The Urgent and Personal Process of Writing
February 11, 2020
With the guidance of my mentor, Sharon Bala, I plan to work through the process of revising my novel manuscript. I hope to tighten the manuscript so that it aligns more closely with my vision for the work, and to deepen my exploration of its themes and questions. I’ve also begun to learn more about Sharon’s journey as an author, which feels incredibly helpful as I navigate my own.
I was two years deep into writing a different novel when the plot for my current novel came to me. After weeks of trying to ignore it, I realized that this is the story I need to write. The novel is based around stories and histories that live in my family and my communities, and it feels to me both urgent and personal. I’ve been working on this manuscript for two years, and having recently completed a first draft, I’m now moving into the revision process.
For much of the first draft, I was in the habit of writing every morning, as soon as I woke up, even if just for ten minutes before work. Now that I’m revising, I find that I need longer chunks of time to sink into the manuscript and rework the parts that need attention. This means staking out time on the weekends and looking for opportunities like writing residencies to dive into the work. Community is also a huge part of my writing process: I have a small writing group of two trusted friends. Each month, we exchange writing, offer feedback, and generally support each other through it all. Checking in with friends and mentors from writing workshops and residencies also propels my work. I also read constantly, which is inspiration, craft lesson, and pleasure all in one.
I’d love for Mira Jacob to write a graphic novel about my life. Her graphic memoir uses such a powerful blend of humour and vulnerability to explore difficult questions around identity, race, and politics within the family and beyond. I’m in awe of her clarity of vision and the power in her words and art.
An ideal writer’s life would be one where writers are fairly compensated for their work, engaged in movements and communities, and have access to health and community care, which is integral to sustaining any kind of work. In this world, the publishing industry would make space for all of our stories, not just the ones that are deemed marketable/appealing/digestible by its gatekeepers. We wouldn’t be asked to italicize the words in our other tongues, and the humanity of our subjects would not be questioned – it would be inherent.
In ten years, my novels have been read across borders and languages. I’m committed to telling my stories. My work has made space for other writers on the margins, just like the ones who came before did for me.