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L9: About quitting a book and getting an award, all in the same week

Shweta Taneja
Shweta Taneja
Welcome! Dear Penpal is a monthly newsletter by me, Shweta Taneja, to support you in your creative journey with tips, opportunities and a few laughs. THANK YOU for being here.
In my 9th letter, I talk about why writing bogs you down, a story of two awards and a few announcements and deadlines. Keep chiselling, folks.

Dear Penpal,
Last week, I was on the verge of quitting the book I’ve been working on. I hyperventilated, panicked and thought about all the characters I would be leaving behind, the world that I’d be giving up on.
I’ll be honest. Since a few months, the book hasn’t been doing well. I had been struggling through a second draft, trying to get to know characters that refused to speak to me and scenes that I couldn’t put my heart into.
Instead of quitting, I decided to take a break.
Over the weekend, I met friends, went cycling to see the blooming spring, slept and had a wonderful time.
I also realised that it wasn’t the book that was bogging me down. It was my expectations from the work. I had been very ambitious with it – a new genre I’m working in. I had also bragged about this book to other people, so felt I was under pressure to deliver a certain kind of work.
The deeper I delved, the more I knew that I wasn’t in a bad relationship with the characters, but my expectations from them.
My ambitions, my desire to write a certain way, to even be a certain kind of a writer, held me back.
These were playing up constantly in my mind, increasing pressure and stress, and blocking natural creativity. I decided to quit the book, if I don’t stop being toxic to myself about it.
Surprisingly, the decision of quitting, if I can’t set my ambitions aside, set me free.
I was not panicked anymore. There was no one I wanted to deliver this book to. I knew I could quit anytime. Now, without expectations, I’m working on the book again. I’ve started to work on its third draft.
Maybe it’ll never be finished or published, but for the first time, since a few months, I’m enjoying the characters, listening to them, going through their lives and scenes with a delight.
And a week later, I have two awards to prove to myself that I need to love what I write.
My book on Indian scientists, which I wrote without a plan and enjoyed thoroughly, has just won the Publishing Next Award 2022 and is a finalist in the AutHer Awards 2022.
The awards have given me confidence—much needed when you’re working silo—to continue to be true to my instincts. Write powerfully, emotionally and have fun in the art. Which is the message I would like to leave you all with today.
Even if you struggle, the upside might be just around the corner, so wait out the low periods, chuck out the voices in your head and write with your heart.
Sundry Sunday
Submission alert: Imagine 2200: Posting this again for all you last minute writers. Don’t miss writing SF about your community, tribe or language. Fellows at Fix run this sci-fi contest everyyear to develop diverse cli-fi tales. Submit fiction here, for free.
The real traveller: Marvel at the fact that this honey buzzard has travelled from Finland to South Africa covering 230 kilometers a day. Without a compass or a GPS. And without carbon footprint, may I add.
Gasp with green: Digitally walk through rare, untold stories of India’s natural heritage with Nature Conservation Foundation. Full disclaimer: This beautiful project, which showcases India’s forests on Google Arts and Culture platform, was conceived, developed and worked upon by my dear team at NCF, with a lot of pride!
Writing updates
Publishing Next Award 2022: Gleed to inform all of you that I’ve won the Publishing Next Award 2022 in the children’s book category for my book on Indian scientists They Made What? They Found What? Buy here.
Finalist in AutHer 2022: My book on science was also shortlisted for the AutHer 2022 award in the children’s category. I was invited to Delhi for a glamourous event along with other nominees. A huge congrats to Shabnam who won the award amongst all of us. Physical awards and festivals are back, y’ll!
At the award function with other nominees
At the award function with other nominees
Have you ever quit on a book, story or creative work before? Would you like to share your story with me?
P.S. If you like this newsletter and want to support it, you can:
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Shweta Taneja
Shweta Taneja @shwetawrites

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Shweta Taneja, Bangalore, Karnataka, India