Journalist, analyst and author Akshita Nanda gives advice on improving your writing craft, looking after yourself and using the world around you to inform your writing.
In this commission, Akshita suggests five best practice tips for caring for yourself and your writing. Though writing might be something we do alone, Akshita encourages looking to external sources for inspiration and encouragement. She produced this commission during a 2022 virtual residency with NCW supported by National Arts Council of Singapore. During her residency, she focussed on how the migration of people and ideas is accelerated through globalisation, and how this changes people’s lives.
Read on for Akshita’s advice on improving your writing, and being kind to yourself while doing so.
Five thoughts on the care and feeding of writers
As writers, we are solitary beasts but also deeply connected to the world. We are like coral reefs, delicate and porous, absorbing all sorts of influences, while also secure within the protective skeleton of our imaginations. Like coral reefs, we require care, nurturing and appreciation.
Keep your physical body in the best shape you can manage
Eat well, sleep, and move in some pleasurable activity for at least one hour every day. A healthy imagination flourishes in a healthy body. Walk outdoors if you can manage it, especially if walking exposes you to neighbours, flowers and the sky.
Set up schedules and routines for yourself, including for domestic chores
Set up sensible schedules and routines that ensure you are decently fed and that your home is in good shape. Tasty meals and clean sheets are as helpful as a thesaurus. If you have domestic support, congratulations! If not, be grateful. The brain churns and teases over ideas while the hands are occupied. Excellent writing has come from the rhythm of repetitive tasks such as washing dishes or chopping vegetables or hanging the laundry.
Be exacting but also gentle with yourself
Once you have set up your schedules and routines, stick to them as far as possible. Adjust the routines as needed, to allow for shorter days or other commitments.
When your life deviates from the planned, as it will, do not despair or give in to irritability. Deviations often lead to new sights and experiences. Interruptions may provide new material for a story or may force you to think deeper about your existing work.
The writing life means more than word count
Writing is not just about putting pen to paper, or dictating into a recorder, or typing words onto a screen. Looking out of the window, sipping a cup of tea, laughing with a friend, and reading books by other people are all part of the creative work of writing. Fill yourself up with as much stimulation, joy and information as possible and let it settle.
Don’t force yourself to write
Sometimes, you just can’t write. There is usually a reason for this. Maybe the body needs rest, maybe the mind needs a new source of enchantment. If writing is your day job and you have a deadline that will bring in money, you may have to push through and submit what seems like less than your best. Don’t worry, no one else will notice.
If deadlines are not nipping at your heels, go for a walk, catch up with a friend, or do something good for yourself. The urge to write will return. The body might as well be comfortable while waiting.
Akshita Nanda is a journalist, analyst and author of the novels Beauty Queens of Bishan (Penguin Random House SEA) and Nimita’s Place (Epigram Books). Nimita’s Place was adapted for the stage in 2019 by arts group T:>Works and in 2020 co-won the Singapore Literature Prize for English fiction.
Akshita’s fiction explores the migration of people and ideas – beliefs, fashions, memes, technology – and also how the dislocated become local. During her residency, she focussed on how such migration is accelerated through globalisation, and how this changes people’s lives.
In 2022, the National Centre for Writing offered three virtual residencies for writers from Singapore, generously supported by the National Arts Council of Singapore. The writers were Akshita Nanda, Crispin Rodrigues and Daryl Qilin Yam. Over the six months, the Singaporean writers worked on a project with a UK-based writer as mentor. They also met online with writers and translators connected with Norwich, took part in an interview for The Writing Life podcast and participated in Meet the World events. At the end of the residency, we commissioned a piece from each writer reflecting on their residency and their writing. They also contributed writing tips and a blog for Walking Norwich. Read more here →
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