Taking on the World of Literature

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Picking up the pen in his teens, young Dineth Nipunya is a writer through and through. His works have been featured in a number of publications and has even taken the form of published works. Dineth balances his career as a writer with his studies at the University of Kelaniya and his side-hustle as a photographer.

Taking on the world of literature in Sri Lanka at a young age, Dineth is in a unique position to share his advice with other fellow youth who may be interested in becoming a writer as well, especially the youth who read Teen Inc regularly from Ceylon Today. Here’s what he had to share.

Tell us a little about yourself

A: Well, growing up in Kurunegala, my love for writing began with my parents who also have a background in writing. My father is a writer, and he helped me develop my skill as a writer with his experience.

But I started to develop my love for writing at school. By the way, I went to three schools in my time as a student. First at Wellawa Madya Maha Vidyalaya, then the Kurunegala Maliyadeva model school where I wrote my O Level exams, and finally I did my A Levels at Maliyadeva College. At the moment I am a student at the University of Kelaniya.

When did your career as a writer begin?

A: I started writing poetry during my O Levels, not in any professional way, but I wanted to improve on my writing, which is why I studied English Literature for my O Level exam. These skills translated into me constantly writing poetry during my A Levels and submitting them to various publications, for which I got a lot of positive feedback. I continued writing and now, here I am.

It took a while for me to start focusing on becoming a writer. I was young (still am) and with that I wanted to keep trying new things, which was why I didn’t focus as much on my writing at first.

What are some of the works that you’ve completed and are working on?

A: I guess you would say my first book, a poetry collection named A Stream of Thoughts is the only published work of mine so far, but I’m also working on a short story collection which I want to unveil in the coming days, as well as a small something for the Sinhala readers afterwards. 

How was the reception so far from A Stream of Thoughts?

A: As a new writer, I didn’t expect the amount of attention that it did receive. I got feedback both positive and negative, as well as some constructive criticism on how I could have improved on what I did write. I’m really thankful for it all.

Any special insight you gained in terms of improving yourself as a writer during the process of writing it?

A: You might have heard something along the lines of this before, but it really is true. While in the labour crafting your piece of writing, whatever it may be, whether it be it a poem or a short-story, maybe even a novel, it can be easy to fall into the trap of writing just for writing’s sake. But that only results with shallow writing.

A good work of writing would have something of substance, of depth. It could be something of value to society, it needs to have completion. That’s the defining factor that takes a passable work of writing, into a higher form of literature.

How will this apply to your works going forward?

A: Well, I’ve been trying to apply all the experience that I’ve gained during my work for A Stream of Thoughts and translate what I said earlier into my short story collection, my next shy at writing. It’s a work in progress and I’m confident that my experience with my debut publication will help this one become a better literary work.

How did photography enter into the mix of your creative endeavours?

A: It was at a school event, for which a friend brought a camera, I don’t know, something just clicked when I picked it up and played around with it.

How do you balance all this with your academic career?

A: My main focus is, of course, my academic career and my writing. Photography is something I do on the side, and not something I give a lot of emphasis on at the moment. After spending many weeks focusing on those two, then going out on a wedding-gig is a great change of pace.

Where do you find creative inspiration for your work?

A: I believe that life is a poem that we are living. I often tell people that life is a miracle and memories are our pathways, I believe it with all of my heart. My memories play a lot in the work that I create, as does the things that I observe around me. I don’t usually transform my experience into my poetry, but the feelings therein are influential in the works that I create that translate over to the reader.

Any special goals or aspirations for your future work?

A: I do want to complete my academics. That’s a main goal. As for my writing, I want to write something based off of my life, and maybe even do something in the flavour of science fiction as well. As for photography, I just want to keep improving on the skills that I have.

What is your advice for any aspiring writers who might be reading this?

A: I would say that a good writer is also a good reader, so read a lot. But reading books isn’t enough. You have to be able to read into the society we live in, look at life in a different perspective. While doing so, sparks of inspiration will start to form, along with something I would like to call pure emotion. Harnessing these will be key. Use it in your writing, then edit it, over and over again, as much as you can. I’m sure as you continue practising these things, you will grow to become a compelling and powerful writer.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage