I’m thrilled to introduce today’s Visiting Professor, debut author Renita D’Silva. Renita shares her insight on the insane highs and lows of being a writer, and why she keeps writing.
Welcome to RU, Renita!
Your manuscript is ready to take on the world. You have researched agents and publishers, found a few who represent books like yours. You have prepared your query letter and submission to suit their taste and, with your heart fluttering like a moth trapped in a jar, you have sent your manuscript off, keeping your fingers crossed behind your back and saying prayers to a God you did not know you believed in up until now.
And then…you wait. And wait.
You cannot write. The muse is exhausted. Everything you ever had has gone into the making of your book, the book that is right at this moment in some agent’s hands (at least you hope it is—and not languishing at the bottom of a slush pile), and you cannot find it in you to do any more. You know what all the tomes on writing say: ‘While you are waiting for a response, write another book.’ It’s all well and good for others to cheerily dispense advice, you think, but how can one follow it when one is experiencing this agony?
You stare at your computer and wait for inspiration, but all you really want to do is check your email, hoping for a (positive) reply. You pull out your battered yellow notebook where you jot down ideas, but they seem like nothing more than a jumble of words that do not make sense. What will the agent/publisher say? You think. Are they reading it right this moment? What if they don’t like it, don’t want it?
The days crawl by, and you mope around the house. Miserable. Because you are not writing. Because you cannot write. When the advice from all the writing gurus is: ‘Write every day.’ And you worry that perhaps now that it has been—what, a month? Not that long surely, why haven’t they got back? Is no reply a good sign? At least they haven’t rejected it outright. What if they haven’t got round to reading it yet?
What if, horror of horrors, it is at the bottom of the slush pile?—you worry that now that it has been so long since you put pen to paper, perhaps you have lost the knack.
And then one day, just when your family have had enough, when you have driven them up the wall with your moans and your moping—there it is. Waiting in your inbox. ‘Thank you for your submission…’ Does that bode well? With trembling fingers, you click on the email: ‘…but we are sorry that it is not what we are looking for at this moment.’
You dolt, you think, why did you ever assume you could be a writer? Where did you get that spectacular, stupendous, utterly crazy notion from? You slam the computer shut. You pick up your tattered yellow notebook, you tear out a page, two. And then, you storm upstairs, hunt like mad for the glue which of course is not where it should be and, when you’ve finally found it at the bottom of the shoe cupboard after you’ve overturned the contents of all the other cupboards and wardrobes, glue the pages back together, the words running and flavoured briny with your tears.
For a week or two, you do not write. You cannot write. They did not want your work. They did not like it. And then slowly, like when one is recovering from a breakup, exactly like that, the anger sets in. I will show them.
The yellow notebook makes a re-appearance, now more tattered than ever. The computer keys are used again, loved again, sprinkled liberally with a dusting of crumbs and splotches of tea as you get carried away and take your meals at the computer. The family sighs in relief and tiptoe around you so as not to arouse the fiery temper and provoke the yells of ‘Can’t you see I’m working?’ They tell you later, in one of those rare, rushed moments when you have torn yourself away from the computer, how much they prefer their furious parent to the moping, depressed one.
They get used to coming down at six in the morning to find you hunched over the computer, not having gone to bed at all, or to coming home from school to find you still in your pyjamas furiously typing away. And so, you create another work of art, you hone it, you perfect it, you research agents and publishers and send it on its way with crossed fingers and prayers. And then you wait. And you wait…
Sound familiar? Why do we do it, eh? Despite the heartbreak, despite the setbacks. Despite the mind-numbing, the soul-destroying low of countless rejections.
Because there is nothing quite like the pleasure, the blush-inducing, adrenalin-pumping pleasure when someone actually likes what you have written, just when you have forgotten how it feels for your writing to be appreciated, to be loved. When they say, ‘Wow, I can relate to that. How did you do it, how did you put that feeling into words?’ ‘Ah,’ you say, that blur of hours spent writing and rewriting and crossing out and rewriting, that neglecting of family, that looking at your children and finding they’ve grown an inch or two while you’ve been building word count, perfecting similes, composing metaphors, flashing before your eyes, ‘it was nothing.’
And you smile, despite your reddening cheeks, cross your fingers behind your back and hope the lie won’t come back to bite you.
Because there is nothing quite like the high you get when you have written that perfect sentence—albeit one sentence out of the two hundred and fifty mediocre ones that came before. Or like the sense of achievement when you have written a particularly hard scene, when you have struggled through it and got it right, just the way you want it, after countless edits. The way the words reverberate in your head and you know, you just know that the scene is perfect now. The high doesn’t last of course. You attempt the next chapter and it all goes wrong.
But for those two minutes, that immense satisfaction, that sense of achievement…Like giving birth. Falling in love. Making love.
What about you? Do you feel like this about your writing? Do you despair of it, fight it and yet…can’t live without it? I’d love to know.
Renita’s debut novel, MONSOON MEMORIES, released last week and is available in print and Kindle format.
“English rain smelt and tasted of nothing at all. It had none of the fury, the passion of the monsoons. Instead, it was weak; half-hearted.”
Exiled from her family in India for more than a decade, Shirin and her husband lead a comfortable but empty life in London.
Memories of her childhood – exotic fragrances, colours, stifling heat and tropical storms – fill Shirin with a familiar and growing ache for the land and the people that she loves.
With the recollections though, come dark clouds of scandal and secrets. Secrets that forced her to flee her old life and keep her from ever returning.
Thousands of miles away, in Bangalore, the daughter of Shirin’s brother discovers a lost, forgotten photograph. One that has escaped the flames.
Determined to solve the mystery of an aunt she never knew, Reena’s efforts will set in place a chain of events that expose the painful trauma of the past and irrevocably change the path of the future.
An unforgettable journey through a mesmerizing, passionate land of contrasts – and a family whose story will touch your heart.
Editor Heather Webb returns on Monday, July 1st.
Bio: Renita D’Silva loves stories- both reading and creating them. Her debut novel, ‘Monsoon Memories’ was published by Bookouture on the 21st of June. She is working (in between bouts of despair and fueled by vast amounts of tea) on her second novel, also set in India.
- Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned on the Path to Publication with Renita D’Silva
- Weekly Lecture Schedule September 1-5
- Weekly Lecture Schedule, June 24 – June 28, 2013
- If at First, You Don’t Succeed…by Anna Sugden
- Can I Get A Moment?