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.
There were practical reasons as to why I didn’t devote myself to sitting at my desk all day. The electricity in the hills was sporadic and often out between 3-5 p.m. Besides, there were things to do during the daylight – marketing, laundry, and such – that the darkness didn’t allow. Panthers skulked through the underbrush and monkeys screeched from the tree tops, and stepping out into that unknown scared me.
I developed a routine of rising around 8 or 9 a.m. and meandering into the little kitchen where I put the kettle on to boil as I spooned freeze-dried coffee into a special mug I’d bought in New Delhi at a high-end boutique in Khan Market. When the whistle sounded, I’d pour the boiling water over the rich brown crystals before adding a splash of milk that came in a plastic pouch.
I finished writing chapter two “Baptism by Fire.” I really enjoyed working on it. It was fun – not an adjective often coupled with writing since it’s such hard work. In this chapter I described the horrific ride up the mountain when I came to Landour to learn Hindi–prior to setting out on the ride around India. How the lane through Mussoorie was clogged with people wandering back and forth, and the road itself had more holes in it then riding surface. I didn’t know I had to adjust Kali’s idle due to the high altitude and she stalled over and over. I made it through town and reached the road to Landour, only to encounter a blinding rainstorm and nearly road off the edge of the road.
I’ve since cut“Baptism by Fire” from NAKED ON THE EDGE, feeling it didn’t serve the story well. To include it would start the story too far back in time. I loved writing that chapter and felt for a long time it was necessary to the story. Despite the time and effort I put into making it work, however, I eventually realized it didn’t. These are the tough decisions all writers face. The thing to remember is that everything must intentionally serve the story we are telling. If it doesn’t, we must be strong enough to cut it.
Work hours: 10 a.m. – noon; 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. – six hours.