Write Like Your Breath Depends on It - Riya Roy

1. Tell us more about your background and journey?

I am an Indian writer based out of Bhutan. I have done my graduation with honours and my post-graduation in Political Science from Calcutta University. My work has featured on The Swaddle, Arre, LiveWire, New Love Times, BeBadass, among others. I have also written for Thomas Cook India, Vedica Scholars, and several internal e-magazines of companies across the world. 

I am a United Nations volunteer and have headed a global team of writers for iuventum’s media newsletter. I am an AIESEC and a Rotaract (youthwing of Rotary) alumna, Currently, I work as the Content Executive at Wakefit and lead the creative communications at WeUnlearn. 

I have a weekly newsletter called the nook where I write letters and curate things from the internet that bring me delight.

2. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I have been interested in writing since I was 5. I wrote my first poem a couple of years after that, which got published in a national newspaper and I was so elated that I stopped writing! 

I didn’t retrace my way to poetry until much later in college. Professionally, the decision to be a content creator was an organic one. I started freelancing during college, then I got a full-time job while doing my postgrads. In the five years after that, I have been focusing on creating content through a variety of media. 

I write about good living on Wakefit, I simplify research on WeUnlearn, I have my own weekly newsletter. So I think I focused on writing instead of being a writer, and that has served me well. 

3. Is it a financially stable career?

I can only share what’s been true for me. I have been working for seven years now, and it has taken care of me, so yes it’s been as stable as you can hope for. 

I think what is necessary while building a career is to know where the money comes from. Writing for brands requires a different skill set than writing poetry, and so I need to keep upgrading both since both of them serve a particular purpose in my life. 

I remember reading somewhere that if you have a list of things you are expecting from a relationship, remember that it will fulfil only a few of those. For the rest, you need to look elsewhere and develop other relationships. 

If you don’t do that, you will either grow bitter or will lack inspiration to do anything at all. I think it is the same with writing. 

4. Who is your favourite writer and why?

Let me tweak that question a little? My current favourite contemporary writer is Austin Kleon. He is a man of ideas and very unique ideas though he steals them from everywhere. 

His books Keep Going and Share Your Work are filled with suggestions on how to have a creative life and how to ensure that the spark never dies but instead grows into a bonfire that you can dance around in delight!

5. Where does your inspiration lie?

Everywhere. The key, I have learnt after some glorious failures, is to master the art of attention. When you get it right, “Alohomora”, locks start to open!

6. What does your typical day look like?

It starts pretty early. I read first thing in the morning. Then I prepare the todo list for the day which usually involves daily articles, meetings with the marketing and SEO team, distilling research papers and creating narratives for the same. 

I keep just an hour a day to go through emails and respond to the urgent and important ones so that they don’t overshadow the writing part. I squeeze in a yoga session of 30 minutes no matter how busy I am. Evenings are for my family and for poetry. 

I also scroll through social media to save interesting reads or illustrations from around the world that I can feature in my Sunday newsletter. I have installed an app called Fabulous that really helps me with all my goals, personal, professional and spiritual. It has been really helpful. 

7. What piece of advice would you like to give to future aspiring writers?

Write like your breath depends on it. Read twice as much. Zadie Smith puts it beautifully when she says that there is no writer lifestyle, so don’t strive for that. Instead, focus on what you leave on the page at the end of each day because that is all that matters. Try to find a mentor. 

If they can personally help you, that’s great. But if that isn’t an option, choose a mentor online and follow their journey. Read their interviews, find out about their writing practices. 

Imitate in the beginning, but don’t let that limit you. Be attentive to your interests, watch how they change and be sure to adapt. Chase your curiosities like children chase butterflies. 

8. Which is your favourite book and why?

I have a special corner in my heart for Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is a book I keep returning to. And each time, I explore it without any reference points, allowing my new self to seek what it finds interesting without my old self's guidance - much like how Zen monks preach about living life without footnotes!

Interview by - Shamayla

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