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Writing the first book is never easy. It does not matter if you work or are a homemaker, you have to go through a grind. Kanchana shares her experience.
Innumerable posts are written by established authors on how they managed their corporate life and writing aspirations. Well, I have a job too. Not a 9 to 5 one, it’s 24X7. I’m a mother, a wife, a homemaker and I am an author. Negotiating your way through the domestic hurdles is no less of a mine field than corporate quagmires. If you think the boss from hell, spiraling marketing targets and meetings are difficult to deal with; try the domestic circus. It’s no less mind-boggling.
As a freelance features writer for the past two decades I figured juggling home and writing should be child’s play. Right? Wrong. As all freelancers will tell you, work is sporadic and one has long spells of nothing to do but make cold calls. More than hard work, it was a fabulous excuse to stay away from the kitty party gang in the building.
When I started writing my first novel in Jan 2014, I soon realized I had stepped into a hurricane. More like the eye of the hurricane. And by this I don’t mean sorting out characters, fleshing out the story and etc…I mean dealing with people at home alongside spinning the yarn. If you think conference calls, board meeting and monthly targets get in way of the sensuous scene you are itching to write; try dealing with the local plumber, carpenter or worse, courier fellow who decides to ring the bell just when you sit down to write the scene that’s been playing in your mind since morning. And the reason you couldn’t write it out isn’t because you have an office to go. It’s because… (pause, take a breath)…the maid bunked.
Tiffin boxes had to be packed. The dog had the ‘I need to pee’ look. So you tell the idea to hold on, (I jot it down on my mobile phone notepad. I don’t depend on my memory.) At least with the job you bring home a pay check but being a housewife is a thankless job. To have to shut the laptop because the washing machine isn’t working, the presswala has misplaced your husband’s black trouser (yet again) and the kid needs new sketch pens to do the school project; it can turn the most benign person into a serial killer. I wanted to kill. All I wanted to do was write, why was the universe conspiring against me?
Here’s what I did to get the book out of me.
It took me eight and half months to finish the first draft. I woke up at 5 am, made a huge mug of coffee and wrote. They say the first novel just gushes out of you. It’s true. I couldn’t sleep. So I decided to write rather than toss and turn in bed. Also, I told myself that this is the most important thing I’m doing and I don’t want to get to it at the end of the day when I’m brain dead having dealt with maids, grocery shopping and etc. The family – husband, son and dog – wake at 7. So I wrote.
From 5 to 7 is only 2 hours and that’s not enough if you want to have the first draft ready in 8-9 months! Even when I’m not writing on the laptop, I’m writing. In my head, throughout the day. As I walked Archie (the dog). Waited in my car at the traffic light. As I chopped the salad, stirred the curry and sometimes while doing the groceries. I would keep thinking about the scene, the characters, the dialogues, how I want to change them…I would quickly jot down a few things. Sometimes I would lean against the shopping cart and write out an entire scene allowing other surprised shoppers to go ahead.
I stopped watching TV. I met my friends less, much to the irritation of some who thought I was avoiding them.
Just because I’m writing the story that doesn’t let me sleep, eat or breathe…doesn’t mean relatives wouldn’t visit. And they will want to go Lajpat nagar for shopping, Dilli Haat or even the nearby mall. When this happens, deal with it as an adult. Lie and run! The freelance thing I mentioned in paragraph two came in handy again. I shamelessly pretended to have a string of meetings for the day. I packed my laptop, sat in a café and wrote. I found one where my friends or family weren’t likely to turn up at and hammered away at the story.
Now this one is tricky to deal with. Just three words: indulge, indulge and indulge. Help him focus on a hobby. Encourage him to learn a new instrument, if he is musically inclined. Find groups in the neighbourhood where men play football, cricket and push him in that direction. Golf is a great option too. He will be up at crack of dawn and return by 12, dog tired; while you write.
When sports or music didn’t work out for me, I nudged him towards the ultimate man toy. He bought a Harley Davidson. I gave him the thumbs up as he tried on ghastly leather jackets, helmets, foot gear, even a skull printed scarf and what not. All the while telling myself (under breath), “Keep quiet, woman. He will be out every Sunday from 5 am to 11. Sometimes he will be gone for overnight trips. Think of the number of chapters you can write if you had the whole weekend to yourself!” Bless you Harley!
Selfies with daughters notwithstanding, every woman fights the toughest battles with her mother. And I’m no different. Mommy dear called to tell me I didn’t return her call. She called to tell me I don’t listen to her and sound absentminded when she speaks. Then she called to tell me that Riya calls Pipi ten times in a day and Tuki calls kakimoni seven times in a day. Mommy, mommy, dear mommy. What do I with you? What do I do without you? I silenced her with just one sentence. “Ma! I’m dedicating the book to you.” Need I say more!
Irrespective of whether you are a working person or homemaker, single or married, with or without kids; writing isn’t easy. Chasing any dream is the toughest thing in the world. You’ll go mad, curse the world for the injustice of it all, hate yourself for putting your dream before others; and there will days when you will just sit and weep. You will get rejected, you will question if it’s worth it, you’ll fight with your spouse and your kid will complain you haven’t made his favourite lasagna in a long time. But trust me, it works out. I believe life tests you and your commitment by hurling obstacles in your path. The Fiddler on the roof does His thing to challenge you, to see how badly you want it by planting hurdles – domestic, corporate and others – in your path.
So the domestic drama goes on in my life. Maids, plumbers and electricians continue to whip up mayhem. Sandeep cancels a biking trip leaving me shame faced with guilt ruing that I wouldn’t be able to write. PTA has to be attended. Mom has threatened she’ll never visit me again because I write all the time and when I don’t, I run off for business meetings (wink, wink!). The promise of dedication placated her only for a day and half! But I have stopped getting annoyed. I just take a deep breath and tell myself, “This is my day job. Being a mom, a wife, a homemaker. Deal with it and then go write.” If you’re passionate, really insanely passionate about something, you’ll find the time for it.
Harper Collins is publishing my first. I’m now writing the second novel and I just finished getting the living room re-tiled. The bathroom is next. I don’t wait for Life to test me. I take the madness with a tall glass of chilled Chardonnay, then rave & rant…and of course write about it.
First published here.
Image via Shutterstock
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