The secret to my typical writing day is that I don’t have one. I work part-time, and I volunteer once a week at a local library, and once a week on the national Domestic Violence Helpline so my days are quite different. It’s easier for me to find time to write in the evenings, and I try and write every day for at least 10 minutes. Even if the next day I erase it all! It’s the one thing that seems to work for me, I’d always had difficulty finishing stories before. But somehow, if I show up at the page every day the words show up too.
If I’ve been traveling, on a bus or a train, I might have had an idea or heard a compelling bit of dialogue that I write down in the notebook I carry with me. Or I might figure out something I’ve been stuck on while I’m thinking about something else, so I can’t wait to get home and see where it takes me. I also have prompts I’m working on, I’ve made a list of the themes that are important for me, and also Meg Pokrass generously shares prompts on her website. I often have two things on the go at a time, a longer story I’ve plotted, and a shorter story I’m free writing, and I edit as I go which usually sparks more words. If I really have nothing to write about, I play around with the structures I learnt from a Kathy Fish Fast Flash workshop.
My writing day also involves reading. I’ve been reading more short stories and poetry, which I think has really helped to expand my understanding of story structures, and writing techniques. I’m addicted to Hyacinth Girl Press chapbooks, which are handmade and include some incredible poets. Poetic devices can work really well in flash fiction, such as metaphor, assonance and repetition. I’m also involved with some journals- I’m on the editorial team at Flashback Fiction and a reader for Bare Fiction, so I might have some reading for them. Reading stories in this way has also taught me a lot about the choices I want to make in my writing- do I need that adjective, have I earned that ending, does the title work hard enough? I recently starting reading for Mythic Picnic’s Twitter zine, a quarterly competition looking for stories told in 1-3 tweets. It’s been fascinating seeing what people can achieve in such as small space.
Often my writing day involves some panic, a side effect of the imposter syndrome I’ve been learning to live with since I started writing. What am I trying to say with this story? Is this a story I have the skills to write this? Will anyone want to read it? Something that helps with that is to take myself on an artist’s date, an idea I gleaned from Julia Cameron, via a course run by the inspirational Farhan Shaikh. I take myself out with my camera, and take photos of anything that strikes me. Or I’m trying to teach myself origami from a book, and I practice that. I’ve found doing something fun and creative, that’s not about reading and writing, seems to take the pressure off and I find out the things I really want to say. Which is what lead me to writing in the first place.
Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. She was first published in the 2016 London Short Story Prize anthology, most recently in JMWW, OkayDonkey and X-Ray lit. She’s on the editorial team at Flashback Fiction, an editor at Mythic Picnic’s Twitter zine, a reader for Bare Fiction and tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer Links to her stories can be found at https://coffeeandpaneer.wordpress.com