Wednesday, 29 March 2017

WEP February Winner - Kalpanaa & Making Writing A Priority

Kalpanaa, winner of the WEP February Flash Fiction Challenge, Back of the Drawer, with her work The Dresser is here today with a guest post
Making Writing a Priority.

Take it away, Kalpanaa!

Making my writing my highest priority was my New Year’s Resolution, and I’m watching with fascination how events unfold to make that a possibility. Setting an intention is the first thing you need to do when you’re trying to achieve something. As a result of this resolve, I’m basking in sunshine these days because two happenings blossomed in my life. The first is my resignation from my day job. I did this specifically to have more time to write. The thought of those endless rolling hills of free time to ponder, research, set down, edit, publish and bow to the cheering crowds (hopefully) has lifted my spirits to a level of girlish giggling. Which is why I was slightly taken aback when Yolanda and Denise serendipitously suggested I write about my writing journey (amongst other suggestions, to be fair). Stumped because there was a real danger of my writing a navel-gazing blog post since I’m in the thick of assessing my life goals and jotting them down in a journal.

I’ve always known I want to be a writer - spending the long hot summers of childhood writing feverishly, my mother a captive audience - captured by her duty to be encouraging. Later I wrote poems, and stories and, like a mimosa (flower - not cocktail) hid them away after even one not-so-pleasant comment. Feedback about my other writing didn’t cut so deep which meant I could write often and much about education, parenting, gender, book reviews - thoroughly enjoying the freelance life - which is the only kind of life a writer can thrive in. It gives you the freedom to dream and to write. You have the necessary time at your disposal to follow a regular writing schedule instead of one that’s squeezed between the car pool, the laundry and a night of much-needed rest. I was very impressed to hear that Dan Brown writes all those complex novels by waking up an hour earlier every morning and then going to his teaching job. Although I believe that was in the early days of his writing life and he now spends the entire day writing. 

In the aftermath of my divorce 11 years ago, my freelance writing career nosedived as I attempted to make sense of the enormity of the changes in my life. A shocking discovery about my past, the empty nest, death of a parent and drastic changes to the life I used to lead, drove me further into my introverted writer’s shell. Processing those cataclysmic life changes meant I just didn’t have the energy to write to editors with ideas for work. I did try though.  When they rejected my proposals, as editors do sometimes (often) my battered psyche took it as a personal rejection of that particular idea or article. So, I put it away quietly in a dark box. I began to believe I would feel better in a new place.  Plans to leave the country involved finding a line of work that would make this possible. I got myself a teaching qualification. I did continue to write blogs and stories, but I put most of it away in the dark box, fearing rejection. 

The job I’m resigning from involves teaching English to small Korean children. It’s quite lovely being around children, watching them progress and coming up with new ideas to make the day fascinating for them as well as for me. The drawback is that it leaves me with no time to write. And with no energy either. Doing the Dan Brown thing didn’t really work for me because I catch the school bus at 7 am - where was I going to find an hour to write before that? I did better with writing in the evening when I was more relaxed. 

 Despite the wait (we have a 3 month notice period) the decision has given me a huge burst of writing energy, and I’m gearing up for the A to Z Challenge with much pleasurable anticipation. My theme this year is the Lexicon of Leaving. It’s all about Divorce. 

As writers, we often make the mistake of putting our writing second, or even third or fourth. Many of us grow up with the certainty that we want to be writers but then do so many other things as well. Did that happen to you? I’d love to hear about how you sidelined your writing. Do you have the courage to live by your writing

I know I didn’t honour my craft and for a very good reason. My children came first, and I believed I could always write at night when they were asleep, or not sick, or grown up - or, like Dan Brown, early morning. People gave me books to read, written by women writers and we marveled at how the women wrote at night, after washing the nappies and cooking dinner. They couldn’t make writing the center point of their lives. Perhaps I could have. I don’t know. What I do know is that I have now made it central to my life, putting aside worries and fears about my financial situation and other practical matters and making space to write.

In addition to making mental space to write, I firmly believe we need a physical space to write in and have been much influenced by Virginia Woolf and ‘A Room of One’s Own.' 

Writers are sensitive, observant people and we don’t put only our friends, family and colleagues under the microscope. We spend a good deal of time examining ourselves and our work. I do. I know my faults as a writer (and as a person). Do you know yours?

It’s important to think what your drawbacks as a writer are - and then, of course, to work on them. 

Mine are impatience and feeling shy about my work. The only reason my story, ‘The Dresser’ was better than others I’ve put out there is because I edited, revised, showed it to a couple of trusted lieutenants, implemented their suggestions and then sent it off. In working the way I know I should, I didn’t listen to my impatient self that wanted to send it off immediately and be done with it. I had to overcome my reluctance to show my work to people I know well, who could judge me and make me feel terrible instead of just tossing it into the internet. In cyberspace strangers, will read to oohs and aahs, ignore or actively dislike my word but their opinions won’t shatter my self-confidence and will matter only a little provided I’m satisfied with what I’ve written.

The second event that’s validating my feeling that I’m a writer is very practical. I’m going to share it with you here because it has honestly made my life much easier and more ‘writer-like.' I often write in notebooks - because pen to paper gets me to be very creative with my language if there’s been a long gap in the writing life. I then can’t find the notebook I was writing in, or the page I scribbled on. I also write on scraps of waste paper and tuck them into notebooks. Sometimes the notebooks are too heavy to carry around resulting in situations where I have time to write, the ideas are flowing, but there’s nowhere to note things down. I find these frustrations killing and just can’t scoop up the idea later in the day and write about it. I’m moody that way. It isn’t a good thing, I know. I’m aware that discipline matters and other such character building traits ensure success, but I still feel annoyed and am easily distracted by a friend, a child’s story or a cat video on the internet. But now I’ve discovered Ulysses. It’s a distraction-free writing app I downloaded on my laptop and my phone. I write at home, and the cloud sends it to my phone. I edit on the bus on the way to school. At school, if I have free time I can continue to write either on my phone or on my work laptop which also has the app, miraculously. (I know, I know - it isn’t really a miracle. Just the cloud. Which is a miracle) Nothing gets lost. I can publish directly to my blog from Ulysses. I can email an editor. I know it’s a shiny new toy, and there were always ways I could have done this, but the ease and simplicity of it have changed my life. It’s an Apple app but do check to see if they have a Microsoft version. A good writing experience enhances your pleasure in writing. What do you use to write? Can you recommend some writing tools? 

My New Year’s Resolution ensured I found the gaps in my writing process and sent me the solutions. That’s serendipity for you. If you make writing your priority, everything will move in that direction to ensure you can write. Time to write, space to write, patience, courage and the right tools - what more does a writer need? 

Thank you, Kalpanaa!
What more does a writer need?
That app sounds amazing.
Are you ready for April's Challenge?

Sign Up here on April 1st
Post no later than April 19th!

We'd love if you'd Tweet one of these:

The #WEPFF BACK OF THE DRAWER Challenge Winner Guest Post - Kalpanaa @DeniseCCovey& @YolandaRenee

Celebrate with Kalpanaa first place winner #WEPFF BACK OF THE DRAWER Feb Challenge @DeniseCCovey & @YolandaRenee

Kalpanaa, winner of the #WEPFF Challenge with The Dresser shares her writing journey! @DeniseCCovey & @YolandaRenee

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  1. This was such a detailed post, and I agree that women tend to push writing aside when push comes to shove in daily life. It happened to me with art and writing when the life issues happened: divorce, bringing up two daughters, and my husband having a major heart attack in 2014. I stopped writing fiction and instead kept a journal of his 'journey' coming back from major trauma to trying to make sense of it all. I have since started writing fiction again but it's taken me a while to actually feel like I could write again. I mull things over as I progress and that usually revives the yearnings for writing, photography and art. I just need level ground to stand on first. This is a thoughtful post, I'll try to visit your A to Z posts, even though I'm not in it this year.

  2. Art always gets pushed to the side. It's sad but for many people, it doesn't pay the bills and has to be a "hobby". I know I've pushed my own art and writing off to one side, not treating it with the respect it deserves and needs. Something happy happened in the past month, something that, at first glance wasn't happy at all but turned out for the best. A chronic illness flare up made it necessary for me to give up one of my work shifts. Starting next week, I'll only work three days a week and be off four. I couldn't be happier. You're right: we need the space and the time to write in and it does matter where that space is and how it is set up. Best of luck to you, Kalpanaa, in your New Year's goal and in your new found writing career! I'm so excited for you and your ability to write full time! :D

    ~ Jen

  3. Thank you Kalpanaa for sharing your writing journey in such a frank and interesting manner. It's really courageous of you to give up your day job and focus on writing full time. Kudos! and wish you much success.

    Agree with you and DG that women (and maybe men too) don't really prioritise writing. I write pretty much full time, but no conflicts as I have been, for all intents and purposes, a SAHM for a few years now. Not that being a SAHM gives anybody oodles of me-time or anything, but still...I don't have to juggle work deadlines most of the time. My practice is to write something, anything, even if it is a couplet, every day.

    On a different note, am ready for both the challenges - A-Z and WEP (finally! I thought I'd never make it before the 1st, but somehow have managed to wrap up the drafts, only editing left now, thank goodness) Will be dropping by your A-Z posts.

  4. I loved reading this, Kalpanaa. Most of us can relate in some ways to some of your journey. I certainly ignored my writing muse while I was busy with little children...well, I was too exhausted with children and teaching I didn't have a lot of energy left. Even when I decided to get seriously writing in the early 2000s, I've still allowed everyone/everything else to push my writing aside. However, just this past few months, I'm actually prioritizing my writing, giving it loads more time, and it's making a difference to how I feel mentally. Hello! I've cut back teaching days to just 2 per week and am writing every day, except when I travel (but that's for my writing, anyway.)

    I'm so excited for you, K. I'm not doing the A-Z, but will certainly visit your posts when I can and any other WEPper who's taking part and my other blogger friends. What an exciting April! :-)

  5. I too loved reading this. Sadly I think many of us push our creative selves into the background. And sometimes into the dust. Which is a mistake.
    I won't be playing in the A-Z or (I think) in the next WEP challenge but I will certainly be reading, learning and applauding.

  6. Space and time sure is the big thing, but it doesn't pay the bills most of the time, so one has to cut back in order to keep from living on the street at certain points.

  7. Hello Kalpanaa,
    What a journey so far. You have experienced a lot. You know what you need to do and you also know what doesn't work for you. I too used to teach English to companies who had international ties here in Germany. I found that my English was slowly getting worse because I automatically spoke on a different level so that people here could understand me. My vocabulary suffered badly. So, I decided it was time to take a step of faith in the talent and ability given to me and walk out on the water of writing. That was five years ago and I am glad I did exactly that.
    I wish you the very best. That your writing grows. I am happy to hear you are participating in the A to Z. I have decided not to participate this year because of my writing. I have two books that I want to finish so I can start submitting them to agents and I need every little bit of time I have.
    I'll drop by and read your blog during that time.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat Garcia


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