In addition to asking writers why they write, we want to hear a little more about how, what, and where they write, and so from now until the Big Day (October 20!) we’ll be asking some of our favorite writers—a mix of pros and Figs alike—to tell us a bit more about their writing processes.
Today in the writer’s hot seat? Deepshikha Sharma, 17-year old poet, prose stylist, and all-around fabulous Figmenter.
How did you become a writer? When did you first start thinking of yourself as a writer?
DS: I started out writing the summer after seventh grade, when I was essentially dying of boredom in my grandparents’ house in India. A friend of mine, via email, told me about a writers’ site she had found and encouraged me to write to relieve some of the boredom. I started writing self-insert stories, but quickly ended up trying my hand at free-verse poetry. It wasn’t until earlier this year (almost five years later) that I started getting back into writing serious prose, and it’s only this year that I’ve started thinking of myself as an actual writer.
What are the things you’re most proud of having written, from any time in your life?
Honestly, I take pride in any piece of writing, whether prose or poetry, that I manage to finish. I don’t really have a favorite as each piece has its own merits for me. Because of that, I can’t help but feel absolutely awesome when I go back and reread something a few months later.
How would you describe your writing process? That is, how do you usually research, write, revise, edit? What routines help, and what challenges do you regularly face?
DS: Meticulous. That’s how I would describe the way I write. When I get an idea, I first make a loose outline of the plot and characters. Then I open up as many Wikipedia tabs as I possibly can on the subjects I might deal with, and try my hardest not to get lost or overwhelmed by information. I make sure that I have all my facts straight, and double-check everything. And I have a grammar-obsessed beta reader that I send my prose to once I’ve finished the piece, and he helps me edit everything from comma errors to plot holes.
The greatest challenge I face is my inner critic. I’m constantly battling the voice in my head that asks, “What if this isn’t good enough? What if it can never be what you want it to be?” The fight is long and tedious and generally results in prolonged procrastination and inner defeat. Sometimes that voice doesn’t let me write more than a few sentences before declaring them utterly horrible, but I’ve found that just trusting in myself as I write without caring about what people might think helps. Of course, so does forcing myself to put down around 500 words a day.
What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve ever written about or researched for a writing project?
DS: The strangest and most interesting thing I’ve ever researched and written about would have to be myself. I find it easy to create characters, but when it came to writing about me, I found that I had to do a very bizarre field study of myself.
How do outside forces influence or shape your writing? (For instance, your audience, editors, teachers, things you read, etc.)
DS: Almost everything I do shapes my writing. If I read about something in English class or learn about a new sort of concept in physics, I won’t hesitate to find a way to work it into the story. I’m especially influenced by Buddhist and existentialist thought, as well as the content of my dreams. My style of writing is a mix of what poetry looks like in prose form, and the utter blandness of formal essay language. I don’t really listen to my audience; however, the people that read and critique my writing have the most influence on my revision process.
Why do you write?
DS: I write because otherwise I would explode into a million brilliant ideas. Writing is a chance for me to get everything in my thoughts out and cleanse myself of the prickling residue that life often leaves behind. I write because I need to define myself in some way and give myself a niche that I can bend and mold to my will.
Writing is a fluid art that is both standardized and individualized, and I write because it is a place to create a balance—a sort of zen-state—where everything is in order, but only in the order I want. The sense of peace that getting ideas into words brings is a celebration of the zen in writing, and I write because I need to seek my peace in some way and relieve the stress of daily life.
I also write because I feel a call—an obligation, almost—to the thoughts and beings that live inside my head. I write because everyone and everything deserves to have its story told.
I write because it is an integral part of who I am and because, without my writing, I would have no identity, I would have no peace, stories would go untold, and most likely, I’d shatter into shards of thought and dreams.
Hungering for more author Q&As? Visit the New York Times Learning Network and National Writing Project. Then head over to the Forums to post your own burning writerly questions to any of the authors featured on the site. We’ll post answers to the questions after October 20. And of course, be sure to let us know why you write . . .