unimaginable twists and turns that can progress his content into a completely different direction. The challenge he possesses is to engage the reader from beginning to end by describing events with an adequate imagery and momentum in their writing. Beautiful is that for each reader, the interpretation can be unique based on their worldviews and experiences.
Remarkable stories are dramatically constructed art forms and as soon as the author gets done with constructing them, the very first question that starts to haunt him is what should be his next step? The most legit answer would be to go find a suitable publisher but is that too easy? considering that in Pakistan, situations are not very fruitful when it comes to the literary industry. Should I go search for a publisher or first arrange a handsome amount of money which he would be demanding? The series of bad thoughts never escape your mind and that triggers the famous Mr. Depression. The writers never really get time to celebrate meaningful stories they have created after such effort. Even the thought of a rejection after spending so much of your time in creating this world of stories can be heart wrenching.
An enduring myth is that writers spend irregular hours in isolation hence them being all gloomy shouldn’t surprise anyone. The belief that being miserable gives us a mystical insight into the matrix of creativity also fuels this theory. To put all rumors to rest, Yes, writers do suffer from depression but it doesn’t do their writing any good. One reason could be them spending too much time on writing while cutting themselves off from seeing daylight but also the financial and professional uncertainty is a root cause too.
How can we not mention the people serving as the last hit on the nail? You may have guessed it right, I am talking about…The Critics. So, criticism basically start with words coming out of someone else’s mouth or pen and the writer they were directed towards mostly starts having a sinking feeling. It is more of like being rejected or vulnerable. Constructive criticism should always be appreciated unfortunately in Pakistan, writing is appreciated as a hobby and not profession. For someone being brave enough to see it as their career is presented with a bunch of naysayers especially trained in generating self-doubt. The result as we can very well see is that even after 69 years of partition, we currently don’t have a budding young bunch of writers highlighted on mainstream level.
Daastan came as a ray of hope for young writers in this dire state of need. It is an award winning literary forum working to revamp and run the literary industry of developing Asian countries starting from Pakistan. A year ago, Daastan came up with an idea of starting a nationwide story writing competition called, ‘The Stories Untold’ where people could not only compete with other participants but also learn how to improve their content further through one-on-one mentoring sessions. The ventured achieved success and have published the work of many newbie writers who were previously undiscovered gems. Not all those writers had an unchallenging ride, they were many bumps and cracks they passed through to reach their dream. Speaking of struggling authors, two of them got their work published through Daastan’s digital publishing platform called Qissa, and shared their experience as well.
The writer of “Hidden Talents,” Afraz Jabeen spoke about her combats that she had to go through just to get her work published. After sending her stories to several competitions and receiving no fruitful response, it was through ‘The Stories Untold’ initiative that paved the way for her writing career. Not only she became a published writer but also started receiving instant positive replies, emails and feedback which boosted her confidence. It was as if Daastan gave life to her dream. As far as depression is concerned even she was afraid of rejection, unsure of the responses and much worried but it vanished in the air as soon as she saw her name in the Top 30 list of the finalist. Afraz went on write an Urdu fiction and got it published in a digital magazine by Umera Ahmad. Currently working on different projects, she considers Daastan as her first preference for her future publications. Similar is the story of the writer of “Letters from Nowhere” and “A Day in My Shoes,” Saman Malik who spoke about how the email from Daastan truly changed her life. Her story made it to Top 15; she was overwhelmed and couldn’t believe it. The spark of hope that she had been secretly adding fuel to, had transformed into full blown fire of enthusiasm. Moreover, she mentioned that her stories making it to Top 15 and Top 30 was truly an honor for her but like every other writer, depression made its appearance in her life too and kept stalking her, regardless of where she went or stayed. As it’s a pretty common guest for the writers with the incredibly frustrating habits of dwelling on every single detail and feeling like whatever, they write is gibberish. Quitting her job, she took a risk and now is immensely thankful to Daastan for making her believe in herself and made her love her soul.
Writing allows one to not only describe, but to dominate the whole storytelling process. Yes, the procedure gets tiring sometimes of being in your own solitary confinement carving out a new plot and that is where the general people come in, who can keep on motivating and encouraging the writers, that is one way to stay away from the depression trap. Secondly, platforms like Daastan are continuing their work of discovering emerging talent through the third season of, ‘The Stories Untold’ competition which needs the support of masses so that the young authors can continue using this outlet to promote their work. With a little motivation at hand, these budding writers would form a new era of literature in Pakistan having the ability to sweep off readers across the globe off their feet in the coming years.
By: Kiran Ashraf (Team Daastan)