A Day in the Life of a Writer: Romila

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days…”

Annie Dillard in The Writing Life

People imagine writers to be gainfully occupied, writing up things most of the time. But writers also grapple with plenty of self doubt. To get better at their craft, they have to be consistent in what they are doing. They are not always motivated and that is where routines and schedules come in.

To show up in spite of what they feel is what makes them dedicated writers.

On Read Write Live, let us celebrate writers and their days so that we get a glimpse into what makes them tick.

The first Featured Writer in this series is Romila, who gives us a glimpse of what her typical day looks like.

About today’s Featured Author

Romila is a mix of North and South Indian traditions. She is one of the best produce of 1980’s. She wears many hats on her head- Writer/Blogger/Author/Poetess/Reader. She likes good food and music. She doesn’t have any cats and dogs at home. She writes about topics as assorted as art, relationships, style, pop culture, genders. She loves her diamonds D’s. She is a kohl-eyed girl. A coffee addict. She is a wannabe world traveller and a compassionate Scorpio.

You can read her work on her blog.
Get in touch with her on Twitter.

The funniest thing about being a writer is that my job is expected to be made up of a more supernatural substance than most. It is not just another hobby but a serious work and hardly people understand this!

Telling people that I am a writer is like telling them you’re distant cousins with Jacksons or Kardashians — where people tend to think this is a very cool thing when it is, in fact, not easy. I find myself trapped in a conversation where I have to answer the same omnipresent questions: What do you write? Do you make any money? You should write a story about your life? I’m working on a novel; do you want to read it? Did you get nominated for awards?

I love being the centre of attention because of my work. I’ve been a full-time employee of many publications. At times I’ve worked on publishing many articles per day in print medium, at other times I’ve worked on sponsored content, editing work for other people, writing books, ghost-writing articles, writing poems, journaling, fiction, social media content and just about anything else that requires stringing a few words together. For me writing is more like other careers than it is an island unto itself. This applies the same formula: work hard, practice, put the hours in, be nice to people, get lucky if you can, if it doesn’t work try something else, look at what people who are successful in your industry do and listen to what they have to say about getting to where they are.

I get ideas for articles or little snippets when I’m walking around, working on something else, watching YouTube, trying to fall asleep, or exercising. No matter how it is, I write it down in my journal or in my phone. One thing is important- consistency and building a habit of writing every day, regardless of how inspired I feel. For myself my writing routine varies. I use the day to respond to emails, read, publish what I’ve written the night before, listen to music, get ideas, brainstorm, edit pieces, but night-time is my time. It’s when things slow down; the world is calm and quiet. When I’m really working I don’t like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. I write a lot of material that I know I’ll throw away. It’s just part of the process. I have to write hundreds of pages before I get to page one. I listen to music when I’m working. I’m able to work fairly well (read as write) when I have my coffee and chocolates with me. My bedroom and writing room is the same. There’s a lot of traffic as I live on the main road. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. I am used to write in this situation. I strongly feel a writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

Why do you write so much? – I seem to get asked that question a lot on daily basis. This year alone – hardly 6months down it is of 2018 I have written 189 posts ( in my own blog), 19 guest posts, 2 eBooks, reviewed 42 books and I have much more for the next few months. If I had to guess, that’s somewhere in the range of 1, 50,000 words and more. The short answer is that I LOVE TO WRITE. I’ve committed to doing it and creative commitments help with motivation. I feel like I’d go crazy if I didn’t. It feels good to say and get out things that are inside me. If I wanted to publish an article every single day–or 10 articles a day–I could. And those articles could find readers if they were good. This is a blessing. Writing is how I express myself. It’s how I make sense of the world I live in and the thoughts that I have. If a writer doesn’t consider themselves as an important member of their own audience, they’re just showing off. A huge chunk of what I publish is published because I felt I needed to hear it.

Fortunately I am one of those blessed ones who never experienced writer’s block. I am always buzzing with ideas irrespective of the situation I am in. I have been asked for advises to overcome this problem and I would say – eliminate distractions, do something to get your blood flowing- (I like running and jogging), Listen to music, brew some coffee (my personal favourite), spend time with someone who makes you feel good and discuss ideas or brainstorm ideas in bullet points. The possibilities are endless, but movement is critical.

I’ve been writing for a long, long time. My first memory of writing is asking my mom for a pen and a stack of paper at age three or four, because I wanted to scribble. I was and I am still surrounded by pens, pads and books. I’ve been writing – poems, stories, essays, blogs. Writing is My Thing. I make a living from my writing and I’ve learned the ins and outs of how it all works, but it wasn’t always easy. It’s a lot of work, and you have to be up for the challenge to be successful.

Every so often, budding writers message or tweet me asking for advice. If you’re thinking about starting a career as a writer, here’s what you should know – Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism from those you respect and trust. Listening and learning will only improve your writing. Write as much as possible. Write it out and save it all. It’s surprising which words become the important ones.

I laugh a lot at people’s ignorance when they come up to me and say -being a writer means just sitting at Starbucks and tap-tapping away at the backlit keys of your computer while swaying to smooth jazz and breathing in a dark roast. It’s these kinds of faux-chic images that make people think writers are just people with a lot of time on their hands or that the craft of writing is all effortless inspiration. I scream loudly to make the world listen that I am a writer, I am a pen bearer, the font fanatic, and the late-night warrior, know better. My daily life isn’t always so romantic or easy—there’s annoyance, there’s monotony, there’s absolute horror. Creative careers are fantastic, but they don’t fairly pan out smooth as each one expects.

I write by hand and type out the final draft. I have a serious stationery fetish and if I see a nice new notepad or pen I will have to buy it, regardless of whether I have finished the one I am currently using. I never feel guilty about this. The very particular pleasure of writing on virgin paper is worth it, regardless of how useful or wasteful it is/was. When I write on my computer, there is, of course, the temptation of the internet. Email and Twitter are my primary culprits.

There are weekends, when I don’t write, but I use the internet instead. I see the internet as a beautiful resource. On my writing desk is my journal, on to which I jot down things I need to look up – some to do with the book I am writing, my next articles drafts or others completely unrelated.

Almost all of my writings (perhaps including this one too) are longed-for. I have won awards of being the best among the huge lot. Winning them has affected my writing life in a positive way. These titles mean a lot. It’s so nice to have people appreciate what I am doing. I am always figuring out as to what is going to be the reaction of next published work. It’s an insane, insane honour to be liked for your work.

My Blog to Book Journey

This post about my eBook is part of Blogchatter EBook Post Chain.

I take on the Baton of Blogchatter Ebook Carnival from Lavanya whose ebook ‘The Cockatiel Confessions and Other Collected Works‘ is also part of the mix.

About Lavanya’s ebook: Do you know why the moon is blue? Or why the cockatiel complains? A poor little rich girl & another girl who likes to gamble away her life credits. A tribal warrior & a time traveler. A celestial journey and a missing damsel.

My EBook Journey: When Love takes You Places

I am a compulsive list maker, in my daily life. I love writing listicles, in my blogging life.

For my readers who have been with me for some time, this wouldn’t come as a surprise. Last year I started a weekly listicles feature called Friday Listicles. I talked of how and why I loved listicles. I talked of books, of quotes that inspired me and the learnings in my writing journey. It was a busy time for me, non-blog wise and I was struggling to write regularly.

Sometimes I would wonder how to keep my inspiration strong. At other times, I struggled with being productive, having to juggle various projects. I was also editing my first draft of the previous year’s NaNoWriMo. Editing can be a frustrating and prohibitive experience.

I was sure that there were other writers out there facing the same problems as I did. Sometimes, I would settle down to think deeply about the writing itself, not just the words I was writing but the entire process of coming up with something I wanted to write about, keeping at it and making a good thing out of it. I realised that writing is not just writing the words but also the thinking, the researching, the editing, the rewriting. If I wanted to be good at the entire spectrum, I must acknowledge the stumbling blocks and know how to work around them.

My musings on writing came to the blog in the form of listicles. I was also aware that this would benefit many others who were struggling with some or the other aspect of the writing.

I wanted to put my blog posts in the form of a book.

When I joined Blogchatter this year, my dream seemed to be getting wings. Blogchatter is a community of bloggers on Twitter. It is an amazing place, a wonderful group of dedicated people who give support, provide information and opportunities for bloggers to grow better.

For Blogchatter EBook Carnival, bloggers curated content from their blogs to publish as eBooks. And that is how my own eBook came into being.

About my eBook

Finding Your Writing Flow will inspire you to pick your pen and explore your authentic voice to become the writer you want to be.

Simple and profound at the same time, the book guides you through self doubt, offering tips on recognising your passion for writing, finding inspiration when you feel stuck, staying productive in your writing projects, getting better at your craft and renewing yourself as a writer.

Experience a sense of calm, unleash the writer within and stay motivated with this book.

You can download the book from here. It is free for a limited period of time.

I pass on the Baton of Blogchatter Ebook Carnival to Mayuri whose ebook ‘26 Favourite Foods & a Little Bit of Me‘ is also part of the mix.

About Mayuri’s ebook: Food and Memories – that is what her book is all about. Food has the power to keep you connected to your past, even as it evolves to fit the future. Come walk down memory lane with her as she shares with you her favourite foods, and memories.

Do click on the links and download these excellent books and support the authors.

How to Get Back to Writing after a Break

Writing may be your passion but sometimes life or other commitments come in the way and writing drops off your radar. If you don’t write for a living then it is even harder to get back to it. It seems like writing is something you do for fulfilment and as a creative pursuit and heck, we do push back the me-things when other things are overwhelming.

It has happened to me time and again. One week I would be writing furiously, churning out words, ideas, dreams and then suddenly something would come up and writing would be the last thing on the agenda. These days grow into weeks and sometimes months and getting back just seems tougher.

So, what do I do? There are many ways I get back to my writing. Sometimes one approach works, sometimes the other and at times it has to be a combination.

Here they are:

Ease back into it

You know that you have to get back to writing. Pat yourself on the head (try not to be too patronising) and start small. If you are into fiction, write a 100 word story. Write a haiku if you write poetry. Flip through the pages of your WIP if you want to revise and edit. Give yourself the space and time to get back to the things you love.

I do this easing-back-in when I have had a tough time, strict deadlines and tiring commitments to catch up. I need the TLC not the discipline.

Just Do It

The exact opposite of the first approach, this involves sitting into that damned chair and not getting up till you write something substantial. You might require the assistance of finger snacks (non greasy), coffee at your elbow and some tissues (you might not cry at the unexpected beauty of your writing but you certainly need to wipe those crumbs off your fingers and blot out the coffee cup stain from the table).

This approach works for me when I have been procrastinating for too long and thinking up of silly excuses for why I am not writing. I don’t need sympathy, I need a kick in the backside.

Read and Write

Pick up your current read. If you haven’t read anything meaningful in a while, then dust off your favourite book and flip through the pages. The words would jump at you and soon you would be lost in the fictional world. The writing would impress upon your mind the sheer beauty of the written word and remind you (hopefully) of all the things that you yourself want to say. You realise that life is short (it would be good if your favourite book has a dying character in it) and you need to catch hold of all those grains of sand that have been slipping through the hourglass and write.

I am an enthusiastic reader and I generally have a book or two I can get back to (e-readers ensure that I don’t have to dust my books). But there are times when I have upto four unfinished books and at those times, I have to force myself to finish them (not off) one by one so that I can get back into the flow of the narrative and then on to my own voice.

Become a Copycat

Again, pick a book. Read a little, a couple of pages would do. Zero in to a passage you especially like. Judge it, by the choice of words, the length of the sentences, the cadence of the language, the tone of the story. Pick one dominating element and write your own passage using that element.

If you like the dreaminess of a work; write about the dreaminess of your unforgettable meal. If you are struck by the choice of short, powerful words in a passage, attempt to recreate that pace through the choice of similar words on a topic that is close to your heart. You’ll get back to your mojo in no time.

There are dog people and then there are cat people. I am neither; I scream at the merest proximity of even a beaked creature. The nearest I can come is to be a Copycat and it generally works very well to get back to my own style.

Take a Pledge

Imagine the Bible or the religious scripture you have an affinity for. Think yourself taking an oath with it being the witness. Decide now how much you are going to write and with what frequency. If you are back in the flow, stay in the flow. Don’t let this exercise at getting back be wasted.

Not overly religious? Never fear, think of foregoing your favourite pizza or the Netflix binge watching if you don’t stick to your writing goals.

I like to make a virtual promise for my writing goals. NaNoWriMo is a wonderful time and so is the Camp NaNoWriMo platform. I promise, put it into writing and post on my blog. There are a few friends who serve exclusively as my boasting boards and I make sure that I tell them of my promise so that the fear of looking small pulls me back into the writing chair.

I am collecting tips and tricks for getting back to writing after a break. Please share yours with me.

How many of the above tips resonate with you?

5 Things that keep your Writing Inspiration Strong

There are so many things on my idea board at any given time. (Now that sounds amazing! No writer’s block ever!) And yet some ideas and impressions slip away, if I don’t act on them soon enough. At the time the creative spark comes to me, it feels like the next best thing to hit the literary world but some time later, the spark turns to ideas that look like hollow shells, with nothing that can fill them up and out.

If that sounds familiar, here are a few things you could do to keep the inspiration to write healthy and strong.

1. Reinforce your mood

A single piece of writing can have a particular mood. A research based article would have you in a rational frame of mind while poetry might see you whimsical and emotional.

If you are writing a hilarious piece, keep the hilarity alive in your mood, otherwise you would lose your tone.

Recently, a friend writing a story about infidelity listened to music that had a theme of being unfaithful. It was to hang on to the feeling, till the time it was spent in words.

Evoking that mood through another media fires up your brain neurons and soon new insights come running in.

2. Connect to your deeper self

Your idea came from the depths of your feelings and your soul. Now go nourish that part of yourself so that you can strengthen it and make it yours and write it. Do things that ground you.

Know what keeps you grounded. It could be surrounded by the people you love or being alone in nature. You have to find what keeps your innermost self vibrant and receptive.

3. Rekindle the feeling

Why are you writing in the first place? Are there any quotes that inspire you? Or a location? That log cabin in the hills? A piece of music or painting that reeks of creativity and the joys of right expression? Connect with them. Immerse yourself in them so that you can find the validation of writing once again.

4. Tap your subconscious

Occupy one part of your brain so that the other part can create. The perfect ways to do it would be to go on a walk or listen to music. Gardening or knitting are other ways that keep the hands occupied and the mind free to muse on other things. Doing something routine and repetitive is known to soothe the nerves and to aid in problem solving or bringing up new ideas.

5. Reshape your muse into other forms

If you have a wonderful theme that you want to explore in your writing but are unable to express it fully, try another form of expression. Move from poetry to prose. Sketch your idea. Paint it. Scult it or maybe just use play dough. Compose a song. You would find newer ways of bringing forth your idea with plenty of insights into the nature of creativity.

To keep inspiration close to you, it is important to be in the right state of mind. The ideas are always there. Half formed. Half baked. Waiting to be picked and polished.

What are the ways you keep your ideas strong and kicking?

On Writing

Ever since I started blogging, there are a few questions that I ask myself periodically. 

Why am I here? Who am I? Why do I blog? 

I am here in search of beauty. I am here to carve out sentences and memories from words and impressions. When I see a bend in the road, or think back to the desolate man by the road side, and remember the colours of the ice cream cones I once had; I want to turn them into tactile and sensual experiences so that I do not ever lose sight of them. 

I write because I also want to forget. I write to get rid of the demons, of the impressions and the words I have gathered in my mind for a long long time. 

I put them down on paper, color them and sometimes even embellish them. I live those experiences again, this time slowly and deeply, feeling all that I missed in the rush of that moment. It is like picking up a favourite book again. I turn the pages of that book, run my fingers on the spine, thinking back of times gone by. Between the pages I stumble upon words and scenes I had lived before and I delight in them anew. When I write, it is like reading the book of life again; I go through it again to lay the memories to rest – having lived them fully and now only to be visited when I want to. 

I have lived an ordinary life. But it is the awareness of bringing in my viewpoint to all that has happened or is happening that prompts me to take up my pen or stylus. 

I wtite / blog for a validation. That validation is from my self, for the ability to put down in words, my impressions, my dreams and my aspirations. The turn of the tide, the silence of the reflected moon in the still waters of the lake, the whisper of the fronds; they are all a part of me. The immeasurably deep valley and the deceptively shallow brook, the curve of the grassy knoll and the trees as tall as the neck can crane are what fill my mind. 

I write for self expression. I write because I have to ‘be’. I write for my creativity to manifest itself as words. I write in order that I be a writer. 

And I want to write with a method to the madness of putting words on paper. I want to write of those who have walked with me on my journeys. I want to write of the bits and pieces that make up the whole me. I want to write and be consumed by the worlds I create; I want to write of the longing that my soul has never felt. I want to touch the despair of misery and the crest of happiness. I want to write, create and then live that world. I want to escape in that make believe world for a moment. I want to step into others’ stories feeling that I am part of the whole. I want to feel being a part of the mankind. I want to find the similarities and the differences between myself and others. 

I want to write for meditation and spirituality. I want to reach out and understand the universality of the human experience. I do hope and pray that my reasons for writing change over time but my pace does not. 

I do this exercise time and again: of asking myself why is it that I write. What I say each time surprises my rational self and the changing replies assure me that I am growing. 

Please share your reasons for writing and blogging. Let’s start a conversation. 

Writer’s Block

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
Charles Bukowski

I am a writer, though not the highly revered published author, but one that writes nevertheless. I like writing because I love to, because it is a form of self expression and because I feel that every person has a right to express himself/herself. The days I go with whatever life brings me, reacting and defending, are the days I feel I have lost touch with myself.

I used to read about writer’s block and laugh secretly, thinking a lot of fuss was being made about short periods of unproductivity. What was the big deal-I thought, after all, people in all professions burn out. Take a break and rejuvenate, simple, is it not? And writers being writers, custodians of words, twisters of sentences, inventors of ideas; we are the ones who defined writer’s block, glorified it and made a monster out of it.

Till I started my blog, I was a prolific writer-in my journal. I would write as and when I felt like and would feel pleased after a finished piece of work. When I started my blog, I was pretty confident about being a productive blogger. Just a matter of sitting down and writing. I was cruising along fairly well and then it struck me! I was down with Writer’s Block!

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Calvin's take on the Writer's Block

Hmm..I was important, after all. The most talked about malaise in the writer’s fraternity had hit me. I walked about with a smile on my face for a couple of days. The third day I sat down to write something. The words wouldn’t come. I was not worried. After all, I had just ended a very productive period when I wrote at all times of the day. Another day passed. I sat down to write. That day I managed to scrunch up a few sheets of paper and throw them around. The floor looked pretty. I must have a home office soon, for I am a bona fide writer now-I made a mental note to myself.

The real worry started a few days later or was it a few hours? If I do not produce something soon, my followers are going to desert me. My blog would wrap up. I would be back to zilch-cooking and cleaning and taking care of kids. I would not be able to look down upon people mentally and repeat the magic word ‘blogger’ when I made the introductions. Anxiety came in waves. And the waves got bigger each passing hour.

I did some research on the dreaded block. It said that writers must know how to generate ideas and explore their own thoughts so as to retain creativity and stay inspired. Okay, I filled up pages with prompts. I examined my thought processes. Zilch! I was scared of writing something that would not be good. I was afraid I would put out something not worthy of me. I knew people were reading me and that frightened the wits out of me. My nerveless fingers dropped the pencil…umm..OK..I can avoid the dramatisation.

I tried to relax. To nurture myself, mind, body and soul. I did not drown myself in decadent activities like TV or parties. I walked, I spent time with myself, I ate good food, I listened to good music, I read my favourite authors and I made myself feel loved.

And magic happened…

Relax. Put pen to paper. Smile. You are now going to produce a masterpiece. Or a terrible first draft that might have to be published as it is. In any case, I love free writing exercises. Either way, I am writing and I am a writer again.

Free Writing for Writing 101

I celebrate the three songs I love the most…

The first one definitely would be ‘Yoon hi chala chal raahi’ in Hindi from the film Swades’. It reflects the moods of my days. From the time when the seconds and minutes felt heavy to an unbearable lightness of being, the journey has been long but not difficult or tedious. If anything, I look back on my dark days with fondness, for they led me to light. And now that I know where I belong, I do not intend to go back to the despair and the hopelessness. I intend to walk towards light.

The second song that I love to hum is Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Ekala Chalo Re..’. It is sung in Bangla and I do not understand the language. I can just connect with the inspiration and whenever I feel that my beliefs are out of sync with the crowd, or whenever I feel unsupported or criticised, I think of Tagore and his beautiful rendering of the song. His voice reminds me of dawn, still cold and grey but soon to get warmer and brighter. I, then think of images in monochrome, as they were in his time. I draw strength from the exhortation to ” walk alone, if you believe”.

Another one of my favourites is ‘Been’ sung by Punjabi artist Kanwar Grewal. It transports me to the world of mysticism and Sufi devotion. His raw voice, coupled with his evident connection with a higher power makes me feel strong. The song is full-throated and full of energy.

From a Hindi film song that mirrors my philosophy of life, to an inspirational snippet from the bard Tagore, to a devotional song, sung in my mother-tongue, I feel rich to have them on my phone. I do not need any other playlists.