Saturday, 30 November 2019

How Do You Make Space for Yourself to Write? -- Damyanti Biswas


Writing on an ipad in bed at dawn against the light of the electric heater—the writing life demands that you write wherever you are. I’m supposed to be on vacation, but here I am, typing away. 




I’ve written on moving buses, trains. Not boats. Definitely airplanes. I remember tearing apart (physically) an entire manuscript while on a train in Scotland, as stunning views or slow-moving sheep reflected on enormous glass windows. 



An entire short story was once written on a flight to the UK from Singapore. I was tired, grumpy, could not sleep, so I thought writing would help me. It did not. I inhaled copious amounts of caffeine, furiously typed a draft that only made half-sense, and alighted a cranky woman—perhaps the only time that finishing a piece gave me a fit of rage and a crick in the neck, instead of the sense of accomplishment that usually follows. I like having written, more often than not.



A friend wrote yesterday about writing while seated on the toilet, because that was the only place she could get away from her toddlers. Another, on her short commute. A hundred words here or there tend to add up, she said, and she was right.


At a literary festival in Malaysia, there was a question from the audience (for another woman writer)—how do you make space for your writing? 
And the answer was, you have to claw it out, claim it, because no one is going to give it to you. 

This is true of men who hold down jobs and write, as well as look after kids, but it seems to be even more true of women, whose spouses often do not care much for their writing. 

As a writer, you have to fight for the time to write, and then write in that time, no vagaries of the muse or goofing off on social media allowed. I do not have kids, and have a very supportive spouse, and yet, in the past months of promotions for my debut novel, You Beneath Your Skin, I've mostly been writing blog posts like this one.

The pages and index cards you see on the train table in front of me finally became my debut novel. Writing really is this mostly thankless, un-glorious, grinding process, and promotions, even more so. I'm seriously considering quitting on all social media and all events and just curling up with books to read and write. 

I feel a bit of a brat doing that because all my proceeds will support the education and empowerment of women at Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks. So I need to keep scrounging time to write, in corners, on trains, on my phone. (Been writing a flash fiction piece on my phone since yesterday.)



What about you? When and where do you find the time to write?


4 comments:

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
Damyanti, this is a timely and pertinent post for me to read today... my writing efforts have stalled quite seriously in the last two months (beyond basic blogging) due to having to take up full cares of ageing and ailing father. A lot of adjustment all around. Need to reset and refind those spaces and places where I can let it all go and follow the flow!!! I am someone who needs silence for my muse. The larger part of my output till date has been during the wee small hours... YAM xx

Rituparna Roy said...

"You have to claw it out, claim it, because no one is going to give it to you." That sounds familiar! Have known the condition for too long a time. And am now resigned to the fact that I'll always have to claw it out... for as far as I can see.
Liked this post, Damayanti. And liked the photos!

Cecilia Peartree said...

Yes - even when you find yourself with some 'spare' time you have to claw writing time back from yourself I find. And if other people have different expectations of you, the time never seems to be spare.I think being a bit ruthless is a help with this.

Clare Weiner (Mari Howard) said...

I'm a little worried by the terms 'carving out' and 'clawing' we writers seem to be using of finding writing time! I also know sometimes it can't be done - and that is frustrating. However I know that self discipline might find the timeI need, if I could close down my conscience about other must-do things... How come other writers are happy with a garden like a wilderness, a house like a junk shop? Mine are by no means perfect - but they can't and won't settle with being neglected either... Maybe I am just not enough of an 'introvert'?