Terrie Leigh Relf: What are your daily writing and/or creative rituals? How do you prepare your space for these activities?
Priya Sridhar: At the moment, I use 750words.com, a writing tool that makes sure that I log in at least 750 words a day. I started using the tool in the summer of 2011, though I stopped using it for a month when preparing for the GMAT.
In hindsight, I should prepare my space, but often it’s cluttered with various pencils, pens, bank statements (because I’m Treasurer for a local Toastmasters club), and often headphones. I write best with soundtrack playlists from YouTube.com, and I often choose ones from movies. The How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack was the first of these and remains my favorite to this day. Ideally, I’d like to write like Isaac Asimov, focusing on several projects at once.
What would my ideal writing ritual be? First, to start the day with a cup of coffee, a piece of toast with pesto, and to sit down with no interruptions whatsoever. Then to meditate, and take advantage of the day.
TLR: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer and webcomic? If so, what (if any) challenges do you face? How do you rise to those challenges?
PS: Currently, I’m a first-year MBA student, attending classes full-time while seeking paid internships. The main challenges are that classes are often time and energy consuming, so that by the end of the day I have less mental power for writing creatively, especially since I have a lot of responsibilities at home. Lately, I’ve been rising to the challenge by using my stress in my work, so that good art comes out no matter what I do. Chocolate also helps – lots of chocolate – and having encouraging emails from editors.
TLR: Describe a recent writing and/or creative session in detail. How long was it? What activities did you perform? What did you accomplish, and so forth?
PS: Typically, I do creative writing sessions with my beta reader, Matthew Anderson, and my writing buddy, Corissa Glasheen. The most memorable one was a while ago, for my short story “Fire and Snow,” which was a revision of the fairy tale, “The Fireson and the Snowdaughter.” I had written most of it, and was searching for an ending that didn’t have the abrupt tragedy of its inspiration. We were all chatting on Drive on a late Sunday morning, with Cory and Matt reading in different places. Matt assisted me with finding the right words, supporting me up to a tragic climax, and pointing out how certain lines of dialogue came across as meaner than intended. We got the story finished that day, and I feel that it’s one of my best works.
TLR: What tips do you have for other writers and webcomics? This could be anything from a time-management strategy to an inspirational quote.
PS: The first is to support fellow writers, because that way, you will gain and maintain a network of friends and supporters. Writing and living will have their ups and downs; life will get in the way of writing, and when that happens, you need people. They will also need you, and you should hold their hands when they’re going through a tough time. You are not competing with them; you each support each other and build a strong system.
Second, I am going to borrow my favorite tip from Neil Gaiman: “You’ve got a story to tell and you’re the only one who can tell it.” Because you are an individual with unique experiences and perspectives, you have a story to tell based on who you are, what you like, and what you feel about the world. It may not even be one; you may have to tell that story many times to get the version that satisfies you. It may not receive appreciation, but the story has to please you first. If you like writing for other people or for anthologies, write for them. If you like writing for you, then write for yourself. Find your method.
Third, be patient with yourself. Writing is a lot like instrument playing; you only get better with practice and a bit of guidance. Not a lot of guidance, mind you, because the same writing advice doesn’t work for every person, and not every writing class or teacher will be helpful. I have theorized without evidence that the average learning curve for a writer to receive publication is ten years, so I set out to publish before I turned thirty. So far, I’ve published about six short stories and a novella this year. I also haven’t practiced the violin in months.
That said, as I said above, not all writing advice works for everyone. If mine offers no help, then keep seeking it out. I recommend Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech, as well as Scott Westerfeld’s NanoWrimo advice on his blog.
TLR: Is there anything else about your creative process that you would like to share?
PS: I’m open to doing livestreams of my work if people are interested in seeing how words appear and disappear on Google Drive. Also to see how often I switch tabs and get distracted.
TLR: Thank you again, Priya, for joining us here at the “Day in a Life” interview series. Priya has also given us permission to post two of her favorite drabbles, so enjoy!
They arrested Alan the Quisling for spying. Pink-faced countrymen had dangled him in a damp, musty cell as tall as a maiden’s tower. Below, white circles displayed jungles with naked maidens and beaches with wine-spattered sand. They fed him dry crackers and changed the circles to show cool, frog-filled ponds. They threatened to drop him into lands of fire and volcanoes.
Alan had smuggled in a nail, which day after day he had worked from his shirt pocket to his left hand. Sweating, he picked one shackle, then the other. He slid down the chains, until he dropped into paradise.
That day, when the baker broke into her garden, she found him in the center of her garden, pocketing dangerous Sun Oleanders. She pretended to be wicked, told him she wanted the baby after it was born. So it was.
Rapunzel was a beautiful child but often red in the face from screaming. She gulped every herbal remedy that her mother gave her, no matter how nasty they tasted. Age helped Rapunzel learn to speak short sentences, but she was becoming bigger, too big for the mother to handle.
Things would get better. They would have a happy ending. Someday.
Priya Sridhar has been writing since fifth grade, a year after her mother forbade her from watching television all day. Since then she has written fantastic tales for Alban Lake, Flux Fiction and Eggplant Literary Productions, and continues to write more.
She currently lives in Miami, Florida, with her family and attends the University of Miami business school. She invites readers to sample her bakery witch webcomic, A La Mode, about an enchanted bakery.