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.

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?