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‘No such book as the definitive book’:  'In Search of Heer' author Manjul Bajaj on writing hacks and more

Gurugram-based Manjul Bajaj is the author of several books. 'In Search of Heer', a modern, multi-layered retelling of the Heer Ranjha story is her latest novel.

Published: 14th June 2020 09:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th June 2020 09:21 AM   |  A+A-

Author Manjul Bajaj at the launch of her new book last year

Your writing schedule?  

For much of my writing life, I have written on all weekdays from 9:00am to 2:00pm. In the last couple of years, I have become somewhat lax (or maybe just relaxed). I write daily for some months, goof off entirely for others.

But when I am writing, I try and do at least 500 words a day. As a book progresses, the daily word count gathers momentum on its own.

I should also mention that my writing schedule demands an accompanying walking routine. I can only think on my legs, it seems. So unless I walk alone for an hour or two each day, the writing can’t happen. 

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

It puts me in a Zen state. Completely engaged, calm and gathered.

It is really the chief reason why I write, to feel that way.

Everything extraneous just falls away and there is just me and my writing in this space of absolute serenity. 

Writing advice you’d like to give your younger self?

That you’ll never write the definitive or ultimate book. There is no such book. It’s a chimera. Don’t break your heart chasing it.

My younger self thought of writing in very starry terms and of my future books as creations that would dazzle brilliantly.

My older self sees the firmament as full of stars of different brilliance and intensity, and feels it’s enough to be out there somewhere in the sky shining whatever light one can.

Your favourite books? 

There are so many writers who I read in my youth that had me completely in their thrall. It wasn’t one book so much as everything these writers had written.

Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Jane Austen, DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Iris Murdoch to name a few.

To name a few favourite books from relatively recent times, there’s Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers, Tan Twang Eng’s The Gift of Rain, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for The Time Being, and Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies. 

Literary success vs number of copies sold?

Ideally, a combination of both. To my mind it’s like chhole-bhature or dal-chawal or subzi-roti. You must have a serving of both.

Else, you end up feeling the absence of the one you didn’t get. If I had to choose one, I’d go with literary success. Numbers don’t mean much to me.

What’s a few zeroes here or there? I can derive a lot of joy from just the few readers who write to me every now and then telling me they liked my work.  

Favourite spot/s in Delhi you write at?

The thought of writing in cafes and parks is very picturesque, but I’m a hopeless homebody. I only write at home, at my desk in the study or with my computer propped up on a breakfast tray type of thingy on my bed. In the past year or so, since I became an empty nester, I have been running away from here to the hills to write at a stretch, undisturbed by domestic duties.

The long walks in the hills are gorgeous. Hopefully, they will permeate into the writing in some way.


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