Interview with Sujona Chatterjee
This article was first published on Coffee Times Substack
Hi Coffee Readers, hope your week has been great. Hopefully, it’s time for you to slow down and read another interview this week.
We have Sujona Chatterjee here with us on Substack today, and she’s a personal essay writer who also shares poems. She shares many stories about her struggles, and how she overcomes each and every one of them.
Hi Sujona! Welcome to Coffee Times. You are no stranger to Coffee Times. Would you like to say something to our readers on Substack?
Thank you. I love publishing my work at Coffee Times as the platform is so diverse and you get insights about life from varied backgrounds.
To readers on Substack, every minor effort counts. Even if you cannot keep writing at a pace that you like as some days are tough and priorities keep changing, please don’t get discouraged from your gift of writing. Write and publish whenever you can as even the tiniest of efforts can make a significant impact in your writing journey.
I see that you have had a pretty good following base for such a short time since you became a member on Medium, with great readership and claps too. How did you achieve these? Do you have any tips to share?
Hi Ashley! Firstly, thank you so much for giving me this wonderful opportunity to be part of the Coffee Times interview series. Can’t wait to share a bit more about my wonderful journey on Medium, and thank you so much for your time.
To be honest, my journey has been quite slow and steady in terms of my following base and readership. I write when my heart desires and sometimes I struggle to make time. I read often about how if we intend to make the most out of this platform, we must write regularly.
But for me, writing is therapeutic, and I share some of my heartfelt life lessons as they occur. Maybe that’s why readers can resonate and connect with my journey and wish to stay on to read more. I thank each and every one of my readers who make time from their hectic schedules and give me their time and walk along with me while I navigate my life and its surprises.
As for tips, always, always, always write from the heart and when you feel like it. Don’t question if your readers will like it or not. What matters is the intent. If you’re writing with a good intention, the right kind of readers will find you and be with you.
You share a lot of your personal stories on Medium. What are the biggest challenges for you as you publish them online, and how do you overcome them?
Everytime I feel like writing about something that is bothering me and I need to get it out of my system, my heart starts to flutter and my tummy is doing a somersault. Maybe it’s because, as you mentioned, each of my stories are personal, and I write about my life lessons as they happen.
Sometimes it’s terrifying to put yourself out there. Your mind lists all possible reasons not to hit that publish button. But the heart nudges me by saying that there has to be one soul who feels the way I do. And if I have the ability to inspire even one soul, then my writing gift is worth it, and I truly value this gift with honesty.
And in case a piece didn’t perform the way I expected, I treat it as a memory. As when we write, we document our life as it happens. And what better way to analyse our growth as we read our previous posts and embark on the challenges we successfully tackled, and then have exciting stories to share with the upcoming generations.
I see that you write many stories inspired by writing prompts. What other writing inspirations do you have, and how would you compare those to being inspired by writing prompts?
Oh I love writing prompts. They just wake up my creative juices.
My mother is my biggest source of inspiration. Her inputs about life and the way she deals with every situation as a warrior is where I get my biggest dose of inspiration.
I also love reading fiction novels and a bit of self-help books. They help me reflect on my life, and that’s how I get the push to share my experiences.
When I combine the above tools of inspiration and my ability to observe people whenever I travel by the metro, or when I just visit my favorite cafe with my books, I just know how to respond to the amazing writing prompts as I pen down what I have recently seen or have documented on the notes section of my phone. Inspiration is everywhere and sometimes at the most weird places and moments. All we have to do is make notes of them, no matter how lazy or occupied we are.
Have you written pieces inspired by others’ experiences as well? How often do you get inspired by your own experiences compared to what you’ve seen in others?
Of course. There are so many brilliant writers on Medium, it would be tough not to be inspired by their experiences.
As for my experiences I always reflect on how I got back up when I thought I had nothing left to fight for. You see, there are moments in life when you lock yourself in a private space and just cry. You can feel hot tears sliding down from your cheeks and your lungs are struggling for air. In these moments, you feel you have no drop of strength to fight back whatever you’re facing.
But somehow, once you’re tired crying and you wash your face and stare at the mirror saying ‘this too shall pass and you’ve got this. You only need some time’ that’s when the magic happens.
And then, when I have dealt with the struggle with my head held high I feel it’s my duty to share it with others that if I could do it anyone can. And when I share my experiences with others and then they feel safe to share their experiences with me, that too helps me write and tell people that no matter how hard you’ve been punched in the gut, you will heal and get back up stronger. Just let that present moment pass and give yourself some time. You’ll be surprised how strong you are and you’ll discover another aspect about you that you never thought existed.
I really love how you write about emotions, one of my favourite topics to read about. How do you learn to express these emotions in words?
Thank you so much. I love writing about emotions as they are so raw and authentic. I am often told that my face is an open book. I cannot hide how I feel no matter how hard I try. This often gets me into trouble, but that’s how I am.
When I turned 13, my mother would share her daily experiences with me as if I were her best friend. She would express her emotions and always kept the door of communication open. That’s when I realized that the more you shed your inhibitions and set an intention to share, words automatically start to form in your mind and then on to the paper.
The main point being that you must first be confident and secure enough to share. If you have even the slightest hitch to communicate and feel insecure, no matter how hard you try, words won’t come to you. But if you let go with a mindset that it doesn’t matter what others think or feel about my story and all that matters is the ability to help in any way I can, then even the most personal experiences can be shared with a smile.
Have you ever had any moments or works that have made you really proud of being the writer you are?
Right now, this interview is one of the moments where I feel so proud about my writing gift. With each and every comment, highlight and private note that I receive from my readers makes me proud, and trust me, it’s my readers and their comments that keeps the writer in me alive.
When some writers become friends and they accept you for what you have written. That makes me happy, and I feel grateful about my writing gift.
Every second that a reader spends on my words, that’s enough to embrace the writer in me and feel proud about my ability to share and heal with my words.
Eventually, do you have any writing projects you wish to tackle, and why do you hope to do that?
I do hope to write a book someday. I don’t know yet if it will be a book of poems or a fictional story inspired by my own life. But if and when it does happen, I just hope it will make the reader smile and feel less lonely as he/she carries around that book with them wherever they go. :)
Lastly, could you tell us something we don’t know about you?
I recently wrote a poem titled ’10 things you may not know about me’.
It was a writing challenge that my dear friend ‘Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles’ tagged me in. But to give you one more additional input about me, I have a strong sense of smell. Any good perfume (especially musk based ones or the men ones) literally stops time for me. I know it’s quite over the top, but hey, that’s me. ;)
I really love the really encouraging responses from Sujona Chatterjee! I think writers aiming to make our readers happy and encouraging them with our words, are such beautiful drivers behind our craft.
I’d like to thank her once again for doing this interview with Coffee Times.