Don't Leave Yourself Behind

Saturday, October 31, 2015

I have a piece out in The Atlantic today! For me, this is a huge milestone and also a very important piece, so give it a read.

A chocolate cake with red jello balls on top.

It’s the day before NaNo and all through the house… I’m throwing around drafts and outlines trying to get settled in.

As usual, my writing mind is exhilarated by the constraint and the mad fury that is writing 50,000 words in a single month. I’ve been working on a lot of shorter projects and have tried to build my discipline with research, writing, pitching, etc. But I am drawn to staying in a character’s head for a longer period of time, testing worldview and characteristics for pages and pages rather than paragraphs – even if much of it gets chopped later on.

Armed with a few earlier draft pages, I’ll be growing my story during quick timed exercises. I tend to work better with an overly formulaic structure that pushes me to think creatively within it. I also tend to work better under the cover of night with a bright screen in my face. We’ll see how annoyed my family members become with the cranky, somewhat sleep-deprived version of me that will undoubtedly show up by the end of the month.

I turned 24 this past week. It was a silly sort of day. Here in Dhaka, my family doesn’t really do birthdays. A cake was delivered; a biryani was cooked; several truly terrible jokes about age were told. In the evening, I started a new small notebook and wrote down a birthday intention for the upcoming year. This year: don’t leave yourself behind.

I spent a lot of age 23 in boom-bust cycles. I moved three and a half times – across NYC, across the country, across the ocean. I changed jobs four to five times. I attended births, organized events, grew a magazine, survived yet another long winter… And although I did a lot of great healing work for myself during that time, I also felt like a large part of it was spent worrying.

The challenges of living abroad are simply different challenges. I still worry, of course. But I am blessed to have more time and energy to invest in myself and my own work. Though I don’t have the expectation of returning to the US an entirely changed woman (I will certainly still be a workaholic and a chronic list-maker), I hope that I can return with the skills to hold space for myself no matter how intense the world around me.

With that in mind, let's take a deep breath and start novel-ing!