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Writing And Well-Being With ayshen Irfan

First off: Tell is about yourself.

I'm a young author (20, but 19 when I started my novella) who is from the United Kingdom. The Fire Within My Heart will be my first published work, I am self publishing through amazon and should be released by the end of this month. I'm a practicing Wiccan and have been for 9 years, I try to incorporate an element of my beliefs and feelings towards spirituality and the earth in my fiction writing

That's awesome. Good to meet you and get to know you better. When did your writing journey first begin, and what inspired you to start writing?

Lovely to meet you, too! I wrote my first book when I was eleven, I actually did self publish it but it was awful - as you can imagine it would be by an eleven year old! Writing and reading has always been my escape; I started reading the Anita Blake series when I was eight and it just sparked my passion for supernatural fantasy and fiction. It was what got me into starting to write and it was amazing to get lost in my own little fantasy world where anything could happen. I've always loved literature however and started writing poetry as a v young girl!

That's awesome. I feel like eleven is this magical age, because I started writing at 11 and so did a lot of other people. Maybe we didn't get our Hogwarts letter so we got writing talent instead. lol Tell me more about the book you are releasing this month. I love that as a concept! It is a wonderful age, I think the world begins to make more sense and we begin to develop the skill to put our unique thoughts and feelings into words. My book is a fantasy novel following the lead character Scarlet Cherie who is attacked, she is saved by a mysterious man called Nikolaos who is a Vampire. Soon she gets am entourage of weird and wonderful people (a Werepanther, witch and necromancer) to help her put a stop to the man who has been attacking the women of the city she lives in. This also leads to discovering more about herself and her own powers, and hidden family secrets about her true identity.

The book sounds great. What do you think appeals to you the most about the fantasy genre?

Thank you, you're such a sweetheart! I think I love how in fantasy there really are no boundaries and everything is open to interpretation. You can really make reality anything you wish it to be and creativity can just flow without limits. Plus reading fantasy is always an interesting peek inside the author's brain, in many ways!

Can you elaborate on that last point a little more?

I think people really let our their hidden wants, frustrations, philosophies and views on the world in their work - even if mostly unintentionally or only in subtle ways. I found that with proofing my own book, at the time I hadn't realised I was relating my real feelings and experiences into the work but reading it back I picked up on hidden meanings and emotions behind situations. I think that's another reason why writing is such a good release. It let's us vent things out and be in control of the outcomes and how we handle situations. There's a lot of power in writing, I think it's why reading is so much better than watching a film as you're sympathising in a way with the author that not many other media forms offer. That's just my opinion though, of course people may not agree with me on that!

I have never thought about it like that, but I think you're right. When I read a good book, I spend a lot of time wishing I could high-five them--like I'm happy for their successes. This is intensified when there is an underlying theme that I agree with, and I know the dystopian world I wrote in the book I'm querying came out of the frustration of how judgmental the world is. Earlier you said that reading and writing became an escape. Tell more about this statement and why you feel writing can be a useful tool in dealing with the stress of your life.

Feeling happy for a character and getting that emotional investment in a books characters is always such a nice feeling! I think that the world can feel quite scary and out of control sometimes. I know personally for me there have been a few things I've had to deal with as a child and teenager that I felt very lost and overpowered by, but writing was my freedom from that. It was a world I controlled and could be anyone or anything I liked. No limits or boundaries, just endless opportunities to create. And I think reading offers a similar escape because I've found you can often put yourself in the main characters position so much you sort of lose yourself in their world and your own problems fade away.

I can absolutely relate to that. I'm sure writing during my teen years was a lot of that--escaping reality. But I'm curious. Do you feel as though it's strictly an escape, or do you think that writing can be a tool or coping strategy to not just hide from pain, but to overcome it?

I think it can definitely be a tool too, it offers a means to work through problems and internal conflicts in way that is both very personal as a writer but also in a distanced way as you're putting it into the world of someone else in your story. I don't think that writing will cure my bipolar and it would be probably very bad to use that as my only tool aha but I do think it can help me see more clearly into how my brain works and that can be really healthy and insightful. For example in my work I wrote it in both a manic episode and depressive episode, when I'm reading back on that now I can see the clear changes in writing type and personality. Now I'm more level headed I've made it more consistent in tone but I think it was really healthy to look back and see how my brain processes things differently at different times. Obviously that's a very personal experience to me and that definitely wont work for everyone, but like most art it's a tool for self reflection.

I love that. You explained it perfectly. How can writers who haven’t thought about writing like that because more intentional about using it for their mental well-being?

I think a key thing would be not to pressure themselves into making their writing a tool for release or think too hard about it. Pressure will only make writing more stressful which defeats the point! I think reflection is important, being able to see the hidden meaning in your own work when reading back on it and understanding and accepting what these thoughts and feelings mean to you and how you process them. If you write something really angry you probably have hidden anger, but maybe your work will also be a tool to explore how to resolve that anger. Also, like most things it will work for some and for others it wont but that's okay, we're all so unique, that's why people are wonderful!

That’s very great way of putting it and I haven’t thought about the self reflection aspect until this conversation. A lot of the time though, what I’m writing isn’t subtle. In my short stories l find that I’m inspired by them because of a deep emotion I’m feeling. For example, when I was processing some of the bullying I’d received in being a nurse (the saying is true that nurses eat their young), I wrote a short story about a nurse with a similar experience. This brings up uncomfortable emotions as I write it. Like picking at a scab. Though it’s generally cathartic, it’s really hard. There are story ideas I have, but I can’t write because I’m not ready to face that emotion yet. Have you had experiences like this?

I think that's amazing that you are so self aware and it takes a lot of strength to be able to know when you're ready to deal with these things and when you still need time instead of just risking your own comfort and well-being by diving into a project you arent ready for. I have an idea for a book about a girl with mental health issues which will touch on some of my own personal experiences but I know I'm not in the right place go be able to dive into my own life that much yet , its reserved for a time probably when I'm older and stronger in myself. But in a way that's something to look forward to. It's so sad to hear you got bullied as a nurse, its such a respectable and challenging job. I think work inspired by deep emotion like the story you wrote can be some of the most impactful and enthralling pieces of literature though

It is a challenging job, especially in critical care. And I’m quite proud of that piece. I think my experiences though made me a more empathetic person, particularly with young nurses and undergraduate nursing students. But back to the topic at hand, what do you think makes writing- particularly writing fiction - such a power tool for processing pain?

I'm glad you got something from it, it's so good you're proud of your work that came from it. I think its such a powerful tool because it's an entirely wholesome and natural sense of self exploration and development. Like using art for therapy which has been proven to work for so many peoples writing it just another form of art therapy and expression. It's an escape and freedom that doesn't require drugs or alcohol or putting yourself in harm's way (absolutely no judgement at all for people who do use these things and I know writing will absolutely not be a cure all or relief from some things, I hope that doesn't come across as ignorant or intolerant as its not my intentional at all)

I don’t think it does. I agree with all that, but I also want to add that I think “creating distance” is also a powerful tool. By having a character going through the same emotions I have, it’s safer than facing them alone. It creates space, because it’s the characters emotion, not mine, even though I relate it it so well. Tell me if you agree with that or not.

That's a really good point and way of wording it, I would totally agree 100%

Besides using it as a tool for self-reflection, processing pain, and allowing for escape, are there any other ways that you feel writing contributes to mental well being?

Its generally just a nice way to de-stress I think, there's something calming about writing and getting lost in your creation. Plus the pride you feel when finishing a project or the motivation when starting something new feels really healthy and offers something to feel good about!

That’s a great point. I just have two questions left.

Ofc, fire away!

What is one random fact about you? The sillier the better

I am, deeply and whole heartedly, terrified of cows (and yet I find them so beautiful!)

Haha. Cows are beautiful creatures, but I can see how they would be intimidating. Haha exactly!

Lastly, if you could only give writers ONE piece of advice, what would it be?

Leave it a while and then come back if you need, sometimes a fresh perspective and clear head is the best thing your work needs. And that's okay!

It’s been so good talking to you. This was such a great interview.


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