Process the process
Mridula Koshy is a writer and library movement activist. She runs The Community Library Project which advocates for free, publicly owned libraries that are open to all. Her short story collection, If It Is Sweet, won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize. She has written two novels, Not Only the Things That Have Happened, and Bicycle Dreaming.
Your writing schedule?
I wrote for 10 years and have three books and assorted inclusions in anthologies to show for it. I did it by treating writing as a job. I went to work Monday- Friday, generally from about 11:00 am to 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm. I rarely wrote on weekends. I left the house after doing the laundry and returned to play badminton with my children. I had housekeeping help and when the children were younger, a nanny. Those were the best 10 years of my life, mostly because of the kids and a little bit because of writing. I no longer write regularly. I only do when some magazine invites me to write a piece for them. I run a free library because if more people read, we will have more readers, writers, books and understanding.
Does writing energise or exhaust you?
Writing was a way of thinking for me. Sometimes the brain hurt, but mostly there was something languorous about the experience. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to think about, whereas outside of writing there is very little permission to engage in such thinking. Mostly, we are required to think what we are told to think. It could be our neighbour who requires his kind of thinking from us or our employer or even our government. I wrote to figure out what I actually thought. It didn’t require great energy. It helped to have politics, time, space, discipline, desire and a partner and children that agreed I could spend my time in this pursuit.
Spot/s in Delhi you write at?
Nowhere anymore. Earlier, to write, I often rented a desk at a publishing house, or a servant quarter in Defence Colony. Although, I consider myself not unlucky because I get to nurture future writers at The Community Library Project.
Writing advice you’d like to give your younger self?
Write more. You are so lucky you get to do this. You will only get to do it for 10 years. Time will fly. In the end it won’t be enough. That’s why you write: to revisit time, to expand it, to make it last forever.
Literary success vs number of copies sold?
If you are writing in India, it is unlikely that you will ever get to have either. There just aren’t enough readers. Worse, neither literary success nor copies will result in people making any sense of what you write, much less any use of it. To have meaningful engagement with literature, i.e. to critique it and find ourselves through it, we need to stop excluding the majority of people from it.