Dangers of Being Overly Cautious in Writing – The Writing Life in Story

Nanna - master mechanic

Day Seven

I knew Nanna – Delhi’s motorcycle repair guru – very well, and liked and respected him. So when I sat down to write chapter five – “Spanners and Screwdrivers” – his character and the scenes came out flat. I wanted that chapter to show insight and vulnerability, but as I wrote – in fits and starts throughout the day – I knew I was failing. Fear was holding me back. Fear of not doing justice to his character made me too careful and, consequently, my words were stilted and guarded. I couldn’t seem to separate the man I knew from the character I was writing about. The result was Nanna came out characterless. That’s the danger of being overly cautious with words. Read more

Writing Stalled – The Writing Life in Story

Day Six

The day was a bust in terms of getting any writing accomplished. I couldn’t concentrate because of eye strain. The headaches had gotten progressively worse in the couple of days since I’d been living and working in the cabin. I had to get fitted for a pair of specs, so I ventured down to Mussoorie’s mall to find an eye doctor. By the time I arrived, the pain behind both eyes was debilitating, forcing me to lie down in the eye shop, both before and after being examined by the doctor. I don’t know if the doctor deducing and prescribing the lens’ strength was an actual “doctor”, but I was sold a pair as a result of his examination. Because my head hurt so much, I decided to wait and take them with me. I was already loosing writing time that day, and if I had to return on another day I’d loose that time at my desk as well. Better to loose one day of work than two. I was, after all, on a schedule

I did manage to work a few hours, and finished the “Life in Landour” chapter, of which the bulk of contained an astrological scene that took place in my cabin nearly two years earlier. I’d stayed in Alyndale prior to riding around India, having gone there once to learn Hindi. Then, I’d shared it with Darla (not her real name), an American woman who’d come to India to study with an astrological guru. She was the friend of a friend, and we’d agreed to share a cabin before meeting.

It turned out, we didn’t like each other. I avoided her as much as possible but one night – when it was too miserable to go out and we were stuck with each other in that little room – she talked me into letting her do my astrological chart. Practice for her; a lark for me. The predictions she made are still in the book, so I won’t tell you what she said. I will say, it was enlightening.

Overall, the day wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped in terms of word written, but that’s the way writing goes. Some days a lot; some days not so much.

Work hours: didn’t track, but four hours at best!

Finding My Writing Groove – The Writing Life in Story

Day Five

Every writer must find her/his most productive writing hours, and I settled into a routine of 7 p.m. to midnight. I’d always been a night writer, and working on the first draft of NAKED ON THE EDGE was no exception (now, I write in the morning when my mind isn’t cluttered with extraneous thoughts).

This is not to say that I didn’t try to write during the day – and had some power of concentration for a few hours in the morning – but by noon I found my mind wandering as I gazed out the window into the mystery of the forest crouching at my door. It was late May and the lure of spring in the mountains was difficult to resist. While there were no bustling French bistros of Hemingway’s days or contemporary Starbucks cafes, there were two tea houses among the cluster of shops in char dukan. I enjoyed sauntering along the mountain path, letting my mind ruminate on the story as my subconscious worked out craft and content problems. Read more

Blind Belief – The Writing Life in Story

Day Four

Perhaps it was a combination of limited lighting in the cabin and the fact that I worked at night, but I became plagued with fierce headaches lodged over and behind my right eye. As a kid I’d wanted to wear glasses, thought they made me look smart, but I hadn’t really needed them. Now, the strain from staring at the little computer screen and in a room ill-equipped with good light would force me to trek down to Mussoorie and be fitted with a pair. Read more

Crafting a Larger Story – The Writing Life in Story

Day Three

My cabin rested on the ledge of a slope, pinned in its place by a low split-rail fence that prevents it from spilling into one of thousands of crevices carved into the Himalayans by millenniums of rain and melting snow. The cabin’s main room hosted a rickety kitchen table that I’d parked in front of the large picture window facing the edge of the woods, a tattered but comfy reading chair, and a sooty, potbellied stove to take the chill out of the night air and rainy days. Today was one of those rainy days, with hailstones battering all sides, the ice balls pinging off the fence and disappearing into the forest. Read more

Starting to Write – The Writing Life in Story

Day Two

Mom called yesterday to say my finances are down to $4,000. She’s worried. I probably should be too but I can’t afford to let my mind stray to thoughts of money. I’ve got a book to write.

Today is my first official writing day because it’s the day I have designated as seriously sitting down to draft NAKED ON THE EDGE. I’ve never written a book or any text of this length (90,000 words make a book) and I’m sure it will be a work-in-progress. For this reason, I’ve started a separate journal devoted to my feelings, inspirations, work habits, progress, speed, changes, depressions, etc. All of it. Read more

Arriving in Landour – The Writing Life in Story

Day One

I lumbered off the bus with a bulging backpack and a laptop tucked in a case slung over my shoulder. I’d left Kali in Delhi because I’d too much stuff to carry and taken an overnight express to the Himalayan foothills where my writing life, for the next two months, awaited in a cabin in Landour.

I hadn’t slept on the bus because I’d been surrounded by five, fun-loving, 20-something-year-old young Indian men who laughed, whistled, sang, told stories and shouted at each other all night. On top of that, there was no legroom for a person of my stature, and I was squished against the window as the so-called luxury bus pushed across the plains. It’s a blessing that the darkness prevented me from witnessing the near-death mishaps the driver managed to elude, but I felt them as the dilapidated motor coach teetered on what felt like two wheels, at times, as it careened up the mountain. Read more