The Tempest: In Your Soul is a River, you reference a lot to the cosmos, what inspired you to do this?
Nikita Gill: I love writing about space, the reason why I enjoy it is it kind of reminds me how small we are in the grand scheme of the universe. It really puts things in perspective for me when I write about the cosmos that yeah that’s how tiny we are.
I have a skylight in my bedroom and it really does make a difference to sit under my skylight with a cup of tea and just look up at the stars, any problem I have goes away because I’m able to think in the context of the universe. It’s like, the universe is this really kind, loving, warm father-like figure that comes and wraps you up in its arms and goes “You are so small, you’re tiny, let it go, it’s not worth stressing so hard about.”
You received around 137 rejections when you were writing, what kept you going?
I do think writing is about being able to accept rejection gracefully. I used to read all these stories about all these very inspiring people who got rejected, If they hadn’t kept going, we wouldn’t have some of the greatest pieces of literature that we do today.
I think the biggest criticism that I got in those 137 rejections was, ” Oh your work is too easy to interpret, yes you can feel things, I can feel the intensity of emotion there but it’s very raw, you need to work on your technique and make it more difficult to interpret.” I struggled with that because I don’t want someone to be sitting there with a dictionary trying to figure out what I’m trying to say. I mean that kind of defeats the purpose of the writing. I like taking inspiration from something really every day like a coat hanger even or a clothes rail and you can turn that into poetry but it doesn’t have to be hard to interpret, it shouldn’t be.
Poetry should be accessible, writing should be accessible. It should just make you feel things, that’s it.
You respond to a lot of social media messages that you get yourself, why is that?
I’ve recently been getting messages like “Oh wow you’re a real person, we thought this account was being run by an assistant”. This is why I respond to everyone because it’s really important to me, especially when I get messages like “I’m going through so much can we talk,” then I really feel that there’s a responsibility for me to be able to talk to that person because they want to share something so personal to them.
It’s an honor really to be able to communicate with so many people across the world and try and help.
Does that ever get overwhelming?
It does, the thing that I feel sad about is that I can’t respond to everyone because I’m just one person and if I was responding to everyone then that would be my entire day gone. I do try to spend a few good hours in the day responding to DMs and messages and I prioritize those who are going through trauma. Not that they aren’t all equally important, just that if someone is going through something painful I need to prioritize them because if you can lessen someone’s pain, everyone should try that. Empathy is so important.
It does get overwhelming but I did work for 4/5 years with special needs before I started writing full-time and that really taught me how to be able to empathize without taking it and putting it on my own heart and making my own heart extremely heavy. Because that’s what the other person needs as well. A very common thing with mental illness or with depression is that you feel like you’re burdening someone else with your problems and it is a skill to be able to look at another person’s problems empathize with them, be able to help and not put it on your own heart.
A lot of people when they message me say “I’m really sorry, I feel like I’m burdening you with my problems,” and it’s like no I know how to not do that now, it’s taken years of training but I know how to not do that so vent away. It does take an effort to not because sometimes you may feel so deeply for someone that it’s hard not to carry it with you. But the best thing you can do for that person is to not carry it with you because otherwise, you get so overwhelmed, you won’t be able to help them anymore.
What can we expect from your new book Wild Embers?
The fire series is about this very righteous kind of anger which is inside all of us. It’s about regaining yourself, it’s about belonging. It focuses very much on feminity. But the whole concept of what society expects of women and challenging that.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.