Ten years ago as a high school student, I wanted to write a book. I didn’t know what the story would be about and I had no clue how to start it, but I knew that it was something I wanted to achieve. I slowly began writing a sentence here and a paragraph there. Unfortunately, I ended up doubting myself too often to the point where I would stop writing and abandon the project altogether. Too many of us fall victim to a similar risk-free mindset. We needlessly question our own capability or we excessively worry about how strangers won’t appreciate our work. Our creative ideas never get a chance to truly flourish because we quickly cut their roots. By doing so, we fail to realize the beauty that might’ve followed if we had just stayed the course. Then in our older years when we reflect on our lives, we regret not sticking by those same ideas and putting in the effort to develop them into a reality.

If you’re reading this, then I’m here to reassure you that it’s not too late to try something new or reignite one of your passions. I’m here to remind you that there’s nothing holding you back from unlocking your potential besides your own mind and self-doubt. I’m also here to announce that I’ve revived my abandoned dream from a decade ago by writing my very first novel! In the time that’s passed since, I’ve had the pleasure of dabbling into writing on a smaller scale including various opinion pieces, poetry, short stories, and interviews, some of which are featured on this blog that you can check out. Not to mention the plentiful essays I’ve written over my seven-year university career that covered a range of topics from politics to history, sociology, criminology, education, and culture. However, I’ve yet to feel that ultimate sense of fulfilment that I desire from completing an entire book from scratch, as well as giving you all the chance to read it. Producing something for the world to consume while simultaneously establishing myself as an author would be a dream come true.

Now obviously, you’re wondering what I’m even writing about. Without giving too many details away, an idea started to form in my mind last year when we were a few months deep into this pandemic. I knew that people’s emotions were volatile and that anxiety, insecurity, and depression were on the rise, especially with the younger generation. Besides the occasional news reports about declining mental health around the globe, I was able to witness this phenomenon for myself when I taught at Mississauga Secondary School for an entire academic year. Many students were having a tough time adapting to their modified school life and following several new rules put in place. Masks always on, COVID checks before entering the classroom, no eating any food, no library open, no cafeteria open, no gym open, no sports teams, no assemblies, no clubs, no graduation ceremony, no prom… and the list went on and on. Students’ physical health may have been kept safe with these strenuous measures, but their mental health was vulnerable and in most cases, it was disintegrating by the day.

I knew that many students were suffering on the inside, yet they still tried carrying themselves with as much confidence and dignity as they could throughout an event that they could never have anticipated. It was a bittersweet experience for me because while I was enthusiastic about attaining my first official teaching assignment, I continuously had to picture myself in my students’ shoes and view the circumstances from their perspectives. Every single morning before teaching any lesson, I would provide students with words of encouragement, strength, and hope to aid them in persevering through this unpredictable period. That may have worked for some, but I felt like it wasn’t enough and that I needed to do more.

This is when the idea of writing a book stumbled across my mind once again and I’ve actively pursued it since. Having started a few months ago, I admit that the writing process can be difficult and it’s one of the greatest challenges I’ve undertaken in my life so far. I don’t have any examples of authors within my family tree to draw from so I’m entirely on my own. There are some days when I can write page after page with ease, but there are many other days when I’ll struggle to finish even a paragraph. Aimlessly lounging in my chair and staring at a blank screen whenever my mind endures writer’s block is not the most ideal situation to be in. It’s been an intriguing roller coaster so far with its own highs and lows, but I plan to ride it out until the very last word has been written down.

If I could describe my project as simply as I can, it would be that it’s essentially a self-help book written in the style of a fictional story using a first-person narrative. It’s a story about a character struggling to cling on to the last shred of hope he has left, especially after encountering some of the darkest moments in his life when all optimism seems to have faded away. It’s an important deep dive into the pits of modern depression, but also an uplifting tale that reinforces my personal belief that good times will always follow the bad times, even if they’re few and far in between.

If this book can be used as an outlet to help spread my message of hope to a larger audience consisting of not just teenagers, but young adults and older adults as well, then it’s my duty to deliver it to them. If this story can change even one person’s mindset by motivating them to remain positive throughout all the negativity that constantly surrounds us, then I will have done my job. If this is something that you might be interested in reading one day, know that I’m working hard to stay on track and finish this book to the best of my ability. If worst comes to absolute worst and this project doesn’t succeed at all, then I’ll proudly tell everyone that at least I tried. Either way, no one will ever be able to take this accomplishment away from me. While I don’t want to promise a specific release window yet, I can confirm that my book is more than halfway written and that I’ll post more updates closer to its completion.

If you’re thinking about writing a book yourself, or even a small article about anything in the world, the best piece of advice I can give you is to simply start it! Don’t overthink it, don’t question your ability as a writer, and don’t worry about people who might criticize it. Don’t compare yourself to notable authors like J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter novels. Focus on yourself, stay in your own lane, and tell your own story. Start by writing just one sentence. It sounds simple and easy but trust me, once that’s done, the rest will eventually follow. Remember that no one else is going to start it for you. You have unique ideas in your mind that no one else can replicate. That’s why it specifically has to be you who begins your own journey by writing that very first sentence.

We can all have a million exciting thoughts in our heads, but only the ones that are written down will have the most meaning and significance. If you think about it, all your favorite films and television shows once started out as simple words on paper, which turned into a screenplay. All your favorite songs were individual words that had to be strung together by the artist to form memorable lyrics. It doesn’t hurt to experiment, so I encourage you to write a sentence this very moment. Feel free to get out your laptop, phone, tablet, pen, or pencil and give it a shot. Don’t stress about editing it or including sophisticated words to get your point across. As long as your writing is genuine and it comes from your heart, that’s all that matters at the end of the day. Maybe you want to elaborate on how you’re feeling right now, your anticipation for an upcoming event, the latest political news, or even why you disagree with anything I’ve said so far. Whatever it is, you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction from your imaginative ideas being recorded in writing, which you can then further improve upon in the future.

Use your freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression that we are so privileged to enjoy in this country. It’s extremely easy to procrastinate and make an excuse of not having enough spare time or the means to begin. If I can write these few paragraphs within an hour using nothing but the notes application on my phone, so can you. All you need to do is isolate some thoughts swirling around in your head and use your fingers to bring them to life. If this is my way to personally challenge you and divert a bit more attention towards writing, then so be it.

Anything is possible if you truly believe in yourself and you know what you’re capable of. Take my word for it, try it, and see for yourself. With determination, your one sentence can easily become a few sentences, which can then expand into detailed paragraphs, pages, and chapters. Keep going until you find your flow and once you do, you’ll become unstoppable. Then one day when you look back at all the progress you’ve made, you’ll feel grateful that you seized the opportunity to tell your story after writing your first sentence. It’s at that moment when your mind will finally realize the benefits blooming from your creativity far outweighed the initial risks. Until then, take care, stay safe, and continue to push yourself to reach your goals.

Looking forward to reading your work soon,
Jaskaran Singh Chahal

Enjoy these pictures of my earliest attempt at writing a “book” I could find, all the way back from elementary school. I’ll admit that my mom drew the skeletons, but the cheesy story and the words used to tell it were all mine!