By the time high school ended, I realized most people I knew had varying levels of self-esteem: really, a person could be as confident as they come, but still somewhat shy when it came to making a new friend. The variables to consider were different each time, and the complex nature of them eluded me, until there came the time I understood them myself. That was when I noticed that despite having a number of introversion and mental health issues, my confidence with respect to writing almost touched a level of arrogance.

Throughout high school, I’d somehow started to feed off the competition you get exposed to in the literary world of young writers. All of us existed over a virtual space, fighting for strands of recognition, applying methodically to prizes and journals and fighting to maintain some spot. My entire memory of this time feels so ridiculous at times – the smallest rejection hurt me deeply, and any, and all achievements stimulated me to write. There came a time I wasn’t writing because I loved the activity or the satisfaction it gave me, but because I’d chosen to be part of some race and once you got the drive, there was no stopping.

I’d say my quantitative power was at its peak – I could churn out as many as ten poems within a day. However, it’s quite obvious how those ten poems will be like, if all of them are written in a hurry – badly written first drafts, repetitive, lacking originality. And yet, some of the best writing emerged out of that mess of a time, and I took the kind of poetry I wanted to get defined by, and shed all the rest.

And that feeling of winning – so, so completely addictive. As soon as my school teachers heard about my achievements, they were bestowing laurels and fancy adjectives on me even though I still don’t believe I deserve them too much – my writing that time was only in its formative stage, and yet to flower into something that had a tangible identity. I’d like to say all that attention didn’t go to my head – but it did, as can be expected from any teenager.

The first blow to this overconfidence came when I didn’t get selected for a writing program I was basing my entire hopes on, thinking I would obviously get selected – I was completely wrong, and in retrospect, a part of me is glad it happened.
Humility isn’t quite a popular thing to possess in the world today, but I feel it’s pretty significant if you’re to be an artist. We as artists are always stuck in the circle of creation, always tracing our inspiration from what we experience or the public that pays our work its due. If it’s not humble work, it loses its true essence, because the artist no longer puts in as much effort as they did before, back when they started. Losing taught me this humility, a silver lining which perhaps I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t faced rejection.

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