Akshay Gajria is a prize winning storyteller, writer and a writing coach. He has ghost written two books and his writing has appeared in The Writing Cooperative, The Coffeelicious, Your Story Club, Futura Magazine, Mac O’Clock, The Book Mechanic, Poets Unlimited, StoryMaker, Whiplash, Constellations — an anthology of short stories and more. He completed Computer Engineering from NMIMS in Mumbai and is currently pursuing a MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. He loves making paper planes and struggles to finish his sentences… but gets to them eventually. You can learn more about him and his work at akshaygajria.com
I spent six days of February in a different country this month. Montenegro. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the pictures. It was the first vacation I’ve taken in almost ten years, if not more. You must be thinking I’ve lost my mind (which I won’t deny is false). I have travelled extensively in the last 10 years. To various cities and mostly to the mountains. But while I’ve travelled, I haven’t taken a vacation. There has been no time in my life where I decided to leave my work behind.
You see, work for a writer is not work work. It’s the process of jotting things down and sometimes (or most times) you cannot anticipate when you may have the urge to write. Over the last 10 years, I’ve created a habit of writing everyday. This habit is key to getting anything written. Anything of tangible length, that is. It’s so ingrained into me that not writing for any one day leaves me irritable. It’s harrowing. When I have a busy day (where I know I’ll have to get up and leave early in the morning), I’ll wake up extra early to get a page or two in. Unless I don’t put words down on the page, I’ll be crabby and start to explode on anyone in my vicinity.
While this is a great habit to hone as a writer, I’ve started to see this as a bad habit to have as a person. The people around me are usually the ones on the receiving end of my explosion and through no fault of their own. How is this fair on them? They didn’t ask for me to not write. It’s the circumstances that ensured I don’t. But they get the brunt of it.
So during this vacation, I left everything behind. All my tools I’d require to write. Not by choice — change rarely comes by choice — but thanks to Ryan Air’s limited luggage policy. There was no room, literally and figuratively, for me to carry my tools. All I had with me was a notebook and a pen. And my phone. I did write in them, in fits and bursts. But I also didn’t have any rule that I had to write everyday. All my ongoing projects were left behind. There was nothing new to start nor anything old to continue. I was in a free flow state.
Did I enjoy it? Hell, no. I came back from the vacation extremely wired and stressed that I hadn’t got any writing done. But that’s the thing: change doesn’t come easy.
In the last 10 years, while I’ve written everyday and extensively, in the process, writing took more precedence over living and somewhere down the line I forgot to live. Every moment of my life, I’m wired to see how I can use what is being said for my characters, how people behave and how I can translate those actions into words. Even when I’m not writing, I’m writing. Obsessively. Compulsively.
Before we moved to London, my partner told me about her plans for her life in her third decade. She sees her life in a very neat way: every decade she yearns for something new, to see herself growing. I never did that, my life and decades have been messy, time bellowing around me like a curtain in the mad Mumbai monsoon. But if I look at my 20s, I did spend the entire decade as an autodidact of writing stories. Maybe in my 30s I’ll sit down to learn what it means to live. If not for me, for the people around me.
(And maybe, living, really living, will be the biggest form of research for my stories — I have to trick my brain somehow.)
Wish me luck. From what I’ve seen, life is not easy at all. You have to live it everyday, too.
You’re reading Missives from an Island, a newsletter by Akshay Gajria. This newsletter is delivered to your inbox on the 30th of every month. You can also find Akshay on Twitter, Instagram and Medium. If you found what you read helpful, you can consider tipping him by buying a cup of tea (or three) here or buying his ebook (linked below). You can discover his work at akshaygajria.com
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Love this introspection..."real living is the biggest form of research for my stories"... keep living and loving Akshay!