1. When did you start writing?
"My journey with writing has been extremely sporadic, to be honest. I remember trying my hand(s) at writing at an early age (maybe 7 or 8), and then abandoning it. Thereafter, I only really wrote creatively when I was required to. Like as part of the syllabus at school, for example. At about 16, I ventured into writing for myself once more and I enjoyed it enough to write poetry for a solid 3 years thereafter. I had a few poems published then in small magazines which are now sadly defunct.
However, as I ventured further into engineering, I hadn’t realized how far away from my creative pursuits it was carrying me. It was only in my honors year of engineering that I came to the realisation that I do not have to box or segregate my interests. All of my likes, dislikes and interests form part of who I am; they don’t have to live separated inside of myself.
That’s when I started writing creatively again. As I had been battling with my mental health at the time, most of my writing focuses on that. Writing creatively allowed (and still allows) me to express my disorder(s) in ways that I verbally often cannot."
2. What is your method of writing? Notebooks, computer?
"I don’t really have a writing method if I am being honest. Some days, inspiration will hit me suddenly when I’m in the bathroom. I’ll rush to my phone and type it out roughly in my notes app quickly. Then, later I will edit that piece properly on my computer.
I don’t really use notebooks for creative writing. I do, however, counterintuitively use a notebook to record all my submissions. I know that this doesn’t make any sense at all; an excel spreadsheet would probably be better suited for this, but somehow, I just like seeing the submissions on paper – as though they’re more ‘real’ or tangible in that regard."
3. How do you title poems?
"This is an interesting question and I imagine everyone would have a different answer to it. Sometimes, I begin with the title! This happens when the title is the first thing that pops into my mind; almost as though that particular poem is possessing me and I’m merely a medium.
Other times, I’ll write the entire poem and then only think of a title based on what I feel the main theme or concept of the poem is or should be. Once again, there is no structure or method to my process, sadly; it’s all ‘going-with-the-flow’, really. I try not to restrict myself creatively, as I feel restricted enough in my other pursuits."
4. When do you know if a poem is done?
"I don’t! I don’t think any of my poems (even the published ones) are really done in the complete sense. I feel like something more can always be added or edited or removed or improved upon. I don’t think any of my poems are done; there can always be more (or even less) of or to it."
5. You’ve published, as of July 4th, over 40 pieces this year alone. How are you able to write and produce such a staggering number?
"There are 2 reasons for this, really.
1 is that I have the tendency to get mildly obsessive about certain things. So, when I started submitting in January this year, I aimed to get 10 pieces of writing/photography/art published for the year. By the time I had reached that goal in February, I had fallen too far down the rabbit hole! The process of submitting and discovering new lit mags/journals had already formed a part of my obsession and I just simply went along with it. I think it’s cooling down a little now, though.
The other reason is that I am sitting on a pile (slush pile?) of unpublished writing. I’ve discovered close to 350- 400 poems (this may not be a staggering amount for people that write daily), that I had written (on my phone, laptop, in notebooks years ago) and had completely forgotten about. So, some of the poems that are being published now were written recently, some were written 3 or 4 years back and some were written when I was 16 or 17. So if it ever feels to the reader that ‘the voice’ in my writing is not consistent, that’s probably why: they’ve been written at varying ages and stages of my life."
6. You have an upcoming poetry collection, Washed Away, coming soon from Alien Buddha Press. Can you tell me, a little, what it’s about?
"Well, to summarize it briefly: it’s a collection that centers around my struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression.
The collection is fragmented into three stages. In these stages, I have tried to outline the stages or progression of my disorder as paralleled to the progression of the collection. As the reader travels through the collection, they’ll be travelling alongside me on my mental health journey. I’ve also likened these stages to the stages of washing one’s hands i.e. soap lathering, rinsing and drying. This is in part due to me being a compulsive hand washer and in part, due to the emphasis of handwashing during this awful pandemic.
Needless to say, that is how the title of the collection was born; from the process of washing and being washed away. Not only do I feel that I wash germs and soap off of my hands, but there are days when I feel washed away by my disorder(s). Days when I feel that I have to rebuild or remold myself from being disintegrated or washed away."
7. What project(s) do you hope to take on?
"Right now, I am pretty keen to take on any interesting or innovative projects! There are so, so many creative, talented and innovative people in the lit mag community. People are continuously creating and growing, and I love to see that. This makes me think that the possibilities surrounding new projects are basically endless.
I would, however, like to explore visual poetry a little more. I have seen some pieces featured on various websites/journals and it amazes me how some poets can create text so visually. That truly is a skill that I do not have and would like to explore it a little more. I would also like to explore writing fiction. I have tried to write a handful of pieces recently and those were not great (they were bad!)."
8. What do you hope people take away from your work?
"As a large portion of my work revolves around mental illness, I hope that people who have suffered from similar experiences will know that they are not alone; someone does understand. For people who have not gone through something similar, I hope that my work can offer a brief spotlight on matters that they may not be aware of and/or may not understand.
I do understand that my own experiences with my own mental health issues cannot serve as an umbrella or blanket experience(s) for everyone, but I do hope that in the dark seemingly endless night of mental illness and solitude, my work luminates a small space in the same manner that a minute firefly would."
9. What writing advice do you find totally useless?
"None! I enjoy listening to advice from everyone about anything! I don’t always (basically never) heed said advice, but it does give me insight into the way other people work, think and write. I think that’s important information; it helps me understand them, myself and more about the world."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"I’m not particularly good (I suck at) this but it formed part of my honor’s dissertation and my current master’s dissertation: game development. I am not an avid gamer (I don’t game at all) and I knew nothing about game development before 2018. But I’ve dipped my toes into these seemingly infinite waters and it’s been interesting.
I have only developed about 3 very simple games, but the process is what is interesting to me. Currently, I am trying to develop a very simple prototype for an anxiety management app and I have realized just how much I don’t know about coding or game development and just how far I have to travel in terms of learning about these topics!
I’m also thinking about creating a simple twine game to allow players to understand OCD a little better. There may (or may not, don’t hold me accountable to this) a twine poem at some point, too!"
Hear Shiksha read her poem "On some days, I have killed myself at least twice before breakfast."
Shiksha Dheda is a South African of Indian descent. She uses writing to express her OCD and depression roller-coaster ventures. Sometimes, she dabbles in photography, painting, and baking lopsided layered cakes. Her debut poetry collection is forthcoming from Alien Buddha Press. She rambles annoyingly on at Twitter: @ShikshaWrites.
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