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On Not Writing

Old habits, and new

Akshay Gajria
Missives from an Island
4 min readJan 30, 2024

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Editor’s Note: This is my monthly newsletter that is published every 30th. I’d paused cross posting these on Medium, but as of 2024, I will be publishing these monthly newsletters on Substack and Medium. You can subscribe to either.

Hello!

On the 8th day of this year, I read Toby Litt’s newsletter that popped into my inbox. I’d just woken up on a groggy Monday morning. The broadcast had said it would snow but I was uncertain. It didn’t look like it would snow, the clouds weren’t in place. But it was cold. So very cold.

(Just as I type this, I see flurries. Belief and disbelief are as useless as they are useful.)

I woke up in bed and checked my phone and there, sitting amongst the update section of my gmail, was his newsletter. On Not Writing. It was from the day before and he was writing about his Sunday and how he thought he should take a break on Sunday and not write. Read instead.

I’ve battled with this myself and lost. Over the course of my writing life, I’ve been a firm believer of writing everyday. If you read enough writing advice, you’ll come across it as one of the most common advice. Write Everyday. And I’m on the board. I write everyday. Be it Christmas. Be it Diwali. Be it New Years. I write. There is no stopping the machine. A page must be dirtied. A few lines should be scrawled. Art, for the sake of capturing the passages of time, must be churned.

But this chugging along, this mechanical creation of line after line after line started to remind me of a life in Bombay. That city does not see divisions of work and rest. My rest in Bombay also needed to serve a purposes otherwise there was no point in taking it. If I’m resting, I’m still reading, I’m still thinking. I never switch off. But London switches off on the weekends to spend time with their family and loved ones. It feels so weird and yet like a calm embrace I didn’t know I needed. Saturdays and Sundays don’t need to be about creation, about jotting down words. They are meant to live, to be. Art is not only in creation but also in the way you live.

My partner and I recently finished all 6 seasons of This Is Us. We’ve been watching the lives of the Pearsons since almost 80 years within the “story’s time” and watching it all unfold this line from the second last episode reverberated through it: “You survived Rebecca, and what a wonderful thing you’ve made of it.” One of the main lead’s entire life, bottled into a single sentence. Everything, everyone within that story came from her. Their entire lives, their entire family, their entire story came from her decisions and choices, the shape of her life.

Creation is one aspect of art. Being is another.

Over the last few months, I’ve not been writing everyday. I write Monday to Friday and take a break over the weekends. Some weekends when the pressure piles on or the words slip out through the cracks, I find myself by the page. But I don’t force it. I don’t think of myself as a machine, like I was back in Bombay. I’m a person and a break on a regular basis helps. It makes me more keen to grab my pen on a Monday morning, to write the store of words pulsing inside, waiting to be unleashed.

Like these.

What I am Reading

I’m preparing to give talk on fantasy fiction at my alma mater and I read this spectacular essay that’s been long listed for the British Science Fiction Association Awards.

Words to remember

How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?

- Leonard Cohen

Until next month,

Keep evolving,

Akshay

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 (X), Instagram, and Substack. If you enjoyed reading, 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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