Tag Archives: Writing

The best thing about being a writer

One of the Goodreads author prompt questions is: “What’s the best thing about being a writer?”

I took it upon myself to answer it today. There are a lot of things I like about being a writer. I love creating new settings and characters. When I write, my imagination can go wild and I get to see what happens between all of the characters. Often what happens as I write is very different from what I expected. For each first draft, I don’t outline at all – I just start typing at my computer and see where the characters take me. Seeing where a story takes me is definitely one of my favorite things about being a writer.

When I was working on the first draft of Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction, what surprised me the most was the role of the character Grant. He starts out as the boyfriend of the protagonist Petra Shirazi. I imagined him as a minor character but as the story developed he became increasingly important. Originally I’d named the character after a friend of mine but when my boyfriend (now husband) read the book – he reacted to the character name. “Why is her boyfriend named X?”

The comment took me by surprise so I ended up changing the name. None of the characters are modeled after people I know, although they do have bits and stories that I’ve adapted from real life into the story. Which brings me to what I consider the best thing about being a writer. Seeing your book in print. The concrete impact of your time in solid form.

That still gets me every time I pick up a print copy of my published book. I  only hope that I feel just as excited every time I publish a new one. I never want to lose that feeling of surreal excitement.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more! http://bitly.com/1sIlG3h

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://amzn.to/1rJjjb0.

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The everyday struggle… especially toward the end

Today was a struggle for me.

I woke up this morning and wrote down my To Do list for the day as I always do. Each day, the list includes one essential item: Write. Most of the time, that item comes so naturally that I’m not even sure that I need to include it. Still, I love checking things off of the list, so I add it in for that little extra bit of pleasure when I can say that I accomplished it as part of my daily goals. Unfortunately, today was not like most days. I felt an impending urge to do anything but write all morning and into the early afternoon. Luckily, it was a light day in terms of other commitments so I gave myself some room to slack off. I’ll sit down and write later. I’ll get to it eventually. I found myself all kinds of things to read and procrastinate with.

The power of the To Do list is such for me, that several hours later, I did get to it. At almost five in the afternoon, I finally sat down and put in my minimum word requirement for the day. Initially, the process was slow and miserable, but as I got more into the scene that I was working on, the words started to come more easily. Eventually I got through it and I am even closer to finishing the first complete draft of this book than I was on Friday.

Now that I’ve gotten through it, I find myself reflecting on why resistance was so much more powerful today than it was the last time I sat down to write on Thursday. I’m reminded of a saying one of my friends uses: “It takes three weeks to build a habit, but only three days to break it.” I took the day off of writing on Friday to be at the Baltimore Book Festival. Instead of my normal two days off of writing for the weekend, I had three days away from it, although Friday was an intense and exhausting day. That extra day took away some of my momentum – I found it harder to trace where my scene was heading and I spent some time trying to retrace the plans that I had made for the scenes remaining until the end of my book. While the extra day off was justified in terms of how busy the festival was, I paid the price for it today. I would gladly pay the price again, but next time I take an extra day off, I plan to remember this experience. Expecting the increased resistance would have made me feel more in control of the emotions that I was feeling and would have helped me to tackle it appropriately. Knowledge about the enemy that I am facing would have shifted the power dynamic in my favor.

The other side of the issue that I ran into is feeling the need to celebrate before I get to the end.

I’ve experienced this sentiment before. When I was a teenage competing on the ice skating rink, I was always a great competitor. Moves that I could perform only inconsistently would come together on the day of the competition. I could go out on the rink and skate a flawless program, landing all of my jumps and completing all of my spins with speed and precision. Until the last one. At the end of a program, my coach and I would always insert a move that I could do consistently. My legs would be tired and I would be trying to catch my breath so it seemed like the best plan. Use an easier move at the end to finish the program with flare. But this tactic never worked well for me. I would accomplish all of the hardest elements in my program and then falter on the last spin – the layback, easily my strongest element on a normal day. This would happen because I would be so close to the finish that I could see it there ahead of me. Because I was almost there, I imagined myself to already be there and I would make a stupid error in my setup that would result in mediocre or failed execution of that last move.

Years later, I find myself back there, in the home stretch. My next novel is almost finished. I’ve been running the 10K and the finish line is less than half a kilometer away. I want to relax, I want to celebrate. I know that the worst is behind me, but yet the finish line seems to elude me. I’m so close that I want to stop and revel, but I’m not there yet.

I am of course trying to learn from a mistake that I made over and over again in competition. I won’t allow myself to celebrate until I can actually write the words “THE END” on the last page of my manuscript. Even with the reminder, I can still feel that impulse. I will probably keep feeling it at the end of each writing project I work on. Today I fought against the urge and won, but the rest of the home stretch remains in front of me. All I can do is to keep up my habit, one day at a time, until I get to the finish line. It’s close and getting closer, but I’m not there yet.

Please tell me your thoughts. Have you experienced anything similar when you are close to the end of a project? Or when you are trying to build up or maintain a regular practice (be it of writing, reading, exercise, painting, or anything else)?

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.

Celebrating each victory, however small (or large)

Yesterday I went to the fabulous launch party for B. Swangin Webster’s book LET ME JUST SAY THIS (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MBZNL0I) at the Barber Lounge for Men (https://www.facebook.com/TheBarberLoungeForMen) in Waldorf, MD. The event started with a reading and short presentation from the author about the book and her future projects and then continued on with general socializing, book signings, and finally, a ride around the block in a party bus. The evening was a great way to celebrate B. Swangin’s achievements as an author and her plans for the future with upcoming books and events.

The festivities reminded me of something very important – to celebrate victories, even when they are small. In this case of course, the publication of her novel is certainly a major victory, but even the small ones are important for us to revel in. Each victory that we celebrate becomes fuel for going on to the next big thing and making sure that we appreciate every bit of effort that went into making that victory possible. Many of B. Swangin’s family, friends, and fans were able to participate in that celebration at the party yesterday.

I am currently working on the sequel to my first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS). Yesterday, on my drive home from the event, an idea came to me for how I was going to end the book. I’ve been writing and working on pieces of it regularly, but had yet to decide on the ending, until that moment. I haven’t written the ending yet and there is definitely much work left to be done, but I am going to celebrate that idea as a small victory as I head toward the much larger one – of finishing the first draft of the sequel. The idea for the ending is minor in the grander scheme of putting in the work every day to complete the draft. In spite of this, I believe that it is every bit as important. The ending for my book is an important building block for the story as it continues to develop with the scenes that I am adding in every day. Celebrating how important that is helps to motivate me to keep going. I can see the end in sight. Of course, that end is really only the beginning. There will be many rounds of revisions and edits to go afterward before I can publish a “final” product. Each step is integral and I plan on reminding myself of that with each victory. Some days I will be feeling upbeat and confident – and perhaps I won’t need the extra motivation – but on others, that extra uplift will be critical in helping me to move forward. Besides, why not capitalize on an excuse to showcase our achievements? Everyone needs to be reminded of how much they have already done to go forward once in a while.

In the spirit of the celebration, I was reminded yesterday that I never had a book launch party since my book was published in June. To that end, I am looking forward to organizing a great celebration at the Barber Lounge. Hopefully by the time of the event I will also have finished the draft of my currently untitled sequel. If so, I plan on celebrating that too.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.

Each of us can have multiple lives if we choose

Last week I went to the lovely wedding of two friends (Sindy and Ciden) in a village in East Germany called Tobertitz outside of the town of Plauen. After a lovely ceremony, we moved over to an old barn down the street that they had rented out for an evening of dinner, dancing, and to some degree, debauchery.

While at the party afterward, I met a friend of theirs (Handi) who said something interesting to me. I don’t exactly recall how we got started on this conversation, but what he said resonated with me enough that I’m still thinking about it. He said that he doesn’t agree with the saying that “You only live once.” I asked him why and he responded that we can live multiple ‘lives’, meaning that if the one that we are currently living does not make us happy, then we can change it and start a new life. He gave me an example from his own life about how he used to be the owner and manager of a number of entertainment businesses, which, while successful, were eating into all aspects of his life. After a wake up call from his personal life, he decided to refocus his life on what actually made him happy and has now moved completely out of those businesses and is going back to school to study real estate.

When I heard his story, I responded by saying that in my understanding, the saying “You only live once” is meant as a justification for his exact point of view – because you only live once, you should not waste time living the kind of life that does not make you happy. Once I explained it in that sense, he agreed with me, and I cannot agree more with the main theme underlying that saying. Of course, I don’t mean that it should be used as a catch all phrase to simply make people feel better about taking unnecessary risks, but I do believe that many people I know spend their professional lives at jobs that they hate and never allow themselves to pursue what they actually want to be spending their time on.

I used to be one of them. Before I discovered writing, and especially after I had the idea for my first book, but prior to disciplining myself to actually write it, I was right there with them. Hearing about what Handi had been through to change his own life, reminded me of that experience. I had a life that I wasn’t happy with. While there was nothing in particular that was wrong with it – I had a good job and good friends – I didn’t feel like it fit with who I was. Or perhaps, more accurately, that I did not fit into the mold that it had created for me. Finding a mold that I did fit into was not an easy process, but it was worth every moment of sweat and tears that went into it, and I’m sure that Handi, along with many others, would agree with me. For those of you who have found a mold that fits who you are, revel in it, because while we may have forgotten the travails that it took to get there, that mold is not easy to come by. And for those of you who haven’t yet found it, don’t give up. When you get there, it will be well worth it.

Please post your thoughts into the comments below or email me at pujaguha@pujaguha.com. I would love to hear about your own experiences and am happy to share more details about my own if you would like.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS

The miracle of human resilience

Once again it’s time for my weekly Monday posting and I find my thoughts dwelling deeply on what I saw this afternoon. I spent the day walking around Frankfurt after a few hours of working on my sequel to AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION in the morning. Tomorrow I head back home to DC and so today was the last day of my writing vacation – a couple of weeks that I spent in Europe for bits of work and bits of pleasure, along with focusing on my writing more than anything else and seeking out inspiration from the places I’ve been visiting. Over this trip, I visited Paris, London, Hamburg, a small town in East Germany called Plauen, and finally Frankfurt on my way back home.

My week in Germany has included lots of aimless wandering and exploring of the different cities I’ve been in. During this time, I have noticed again and again the contrast of the old church that I can recognize from visiting other places in Europe next to a building that is most certainly “new” but built in an older style. I knew the reason for this, but the reality still amazed (and amazes) me. During World War II so many of Germany’s prettiest spots were destroyed by air raids, and yet the facades now stand again, resilient and strong. Below are two aerial shots of the area around the Frankfurt Cathedral which was completely destroyed. The only reason that the church remained standing is that it was used as a landmark for allied forces’ pilots to ensure their position was accurate. According to a friend that I met today at dinner, this is the reason that most of the large churches in Germany were able to withstand the war.

Frankfurt ruins-p1  Frankfurt ruins 2

The current view is much more pleasant, with the entire old city rebuilt around the Cathedral. I’ve attached a black and white photo below so that you can really see the difference between the two shots.

Frankfurt now

Being able to feel the extent of the reconstruction in person gives me a new appreciation for the power of human resilience. My experience today also reminded me of a quote from the first Captain America movie: “…the first country that the Nazis invaded was their own.” I may be a nerd for quoting Captain America, but this quote resonated for me every time I looked at a reconstructed building during my time in Germany.  Such is the power of human resilience. If so many cities could be reconstructed from rubble, and this country could rejuvenate itself so well, then perhaps there is a lesson for all of us to draw as individuals? I’m sure that at different points in our lives, we have lost faith in our ability to move past and recover from difficult times. But here, in a place that had lost so much but has managed to rebuild in spite of the scars, there is evidence for all of us. A year ago I was struggling with my writing process. Over a few weeks I had barely written a word of a new book which I’ve now completed (currently in editing stages). I was frustrated and sad and I’m sure that I took it out on my loved ones. When I look back now I know that I have come so far. The most important part of that was realizing that I needed to write in order to be happy, and the rest was more procedural – what kind of discipline I should set for myself and how best to enforce it. So far, I have succeeded although I will continue to refine my process over the rest of my life. Getting to this point was something of a struggle, but that does not even come close to the type of recovery that is possible – the type of recovery that I could see in every German city that I visited this week. No matter the challenge, it lies within our power to recover. We do not need to forget the past to move forward; rather we can remember it and honor it, but recover nonetheless.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

Check out my first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION, available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS

Exploration on a whim

A couple of days ago, a friend asked me about where the inspiration for my writing comes from. I have a few different answers for this, the first being travel. I’ve been very lucky to have been exposed to travel from a very young age. My family is Indian, but I grew up in Kuwait and Toronto. No matter where we were living, travel has always been a part of my family’s life, from trips to visit relatives in India to spending a weekend at a farm outside of Toronto. Each of these experiences has imprinted itself on my character.

The most exciting part of travel for me goes beyond the tourist attractions in a particular place. While I enjoy visiting these spots, what I appreciate more is walking around and getting a real feel for the place. Every city I have been to feels different, but offers its own aspects to be appreciated and admired.

I’ve spent the last two weeks in Paris and then London, so I can use these as examples. In an earlier blog post, I mentioned one of the aspects of Paris that I most admire: a wonderful appreciation of the arts that has inspired my writing. The heroine in THE AHRIMAN LEGACY, Petra Shirazi, actually spends the first part of Book 2 (currently in progress) living in Paris, of which I am exceedingly jealous.

London boasts some similarities to Paris, as a fellow old European city, but has a completely different feel. People walk down the streets at a brisker pace but the city provides a much more cosmopolitan and modern feel than Paris. Within the sea of 15 different British accents, you can also hear a wide range of other accents across every bustling street corner. Luckily, this week has been sunny (a rarity for this city) and I’ve been able to fully appreciate the size of the city and the collection of neighborhoods that make it up. I spent a few days in the Hamlet of Penge in the suburbs, which is made up of one main street and the surrounding residential area. Where I am staying now, in Little Venice, is a little bit more “happening” but yet calm and serene because of its setting on the Regent’s and Grand Union Canals. While walking around London, I’ve encountered a number of sites that have significance for writers throughout history. Next to Charing Cross Station, a friend pointed out the plaque denoting that Rudyard Kipling lived in the building next door. He also pointed out that Shakespeare and Chaucer worshiped at Southwark Cathedral which we walked by earlier in the day when we visited Burrough Market.

IMG-20140728-WA005
Previous home of Kipling, next to Charing Cross Station

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral

I shouldn’t be surprised that my first book signing happened in this wonderful city where so many writers have paved the way forward for people like me.

IMG-20140728-WA003 IMG-20140728-WA001

With so much inspiration in both of these cities, it isn’t surprising that I finished the first draft of AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION when I was living in between these two cities. At the same time, I do not believe that inspiration is isolated to any particular environment. Even when I am at home in Washington DC, I often notice new things that lead to new ideas that then show up in my writing. The most important part of being open to inspiration for me though is letting my thoughts explore different ideas at a whim, in much the way that we should all walk around aimlessly from time to time. Without a particular agenda, our minds can make strange connections that form the basis for our ideas going forward. By being open to exploring at a whim, I believe that we open ourselves to inspiration, regardless of the particular calling. In my case, that calling is writing, for others it is painting or entrepreneurship.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS/

A Writing Vacation

For the last few weeks, I have begun experimenting with a weekly blog post that I am planning to make into a permanent fixture. Depending on what kind of inspiration strikes, I may end up posting more often than once per week, but I’ve decided that at the minimum, every Monday, I will post a new blog entry.
This summer I am trying out a new vacation concept for myself: a writing vacation. I travel to a place, visit with friends and family in the area, but more than anything, I try to focus on my craft. Regardless of the city, I write every weekday as if the vacation was part of my regular routine, but instead of moving on to other work once I am done writing for the day, I focus on enjoying myself. I’ve been lucky that during this time, the inspiration for my writing continues to appear, or rather flourish, without the confines and necessities of making time for a regular work day. I do contract financial work with a number of organizations, so while I do tend to manage my own time, I am still required to attend to it regularly. This writing vacation has released those obligations temporarily and I am enjoying my new freedom.

After spending the last week basking in the wonders of Paris, I arrived in London this morning, another one of my favorite European cities. For the first time in years, I visited my old haunts from when I studied here – wandering around campus, checking out the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House, and lazing on the grass in a park until it started to rain. It was a wonderful walk down memory lane, especially considering how far I have come since I started the first draft of my first book on an ordinary November morning in this city. Back then I set a writing goal for myself and I scrambled toward it with maximum efficiency so that I would be able to move on to reading or assignments for class. Now my day revolves around my writing and is structured as such. I still set myself a goal for how many words I want to write that day and work toward it, but I no longer engage in conscious word padding or meaningless monologues in my writing simply to reach the word count goal. On my “normal” schedule, writing is the first task that I work on in the day, and whether reaching that goal means anywhere from one to three hours staring at the page, I commit to it. Standing here in London reminds me of the time, iterations, and effort that it has taken me to figure out what the best writing process is for me. I am sure that it is something that I will continue to refine over the course of my life, because, as my husband says, “You’re going to be writing until the day you die, kiddo.” Sometimes I like to celebrate the small victories though as I look back at my own evolution. More than anything, when I walk around this city, I am able to pay homage to the inspiration that helped me to start along my path as a writer.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS