By LOHAN SL WIJERATHNE
At just 14 years old, Sri Lanka’s Lohan SL Wijerathne’s is an experienced writer and published author.
I began writing when I was nine. My head was teeming with ideas all the time. Even during church, I used to daydream about some television show I’d watched recently. But I never thought of the stories themselves could happen to a certain character. Whenever I watched television (which was often), I always imagined a story of my own. The story would have my own characters and would follow a plot of my imagination, but it would be set in the same world of the TV show. Someone would say something, my mind would register a tinge of boredom, and then suddenly I’d shoot off into my made-up world, wondering what new story I would weave for my characters today.
But I never wrote any of these thoughts down. Even as I wrote this article, I felt slightly uncomfortable. I hated, no, absolutely despised the idea of anyone else finding out about the stories I made in my mind, and I still do. I disliked writing too. The only time I actually ever wrote anything was when I was obliged to do so at school.
But then I began going to a class. It was an English class. Slowly, I began writing more frequently. I still didn’t love it, far from it, but it was the beginning of something that changed my life forever. Gradually I began to write voluntarily.
I published my first collection of short stories when I was ten. Since then, I have published two novels, Time Traveller’s Tale and The Return of the Time Traveller, both of which are a part of a series. During these four years of writing, I’ve learned a vast number of valuable lessons.
I’m not going to write about my daily life, as normal writers do. That’s extremely boring and, frankly, I doubt whether you really care.
Inspiration never comes to you with a pot of gold. You have to chase it down with the longest samurai sword you can imagine. I used to literally sit down for a few minutes each day and wait for some magical being to give me a good idea for a book. It never worked. Most authors will tell you that they were sitting under a tree on a beautiful sunny day when they suddenly saw some dog walking in the park, and then suddenly the idea of a flying dog came to their mind. That is as improbable as flying dogs actually existing. These instances may happen, but in such a subtle way that you don’t notice it at all. Don’t understand? Let me put it in this way: you have to look for something interesting in the dog in the park to imagine a flying dog. That’s why I’ve learned to always look for a story in everything. Usually the most simple things you see everyday are in fact great story ideas. It’s hard at first, but once you learn to see everything in a different perspective you won’t be able to help noticing something very interesting about everything.
Writing is hard, patient work. A lot of people in my school think that writing a book is the easiest thing in the world, but I tell you it is not. The whole process will gnaw at your mind every day until you actually finish your project. Procrastination has continuously bugged me to the point where I can’t stand it. Even as I wrote this article, one half of me was yelling at me to press ‘Alt + Tab’ and search for some movie to watch. Procrastination is a writer’s greatest enemy. Sometimes I will lose the battle, but there are times when I will win. It is at these moments that you win that you must make the most of your chance. There are also numerous other challenges a writer must face on a daily basis.
My English tutors were extremely helpful as I learned how to perfect the craft of writing as a young author. I am definitely far from perfect, there’s no doubt about that, but I believe that with the support I receive from my mentors, I will be able to reach the level I hope to reach. Writing is very subjective; no one person likes the same style of writing as another, just like no writer writes in the same way as another. That’s why there are so many good writers in the world today. After reading thousands of books I was able to make my own unique style. It was by reading so many books that I was able to find what my style was. The parts that I liked about the books usually reflect the style I use when I write. Countless times, I’ve noticed that my style of writing has drastically changed. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not so much. But what I’ve noticed is that it changes because of a book that I read recently. Most of my work is actually based on the work of others.
Writers fight many battles, and most of them are battles I never imagined I would face. When I first began writing, I fantasized about being a hero in school. I thought everyone would think of me as a prodigy. Every assembly would involve a short speech of praise and gratefulness that I was coming to this school. Schoolmates would be lining the courtyard to have a conversation with me. But it was almost the opposite. I was bullied. The fact that I was an author was used to tease me. Kids in school would laugh at the fact that I was an author and would tell me to ‘do something better with your life’, usually following it with a word I cannot mention. The irony, though, was that these were the people who literally didn’t do anything with their lives. So I ignored their comments and continued to write. I’m still bullied, but I’ve realised that this is just a result of a social desire to be ‘cool’ and nothing else. Still, their comments haunt me even today. If I had listened to their comments, I would not be writing to you today.
When I think back, I realise that writing is the one thing in my life that actually makes sense. I’ve tried so many sports and extra-curricular activities, and I’m one of the top students in the grade, but none of it seems to be worth the effort. But writing – that’s worth spending your life on.
For more information or to read The Return Of The Time Traveller, go here.